Garry continued his ‘Talking Point’ series tonight, looking at transgender issues. Gender is generally understood as ‘the state of being male or female’, and transgender is defined as ‘denoting or relating to a person whose sense of personal identity and gender does not correspond with their birth sex.’ This is very much an issue in the news at the moment, with examples given including a 10 year old girl who declared that because she did not like ‘girls’ toys’, she was not a girl and deserved surgery to make her a boy (a view which the Times columnist, Janice Turner, said indicated the BBC was allowing a ‘pernicious ideology’ to enter the mainstream media unquestioned.) It is easy to believe that this issue affects very many people, although the statistics indicate that only 0.6% of the UK population would consider themselves transgender. Nonetheless, as Christians we must consider our response to such issues.
Transgender is not the same as intersex, which refers to people who are born without genitalia or with damaged genitalia or those affected by Klinefelter syndrome (XXY chromosome in men). Intersex people have a physical problem, but trans-sexual people feel as though they have been born into the ‘wrong body.’ According to GLAAD (formerly the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation), ‘transgender is a term used to describe people whose gender identity differs from the sex the doctor marked on their birth certificate.‘ Their problem is largely a question of what they believe; under the 2004 Gender Recognition Act, an adult who has been diagnosed with gender dysphoria and lived for 2 years as a person of the opposite sex can apply for a gender recognition certificate.
Transgender issues are high profile (which toilets and changing rooms should a transgender person use, for example), but we have to acknowledge there is a significant minority of people who have had operations to ‘change gender’ and later express regret about this (see here for further details.) A Home Office report from April 2000 said, ‘Many people revert to their biological sex after living for some time in the opposite sex.’ Clearly, the issue is not as clear-cut as some in the media would like us to believe.
It appears that underlying the transsexual movement is a radical form of self-determination, where the assumption is that a person’s subjective feeling overrides objective, biological reality. God made us male and female (Gen 1:27); this is the reality of our world. As the Church of England’s 2003 discussion document comments, ‘we are not simply people who inhabit bodies, rather our bodies are part of who we are.’ Christianity deals with truth (Jn 1:17, Jn 8:31-32, Jn 14:6). Paul declares that the truth is crucial (‘if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.’ 1 Cor 15:4) We must hold on to the truths of the Christian faith whilst showing love and kindness to all, for truth is liberational. It’s not surgery which transforms people’s bodies that is needed, but the truth of the Gospel which transforms people’s hearts and minds which is required. Christ alone can transform people and give them liberty, since those whom the Son sets free are really free. (Jn 8:36)