The Fault Lines of a Gender Earthquake
The last few years have been labeled the “Transgender moment “ by activists and opponents alike. While it has brought transgender people to kitchen table discussions, it has done little to inform others about a condition known as “Gender Dysphoria.” As society increases in acceptance, the umbrella term “transgender” has grown to encompass so much that the category remains practically meaningless.
The fault lines in the sex and gender debate lie on a left that sees human nature as expansive and self-created, a matter of self-identity and autonomy. Sam Brinton, a gender fluid LGBT activist who made headlines at the oscars this past year, is an example of this radical individualism. Donning a crimson ball gown, red lipstick, beard, and a shaved head with a tiny hot pink mohawk, Brinton encapsulates the resistance against norms. They are someone who represents deconstruction of traditional gender identity, but they don’t represent all transgender people.
The right views sex and gender as a cohesive whole, with the view that biology is the sole determining factor in gender and gender identity. This view has been called “biological essentialism.” Gender is a reality of a particular sexed body and is unchangeable and formed at conception.
It is easy for those with traditional views to view the apparent contradiction between someone's physical body and gender identity as nothing less than a mental disorder. It is helpful to remember that the fall has affected the world in complex ways—sex and gender identity is formed by more than what you can see, but internal bodily realities are just as part of our physical makeup.
It is crucial to remember that most individuals diagnosed with Gender Dysphoria are not working to dismantle the gender binary. Transgender Christians, or at least most of them, seek to affirm God’s design for men and women, not to blur the lines between the sexes, but to better live as the men or women God has called them to be.
In my case, my reality was not shaped by who I identified as, but by my reality: a body that was perpetually sick and bedridden, a body that did not become healthy until my hormones were properly adjusted, a consistent, persistent, and insistent female gender identity that was stable from childhood to the present. It is for this reason I believe that Gender Dysphoria might have underlying biological causes. It isn’t as simple as finding the “correct gene,” but realizing that sex development in the womb is complex and not as straightforward as we previously thought.
At the point of my diagnosis I had the option of resolving the Gender Dysphoria through psychotherapy, adopting a gender non-conforming presentation, or medically transition. I had attempted to resolve my dysphoria for a number of years with no success, and a androgynous lifestyle was not workable for me—I valued God’s creation of man and woman. My faith taught me to see man and woman as two complementary beings that bear the image of God in a beautiful way. I wasn’t content with living in-between. Through lots of prayer, counseling, and doctors visits I decided to medically transition. The decision made me healthier and better able to live out God’s calling for my life.
A common objection to medical transitions comes from famous psychologist Paul McHugh from John Hopkins university: “the medical evidence suggests that sex reassignment does not adequately address the psychological issues.”
The findings, never published in a peer-reviewed medical journal, have since been discredited by his colleagues. McHugh, in support of corrective surgeries of intersex individuals, said from an interview with the Washington Post from his home, "People with abnormalities of development should be helped to find their place as they see it best.” He supports the corrective surgeries of intersex individuals. For some cases of trans individuals, their biological and psychological complications could be a result of slight developmental abnormalities.
A growing concern is the growth of trans-identified individuals as a result of a modern hyper-individualism. The term transgender is used to describe everyone from gender non-conforming to drag queens or crossdressers. Diagnosable cases of Gender Dysphoria are still rare—only .6% of the population identifies as transgender.
Gender is simple for most people. For the rest, it is not so simple. As a Christian, I seek truth in all areas of my life, with the motto that all truth is God’s truth. When we enter into debates about people’s identity and sex, we must remember we are traversing into intimate and personal territory. Often, we want clear-cut answers, but in a fallen world, we rarely get that luxury.
As christians we need to have humility with the things we do not know instead of rushing to surface level judgments. Learning the myths and pressing forward with an open mind is essential for extending compassion to suffering individuals. As Christians, we have the comforting knowledge that, even though creation has fallen, it is being redeemed. We can partake in that redemption now.
Research to best understand Gender Dysphoria will take decades, but for now, my understanding has been shaped by the physical suffering I endured: losing a dangerous amount of weight, multiple weeks of hospitalization, throwing up in the mornings and throughout the day and forcing myself to summon up whatever energy I could to peel myself off the floor of the closet, kitchen, or bathroom to get dressed and face the day. It was years of waking up as a child shaking, crying, and dry-heaving from dreams where my existence felt crushed. My first memories of pre-school were picking up a doll from the large plastic house, looking at her, and having no words to describe my feelings.
It is my faith that guides me on this journey, that keeps me choosing life. I can live with hope that someday God will make all things new. He is a God who revealed himself in scripture as a healer. His love encourages me to step forward, show compassion, and love others even when I don’t fully understand.
The opinions reflected in this OpEd are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of staff, faculty and students of The King's College
The original version of this OpEd was published in Issue 8 of the EST Magazine