“So God created mankind in his own image; in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.” – Genesis 1:27-28
As Ryan Anderson wrote in his book When Harry Became Sally,
In biology, an organism is male or female if it is structured to perform one of the respective roles in reproduction. This definition does not require any arbitrary measurable or quantifiable physical characteristics or behaviors; it requires understanding the reproductive system and the reproduction process.
For much of human history, this definition (or one like it) was used to distinguish male from female. Today, organizations like the Human Rights Campaign define gender identity as “one’s innermost concept of self as male, female, a blend of both or neither—how individuals perceive themselves and what they call themselves.”
In many ways, the transgender movement is simply one more expression of ideas that had been percolating in pop culture for some time before, especially the idea that our feelings dictate what’s true for us (i.e. that we should follow our heart). Laverne Cox, the trans woman who Glamour named “woman of the year” in 2014 said, “We have this internal compass of truth inside of us. And that is our job, really, to quiet all this noise around us and listen to that.”
Gender dysphoria is defined as “a distressed state arising from conflict between a person’s gender identity and the sex the person has or was identified as having at birth.” This experience is often incredibly painful. Some have reported that even seeing their body in the mirror would sometimes be enough to make them become physically nauseous. Because of stories like these, and political pressure not to seem “intolerant,” many doctors face pressure to quickly move anyone who expresses gender dysphoria into hormone therapy, and toward surgery. This is true for pediatric care as well as adult care. Consequently, there are many stories of people who felt pressured into surgical transition (or who felt they had no other option), who found afterward that not only did it not bring the wholeness they thought it would bring, but sometimes they had permanently altered their bodies in the process.
In 2017, doctors Paul McHugh, Paul Hruz, and Lawrence Mayer submitted an amicus brief to the Supreme Court, reporting that, “between 80 and 95 percent of children who say that they are transgender naturally come to accept their sex and to enjoy emotional health by late adolescence.” The experience of gender dysphoria can be incredibly painful, but for most teenagers, it will eventually pass. However, for many who are in the middle of that experience, the decision to trust their innermost concept of gender identity more than their biological sex has often only led to more pain. But how much of gender dysphoria has to do with our perceptions of gender, and how much has to do with our actual biology?
The fact is, the reproductive definition of gender is often 3rd in line behind “our innermost concept of who we are,” and definitions based on cultural stereotypes. Cultural definitions of what it means to be a man or a woman are, for many people, more revolting than the actual biology of maleness or femaleness. To quote again from Anderson’s book, “We needn’t adopt the overly rigid stereotypes that might lead a boy to think he should be a girl because he is sensitive and artistic, or a girl to think she might really be a boy because she prefers sports over dolls. Acknowledging the richly diverse ways of being male and female can help children more readily identify with and accept their own embodiment.”
If you haven’t already done so, watch part 3 of our Gender Conversation Kit. Starting at minute 3:42, we’ll look at some stories from men and women who decided to transition to the opposite sex, including stories of some who felt pressured into transitioning, and came to regret it.
“Father, help us to love our bodies. Just as Jesus affirmed embodiment by becoming human, help us to affirm our embodiment, and to love our bodies. I pray for those who are experiencing gender dysphoria, that you would bring healing, and integration between their minds and their bodies. I pray for my son/daughter, that you would help them to become so grateful for the gift of their bodies that their gratefulness would easily turn back into praise. In Jesus’ name, amen.”