Sexuality

The transgender debate isn’t about washrooms

Or, how to argue like a Christian

Here’s the scenario: there’s a fellow in front of you wearing a little black dress. And he wants to know your thoughts on the transgender debate. You’re considering two possible answers.

1) “This is a debate about what feelings can and can’t do. God says He determines our gender (Gen. 1:27, 5:2, Matt. 19:4, Mark 10:6) but now many people are saying that it’s our feelings that do that. Do feelings have that power? I don’t think so. What we know about our feelings is that they often run counter to reality. We can feel attracted to people we know wouldn’t be good for us. We can feel pulled to do things we know we shouldn’t, or to put off things we need to get done. Sometimes scarily thin girls can feel fat, and bullied boys can feel worthless. We can feel angry when we have no reason to be, or feel happy when the more appropriate response would really be shame or regret. In everyday life our feelings can, so often, prove to be a horrible guide for us. Our feelings don’t shape reality, so we need to shape our feelings and emotions to conform to the world as it is. And that’s what God tells us when it comes to gender too (Deut. 22:5). He chose our gender, and we have to shape our feelings to fit that reality.”

2) “We’re worried that some guys will pretend to be transsexual just so they can get access to the women’s washroom. So, for the sake of the women and children, we can’t let biological males use women’s washrooms. It’s a matter of safety.”

Which answer do you choose?

Most Christians seem to be going with the second answer. It’s not without controversy – Red Sox legend Curt Schilling got fired from his ESPN job for arguing this point – but it’s nowhere near as controversial as the first. The second also has some clear advantages. It is shorter, and when it’s important to say things just so, brief is better. And it focuses on the safety of women and children, which is a hard point to object to.

But it doesn’t mention the Bible or God.

Some might think that another advantage. After all, our country has rejected God, so they don’t care what He says. If we bring up God, aren’t we just setting ourselves up to be ignored? Wouldn’t it be better to present neutral/secular arguments, to increase the odds that we’ll be heard?

Secular arguments can’t stand on their own

The short answer is, no.

The longer answer is “Nooooooooooo!”

Secular arguments might be less controversial, but they have no foundation. They are based on a worldview that is insubstantial. Thus there is a very practical objection to relying on them: they can’t stand on their own.

Already, we can see the shaky nature of secular arguments in our bathroom debates. The US department store Target was hit with a one-million-signature petition protesting their decision to let transgender customers use the washroom of their choice. But as one commentator noted, the vast majority of Target stores have single-stall family restrooms. If we’re worried about the safety of our wife, or our children, then all we need to do is use these single-stall facilities.

A gay legislator from Alabama took down the safety argument a different way. Patricia Todd noted that most sexual assaults occur

“…in locations where children gather, school, church, parks, etc…. So if you really want to protect your children from child predators, don’t take them to school, public parks, church or allow them to play sports or use the Internet.”

We can also predict that if we keep talking about safety the other side is going to counter with safety concerns of their own. They are going to start sharing stories about dress-wearing guys who got harassed in the men’s washroom. Or, rather, we’re going to hear stories about dress-wearing boys, and crewcut girls who were hassled. If we’re all about safety, then what about these children’s safety?

Canada’s recent past provides an even better example of the shortcomings of the purely secular argument. During our country’s gay “marriage” debate I did a presentation in one of our churches and asked the audience to list all the best arguments for our side. We came up with a half dozen or so, and some in the crowd seemed to get worried when I rebutted all but one of them. The reason I could do that is because all but one of them were based on secular reasoning. I could slap them down as quickly as they were raised because they were all built on this quivering, crumbling secular foundation.

“Marriage has been this way for thousands of years.”
“Slavery was in vogue for millennia; does that mean it was right? Some traditions need to be abandoned.”

“Most Canadians are against changing it.”
“Sometimes the majority can be wrong. And besides, will you support gay marriage if/when the majority approves?”

“We shouldn’t let judges force this on us.”
“So if we vote it in you’ll be fine with it?”

Christians rose to the defense of tradition, and democracy, and stood against judicial activism, but how often did we speak about God’s perspective?

Not very.

So we lost. And we lost, in part, because the arguments we were relying on simply didn’t measure up. They couldn’t stand on their own.

Secular arguments miss the point

But there is a still bigger problem: secular arguments don’t fight the battle that really needs to be fought.

When a big culture-wide kerfuffle erupts we need to see this for what it really is. Christians need to ask: “What part of God’s truth is being attacked this time?” We have to understand we’re in a war, and the other side’s objective is always to attack God’s people, His Word, and His Truth. So yes, safety is a concern in the transgender debate, but that’s not what the battle is really about. This bathroom ruckus is only a distraction – it’s the enemy trying to get us to direct out attention to the symptom rather than the disease. What they’re coming after – what they want to overthrow – is Genesis 1:27b: “male and female He created them.”

Safety is a concern. We’re already hearing in the news about sick guys taking advantage of these policies to head into women’s washrooms, to peep, or take pictures, or expose themselves. It’s predictable. It’s ridiculous. But what’s the cause of this craziness? God says He made us male and female, and the other side says, “No, we can create our own genders – God lied.”

That’s the real fight. That’s the truth they are attacking, so that’s the truth we need to defend.

Christian arguments have a firm foundation

So how do we get at it?

We begin with God. We lead with Him and His truth. The world doesn’t want to hear about Him, but He’s what they need.

Canada’s gay “marriage” debate provides a good example of how a good Christian defense can look. During the 2004 election a Christian Heritage Party candidate I was working with gave his riding a solid Christian defense of marriage. Ed Spronk sent a brochure to every household that presented God as the Standard-Maker. Spronk explained that if we abandoned God’s standard for marriage then soon enough we would be left with no standard at all. He then shared news items from around the world to show how this was already happening, with people marrying multiple spouses, marrying objects, and even marrying themselves.

Spronk didn’t win the election, but he was heard – his brochure was the talk of the riding.

The structure of his argument went like this:

  • Here’s what God says on this matter.
  • What God says is true, so we’ll see supporting evidence in the world.
  • Here’s some of that evidence.

A few of the illustrations he presented were the exact news items other Christians were using as standalone secular arguments. For instance, many were pointing to the woman who married herself as an example of what would happen next if we let gay “marriage” happen. But the response to this as a standalone argument was mixture of apathy and disbelief: “Who cares?” and, “It will never happen.” Once again the secular argument couldn’t stand on its own.

Spronk used this same incident, with a difference: he placed it on the firm foundation of God’s truth. He started by explaining that it’s God Who defines what marriage is and isn’t. Then Spronk used this self-marrying single lady as an example of the craziness that ensues when we deny God’s standards for marriage.

It supported his main point, but it wasn’t his point. It was simply one bit of supportive evidence and his core argument – his explicitly Christian argument – would continue to stand with or without it.

In the transgender debate

I began this article began with two possible answers. The first might not look all that similar to Ed Spronk’s traditional marriage defense, but it actually has the same basic structure. Sproink’s and this first answer are both built on an explicitly Christian foundation, and both then stack supporting evidence on top of that Christian foundation.

This is how that first answer looks like broken down:

  • Here’s what God says on this matter: your feelings can’t determine your gender; I do.
  • What God says is true so we’ll see supporting evidence in the world.
  • Here’s some of that evidence: examples of when our feelings have run counter to reality, without ever changing it.

This is what a good Christian argument looks like. We need more like this.

Does that mean we have to abandon our bathroom arguments altogether? No, but we need to place them on a Christian foundation. That’s the key. They don’t stand on their own, but they can work well as supportive evidence for God’s truth. Here’s how that might look in a letter to your local paper:

Dear editor,

I’m writing regarding the recent article series you had on children who say they are transgender and want access to surgeries and puberty suppressing drugs.

As a Christian I know all of humanity is made in God’s image, so that means we are all worthy of respect. That, of course, includes people who identify as transgendered. That is why I cannot go along with cultural move to treat gender as something that is subjective, tied to how someone feels, rather than an objective reality. Our gender is not something that our feelings can change; feelings don’t have that power. Our gender is determined for us, by God, and is written into us right down to our DNA. And if we won’t recognize that men are men and women are women and the two can’t switch places, then all sorts of craziness will ensue. Craziness will happen because craziness always does when we reject reality. We will see:

Peeping Toms claiming to be women to gain access to women’s washrooms

  • High school boys showering with high school girls *
  • Perverts of various sorts taking full advantage
  • Men applying for spots in women’s dormitories
  • A demand for women’s sanitary bins in male toilets “for men who menstruate” *
  • A demand for urinals in women’s washrooms
  • Men competing on women’s sports teams *
  • Men obliterating the women’s records in weightlifting, shot-put, high jump, etc. and etc.
  • Men winning “Women of the Year” awards *
  • Men attending women’s colleges *
  • Sexually abused women feeling unsafe in all public washrooms
  • Women cutting off their breasts and men cutting off their penises
  • Children being given high doses of hormones to suppress their normal maturation

There will also be others who will extend this same “I am whatever I feel like I am” logic to other areas including age and race (this is already happening) and maybe even height and species (and, yes, this is also already happening). We need to reject that idea that our feelings can remake reality. I respectfully ask you to stand firm against the notion that “wishing does make it so.”

Yours, in God’s service,

Jon Dykstra

Here the bathroom argument serves as just one bit of supportive evidence for our overall argument that God determines our gender, not our feelings (and if we reject God’s sovereignty over gender, then craziness will ensue). The structure is again the same as we saw with Ed Spronk: our foundation is what God says on the matter, and then because we know that what God says is true, we are able to find supportive evidence in the world around, so we share some of those examples.

Conclusion 

When we present God’s truth to an audience we don’t need to hit them with a sermon – we can be brief. But God’s truth needs to be our foundation. The battle we’re in isn’t about bathrooms. It’s about God, and how He determines our gender, and all of reality. That’s the truth that’s under assault, so that’s the truth we are called to defend.

May the Lord grant us the courage to fight where the battle rages.


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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Nick Stuart

    December 26, 2017 at 8:55 pm

    Bear in mind that just because you lose an argument it doesn’t mean that you are wrong.

    • Reformed Perspective

      December 27, 2017 at 1:22 am

      Certainly true. But the irony here is that Christians are avoiding mention of God (even as they argue for God’s standards and His morality) because they think that the more winnable approach. But it turns out that approach not only robs God of the glory He is due, the approach is a losing one because any arguments of this sort have no firm foundation and are, therefore, so very easy to undermine and demolish.

      In other words, Christians, in the hopes of winning, are avoiding mention of God. But in avoiding mention of God they are presenting arguments that can’t help but lose in the long run.

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