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It was bound to happen sooner or later. At the church where I help serve dinner for the downtown community once a month, I meet all kinds: street people, addicts, gays, and the occasional cross-dresser. This individual flaunted the figure and clothing of a teenage girl, with the facial hair and facial structure of a man. It wasn’t just the face, though; no one would have taken this person for anything but male, no matter the accoutrement.
We had a pleasant conversation, but later, when making a request for our guest, I used the pronoun “he.” I was immediately corrected: “She.”
“Uh, OK, sorry,” I said. An apology may not have been warranted, but it was automatic. And that was not the time for an extended conversation on gender confusion.
A small exchange, but it indicates the direction we’re headed. How far we can travel in that direction is not so indicative. After reading about it for the last several years, and talking with the one transgendered person I know by name, I’ve come to some conclusions about the social phenomenon known as transgenderism.
My understanding is that a small fraction of the population, less than 1 percent, suffers from genuine confusion about their sexual identity—the brain, somehow, disagrees with the body about whether one is male or female. This confusion, formerly classified as a “disorder,” appears to be a legitimate psychological problem that might, at least in some cases, be successfully treated.
But in 2013 the Netflix series Orange Is the New Black made a star out of Laverne Cox, the first openly transgender person to appear as a series regular. Beginning in 2015, Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner made a very public transition overwhelmingly backed by the media (Wikipedia no longer has an entry for “Bruce Jenner”). “Trans,” once the junior “T” of the LBGT acronym, became the new civil-rights frontier. The advocacy group GLAD, formerly Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, changed its name to GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders, in order to underscore trans inclusion.
Trans became trendy, especially among the young. The rate of self-identification with the opposite gender, or no gender, has mushroomed among school-age children. According to an extensive survey conducted two years ago, as many as 25 percent of California kids are questioning their biological sex.
Given that teens naturally struggle with defining themselves, this is extremely dangerous. Permanent sterility is only one of the possible health consequences of puberty blockers, hormone therapy, and transition surgery, and there’s no evidence that psychological well-being is any better. Recent studies indicate the opposite. I predict that in 10 years, or less, we’ll see a monumental backlash from 20-somethings whose lives were permanently altered, or even ended, by this delusion.
For the last two years, GLAAD’s “Accelerating Acceptance” report has shown declining acceptance of transgenderism, especially among young people.
But even now, reality is beginning to push back. Female athletes resent getting trounced by biological men in women’s sports events. Committed feminists resent being labeled as “terfs” (trans-exclusionary radical feminists) when they ask what it even means to be a woman. For the last two years, GLAAD’s “Accelerating Acceptance” report has shown declining acceptance, especially among young people who are usually the first to hop aboard a civil rights bandwagon. In every demographic, young men and women reported discomfort with learning a family member was LGBT, or having such a person as their child’s teacher or family doctor, or sitting beside an LGBT individual at church. In some demographics, the acceptance level dropped almost 50 percent in a year’s time.
Andrew Sullivan, a gay activist with some conservative leanings, believes the trans community’s high-handedness has alienated middle America. He’s for dropping the T altogether, because the interests of Ts and LGs conflict in significant ways, and he fears trans activism will wipe out the progress gays and lesbians have made.
The pushback may signal a return to sanity, or a reaction against the efforts of activists to herd an entire culture into this uncharted territory. It could get ugly. Our challenge and calling is to see the herd as sheep without a shepherd, and worthy of our compassion as God’s anxious and confused image-bearers.