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“Gender confirmation”? Why words matter

In a May article FoxNews.com used a new term for what it has to this point commonly called “sex change operations.” In reporting on a 20% American increase for such surgeries from 2015 to 2016, they described them as “gender confirmation surgeries.”

Why is this notable?

Because the terms used in a debate can have a big impact on how the public perceives it. Just consider:

  • The liberal media label us as “anti-abortion” rather than “pro-life” because, after all, who wants to be anti?
  • While “homosexuality” is still in use, the term is clinical, cold, thus the adoption of “gay” with its much more innocent vibe.
  • The switch from “global warming” to “climate change” means that should the planetary warming stop, the doom and gloom doesn’t need to because “change” is a catch-all phrase that can be applied to any sort of weather.
  • We lost the marriage debate when it was commonly accepted as being between those for and against “gay marriage.” Then even those defending traditional marriage were speaking of “gay marriage” as if it were a real, possible, thing, which was the very point in dispute.

What’s notable in the Fox News article is how this new terminology takes things one step further. “Sex change” and “gender confirmation” both presume that it is possible to surgically alter what God has irrevocably assigned (Matt. 19:4). So both are lies. But the latter also asserts that what is happening is not so much a choice, as simply a “confirmation” of what needed to be done.

That’s why you can expect to hear this change in vocabulary much more moving forward.

As servants of the Truth, we need to think through the terminology we are going to use – there is a need for accuracy, but considerations also for being winsome (Col. 4:6). So, for example, in LGBT  discussions, truth is why we might use “homosexual” rather than “gay” and winsome is why we might use “homosexual” rather than “sodomite.” And when it comes to the climate, it is more accurate and yet still winsome to describe the debate as being about “cataclysmic global warming” rather than “climate change” or even “global warming” because it is primarily whether the warming will be cataclysmic that is the real point of contention.

However, when it comes to these surgeries, the most accurate description would be “genital mutilation”….but those are fighting words! Perhaps we could go with Johns Hopkins Hospital’s Paul McHugh who described it as “surgically amputating normal organs.” Still accurate and a little less contentious…but probably too long for general use.

So is there anything we can use that is accurate and winsome? It would be good to try, in this case it may not be possible. When it comes to genital mutilation it would seem the truth is unavoidably brutal.


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