Tuesday, January 12, 2016
Transgenderism: Mark or Mary?
I sent yesterday's essay on transgenderism to my close friend whose former boyfriend is now pursuing a sex-change. My friend called my essay "a very fair and true-to-faith perspective, even if I'm not a believer (in Christ)."
Then he asked me a pretty difficult question. Which I've attempted to answer.
His Question: When speaking with a transgendered person, say our mutual friend, for instance, do you respect her by calling her "Mary" and using the feminine pronoun? Or do you respect Christ by insisting on calling him "Mark?" (FYI - neither of these are the names he uses now, or used to use)
My Answer: I'm going to speak in generalities first, and then apply them to our friend. And I'll admit up front: Being untrained in all of the biological factors that may be relevant for a person experiencing transgenderism, I would have to use more intuitive criteria to construct a determination on what to call this person.
And this "intuitive criteria" would need to be based on the answers to questions such as these:
For example, with what genitalia was this person born? With what gender identity was this person raised, and did this identity correlate with their genitalia? Was there an issue with this person's chromosomes at birth?
What fear, suspicion, realization, or other impetus has prompted this concern about transgenderism for this person? When did the personal conflict regarding their sexuality appear within this individual?
Did anybody assist in the development of this conflict, either in an effort to help or exploit the patient? Was the possibility of transgenderism induced through the patient's personal introspection? Perhaps an over-active imagination? An extraordinary desire for attention? The machinations of a misleading parent? Any molestation or rape by a same-sex person?
As the transgender conflict grew in this person, what kind of help did they pursue? Was it assistance from people who wanted them to remain aligned with the gender of their upbringing, or people who encouraged them to pursue the possibility of a gender better suited to a newfound sexual identity?
How much medical testing has been done? Are there legitimate biological abnormalities at play? Of course, I wouldn't be able to understand a lot of the medical factors. Nevertheless, if this person has not been properly tested, even if that testing proves inconclusive, the lack of a scientifically-vetted evaluation of their case leaves a lot open to skepticism, don't you think? I'm not talking about meeting with surgeons to schedule surgeries; I'm talking about impartial and clinical methods of identifying anything and everything that might be taking place for a variety of reasons.
Let's remember that transgenderism is still relatively rare, and don't we risk creating a self-fulfilling prophecy if we presume that everyone who is sexually frustrated may have issues with transgenderism?
Okay, so after having prefaced my main answer with all of these caveats; in this particular situation, would I call our friend "Mark," or "Mary?"
Based on what I know about him, I would call him Mark. Not because I want to disrespect him or ridicule his current situation, but because he has not yet been fully, surgically changed into a woman. And I don't know that he can be.
I could call him "Mary," I suppose, to make him feel better. But if he wanted to be called "Dogbert," would you call him that instead? I realize this is not a silly discussion, and I'll acknowledge that he wants people to call him "Mary" because he believes a female name affirms his desire to be a woman. Still, as silly as calling him Dogbert would be, it's with all seriousness that I say I don't think he's met the criteria for legitimate womanhood.
Sexuality itself is not as arbitrary as many in our culture presume it to be. Nor is sexuality an emotion, or a desire, or a compulsion, or a way one dresses, as much as it is a biological state of being. In Mark's case, since I don't think he actually has mixed-up chromosomes or some other extremely rare abnormality in his genetic makeup, I don't think he'll ever be Mary, no matter how many body parts he pays a doctor to change.
After all, being a woman involves more than having a few surgeries, isn't it? Doesn't being a man involve more than having a few surgeries? Being a woman involves more than being effeminate, or attracted to men, just as being a man involves more than being masculine and being attracted to women.
In the extremely few cases in which a doctor is tasked with medically assigning a gender when somebody is born, perhaps a re-think of that early procedure would be appropriate after the person matures into adulthood, and realizes how they've actually developed as a human being. But again, these cases are incredibly rare. I would even suggest that it risks mocking these genuinely conflicted cases for somebody to base their pursuit of gender re-orientation primarily on emotion.
The more I've thought about Mark's case, I believe he's a desperately confused man. But he's not confused because of his genitalia, and I seriously doubt he's one of these rare genetically-abnormal cases. From what I know about his upbringing, frankly, he's been raised by a fawning mother and a totalitarian father, both of whom are divorced from each other. I'm no parent, or expert on parenting, but that is not a beneficial environment for anybody in which to grow up, is it? I imagine conflict was a regular and inescapable part of his childhood. Is the fact that conflict has remained his constant companion into adulthood surprising?
Let's also consider the relationship he's currently in. It's an abusive one, haven't you said? This man he's living with is hardly virtuous in his respect for Mark as a human being, let alone as a lover. But Mark seems to be looking for affirmation at any cost, and so far, this guy has provided enough affirmation at an acceptable price. Mark dropped me on Facebook because I told him that while I couldn't support his quest to become a woman, I would still pray for him and respect him as a human being. But if Mark is dating this guy mostly because he supports his quest to become a woman, how self-serving might that be for both of them?
Then there's this: It's a politically-incorrect consideration for me to throw in, but sin plays a destructive role in all of our lives. It's the point at which each of us seeks our own rewards, apart from God's sovereignty, that sin begins its corrupting influence.
In the complex analysis of transgenderism, the question isn't so much whether you're a man or a woman, but how one honors God with the life He's given us. God has laid out patterns for each gender to follow, yet I believe that the issue of transgenderism, however legitimate it may be, does not neutralize those patterns. Nothing does, since I believe God is sovereign and holy. But what transgenderism does is call us to account for the body and emotions He's given to us, as well as any biological and/or emotional defects which sin has corrupted in us.
And as for where we go from here, for a few of us, at least - as hard as it would be - accounting for all of this may mean that our God-honoring pattern is celibacy.
Remember, God does not give us the right to have sex. God doesn't give anybody the right to be sexually fulfilled. Shucks, from what I hear from just about everybody, sexual fulfillment is a fantasy in even the best relationships, right?
At the end of the day, at the end of life, at the end of this discussion, it's all about God. Which may sound like an easy-out, but it's not, is it? It's hard for us, because sin makes each of us self-centered. It makes each of us crave an affection we can feel, and touch, and cuddle. Yet faith is convincing not in how it makes us feel, but in what remains true despite all of the complexities that clog our reality.
Part of me wants to take the easy-out and accommodate Mark as the new Mary. After all, it's his life, right? Even if I don't understand what he's going through, it's a free country, and I do want him to be content.
But will being Mary make him content? What makes any of us truly content, except knowing the truth? The truth may not make us happy, or it may not be fun, but those are mere emotions. One can face a firing squad being content in the truth, and the truth is that only God is sovereign, holy, righteous, and - yes - loving.
All of this isn't intended to make Mark and people like him miserable. But love isn't always soft, fluffy, and affirming of what we think we want to do.
Isn't genuine love based on truth?