Gender Identity

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Transgenderism falls short of the glory of God and is not the way to walk in obedience to Christ. There are three big Scriptural building blocks that lead one inexorably to this conclusion. First, we will consider the nature of 1) Gender Binary, then 2) Gender Identity, and finally how to deal with 3) Gender Confusion.

"Gender Identity". Ajax Alliance Church. Sunday November 19th. 6:30 pm. Thinking back even a decade ago, most of us would not have imagined how confused people have become over the issue of gender. In recent years we have seen athletes and media celebrities undertake and promote what is known as gender reassignment surgery. Corporations regularly include depictions of what is known as alternate lifestyles. Movies and TV regularly feature such characters as well. Schools regularly include curriculum and events celebrating these concepts. No longer considered a "disorder" according to the DSM and psychological circles, gender is considered a fluid and individualistic. Just with Satan's first lie in Genesis to encourage doubt on God's creation and intent, people are encouraged to doubt God's good design of manhood and womanhood. Unfortunately, when God's design is not truly understood, articulated and taught, the evil one, and human rebellion bring confusion and disorder. People are losing athletic scholarships, and sports competitors face unfair competition and possible physical harm. Public spaces like bathrooms and changerooms are disrupted. People in institutions face harm. People are losing their jobs or face sensure like a particular Pickering city counselor for questioning if this should be something promoted and to consider the impact. Instead of counsel and help, Kids are encouraged to make life altering surgeries. Bodies, families, institutions and societal relations are radically changed. Obviously, transgenderism, as a cultural trend, is massively complex, touching on fields as disparate as genetics, fashion, medicine, law, education, entertainment, athletics, and religious liberty. In order to deal with the complexities of the issue we need wisdom, discernment and compassion. It's very easy to immediately feel like everything sensible is vanishing one by one and feel a general disorientation. When we see the real harm to people understanding identity, marriage, parenting and social institutions, is naturally to become angry. But rage seldom brings true reform. If we can understand the issues at hand, process the facts, explain the implications and respond with love and compassion, then we are more likely to be both heard and have a greater opportunity to minister. Before we consider the scriptural definitions, it helps to deal with the distortions by understanding them. There are various terms that might be unfamiliar to some, that need to be defined. Biological sex, birth sex, or natal sex: These terms all refer to the physical or physiological characteristics that help us differentiate between males and females: chromosomes, hormones, gonads, genitals, and secondary sex characteristics-for example, body shape, voice pitch, and hair distribution. Biological sex is often simply referred to as "sex." Gender: Historically, the terms sex and gender have often been used interchangeably. Even today drawing a distinction between them is not universal. Where a distinction is made, gender is "often intended to emphasize the social and cultural, as opposed to the biological, distinctions between the sexes." Increasingly, the psychological dimension of gender is included in the term. Gender, then, usually encompasses three aspects: gender identity, gender expression and gender roles. Gender identity: This refers to the way individuals perceive themselves and conceive of themselves. When a person's subjective gender identity aligns with their objective sex, which is the case for most people, they are sometimes referred to as being cisgender (cis = on the same side of). When there is a clash, however, then they are commonly referred to as transgender (trans = on the other side of). Gender expression: This refers to the social or cultural aspects of how masculinity and femininity are presented in things like dress and demeanor, tastes and interests, social conventions, and other gender norms. These vary from culture to culture, if not from person to person. Gender roles: This refers to the commonly accepted expectations of maleness or femaleness, including social and behavioral expectations. While some roles (for example, who cooks the meals or mows the lawn) vary from household to household or culture to culture, and often change over time, others are biologically determined (most obviously, pregnancy and breastfeeding). Gender bending: This refers to the intentional crossing or bending or blending of accepted gender norms in a given culture. This is done either by adopting the dress, mannerisms, roles, or behaviors of the opposite gender (e.g., transvestitism or gender nonconformity), or through the attempt to obscure one's gender and to appear as either asexual, agender, pansexual, omnigender, androgynous, or non-binary. Gender dysphoria: This is the latest diagnostic term for the distress experienced by those whose psychological gender identity differs from their biological sex (DSM-V, 2013). It replaces the term Gender Identity Disorder, which saw the mismatch itself as a psychiatric disorder (DSM-IV, 1994). Now, however, it's only the distress that is (normally) caused by gender incongruence that is regarded as a problem, not the incongruence itself. Intersex: This is a term that covers a range of disorders of sex development (DSDs) where there is some biological ambiguity in a person's genitalia or gonads, or more rarely still, their chromosomes. Except in very rare instances, a person's biological sex can be known from their DNA. Because intersex conditions are medically identifiable deviations from the binary sexual norm they are not regarded as constituting a third sex. Because they are biologically (rather than psychologically) based, some intersex people do not wish to be associated with the LGBTQ+ movement. Transgender (or, increasingly, trans): This is an umbrella term for people who are born either male or female, but whose gender identity differs from their birth sex (in some degree), and who want to express the gender with which they identify through some form of social transitioning (e.g., changing their name and/or cross-dressing), if not cross-sex hormone therapy (CHT), if not also sex reassignment surgery (SRS). Because of its breadth, the trans umbrella also includes those who identify as bigender, pangender, ambigender, omnigender, gender fluid, gender diverse, non-binary, or agender. Finally, Heteronormativity is the view that biological sex is either male or female (gender binarism), that sex and gender are meant to match up (cisnormativitiy), and that only sexual orientation toward and sexual relations with a member of the opposite sex is normal and natural. The ideas conveyed by the term heteronormativity are central to the biblical view of sex and gender. However, because these ideas are increasingly regarded as bigoted, oppressive, homophobic, and transphobic (especially by LGBTQ+ activists and allies), heteronormativity is a somewhat tainted term. (Smith, R. S. (2022). How Should We Think about Gender and Identity? (D. A. Carson, Ed.; pp. 9-15). Lexham Press.) Nevertheless, God expects everyone to take their understanding, and actions from His word. The Bible teaches that God made us male or female, and no matter our own feelings or confusion, we should act in accordance with the biological reality of God's good design. Transgenderism falls short of the glory of God and is not the way to walk in obedience to Christ. There are three big Scriptural building blocks that lead one inexorably to this conclusion. First, we will consider the nature of 1) Gender Binary, then 2) Gender Identity, and finally how to deal with 3) Gender Confusion. 1) Gender Binary The Bible knows no other gender categories besides male and female. While men and women in Scripture may express their masculinity and femininity in a wonderful diversity of ways, Scripture still operates with the binary categories of men and women. You are one or the other. The anomaly of intersex individuals does not undermine the creational design, but rather gives another example of creational "groaning" and the "not the way they are supposed to be" realities of a fallen world (Rom 8:20-21). Please turn to Matthew 19 Like other God ordained relationships and institutions, there is an evil active attack on identity, marriage and creation. Found among Jesus' teaching on God's design for marriage and the evil of the prevalence of divorce is a curious teaching on a singlehood using the illustration of eunuchs. In this, Jesus affirms God's design for biblical manhood and womanhood. In Matthew 19 we read: Matthew 19:1-12. Now when Jesus had finished these sayings, he went away from Galilee and entered the region of Judea beyond the Jordan. 2 And large crowds followed him, and he healed them there. 3 And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, "Is it lawful to divorce one's wife for any cause?" 4 He answered, "Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, 5 and said, 'Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'? 6 So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate." 7 They said to him, "Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?" 8 He said to them, "Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. 9 And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery." 10 The disciples said to him, "If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry." 11 But he said to them, "Not everyone can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given. 12 For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let the one who is able to receive this receive it." (ESV) * Notice in the context why the crowds listened to Jesus. He ministered here to them, here with the example of healing. In context, it will be our compassion in seeking to heal the confusion over identity that will open a door for the healing ministry of this teaching. * The Pharisees came to Jesus to test/trap him in order to alienate the crowd from His teaching. The warning to us is in our discernment. Often, we will be set up in an argument. If we allow our opponents to define the terms or assume logical leaps, we unwittingly allow the discussion to be distorted, like the Pharisees attempted here, then we will not clearly communicate the truth. * In v. 4 Jesus reiterated God's design in creation: By quoting from Genesis 1:27 and 2:24, Jesus was saying, "Your argument is not with Me, but with my Father.". A simple way to take the focus off of us in our presentation of the truth is what is evident from biology. * In v. 10 we see that even Jesus' disciples have bought into the world's lie: One of the prevalent lies of this age is to abandon the Biblical model in creation, gender, relationships altogether. Even most who identify as Christians today use Satan's definitions and unquestioning follow an unbiblical worldview in these areas. * Implied in Jesus acknowledgement in v. 11 is that the understanding of God's design requires an illuminated mind produced by the Holy Spirit. * Finally in v. 12, Jesus presents three categories of unique situations in human identy. First are eunuchs who were born that way from their mother's womb. These are people who are born with congenital deformities that involve undeveloped sexual capacity. Second are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men, such as were male harem guards of that day. In some ancient religions, castration was considered a way of pleasing and serving a pagan deity, and parents sometimes even had their infant sons castrated for that purpose. Obviously, castrated men do not have normal desires for a woman. Third are eunuchs who made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Unlike the other two forms, this one is not physical. Mutilation of the flesh in order to please God is a purely pagan idea. Jesus is speaking of the voluntary celibacy of those to whom that gift has been granted by God (v. 11). In that case, celibacy can indeed be for the sake of the kingdom of God and be pleasing to Him and used by Him. This leads us into the second specific consideration of: 2. Gender Identity Someone with respect for Scripture may say at this point, "I agree that God makes as either male or female. But you are confusing biological sex with gender. They may claim: I know transgender Christians who desire to embrace God's design for men and women, but they also believe that who God created them to be does not correspond with the sex assigned to them at birth." Some strongly feel that only by living as the opposite sex can they full embrace their true self. But the question is not whether such persons and feelings exist. The question is whether the is of our emotional or mental state equals the ought of God's design. Most Christians reject this thinking in a host of other areas, from eating disorders to unbiblical divorces. We understand that following Christ means dying to ourselves (Matt. 16:24), being renewed in our minds (Rom. 12:2), and no longer walking as we once did (Eph. 4:17-18). Being "true to ourselves" is always a false choice when it means going against God's Word. As we have seen in Jesus' summary in Matthew 19 of the Biblical intent of God's design, the Scripture portrays the organic unity of biological sex and gender identity. This is why male and female are (uniquely) the type of pair that can reproduce (Gen. 1:28; 2:20). It's why homosexuality-a man lying with a man as with a woman (Lev. 18:22)-is wrong. It's why the apostle Paul can speak of homosexual partnerships as deviating from the natural relations or natural function of male-female sexual intercourse (Rom. 1:26-27). In each instance, the argument only makes sense if there is an assumed equivalence between the biology of sexual difference and the corresponding identities of male and female. Please turn to Genesis 2 The binary nature of human sex revealed in Genesis 1 is both emphasised and developed in Genesis 2. Here we move from humanity being described in terms of the adjectives male (zakhar) and female (neqevah)-which are not unique to humans but also apply to animals (e.g., Gen 6:19)-to the nouns man ('ish) and woman ('ishshah), as these are applied to Adam and Eve: Genesis 2:21-25. 21 So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. 22 And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. 23 Then the man said, "This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man." 24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. 25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed. (ESV) * The clear implication of this move from male and female (in Gen 1) to man and woman (in Gen 2), an implication everywhere confirmed as the biblical narrative unfolds, is that a person's biological sex reveals and determines both their objective gender (what gender they, in fact, are) and certain key gender roles (should they be taken up). That is, human males grow into men (and potentially husbands and fathers) and human females grow into women (and potentially wives and mothers). Indeed, it is this set of binary connections that makes human marriage possible. (Smith, R. S. (2022). How Should We Think about Gender and Identity? (D. A. Carson, Ed.; pp. 35-36). Lexham Press.) How can we finally deal with: 3) Gender Confusion Since the binary of male and female is God's idea, and if we are meant to embrace, by divine design, our biological and creational difference as men and women, then it stands to reason that the confusion of these realities would be displeasing to God. And so we see clearly in the Bible that men should not act sexually as women (Lev. 18:22; Rom. 1:18-32; 1 Cor. 6:9-10), that men should not dress like women (Deut. 22:5). God abhors the deliberate attempt at gender blurring (1 Cor. 11:2-16). We do not have an inherent right to do whatever we want with our physical selves. We belong to God and should glorify him with our bodies (1 Cor. 6:19-20). Please turn to Psalm 139 It is because of a lack of understanding between our created bodies, our eternal souls and our human spirits that people express a mismatch between their physical bodies and feelings of identity. Without wanting to minimize the reality of the psychological distress experienced by sufferers of gender incongruence, there is simply no space within biblical anthropology for the kind of ontological mismatch that is sometimes claimed. The soul is the soul of the body, as the body is the body of the soul. Speaking of our creation and design by God, David writes: Psalm 139:13-16. 13 For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. 14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. 15 My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. 16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. (ESV) * There is, then, no person or soul or spirit that has been created independently of the body and then placed in the body (or perhaps in the wrong body). As the Lord knit my body together in my mother's womb, "I was being made in secret." It is for this reason that the God-given sex of the body reveals God-ordained gender of the person (Smith, R. S. (2022). How Should We Think about Gender and Identity? (D. A. Carson, Ed.; p. 41). Lexham Press.). This understanding has profound and far-reaching implications, which Oliver O'Donovan expresses both clearly and compassionately: "The sex into which we have been born (assuming that it is physiologically unambiguous) is given to us to be welcomed as a gift of God. The task of psychological maturity-for it is a moral task, and not merely an event which may or may not transpire-involves accepting this gift and learning to love it, even though we may have to acknowledge that it does not come to us without problems. Our task is to discern the possibilities for personal relationship which are given to us with this biological sex, and to seek to develop them in accordance with our individual vocations.... Responsibility in sexual development implies a responsibility to nature-to the ordered good of the bodily form which we have been given. And that implies that we must make the necessary distinction between the good of the bodily form as such and the various problems that it poses to us personally in our individual experience. This is a comment that applies not only to this very striking and unusually distressing problem, but to a whole range of other sexual problems too". (Oliver O'Donovan, Begotten or Made? (OUP, 1984), 28-29) The good news is that studies indicate that most kids-roughly 70 percent-who experience childhood gender dysphoria and are not socially transitioned outgrow it. Until that point, we must resist so called "affirmative care" with those struggling. People of this age seem to pay so much attention to the hormones in food but fail to consider the permanent life altering use of it artificially put into a developing body. As many are unfortunately finding out too late, the outward cosmetic surgical changes will not heal a troubled soul. Genesis 3 outlines the problem of dysphoria: the conflict with feelings and outward awareness. In 2 Cor. 3:18; 5:17, we see that people are enabled by God for a transformation not merely a transitioning. It is a transformation from despair to hope. We are enabled to be transformed from the inside out (Rom. 12:2) not the outside in. This transformation culminates in glorification (Rom. 8:22-23). Because of the rebellion of sin, people come into this world with a body dysphoria. Even if we don't know it we are distressed with the incongruity of the old and seeking the new. Finally, we are made for a transformation that is deeper and eternal than immediate and temporal. As disciples along the arc of redemption, we are not made through the cosmetic, by the scalpel for the community but through the Word, by the Spirit for the Glory of God eternal. (Ferguson, S. D. (2023). Does God Care about Gender Identity? (J. Kennedy, Ed.; p. 12). Crossway.) (Format Note: Some base commentary from
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