Gender ideology, the basis of transgenderism, was the topic of two presentations at the recent Southern Evangelical Seminary’s Apologetics Conference in Rock Hill, South Carolina. Jay Richards, Director of the DeVos Center for Religion, Life, and Family at the Heritage Foundation discussed the philosophy itself, while Christian apologist and author Frank Turek, President of CrossExamine.org, discussed its radical inconsistencies and disastrous consequences.
The Fracturing of Marriage and Sex
Richards said that the sexual revolution is “a fracturing of things that are meant to go together.” Today, the dominant culture in practice and law and rhetoric is pulling apart what God intended to go together, and thus “all sorts of bad things are unleashed.” What is pulled apart is “the organic unity of marriage, sex, and the sexual act and childbearing.” Sex and childbearing are held together in traditional Christianity. The sexual revolution pulled these things apart, not only intellectually, but also technologically. Indeed, Richards maintained that the sexual revolution was not possible until the advent of the birth control pill, which made practical the separation of sex and childbearing. He compared this to the Protestant Reformation and the printing press. Advancing the Bible against prevailing religious doctrines and practices was greatly facilitated by the new availability of Bibles and literature supporting the Reformation.
In our day, the smartphone has had a dramatic impact on social relations and behavior. Technology likewise enabled a worldwide shutdown of society in 2020. With the separation of sex from childbearing, marriage is seen more as an affectional relation than the basis of procreation and a family. A 50-state enactment of unilateral (or no-fault) divorce followed. This made a marriage contract easier to break than a business contract. People take these changes “for granted,” but they were “unprecedented though for most of Christian history.” The deregulation of sex resulted in an increase of unwanted pregnancies, which led to a demand for legal abortion, which the Supreme Court decreed in 1973.
These changes, Richards said, were not only in the United States, but worldwide. The coupling of people in marriage “only makes sense” if there is understood to be a “complementary nature of male and female,” and that as a basis for procreation and a family. Without this basis, there is no reason why two people of the same sex might not marry each other. But once same-sex marriage was decreed, “the logic of monogamy fell apart.” There is no reason why a relationship not focused on the union of male and female need be only between two people. Indeed, without the union of male and female being essential for marriage and the family, the way is open to attack the division of humanity into males and females. After the Obergefell decision in 2015, it was as though “everybody had a memo” to start talking about transgenderism. The sexual revolution is “the logical outworking of an original revolutionary idea that was enabled by technology.”
Richards said that there is a difference in people’s ability to comprehend these changes based on age. Baby boomers and “gen Xers” find these changes “so discontinuous” with the world that they knew “that we tend to not quite get what’s being said.” On the other hand “gen Zers” have “sort of been steeped in this stuff.” Young people from many public and even private schools have been “bombarded” by gender ideology for some time, and the new ideas do not seem as strange. Indeed, gender ideology is taught to young children not yet able to read. This is truly radical, because, Richards said, among the things a young child needs to know to “navigate reality” are “the difference between an adult and a kid, and the difference between a boy and a girl.” Because the difference between male and female is so basic, it is important to “queer” or destabilize the beliefs of young children to further the objectives of self-determination and moral autonomy.
Many teens today follow social media “influencers,” who sensationalize the ideas of gender ideology. Early adolescents disturbed by changes to their bodies or psyches are vulnerable to the valorizing of transgenderism, and its basic claim that their bodies are at war with their souls. They are told that with pills and surgery their bodies can be made to conform to their sense of self. This has resulted in a massive increase in the number of minors presenting with “gender dysphoria.” This he defined as “the intense sense of distress and discomfort with your sexed body.” It is not really a false belief about one’s body, but only discomfort with the body one has.
Both sex and gender are several hundred year old words, but starting in the 1960s, academics and other theorists of sex began referring to the biological difference of male and female as sex, and its psychological and social aspects as gender. But this distinction was then replaced by gender ideology as it currently exists, which denies biological sex and distinguishes between “sex assigned at birth” and “gender identity.” Gender identity is supposed to be the “internal sense of our gender.” But this definition defines gender in terms of itself, so that it has no objective meaning. It is claimed that sex based on body parts or structure is only a “social construct… associating certain body parts with stereotypes, called sexes.” The determination of sex when a child is born is thus only an arbitrary assignment. Although it strains credulity to believe that sex determination based on body parts is arbitrary, this is in fact what is being maintained. People “properly trained and tutored to speak in the language of gender ideology will never say sex; they will never use that word.” This writer would add that, as happens with radical revolutions, the sexual revolution in the end destroyed what it was supposed to liberate (in this case sex).
As theory about gender developed, gender was held by gender ideology to consist of gender identity (one’s true “gender”), gender expression (how one expresses oneself, based on one’s gender) and gender attraction (the gender of persons one is attracted to). For some time there was a claim that male brains might be discovered in female bodies, and vice versa, but this proved untrue. Now, gender simply involves “an internal sense of gender” and “sex assigned at birth.”
‘Gender Affirming Care‘
Richards then described “gender affirming care,” for minor children, otherwise known as “the Dutch protocol” (because it was originally developed in the Netherlands). Described in earlier articles by this writer, it involves first supplying a child reporting gender dysphoria with the clothing and names typical of the opposite sex, then administering puberty blocking drugs, then cross-sex hormones, and finally sexual anatomy altering surgery. He said that rather than calling it “gender affirming care,” it is more accurately called “gender identity affirming intervention,” since it is the internal sense of identity which is held to be fixed, with names, pronouns, and the body held to be peripheral and subject to change.
Of course, everyone really knows a person’s sex cannot be changed, even with drugs and surgery. A neutral term he suggested was “sex trait modification,” since it is various physical traits of the sexes that are being altered (i.e., mutilated). Beginning the protocol with younger children may give a more convincing result of the appearance of the opposite sex. But the transitioned person will be sterile, and will also have no sexual function, no sexual pleasure. Since the sexual revolution was begun in the interest of sexual pleasure, this is an even clearer example of a revolution destroying what it was intended to liberate.
Richards said many may wonder “why parents would have allowed this to happen to their children.” Much of the reason is the “almost complete institutional capture on this issue.” The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends “gender affirming care” as the only proper treatment for gender dysphoria, rather than professional counseling or a wait and see policy. He pointed to the commonly noted fact that the majority of gender dysphoric minors eventually identify with their own sex if not disturbed by “gender affirming care.” Thus, the push to indoctrinate in gender ideology as young as possible is understandable from the standpoint of destabilizing psyches and society. Like the AAP, Richards said, the American Medical Association and the Endocrine Society have undergone institutional capture by gender ideology. The World Professional Association of Transgender Health (WPATH) was established to advance gender ideology as the scientific and professional viewpoint. Any health professional with a different viewpoint is speaking against the professional associations if they give voice to their dissent. Thus, the professionals that distressed parents will turn to will likely recommend the denial of a child’s true sex as the proper treatment.
This writer would add that this kind of professional attack on reality can coerce people into anything social revolutionaries deem desirable. If “gender affirming care” is the only alternative to suicide for people with gender dysphoria, then amputation could be the only alternative to suicide for people with Body Integrity Disorder (belief that one is properly one armed or one legged). Effecting blindness or deafness could be demanded if one believes one is properly blind or deaf.
Richards said that the only parallel to transgenderism that he could find was the “eugenics craze” of the early twentieth century. Part of this was the effort to forcibly sterilize “undesirables” in society, so they would not pass on the undesirable characteristics. While eugenics became discredited because of its association with Nazism and the attempt to exterminate people deemed undesirable, the real impetus for eugenics came from the United States. He referred to the Buck vs. Bell case (1927) at the U.S. Supreme Court, which upheld Virginia’s forcible sterilization of Carrie Buck, with Chief Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes declaring “three generations of imbeciles are enough.” Today, we are told to trust professional health associations on gender ideology as much as we would any other health sciences issue that might concern us.
Politically, the insanity of gender ideology does seem to be having an effect. In 2021, one state (Arkansas) passed a law prohibiting “gender affirming care.” In 2022, Alabama prohibited these procedures. In 2023, 21 states have passed such laws. There are of course court challenges to these laws. In some cases the laws have been struck down, in other cases upheld; in the end, it seems certain the U.S. Supreme Court will have to decide.
Richards asked how Christians should respond to gender ideology, particularly at an apologetic level. He referred to the encyclical of Pope John Paul II, Fides et Ratio, which declares that “Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth.” We need reason, according to the Pope, to support many of the deliverances of Christian faith and morals, while we need faith to give transcendent meaning and ultimate purpose to life. Pope Benedict XVI spoke of the “dictatorship of relativism” which had overtaken the West; relativism in knowledge and relativism in morality. The church is needed to defend reason as well as faith in our day. “Elite culture” is now denying obvious truth, in this case that there are in reality only males and females. Sex is in fact not defined in law. Richards expects that a forthcoming regulation from the Biden Administration will likely define sex to include gender identity. Thus, any organization (such a school) receiving federal funding will have to allow males in sports for women and girls, open rest rooms to both sexes, etc.
Richards said that since government (where controlled by the Left) and institutional definitions of sex will be subjective (based on inner feeling), it will fall on Christians and social conservatives to defend biological reality. Sex, he said, should not be defined in terms of chromosomes, but ability to produce gametes, or reproductive cells (sperm and egg), or at least the potential to do so but for biological defect. There are no anomalous gametes, although there are chromosomal anomalies.
Beyond this scientific explanation, there is “the explanatory power of the Biblical picture of human beings.” Humans are created from “the dust of the earth and by the breath of God.” Humans are “fully spiritual and fully material.” While we are not “upright apes,” we are “also not ghosts trapped in bodies.” This is also what people know intuitively, Richards maintained. Additionally, we are created male and female, and yet collectively called “man” (Gen. 5:2), “referring to them collectively.” To fulfill our nature as image bearers of God, we should “produce” and “procreate.” He said that “marriage is the social institution that ratifies that reality.” It provides that best context for the bearing and socialization of children. Socialization is (ideally) by the two natural parents, who are married to each other. The state should recognize that it has “an interest in having that happen.”
Finally, Richards said that this is “an apologetic moment” for Christians. The culture has been on a “train ride starting with the dissolution of sex, marriage, and childbearing, and it’s now sterilizing kids.” People have gotten off this ride at different points. Contraception was the first stop on the ride, and virtually only traditionalist Catholics got off on that one. Premarital sex and unilateral divorce were other stops, as were homosexuality and later same-sex marriage. At the transgender stop, many leftists are getting off, including radical feminists who see the threat to legal protections for women and Marxists who are “suspicious about drug companies.” Sanity is now threatened, and the train will eventually go over the ravine. The challenge for Christians, using the power of reason and Biblical faith, is to get as many people as possible off the current track, and get them on a train going in the opposite direction.
The specific and acute problems resulting from actually applying transgender claims was discussed by Frank Turek in another presentation and will be reviewed in a subsequent article.