sexual orientation and gender

The cover story of TIME magazine this week is “The Transgender Tipping Point: America’s next civil rights frontier.” I read it on Saturday—thanks, airplane miles—and two things caught my eye.

1. The article mentions how some opponents of civil rights legislation in Maryland are concerned about what this means for public restrooms. One lady said, “I don’t want men who think they are women in my bathrooms and locker rooms.” State senator Richard Madaleno replied, “We hear this on every gay-rights issue. There’s always this parade of outlandish consequences that are going to occur that never do.”

Really? Is he sure that “outlandish consequences” never occur? He is being quoted in a cover story entitled, “The Transgender Tipping Point.” It seems they do sometimes.

2. The article distinguishes between sexual preferences and gender: “sexual orientation determines who you want to go to bed with and gender identity determines what you want to go to bed as.”

Previous generations thought both categories were fixed, while contemporary culture assumes that both are determined by the individual. Gender and sexual orientation are so malleable that “some trans people reject all labels, seeing gender as a spectrum rather than a two-option multiple-choice question.” I’m not sure how male and female is a sliding scale, but there you go.

The Enlightenment proved it’s impossible to enthrone the autonomous self without falling into contradictions, and I believe I see one here. Our culture often says it’s unrealistic to tell homosexuals to change. They can’t simply “pray the gay away.” Then it turns around and says that people are free to choose their own gender and sexual orientation. Which is it? Are they free to choose or not? I don’t think the LGBT community can have it both ways, though I’m sure they will.







6 responses to “sexual orientation and gender”

  1. Yes, I find that seeming contradiction ironic as well. When it comes to orientation “God makes no mistakes” but when it comes to gender, you might have been born in the wrong body.

    But I think if pressed you might see that the contradiction only exists when viewed through the lens of biology/science. Ultimately, the issue comes down to elevating the will of the individual to the final authority. It’s not I “am” therefore… but I “desire” therefore… This is where transgender/homosexuality issues align. “No other authority but the self.”

  2. mikewittmer

    You’re right, Steve. The issue is individual autonomy, which allows them to change when they want and to say they can’t change when they don’t want to. It’s a maddeningly inconsistent card to play. It’s like playing the Rook for every trick of every hand. Ain’t no trumping it.

  3. Skeeter

    A missionary I know here in Paraguay, who is on the board of a Christian school, said people from the UN came in trying to get them to use a sexual education curriculum that specified over 20 genders and that it was up to each student to determine their own.

  4. Probably Not A Fish

    Hi, hello, friendly neighbourhood genderqueer speaking here. I check in on your blog every once in a while because you’ve got some decent things to say and I like the wit and tone of your writing. However, as of late i’ve been pretty nervous because i knew the gender issue was gonna come up sooner or later.
    Frankly, even as a member of the LGBT(QA) community, people do make a big ole stink out of the whole gender thing, and there is a lot of fuss made about all the various genders and identities and oh man, how many more terms are there gonna be?! I do wish that members of the LGBT community would be more respectful towards Christian and “normal” culture. It is unfortunately true that a large amount of people take standings that are extreme and completely violate the views and beliefs of others. I do not like that, I think it’s horrible and unrealistic and sheds a poor light on the community as a whole. It’s like they’re expecting changes to be immediate and drastic – a paradigm shift, if you will – and that’s really not realistic. To expect a culturally ingrained view of marriage, gender AND the certainty of it, to suddenly welcome us with open arms without saying “what the heck is this?!” several times over? It’s ridiculous, and we definitely do need to slow down, and as with anything (religion included) the community has arguments that fold in on themselves.
    What I meant to comment on in the first place (I apologize for being so wordy) is my stand on transgenderism/transsexuality, if only as food for thought.
    See, you always hear people harping on and on about how “God made you who he wanted you to be,” and how “you’re perfect just the way YOU are, because HE says so!” I totally understand that. Yes, God intended for us to be like Him, He intended perfection. But unfortunately, it is hopefully as obvious as the mosquito bites covering my legs that the world isn’t perfect, right? People get cancer, children are born with birth defects, there are children starving in Africa…
    I don’t think God intended for kids to have birth defects, or that he thinks that’s “perfection.” I don’t think it was God’s plan for cancer to be a thing that exists. I’m not saying He makes mistakes – I’m saying these mistakes are a side effect of sin. God “designs” someone perfectly. When someone comes to exist, their concept is perfect, but the minute they begin to be in this world with physical form, so from conception, they are just as susceptible to the effects of an imperfect world as the rest of us are. That’s also an explanation for birth defects such as facial clefts, Downs syndrome, or intersex disorders, so why would it be so surprising that someone gets the “wrong body” every once in a while? Transgenderism isn’t exactly recent, either, and I think it’s pretty darn neat that people can do things to make their bodies feel “theirs” nowadays…

    Good gravy, I think I’ve typed enough. That is a truckload of words, I didn’t intend to make this so long. I hope it isn’t too much of a bother to read this, and if you did, that it all made sense. I don’t participate in internet communication terribly avidly, but i do hope my two cents is at least worth something. I apologize wholly if I’ve offended you in any way, form, or manner, as that was most certainly not my intention.

    And have a nice summer.

  5., that’s a great comment. You have put your finger on a fundamental gap in the “God made me this way” argument — it doesn’t take into account that this world is broken. Because of that, we cannot simply _assume_ that everything is just the way it should be. In fact everyone who claims the “God made me this way” defense can point out many things about ourselves and our world that obviously aren’t “supposed” to be that way — as indeed we all can. You gave some good examples of that.

    So what is our reference point for the way life is “supposed to be”? The Biblical story tells how God created the world perfect, how we broke it and continue to break it by living independently of him, and how God is in the process of healing and restoring it to perfection.

  6. The inherent contradiction of claiming both that “I’m born this way — I can’t change” (“nature”) and “I’m not constrained by cultural norms — I can make myself anything I want” (“nurture”) is laid out nicely by Phillip Jensen here

    Jensen concludes:
    “The nature/nurture debate is a failed attempt to undermine moral discourse. … The nature/nurture studies have their place. They may explain why I behave as I do, but they do not excuse or justify my immorality. They may give me reasons for feeling the way I do, and explain why morality is such a struggle for me, but they don’t change the verdict of right or wrong. They may increase my sympathy for others who struggle with different issues to me but they do not absolve people of guilt or make allowances for wrongdoing. The problem is that both my nature and my nurture are contaminated by sin and without God’s regeneration I will always continue sinning—as a sinner.”

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