A young mom and I were eating lunch at Chick-fil-A when she asked me, “I saw your Faith and Culture website…What do you think about the boycott of Target?” Thinking that some of you may have questions about the bathroom wars over the transgender issue, I’ll answer her question and others in this post.
To begin with, it’s always helpful to clarify the basics:
Q: What is a transgendered person?
A: Although they get lumped into the LG BT acronym, a transgender person is very different from a gay or lesbian person. A gay or lesbian experiences a same-sex attraction in their sexual orientation. A transgender person is one who feels like the sex of the person they are inside does not align with the biologically endowed person they are on the outside.
The live in constant tension between the two, which is why many try to resolve the tension with hormone therapy or sex-change surgery. They believe that if who they are on the inside could be chemically or surgically aligned with who they are on the outside that they could finally live a more peaceful and happy life.
Q: So their bodies and their brains don’t match?
A. This is the way people with a materialist worldview would look at it. They believe we are one kind of stuff– physical, material stuff. We are our bodies, so the difference must lie between our brains and our bodies—our hormones and genitalia.
As a Christian I believe we are made out of two kinds of stuff– our material bodies and our immaterial souls. And that, when we die, our soul departs from our body to be with the Lord Jesus, to be reunited with our resurrected bodies in the future. Paul says that in our earthly bodies we long for release, not so that we (our true selves, our souls) will be “unclothed,” but so that they will be “further clothed” with an immortal body (2 Cor 5:4).
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Q: Looked at this way, the question would then be, So a transgender’s soul and body don’t match?
A: Before I attempt an answer, clearly they think and feel this way very deeply. To read or watch their stories we should feel deep sympathy for the pain of this tension in their daily lives.
Neither I nor most of my Christian friends know any trans people. They are a tiny minority—only .05% of the American population. It helped me understand this tension, and it might help you, to watch the following video of a young trans. Born a girl with XX chromosomes, she/he began taking testosterone shots as a teen. In this compelling video she/he describes why she/he stopped.
So she/he stopped when she/he looked in the mirror and did not recognize the person looking back. “This is not who you are. You are hiding behind a chemically induced mask.” Her/his desire to pass as a male gave way to her/his more powerful desire for authenticity. To live as you really are. Think about what it must mean to feel like a male, like girls, and to deal with a period. At the deepest place in her/his soul, she feels tragically divided. She/he longs to live with integrity, wholeness, but the inner division runs too deep. So sad.
And this division seems to be the story of many trans people. Paul McHugh, who pioneered sex change surgery in America at Johns Hopkins University reported in the Wall Street Journal on longitudinal follow-up studies that compared “the outcomes of transgendered people who had the surgery with the outcomes of those who did not. Most of the surgically treated patients described themselves as ‘satisfied’ by the results, but their subsequent psycho-social adjustments were no better than those who didn’t have the surgery. And so at Hopkins we stopped doing sex-reassignment surgery, since producing a ‘satisfied’ but still troubled patient seemed an inadequate reason for surgically amputating normal organs.”
McHugh also quoted a 2011 Swedish study, another longitudinal study (30 years), that followed 324 people who had sex-reassignment surgery. “The study revealed that beginning about 10 years after having the surgery, the transgendered began to experience increasing mental difficulties. Most shockingly, their suicide mortality rose almost 20-fold above the comparable nontransgender population.”
Would we, he asks, try to treat anorexics who believe their body is fat with lipo-suction? No, we would try to address the underlying psychological issues.
These studies point to the biblical diagnosis: a brokenness that is part of our shared fallen condition. A soul that feels alienated from its body. All of us need Jesus’ healing, redeeming touch. Trans people need his healing in their soul-beliefs and feelings about their identity. In the meantime they need to feel like they belong in our Christian communities and churches.
Q: But do they belong in bathrooms when they look like the opposite sex?
A: This is where we must choose between who will feel uncomfortable and unsafe. For every trans ftm that fears getting beat up in a men’s bathroom, there are female rape and assault victims that quake when a male-looking trans walks into a women’s restroom. There is also the far greater concern of whether it is a fully male pervert in disguise. (Not to mention the discomfort or fear of many other women who have not been assaulted.)
We hear trans advocates say that there is no record of trans people assaulting girls and women in restrooms. While this may be largely true, it is simply not entirely the case, as this video attests.
This represents only a small fraction of trans people. Still, the threat feels real enough for many (most?) women to be concerned.
And should 14-year old girls be exposed to the male parts of 14-year old boys in their locker rooms? Why would parents who forbid brothers and sisters to be naked together in their homes want their girls exposed to a stranger that way? It tears down their God-given natural sense of modesty that has been given to them as a protection.
The Obama guidelines threatening schools to allow this exposure demand that, if a girl feels uncomfortable with the biological male in the girls shower, she is the one who must find a curtain, not the biological male.
This cannot truly be called a ruling based primarily on compassion. Because it sacrifices compassion for women and girls to demands for compassion for the trans person.
It is a ruling more based on an agenda that asserts that sex (male and female) is an arbitrary “assignment.” A social construct that can change based on one’s feelings and beliefs, regardless of how often they change. The important thing becomes that the self must be free to choose and make (or unmake) their own sexuality. It is a worldview that asserts that we determine the terms of our existence. Not God.
The Bible honors our identity as immortal souls clothed in mortal bodies. It teaches that God created us male and female, grounding and protecting our sexual identity and promising the presence and power of the Lord Jesus to help us live in God’s design and purpose, with no division between our souls and our bodies. It protects the modesty and physical vulnerability of women and children.
Whether we affirm God’s way or not, we should contend for laws that are holistic and embody integrity. Rather than ordering our laws around a struggle for integrity between changeable feelings and biological facts, we should contend for laws that respect the natural order of the unchanging biological facts.
Q: How should we contend for those laws? Should we join the Target boycott?
A: I told my young friend that just as LGBT advocates are leveraging these early conflicts to try to bring other states and companies in line with their agenda, these companies and states are looking to see if that alignment will help or harm them. So Target’s market value loss of $4 billion in the past 30 days as a result of the boycott may indeed be motivating other companies to refrain from following suit.
On the other hand, you may have relationships with trans people or family or friends who support them that you want to guard. So you wouldn’t join the boycott, or if so, you wouldn’t promote it on social media. This has been the motivation for my decision.
Either way we are always willing to live boldly in the truth and grace of Jesus. We are careful in our conversations to honor the trans person, seeing them as Jesus does. I believe our decision to join the boycott or not is a matter of conscience before God. How does he want you to honor him and love others?
How do you respond to the clash of worldviews or perspectives in this current conflict?