Christianity Today has had remarkable clarity on the #MeToo and #ChurchToo movements lately, so the following piece about how the “transgender narrative” apparently perpetuates negative gender stereotypes is more of a disappointment than usual. Granted, it’s not exactly unexpected, given that this is a publication that believes committed gay and lesbian couples are “destructive to society.”
Without using a single scientific, peer-reviewed study to support her claims (naturally), Nancy Pearcey writes about being transgender even though it’s clear her understanding of the topic is narrow at best. (The piece is adapted from her new book.)
At the heart of the transgender narrative is the destructive idea that your mind can be “at war with your body.” It sets up an opposition between the body and the self, estranging people from their basic biological identities as male and female. Kids from kindergarten and up are being taught that their psychological identity has no connection to their physical self.
I don’t know any parents of kindergartners who have heard of their children being taught that. (“Citation, please” will be a common refrain throughout this piece, especially given that she’s basing it off of gender stereotypes while claiming to speak out against them.) Pearcey doesn’t understand that there’s more to being transgender than “acting masculine” or “dressing more feminine.” She would know that if she had spoken to more trans people and not the hand-picked ones who fit her theology’s narrative.
We in the church should be at the forefront of recovering richer definitions of what it means to be a man or woman. We should be the first place where young people can find freedom from unbiblical stereotypes — the freedom to work out what it means to be created in God’s image as holistic and redeemed people.
“Biblical” manhood and womanhood are purely subjective terms. Interestingly, the Bible never condemns Deborah for her “manly” role as a judge, nor does it condemn Samson for having long hair, a so-called “feminine” trait. There is no single, comprehensive definition of manhood or womanhood in the Bible, and even if there were, the historical and cultural narrative in which it was written would have to be taken into consideration.
Helping trans people, then, isn’t just a matter of broadening our definitions of “man” and “woman.” It requires us to rethink our understanding of gender itself.
We also need to “show hospitality to strangers” (Heb. 13:2) — to welcome those who are different and don’t fit in. The psychological suffering caused by gender dysphoria is real. The feeling of being in the “wrong” body is not something children choose, and in many cases, may have complex psychological roots. That means we need a pastoral approach that’s sensitive and compassionate.
That’s about halfway through the article, and it’s the only time Pearcey comes close to mentioning what modern psychology has to say about gender dysphoria, since the Bronze Age Bible writers didn’t understand it.
I’ll give her this, though: yes, it is real. No, the feeling of being in the “wrong” body is something no one chooses. The most sensitive and compassionate approach, then, is to accept the possibility of transition later in life. Because loving the body you were meant to have is the ultimate body acceptance.
Unfortunately, that’s not something many evangelicals support.
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