Love Compels Us to Drop the Transgender Terminology
There are people born with biological or chromosomal abnormalities who do not fit perfectly into the male-female categories. They are called intersex (more precisely, those affected by disorders of sexual development, representing .018% of the population). They deserve our sensitivity and compassion, but they are the exceptions who prove the rule of the gender binary. There are also people who, to the core of their being, feel that they are trapped in the wrong body, often experiencing internal conflict and pain for many years. They too deserve our sensitivity and compassion. But to call them “transgender” is to do them a disservice.
Simply stated, since transgender identity, in sharp distinction from the condition of intersex, is a psychological condition, that identity is a perception rather than a reality. Consequently, to refer to transgender identity as if it were a biological reality is to do a disservice to the sufferer, not to mention damage society as a whole and deny biological realities and gender distinctions. (Obviously, in saying this, I do not believe that, from birth, trans-identifying people have different brains than others. If that were true, then their condition would be biologically grounded after all.)
To those of you who agree with what I have stated, this is nothing new. I am simply preaching to the choir. Yet there is a reason for this preaching. (I’ll return to that shortly.)
To those of you who disagree with what I have stated, this is further proof of what you perceive as my deep-seated transphobia and religious-based bigotry. Yet you are still reading this article, so please do read on.
Let’s flesh this out for a moment in real-life terms, but using the hypothetical character Jane Doe.
Isn’t Something Amiss?
Jane has been a famous actress for years, known to her followers as “she,” since, quite unambiguously, she is a woman.
But now Jane says that she identifies as a male and that, all these years, she has been suppressing her real identity. Jane is now John.
As a result, from the very moment of Jane’s announcement, before she has met with a medical professional or received any hormone treatment or had any body-altering surgery, “she” is now referred to as “he.” In fact, to fail to make the pronoun shift is an act of hatred, and on some internet platforms, it is grounds for exclusion and banning. (How dare we “deadname” or “misgender”!)
But two years later, John has had a change of heart and realizes that he is actually neither Jane nor John. He/she is now non-binary and must be referenced to as “they.” All clear! “They” it is.
But two more years down the line and “they” now realize that “they” are actually “she.” Jane is actually Jane again! Back to “she” we go, without questioning anything or wondering aloud if something might not be amiss.
Perceptions Don’t Equal Reality
Now, in cases where my hypothetical scenario is quite close to real life, my intention is not to mock or demean. It is simply to underscore that the entire “transgender” (or “non-binary”) identity of Ms.-Mr.-Mss./Messrs Doe had nothing to do with actual reality. It was entirely a matter of perception, not particularly different from those who identify as furries (part human, part animal) or those who suffer from Body Identity Integrity Disorder (BIID).
In each case, the feelings can be very deep and real, sometimes to the point of torment and potential (or actual) suicide and/or bodily harm.
But that doesn’t mean that, say, Dr. David Benaron, the inventor who laid the groundwork for the optical heart rate monitor on our smart watches, is actually part cheetah. (He has identified as “Spottacus” the cheetah for many years.)
And that doesn’t mean that Jewel Shuping, the BIID sufferer who blinded herself in order to keep with her lifelong perception of being sightless, was truly sightless before she destroyed her sight.
To be clear, on a personal level, I have no point of reference for the experiences of people like Benaron or Shuping, or, for that matter, people like “Caitlyn” Jenner. I cannot begin to imagine what conflicts or pain or confusion they have lived with, nor do I pretend to understand.
But that doesn’t mean for a moment that we should affirm their perceived identities.
Socially Convenient, But Not Best
To the contrary, the moment we affirm the outward symptoms rather than continue to look for inward cures, we do what is convenient rather than what is best.
Not only so, but we turn biological and societal realities upside down, leading to ridiculous, oxymoronic references to things like “her male genitalia” as well as contributing to the deep-seated confusion of our children.
More significantly, we open the door to unfair practices, such as boys competing against girls in sports events. And we make possible downright dangerous social practices, such as imprisoning a biological male sex-offender who identifies as female in a women’s prison, where he proceeds to rape the female inmates.
Again, I understand that perception may feel like reality. But that does not make it reality, and it is high time that we take a stand for reality.
This means that, at the least, conservative news sites should stop using preferred gender pronouns, regardless of what professional guidelines call for. It’s time to buck the system. (It would be great if all news sites stopped using such terminology, but obviously, those who affirm transgender identity would have no reason to do so.)
It also means that those of us who share my convictions should no longer refer to someone as, say, “a transgender male” but rather as a woman who identifies as a man. If we do use the “trans” word at all, it should be in the phrase “trans-identifying.” That’s because transgender, as a distinct biological reality, simply does not exist. The sooner we accept this reality, the better.
Let’s be People of Courage and Conviction
I personally believe that, in the not too distant future, society as a whole will recognize this to be true. Why not, then, do the right thing today rather than simply swim with the tide when things shift in the years ahead? That’s what compromisers do. People of courage and conviction do the right thing today, regardless of cost or consequences.
And we can do this while working to help those struggling with these deep internal conflicts and while showing them love on an individual level, even if they are put off by our style of communication.
Love does what’s right, even when it’s unpopular.
That’s because love is driven by reality rather than perception. Love is driven by truth.
Dr. Michael Brown (www.askdrbrown.org) is the host of the nationally syndicated Line of Fire radio program. His latest book is Why So Many Christians Have Left the Faith. Connect with him on Facebook, Twitter or YouTube.