Sixty or so years ago as a teenage schoolboy in a co-educational secondary school in north London, it never entered my head to question my gender. The distinction between boys and girls was plain for all to see. We went into school at different entrances at opposite ends of the school. Woe betide anyone entering the wrong gate!
Even in the classrooms the girls sat on the right, the boys on the left. Only in the sixth form when the numbers were smaller were those rules relaxed. There were separate playgrounds, though mixing was allowed on the playing fields when the grass was dry enough. Toilets, changing rooms, and sports were organised on the basis of your sex. Even the members of staff were physically separated, as there were male and female staff rooms.
Some who read this may dismiss me as being so very last-century. Others, irate at such thinking, might conclude that I stand in need of a retraining programme to remove my outmoded masculine perspective (some form of ‘conversion therapy’?).
Today presents a very different picture from the 1960s. In February 2020 during a studio discussion, Labour MP and former Shadow Secretary of State for Women and Equalities Dawn Butler claimed, ‘A child is born without sex.’ She then proceeded to berate her interviewer for mentioning the difference between male and female anatomy. Her conclusion was that such a subject ‘doesn’t help the conversation’. This perspective represents the new orthodoxy of radical gender ideology now being imposed on us. There is a definite ‘gender agenda’.
It is this question of sexual identity and gender which is the concern of this article. In the minds of vociferous activists, the simple distinction between male and female is outmoded. We frequently find reference to spectrums of sexuality and gender, some of which are increasingly complex and bewildering. It is no wonder that young people in particular are left asking, ‘Who am I?’ or, ‘What am I?’ They are confused and some become very distressed.
A sea-change has taken place. A decade or so ago, hardly anyone supported ‘gay marriage’. Even Stonewall, a gay rights group, were not in favour. Now it is a fundamental building block of modern liberalism.
In the last thirty years, a burgeoning LGBT lobby, with a vociferous activist wing heavily affecting what is taught in our schools, has emerged. There is a national charity, the LBGT Foundation. It offers support, advice, and information to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community.
LGBT serves as shorthand and as an umbrella term for sexuality and gender change. There are several variants. LGBTQ is one of these. The Q stands for those who identify as ‘queer’ or as questioning their sexual identity.
Gender dysphoria is a relatively new term. It refers to the sense of unease and distress that is experienced by some people who feel that their gender identity differs from the sex ‘assigned’ to them at birth and their sexual physical characteristics.
‘Feel’ is the key word, because transgenderism is really an expression of what it means to feel good about yourself. Someone may say, ‘I am who I say I am, and you cannot tell me or prove otherwise.’
To question such a perspective is to invite opprobrium. Indeed, some have faced a form of public shaming for their views. Others have been labelled as bigots and accused of hate crimes, discrimination, and transphobia.
We face a crisis because of the collapse of any consistent stable notion of human personhood. So much depends on your own feeling, your psychology. So, for example, if you are persuaded you are a woman despite being biologically male, then go with your feelings and transition to a new identity.
Such a situation can create a personal crisis for the individual concerned. To adopt a new identity is a lengthy process. It may begin by dressing and acting as a woman, followed by hormone treatment, and ultimately, surgery.
However, this desire to create a new identity is seen not simply as a matter of feelings. Some people claim they possess a gender identity different from their biological sex. There are no biological certainties, let alone gender.
In fact, we are told that gender is nothing more than a ‘social construct’. Thus you are left free to invent your own identity and destiny. Everything is being put into the melting pot for recasting.
It is this kind of thinking that lies behind Dawn Butler’s statement referred to earlier. Furthermore, it is this kind of thinking that activists are seeking to impose on each new generation of children and young people.
It all sounds very appealing to so many in the present climate of opinion. There appear to be no fixed certainties, no absolutes, no right and wrong, no guidelines.
This flows with the spirit of the age. You are left to make up your own mind and to determine your own identity, if that is actually possible. But here is the tragedy. You are then left floundering in the sea of your own feelings and ignorance about yourself.
Furthermore, there are some who have undergone treatment and surgery in order to re-invent themselves as a woman or as a man, only to discover that it has increased their sense of unhappiness and dissatisfaction. But there is no path back physically.
Douglas Murray has written a Sunday Times Bestseller. He is Associate Editor of The Spectator and a prominent commentator on politics and society. He identifies himself as an atheist and gay. In his bookThe Madness of Crowds, he calls into question the foundations and presumptions of this new orthodoxy being forced on us.
Why should society change nearly all of its social and linguistic norms in order to accommodate someone’s sexual kinks (his phrase)? He goes on to say that being transgender is ‘no reason to force everyone to use entirely new pronouns. Or to alter every public bathroom. Or to bring up children with the belief that there is no difference between the sexes and that gender is a social construct’.
How should Bible-believing Christians respond? It is easy for a Christian to pass judgment and dismiss transgenderism.
Sharon James has written a very helpful booklet where she argues that gender confusion calls for compassion and not hostility. She points out that ‘many people (including children) suffering gender confusion are, effectively, victims of the false ideology of gender theory. We need to distinguish trans activists (who are promoting their agenda) from people who are suffering gender confusion’.
This is a fallen world, and sin and Satan aim to destroy individual lives. Satan was identified by the Lord Jesus Christ as ‘a murderer from the beginning’, and as ‘a liar and the father of lies’ (John 8:44).
At its root, this new gender ideology is a lie because it is a denial of basic biological facts and God-created reality.
So what is the truth? A Christian understands himself or herself as a psychosomatic unity – that is, body and soul –created by God. Genesis 1:26-28 are key verses. Verse 26 reads, ‘God created man in his own image; in the image of God he created him: male and female he created them.’
We are not a random conglomeration of atoms thrown together by chance. Instead there is dignity, meaning and purpose for each person.
The man and the woman have the physical capacity for marriage, for becoming ‘one flesh’ (Genesis 2:23-24), and for having children. This perspective was underlined by the Lord Jesus Christ in Matthew 19:4-6 and by the apostle Paul in Ephesians 5:31.
An ideology that says we can change our gender is not simply a rejection of our biological identity as men and women but fundamentally a rejection of what God has made us. It is a rejection of his design and purpose for our lives. That means that it is unbiblical to say, for example, we can be a woman trapped in a man’s body. The notion that our gender is distinct from our physical identity is also unbiblical.
The entry of sin into the world has brought about physical abnormalities. Not everyone has the capacity to have children. There are also cases where the biological sex of an individual may not be clear at birth – those sometimes called intersex individuals. Such cases are rare. Over time, the gender of that individual may become more apparent.
The Lord Jesus Christ came into the world to redeem sinners and to restore the relationship between the Creator and those whom he has created. The gospel tells us salvation is given by God to all who repent of their sins and receive the forgiveness of their sins through faith in Christ.
He bore our guilt and our sins in his body on the cross. By his Holy Spirit he renews and restores us to our manhood and womanhood, conforming us to the image of Jesus Christ.
In the hands of the activists, the new orthodoxy of gender theory threatens to overwhelm the church of Jesus Christ. Those activists are not just contending for the rights of those who identify as LBGT. They want to impose their false ideology on everyone else.
It is intimidating, but the church needs to stand firm and hold fast to the truth. If we swallow their lie then we compromise the Word of God and will eventually lose our identity as the people of God. At the same time, there are people caught up in the confusion. They are suffering. They may include some of our own children and young people, especially if their school has been indoctrinated with the new gender ideology. They should be treated with respect and with the compassion of Christ.