A Response to Transsexualism and Gender Identity

            The culture wars continue apace.  Having achieved the normalization of homosexuality, even to the point of requiring the states to allow same-sex “marriage,” the Sexual Revolutionaries have decreed that gender is in no way connected to biological reality.  The next battles in the war to efface God’s created sexual order are transsexualism and the gender identity movement.  We are now being told that sex is all in your head, and not even a little bit in your anatomy.  If a man thinks he is a woman, then he’s a woman, notwithstanding that he has hair on his chest and Y chromosomes in every cell of his body.  If he wakes up one day and says, “man, I feel like a woman,” society is obligated to indulge his whimsy, including allowing him to use women’s restrooms, and otherwise invade gender-restricted female spaces. 

 A.    Transsexualism

             A transsexual is someone who has a man’s body but believes he identifies more as a female (or who has a woman’s body but believes she identifies more as a male).  Psychiatrists call this condition “gender dysphoria.”  Historically, transsexualism was a diagnosis in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM), but in the 2013 version (DSM-5) transsexualism has been replaced by “gender dysphoria.” As of now, gender dysphoria is still classified as a mental disorder but, as you might expect given the way the world is going, there is a proposal to remove gender dysphoria from the mental disorder category and re-classified it as a “condition related to sexual health.”  As with the changes de-classifying homosexuality in 1973, these proposed changes are ideologically motivated, and would be made to remove the stigma from transsexualism.

            (Interestingly, the stigma once associated with same-sex sexual attraction has been shifted onto the person who is unhappy with his same-sex attraction; the International Classification of Diseases (ICD), which is affiliated with the World Health Organization, lists a condition called “Ego-dystonic sexual orientation,” which refers to a person who is same-sex attracted but seeks therapy to change or suppress it.)

            By today’s standards, the transsexual is old fashioned in conceding that there are only two sexes.  He just believes that God or mother nature assigned him a body of the wrong sex.  If he is determined and financially able, he will seek “sex re-assignment surgery” (which is also called “gender re-assignment surgery,” but the transsexual does not want to re-assign his gender, which is all is his mind, he wants to change the sex of his body, which is an objective physical reality). 

            There are a number of procedures designed to make a man more like a woman, including feminizing genitoplasty or penectomy (removal of the penis), orchiectomy or orchidectomy (removal of the testicles), and vaginoplasty (constructing an artificial vagina). These procedures are usually intertwined, as penile and scrotal tissue are not removed but are used to form structures resembling female sex organs.  Many transsexuals stop short of modifying or removing the penis, understanding the radical nature of such an action, and the serious health risks involved.  For the woman looking to become more masculine, there is masculinizing genitoplasty, metoidioplasty (constructing a penis out of a clitoris) or phalloplasty (constructing a penis).

            How common is transsexualism?  The DSM reports Dutch studies that put the incidence of male-to-female transsexuals as one in 10,000, and the incidence of female-to-male transsexuals as one in 30,000.  U.S. data put the incidence at 1 in 30,000 for M>F and 1 in 100,000 for F>M.  Both data sets show that male-to-female transsexualism is three times as common as female-to-male. A 2008 study of New Zealand passport-holders who had changed the sex on their passport show more than six times as many M>F transsexuals (1 in 3,639) as F>M transsexuals (1 in 22,714).

            I seriously question the ethics of performing major surgery on someone who is suffering from a mental disorder.  The man who thinks he is a woman (or the woman who thinks she is a man) is objectively delusional, yet the medical community indulges this delusion to the astonishing extent of making surgical alterations.  Of course, a man cannot be turned into a woman, but only into a sort of Frankenwoman—a ghastly feminized man who does not have ovaries nor produce eggs, does not have fallopian tubes nor a uterus, does not have mammary glands nor produce milk, does have Y chromosomes in every cell of his body, does not naturally produce the female mix of sex hormones, and will need to be dosed with estrogen for the rest of his life (or at least the rest of his sojourn as a Frankenwoman). 

            Many transsexuals believe that sex-reassignment surgery will solve all their problems, but it does not.  The underlying psychological problems remain. The University of Birmingham's Aggressive Research Intelligence Facility conducted a literature review of more than 100 studies done throughout the world, and found that there is no conclusive evidence that sex change operations improve the lives of transsexuals; many post-operative transsexuals remain severely distressed and even suicidal.  In Sweden, a long-term follow-up study of 324 post-operative transsexuals found that cohort to be at considerably higher risks for mortality, suicidal behavior, and psychiatric morbidity than the general population.  According to one study, the suicide rate for male to female transsexuals is five times the expected rate for the general population. 

            Transsexuals often regret having had surgical procedures done.  Walt Heyer, a former transsexual who eventually reverted to a masculine identity and now operates a website called sexchangeregret.com, states that he is frequently contacted by transsexuals who regret having had a sex-change surgery.  Heyer reports that many transsexuals go through a period of euphoria post-surgery, but disappointment usually sets in after a few years, sometimes after the transsexual realizes that the medically possible changes simply cannot really change a man into a woman.   He believes that at least 40% of post-operative transsexuals attempt suicide at some point.

 B.     Gender Identity

            The idea that one’s gender can be divorced from, and in fact the opposite of, the sex of one’s body has given rise to a riot of sexual confusion.  Ironically, the basic idea behind transsexualism—that there are only two sexes and that if one mentally belongs to one sex while physically belonging to the other, surgical intervention is indicated—is rejected by the latest cultural warriors.  College-age youth increasingly reject the “binary” idea of there being only two sexes.  “I don’t feel connected to the word transgender because it feels more resonant with binary trans people,” says Mars Marson, a 21-year old NYU film student, in an interview with New York Magazine.  As Tim Murphy at New York Magazine, writes:

The current project is not just about questioning one’s own identity; it’s about questioning the very nature of identity. You may not be a boy, but you may not be a girl, either, and how comfortable are you with the concept of being neither? You may want to sleep with men, or women, or transmen, or transwomen, and you might want to become emotionally involved with them, too — but perhaps not in the same combination, since why should your romantic and sexual orientations necessarily have to be the same thing? Or why think about orientation at all? Your appetites might be panromantic but asexual [or pansexual and aromantic]; you might identify as a cisgender (not transgender) aromantic.

The gender identity movement has spawned its own peculiar vocabulary, some of which follows:

Agender: a person who identifies as neither male nor female

Asexual: a person who doesn’t experience sexual desire, but who may experience romantic longing

Aromantic: a person who doesn’t experience romantic longing, but does experience sexual desire

Cisgender: not transgender; the state in which the gender you identify with matches the one you were assigned at birth (which is over 99% of us).

Demisexual: a person with limited sexual desire, usually felt only in the context of deep emotional connection

Gender: a 20th-century constraint

Genderqueer, queer: a person with an identity outside the traditional gender binaries

Graysexual: a broader term for a person with limited sexual desire

Intersectionality: the belief that gender, race, class, and sexual orientation cannot be interrogated independently from one another

Neutrois:  a Frenchified, sophisticated-sounding word meaning agendered or without gender.

Panromantic: a person who is romantically interested in anyone of any gender or orientation; this does not necessarily connote accompanying sexual interest

Pansexual: a person who is sexually interested in anyone of any gender or orientation

The new sexual revolutionaries can choose from this exhilarating smorgasbord: “’I feel like I’m in a candy store and there’s all these different options,’ says Darya Goharian, 22, who identifies as 'trans nonbinary.'”  “I identify as panromantic, asexual, agender — and if you wanna shorten it all, we can just go as queer,” says Levi Back, 20. And yet Levi does not seem to be having much fun: “I don’t experience sexual attraction to anyone, but I’m in a relationship with another asexual person. We don’t have sex, but we cuddle all the time . . .”

            It’s easy to laugh at this youthful rejection of what once were called the facts of life, but a few decades ago people laughed about what the “fruits” did at night in the public parks of big cities, and now homosexuality has been normalized and same-sex marriage is the law of the land.  The gender identity movement is headed in the same direction: people and institutions are being pressured to concede that anatomical facts are merely “social constructs,” whereas mental notions of gender and non-gender are real, and should be afforded social respect.  Hollywood and “mainstream” media are all-in for the gender identity movement, and the same sort of cultural onslaught that flipped public attitudes about homosexuality in the generation between 1995 and 2015 is now well underway on behalf of the gender identity movement.  For example, the 2005 film Transamerica depicted a male-to-female transgender woman in a very sympathetic light, and garnered an Oscar nomination and a Golden Globe win.  The 2014 Amazon Prime streaming series Transparent won two Golden Globe awards, and Glamour Magazine made Bruce “Caitlyn” Jenner its “’woman’ of the year” for 2015. 

            There have already been many attempts, some successful, to give this new sexual surrealism the force of law.  In every congress but one since 1974, someone has introduced the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which originally sought to add sexual orientation to the categories protected by the Civil Rights Act of 1964, but now would also protect gender identity.  In other words, the current form of ENDA would make it a federal civil right for you to identify as some gender or non-gender not indicated by your actual anatomy, and your employer must knuckle under to your whimsy or be treated, by the FBI and Dept. of Justice, as if he had fired you for being of the black race.  This legislation has come very close to passage in recent years. 

            Gender identity is already the law in liberal jurisdictions such as California, whose Unruh Civil Rights Act was amended to prohibit businesses from discriminating based upon “sex,” which is defined to include gender, including “a person’s gender identity and gender expression.” The act further defines “gender expression” as “a person’s gender-related appearance and behavior whether or not stereotypically associated with the person’s assigned sex at birth.”  (Cal. Civ. Code § 51). So California has already enshrined into law the gender identity movement, and accepted that it is a civil right to dress, act, and demand to be addressed as a gender opposite from one’s anatomical sex. 

C.     The Bible and Gender

            Scripture is clear that there are two and only two genders:  “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” Gen. 1:27. “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female,” Mat. 19:4. The implications of this teaching need to be carefully contemplated.  First, there are two sexes and two corresponding genders, male and female—not the 58 listed on Face Book.  Second, both male and female are in the image of God.  If you modify your body so as to efface your sex, you are marring the image of God in your body.

            God wanted to guard the edges of gender identity, so in the laws He delivered to Israel he forbade cross-dressing: “A woman shall not wear a man’s garment, nor shall a man put on a woman’s cloak, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord your God.” Deut. 22:5. If transvestitism—dressing as the opposite sex—is an “abomination” and is strictly forbidden, then certainly self-mutilation (or authorizing doctors to mutilate oneself) in the cause of making one’s body look more like that of the opposite sex is forbidden by implication.   

            Most people are aware of the Bible’s prohibition on same-sex sexual activity (Rom. 1:18-32; 1 Cor. 6:9-11; Gen. 19: Jude 7; Lev. 18:22; 20:13), but the Bible also forbids male effeminacy. (1 Cor. 6:9 KJV: “nor effeminate”).  The Greek word translated as effeminate, malakoi, literally means “soft,” but the concept evoked is that of a man who allows himself to be used by other men—a catamite.  Whoever makes himself “soft”—effeminate or feminine-appearing—in an effort to attract other men violates this passage, and thus the male-to-female transsexual who modifies his body in an effort to attract not the true homosexual but rather the man who is attracted to femininity runs directly afoul of this prohibition. 

            It is interesting to note that a man whose testicles had been crushed or whose penis had been cut off could not “enter into the assembly of the Lord” (Deut. 23:1), meaning that he could not fully participate in the religious and political life of Israel, certainly not as a leader. (See, also, Lev. 21:20). Crushing of the testicles was sometimes done in cultic ceremonies where the eunuch was dedicated to a pagan god or gods. But clearly God does not want us, for any reason, to de-sex our bodies by excising or destroying the organs assigned us at birth.   

            “The writers of Scripture viewed any attempts at overriding one's birth-sex as abhorrent, a sacrilege against the structures of maleness or femaleness created by God, and ultimately a rebellion against the Creator who made our bodies,” says Robert A. J. Gagnon, an associate professor of New Testament at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary.  God created two sexes, and at conception each of us was assigned a sex, a miracle of procreation that points back to the original creation of Adam and Eve as male and female. God wants every male to grow into masculinity, and every female to grow into femininity. Christian men are to act and appear as men, and Christian women are to act and appear as women, because that is how God created us, and that is His plan for our lives. 

 D.     The BRI Statement on Transsexualism

          In October, 2014, the Seventh-day Adventist Biblical Research Institute Ethics Committee issued a statement on transgenderism.  There are some strong, correct assertions in this document.  For example, the authors write that:

. . . sexual identity cannot be entirely independent from one’s body as is frequently asserted. In fact, in Scripture, our gender identity is . . . determined by our birth sex with God being the author of gender identity (Gen 1:27; 5:1, 2; Mark 10:6; Ps 139:13, 14). Second, the Bible reminds us that each person with his/her mind and psyche is part of the creation that is corrupted by sin (Rom 3:9; 7:17; 8:20–23; Jer. 17:9; Gal 5:17) and needs to be renewed by God (Rom 12:2). Our emotions, feelings, and perceptions are not fully reliable indicators of God’s designs, ideals, and truth (Prov. 14:12; 16:25). We need guidance from God, through Scripture, to determine what is in our best interest (2 Tim 3:16).

The BRI statement also correctly asserts that God created us to be undivided sexual entities, male in anatomy and psychology, and female in anatomy and psychology.  It argues that the more radical sex-change procedures are irreversible and commit the post-operative transsexual to continuing medical intervention for life. Thus, the BRI Ethics Committee “strongly cautions against such a radical and irreversible procedure.” It also warns that:

 . . . sex-change surgery may be motivated by a sophisticated desire for homosexual activity. Undergoing sex-change surgery in order to satisfy the homosexual urge to have sex with a person of the same sex would violate the ethical and moral biblical principle of sexual activity being limited to heterosexual marriage.

            But the Committee does not think that post-operative transsexuals who have subsequently converted to Christianity should be denied church membership, nor should they be urged to try to reverse their sex-change operation, as far as possible, and identify as their original sex.  The Committee opines that a male-to-female transsexual should be considered female and a female-to-male transsexual should be considered male.  The Committee strongly cautions against a marriage between a post-operative transsexual and someone of the transsexual’s birth sex, but does not close the door entirely on such marriages.  It should have. 

            The Committee seems to be following the tack—recently seen in the Andrews Seminary Statement on Homosexuality—of making a strong and biblically correct theological statement against a sinful practice, but then neutering that theology in its application to local church practice.  I believe that God finds us in a state of brokenness but wants to heal and restore us; therefore, new transsexual believers should begin a process of medical reversal that will take them back as close as possible to their birth sex, which is their true and only legitimate sex.  They should not be eligible for membership until they do. 

            People who do not act and dress appropriately to their birth sex should not be allowed to become members, much less elders or other congregational leaders.  The SDA Church should make clear that a person who marries someone of the same sex as his birth sex will not be eligible for church membership, and will be disfellowshipped if already a member.  A former transgendered or transsexual member should be allowed to marry only a person of the sex opposite the former transsexual's birth sex, and only after counseling and complete disclosure of any anatomical modifications the former transsexual may have had done to himself during his transsexual or transgendered phase.  To not fully disclose the facts to a potential spouse would be the most serious kind of fraud imaginable.

            God created us male and female at the beginning, just as He rested from his work of creation on the seventh day and made it holy.  God’s sovereign choice in making us male or female is no more to be trifled with than is God’s sovereign choice in hallowing the Sabbath as the day of rest and worship.  A post-operative transsexual is no more of a sex other than his birth sex than Sunday is the Sabbath.  We should no more rebel by substituting another sex for what He has given us than we should rebel by substituting Sunday for Sabbath.  We can no more allow a person in rebellion against his birth sex to be a member in good standing than we can allow someone who keeps Sunday to be a member in good standing.