The tragedy of transgenderism

Sexuality | The current eagerness to encourage sex-change procedures as an answer to inner alienation is...
by Sam A. Andreades
Posted on Friday, May 6, 2016, at 3:54 pm

This week, the U.S. Department of Justice said that North Carolina’s controversial “bathroom bill” violates the Civil Rights Act. The state’s House Bill 2 (or “HB2”), as it is called, restricts transgender people from using public restrooms and locker rooms that correspond with their self-chosen gender, unless they have gone through the medical procedure of sex-reassignment and had their birth certificates changed. The Justice Department gave state officials until Monday to confirm whether or not they will comply with their advisory. North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory remains defiant.

Whatever your opinion of the bill, the current movement of transgenderism into the mainstream is hard to ignore. Numerous documentaries and news stories now portray emotion-invoking stories of sex-change operations. But they don’t just portray—they emphatically praise. Words like “courage,” “champion,” “trailblazer” are applied with increasing frequency to the experience of those who dress differently, change their names, go through hormone treatment, or finally undergo surgery, which on the high-end has gotten quite good. We can soon expect many more TV shows and movies with transgendered characters, cast in an overwhelmingly positive and charming light.

It is difficult not to respond with sympathy to the experience of those feeling like they don’t fit in. Feeling disconnected with one’s boyness or girlness even has a clinical label: gender dysphoria. According to latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), gender dysphoria afflicts 1 in 10,000 to 13,000 men and 1 in 20,000 to 34,000 women. It makes sense to take some steps to address the problem, but it is sad to take extreme invasive measures that are only dubiously helpful, with little examination of whether sex-change procedures, especially carried out on children, really do end their inner alienation.

The most important question remains unasked. It is an obvious question, when you think about it, but it’s one Diane Sawyer—or any media correspondent praising the courage of those undergoing sex-change operations—will never ask Bruce/Caitlin Jenner. It is the elephant in the room that everyone has tacitly agreed to ignore. It is this: “What is a man, Bruce? How do you know you aren’t one? Or, alternatively, what is a woman supposed to feel like? If you cannot answer that question, how can you know you have ‘felt like one all your life’?”

The question really is: What is gender? As gender studies academics across the land will be happy to tell you, this is not an easy question to answer. Although we might have common sense ideas about it based on physical differences or movie preferences, these ideas do not hold up very well to scrutiny.

Here are some questions that show the conundrum: Is being a man just the obvious physical differences of genitalia (male = masculine)? If that were so, why the myriad sex-specific traits that now fill research volumes, reaching up to the complex functions of emotion and thought?

Or how about: Must you like football to be a “real guy”? Supposing a guy doesn’t—is he less of a man? Or is the woman who does like football less of a woman? The same goes for supposedly gender-specific inherent qualities: Must you be nurturing to be a woman? What about Suzie, who simply isn’t nurturing? Is she not really a woman? Or is Phil, who is a non-aggressive man, not really a man?

Numerous exceptions can be found to all the things we usually think define a man or a woman. It is no wonder that college professors throw up their hands and decide that gender is simply a social construct.

But let me let you in on a little secret: Authorities don’t really know what gender is, no matter how much they impress us with their smart guesses. And their faith commitment to gender as a construct of society has severe consequences. If gender is hardly real, it is no surprise that many believe they can change it by medical acumen (and a great deal of money).

The Bible’s genius about gender avoids all the pitfalls. It does not trip up by casting gender in essentialist terms (“A woman is nurturing, a man is aggressive,” etc.), nor does it sink to endorsing cultural conventions (“A man goes to the hardware store, a woman doesn’t like video games,” etc.). No, the Bible’s definition of a man is in terms of a relationship with a woman and vice versa. As the Apostle Paul put it, “Woman is not apart from man. Man is not apart from woman” (1 Corinthians 11:11). So the Bible never falls prey to the various gender foibles. It also points to a reaffirming response in helping those who feel trapped in the wrong body, to help them see by relational definitions of gender how they are not.

But all this means that, according to Scripture, the current eagerness to pursue sex-change procedures as an answer to inner alienation is misguided. As many parents can testify, gender dysphoria is common in children and usually can be addressed not by changing the body but by dispelling misunderstandings of what they think a boy or girl should be, by clarifying for them the truth of their gender.

That this wisdom seems rapidly evaporating today is the great tragedy of transgenderism. As Richard Raskind/Renée Richards, a pioneer in the sex-change experience once put it, “If there had been a way to save the man, that would have been better.”

Yes, it would have been, and it still is.

Sam A. Andreades

Sam is senior pastor of Faith Reformed Presbyterian Church in Quarryville, Pa., and writes about helping people with gender and sexuality issues at

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  • MommynatorRN's picture
    Posted: Tue, 05/10/2016 02:56 pm

    The originators of the procedures to "reassign" gender via hormones and surgery shut down. They noticed by following up over the years that no problems were solved, that people were still innately unhappy and unsatisfied and that there is a higher than normal suicide rate even after reassignment. Their conclusion is that this is a psychiatric issue that should be treated as such.Here is a source article by one of the original Johns Hopkins researchers:

  •  BosLarJazz's picture
    Posted: Tue, 05/10/2016 02:56 pm

    In this whole mess we have an illustration of the human condition. We are all at odds with how we were meant to be. Sin keeps us from being what we were meant to be. We should see in these people God's demonstration of this being at odds with ourselves. Hopefully we will have compassion without giving up the truth. Without Christ we are bound to falter, bound to become more of what we were not intended to be and ultimately that is a life with no life in it - a person made in God's image, but with no knowledge of what His image means for us. We can look in the mirror and not recognize the person, their God given value, or their reason for living. When Adam sinned God removed him from the garden so he would not eat of the tree of life and become eternally permanent in his condition and separation from God. Being at odds with themselves to the point of surgically changing their identity is sort of like eating from that tree. Thankfully we have a redeeming God who has a solution even for those who have had surgery.

  • Janet B
    Posted: Tue, 05/10/2016 02:56 pm

    Carolina Dave, I certainly am praying for the brave leaders in the state of NC!

  • Janet B
    Posted: Tue, 05/10/2016 02:56 pm

    My difficulty with this subject is the bully tactics used on the majority of people to change everything for a minority of people.  And especially  the way the bullies are forcing the issue onto children, who really do not need to be involved in this adult debate.

  • Mickey Hunt's picture
    Mickey Hunt
    Posted: Tue, 05/10/2016 02:56 pm

    If men believing they're women and vice versa is a present cultural norm, then what's next?  See my short story "The Tragedy of Bernie the Homeless" that was recently published in the "post-environmentalist" UK-based anthology, Dark Mountain.

  • CarolinaDave's picture
    Posted: Tue, 05/10/2016 02:56 pm

    As a North Carolina resident, I am pleased that our state government leaders had the courage to take a stand on this issue, and that so far they are standing firm against incredible opposition.  I hope that all my brothers and sisters in Christ who are critical of them are also praying for them.  They were in the right place at the right time that the responsibility to take a stand or not to take a stand fell squarely on their shoulders.  It is easy for those of us who were not in that position to armchair quarterback what they did or the words they used.  Perhaps it could have been worded better, but I am convinced that any choice of words to protect public establishments from bathroom policing would have evoked the same wrath from the left that we are seeing.

  • Laneygirl
    Posted: Tue, 05/10/2016 02:56 pm

    When society declared all truth as relative, many rational and long-held beliefs were tossed on the waste heap. I'm one who never saw this freight train coming on so fast! Gender is nothing but what you think it is? We truly live in Bizarro America, however as aliens and strangers in this world, it should not surprise.

  • HMS
    Posted: Tue, 05/10/2016 02:56 pm

    No matter how you feel, no matter how much surgery you have, no matter how many hormones you take, you can never change the biological fact that every single cell in your entire body is branded XX or XY. We can shake our fist at the Creator, but ultimately we are only a creation - and no amount of wishful thinking can make it otherwise.

  • David W
    Posted: Tue, 05/10/2016 02:56 pm

    My wife and I attended my youngest daughter's high school graduation ceremony two Junes ago.  One of the speakers was a student who had transgendered as a 16 year old. That was her achievement. Her speech is a blur, but she was applauded as a hero. My wife and I,through our tears, heartbroken, kept thinking "child abuse."  The valedictorian later shared that her career goal was to become a community organizer.  Strangers in a strange land we are.

  •  Xion's picture
    Posted: Tue, 05/10/2016 02:56 pm

    God defines who we are.  Some people like the cards they were dealt, others do not.  Some accept their lot; others do not.  Homosexuality and transgenderism are fundamentally a defiance of God, a shaking of the fist at the Creator.  The political agenda based on victimhood and civil rights is a ruse, since the entire premise is false. Romans 1 explains the whole phenomenon in detail.

  • JerryM
    Posted: Tue, 05/10/2016 02:56 pm

    Thanks for the article, Sam, which helps undo some of the damage I believe was caused by Anthony Bradley's recent World article on Transgenderism.  There are indeed different gender constructs.  Unless you are born Intersex, the biological construct (chromosomal and anatomical) tells you whether you are male or female.  It is the cultural construct of gender that is more mutable and, I would argue, presents the church with a challenge.  Do we succumb to the world's idea of maleness or femaleness?  As a young boy I personally felt different from  other boys.  In fact, I felt more at ease with girls.  As I reflect back I understand it was because I was more emotionally sensitive than other boys who saw this as a weakness.  Now as a man, reflecting on the biblical construct, I look at David and Jonathan's relationship as a model for how to relate with a few men who are close friends.  In sum, from the biological perspective, almost always the issue of gender identity is clear.  It is the cultural, social and psychological constructs (and any others? as well as their intersection) where complexities arise and we need more understanding.

  •  Anyaq's picture
    Posted: Tue, 05/10/2016 02:56 pm

    One of the best articles I have read on the subject!!! Thanks so much. Dealing with friends who are so confused about their gender, and about their relationship to their gender. These articles encourage and keep me centered. Keep them coming by ALL means!!!

  •  William Peck 1958's picture
    William Peck 1958
    Posted: Tue, 05/10/2016 02:56 pm

    I had concluded that transgender took hold because to physically change was too traumatic and costly. Plus your market can increase overnight by people just saying "I feel like what I'm not".In regards to "always feeling like a woman", that implies there ARE gender differences.For the law, I became confused because it said "the gender on your birth certificate", because I kept thinking "What about the person who does chop themselves up ? They'd be different than their birth certificate." I never thought about people CHANGING their birth certificate. But what about the person who had the surgery but hasn't yet changed their birth certificate ??? I came away confused, but I think they felt it was quite clear. I mean - why do you have to look at a birth certificate to know which bathroom to go in ?- Why didn't the law simply say "Anatomical males go to the men's room and women to the ladies room."  BUT - isn't their a law on the books already for this ??? I think NC got wrapped around the axle on this.

  •  West Coast Gramma's picture
    West Coast Gramma
    Posted: Tue, 05/10/2016 02:56 pm

    "...the Bible’s definition of a man is in terms of a relationship with a
    woman and vice versa. As the Apostle Paul put it, 'Woman is not apart
    from man. Man is not apart from woman' (1 Corinthians 11:11)." I like that very much. What does it "feel like" to be a woman? I couldn't tell you...but, I am married to a man--that makes me woman. So simple. With this as the working definition, a man married to a woman can be the nanny, wash the dishes, vacuum, and change diapers, while a woman married to a man can explore her carpentry interests while her husband prepares dinner. No fuss, no muss, so simple. Thanks, Sam.

    PS Not sure North Carolina's new bill is the right approach.

  • JerryM
    Posted: Wed, 06/08/2016 11:33 pm

    To SamAAndreadesThank you for your thoughtful response.  If I grew up today with what many are attempting to normalise (the notion of gender identity as a mental not biological state) I may have indeed struggled with my own gender identity.  As it was when I grew up, there was not really an option to "change your gender" and my struggle was not with myself but with my fellow males.  While I did find it easier to relate with girls, I'm not sure I would agree that I struggled with any degree of gender dysphoria.  It was obvious I was male.  I just didn't understand why it appeared that most other males were not like me.  I think I have read and experienced enough now to know what you say is true: That, for example, God is calling men to deeper intimacy (relational not sexual) with Himself and each other.The real tragedy, as you say, is the many, maybe like myself, who are now being told you can change your gender, even just experiment, with only benefits to gain.