The Boundaries Of Transgender Rights

Nov 28th, 2020 | By | Category: Featured Issues, Politics & Current Events

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When it comes to gender issues in Western Civilization, confusion reigns supreme.   Arguably, the next dimension of the postmodern sexual revolution, indeed the next civil rights movement, is the transgender one.   Kay Steinmetz of Time magazine writes, “Transgender people—those who identify with a gender other than the sex they were ‘assigned at birth,’ to use the preferred phrase among trans activists—are emerging from the margins to fight for an equal place in society.”  Indeed, Congress is considering legislation deemed “The Equality Act,” which would ban “discrimination on the basis of sex, gender identity and sexual orientation.”  As The Economist reports, “The problem is that parts of the bill appear to put the needs of transgender people above those of women.  This is because the act redefines ‘sex’ in title IX and other amendments of the Civil Rights Act to include ‘gender identity’ rather than making transgenderism a protected category of its own.  Its definition of ‘gender identity’ is fuzzy and appears to downplay the reality of sex, listing as it does, ‘gender-related identity, appearance, mannerisms, or other gender-related characteristics of an individual, regardless of the individuals’ designated sex and birth.’”

The Equality Act would also require female sports teams to include transgender players and this “fight for equality” would necessarily  involve international sports competition.  [Trans women have been successful in weightlifting, cycling and athletics.]  However, according to The Economist, “On October 9th World Rugby, the global governing body for rugby union, announced that it would bar transgender women—people born male, but who identify as women—from playing in the international women’s game.”  This decision put World Rugby at odds with the International Olympic Committee (IOC), whose rules since 2004 allow trans women to compete in women’s Olympic events, and with other sports organizations that have followed the IOC.   [Several prominent female athletes, including Martina Navratilova, a tennis player, and three British Olympians, have urged the IOC to reconsider their decision.  Their arguments are particularly acute in America, where, in at least two cases, they have ended up in court.]  Why did World Rugby go against the cultural tide in international sports and ban trans women?  There are two primary reasons:

  1. World Rugby gathered scientists, ethicists, athletes and lawyers together for their input and counsel.  Each presented evidence about the issue of trans women in women’s sport.  All of the proceedings were made public.  The evidence presented conformed “what every day experience suggests.  Most males are bigger, faster and stronger than most females; some males are bigger, faster or stronger than any female.”
  2. “The second concerned the role of testosterone, the male sex hormone and anabolic steroid that is responsible for much of that sporting advantage.  The IOC permits trans women to compete in women’s events if they suppress the amount of testosterone circulating in their blood.”  As The Economist has argued, “Suppressing testosterone appears to have only a minor impact on strength—too small to undo the advantages bestowed by male puberty.”  In fact, “no amount of testosterone suppression in adulthood can bring male athletes into line with female ones . . . And no amount of hormone therapy can shrink skeletons.”  World Rugby was concerned about concussions and the long-term impact of other common injuries by trans women to other players.

In short, the decision of World Rugby was based on scientific evidence and the basic doctrine of fairness.  Women’s sports have existed for thousands of years precisely to exclude males.  If testosterone suppression cannot remove the advantage maleness has, then it is unjust for those who still possess it to compete against those who never did.  “If trans women possess a biological advantage, then allowing them to compete risks depriving others of victories they might have won, or a place in a team they might otherwise have earned . . . It is, in the end, simply a question of fact whether testosterone suppression can guarantee that fair competition . . . And the evidence so far suggests it cannot.”  World Rugby plans to review the science every three years, and to update its decision if necessary.

How do we settle this confusion and cultural chaos when it comes to the transgender phenomenon?  Because the transgender issue focuses on real people who have real struggles, this is a sensitive and very personal issue.  However, I believe what follows accurately summarizes what the Bible teaches:

  1. Maleness and femaleness are God’s choice, determined at conception.  But growing into one’s masculinity or femininity and embracing it can be thwarted by cultural and family developments.  It seems reasonable to conclude that gender identity is a developmental issue.
  2. It is certainly true that God desires that every male grow to masculinity and every female to femininity.  When that does not occur, the culture has developed labels such as transgendered and transsexual.  Regardless of the labels, God sees each individual as of worth and value because they bear His image—but as broken individuals.  As with every human being, the salvation offered in Jesus Christ heals the brokenness.
  3. It is certainly true that God intends for males to manifest masculine characteristics and females to manifest female characteristics.  The fact that some people are born with evidence of mutations in sex-determining genes does not impact their value and worth to God.   However, the Bible is clear that men are to appear as men and women as women—see Deuteronomy 22:5.
  4. As with every individual human being, our fundamental identity can be found only in Jesus Christ.  Much of the postmodern world has focused on sex or gender as the primary aspect of personal identity.  But the Bible calls on us to identity with Jesus—He is our core identity, regardless of whether we are male, female, transgender, etc.  Identity in Christ is a profound, transformative concept that results from placing our faith in Christ.
  5. Focus on the Family has published a helpful position paper of the Transgender movement.  I quote several points from that paper:
  • “We must remember that those who struggle with their gender identity have lived lives of great pain, confusion and rejection . . . We must humbly share [God’s] love embodied in the Gospel, to lift them up in prayer and to allow the Holy Spirit to bring about conviction, healing and transformation.
  • We affirm the Christian view that to be human is to be holistically united as body and spirit.  Often, transgender advocates hold to the pagan view that the body is a container that the spirit is poured into.  As such, they erroneously conclude that God has mistakenly put an opposite-gendered spirit into the wrong body or that the body is not the real person—that only the spirit is real.
  • We call upon parents to take a positive role in their children’s development by providing them with a strong, Christian example of what it means to be male and female.
  • We believe we are called to proclaim the truth and beauty of God’s design and that the redemption from sexual brokenness in our lives and culture can only come through Jesus Christ.  Like everyone else, ‘transgendered’ individuals are desperately in need of God’s truth and deserve to know the love and compassion of Christ as shown through His people.”

May God, in His grace, empower the church to see transgendered people as they are to see every human being:  a broken sinner desperately in need of the salvation that Jesus offers.  As with all human beings, only in Christ is there healing, wholeness and the promise of a resurrected body after which the struggle with brokenness and sin will end.  In eternity there will be no struggle with identity or life’s meaning.  Both will be fulfilled in Christ.

See The Economist (17 October 2020), pp. 12, 67-68; Katy Steinmetz, “America’s Transition,” Time (9 June 2014); The Economist (24 October 2020), p. 25; Focus on the Family Position Paper on Transgenderism at; “What is a Biblical View of Transgendered People” at

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