Another sad attempt at getting evangelicals to accept transgender people

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.

(Image via Shutterstock)

This post originally appeared on Patheos


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5 thoughts on “Another sad attempt at getting evangelicals to accept transgender people

  1. Pearcey appears thoroughly trapped in a binary understanding of gender and sexuality (and, very likely a number of other subjects). I think that is at the root of many people’s problem with LGTBQ folks who don’t fit neatly into one of the two boxes, a case of a deep cognitive dissonance. As with all our experience, human sexuality and gender happen far more between the ears than between the legs. Thanks for a fine article.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for this post. I just finished “Sapien” by Yuval Noah Harari and he points out how different ideas of what makes someone manly or feminine have been across times and cultures. He placed a photo of a 17th century king with a wig and high heels next to Barack Obama and asked, “Which one is masculine?” Yes, we need to expansive ideas of gender but it will be impossible to do this in the binary lens suggested by the author.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Excellent post. I have an acquaintance at work who is transgender. What people don’t realize is how “normal” these people can be. Ed, who has not transitioned fully yet, nor choosen a new name, has known since about age 6 of the conflict of feeling like a girl, but having a boy’s body. He absolutely loves Jesus. Is Catholic, and is remarkably grounded spiritually. I felt absolutely comfortable around him, talking about the Lord and his love for us regardless of what people think. So many people base their criticisms on ungrounded fears and ignorance.

    Liked by 1 person

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