Target 1 in the Trans-gender Debate: The Bridge
Prior to responding to any issue, the first step – and this is the most important step of all – is to understand the issue at hand as well as understanding who all the said-issue touches. Both are part of the first step, and foundational, because we all must have the intellectual honesty to – yes, be able to form our own opinions, but even more importantly – enter an exploration of a topic as unbiased as possible (knowing and understanding full well that we all enter a conversation with certain biases) to be able to follow the evidence and/or logic where it leads. Also, everyone must be able to either block or shield biases in order to see the world through a clear lens. Not being able to do so makes it increasingly more difficult to see all who this said-issue touches.
One of the most hotly debated topics of the day, currently going on in America and around the world, is the topic of trans-gendered individuals and their rights either to or not to be able to use the bathroom, changing room, or locker room of their choice. (This trans-gender topic goes beyond a debate on bathrooms and we cannot simply transfix our focus there; though, I will cover that in this series of articles.) There are people on both sides of the debate with well-informed points to be made. Just as there are ill-informed people on both sides of the debate. The harmony we all, as humans, need to strive toward is that we need to be able to have an honest conversation on the topic without resulting to Ad Hominem attacks against the person on the other side. And to both the ill-and-well-informed, let us not be intellectually dishonest in this pursuit: follow the evidence where it leads; be mindful of what you are saying when you say it – i.e, let us not make illogical statements that serve no one. I will attempt, as best I can, to reiterate some pitfalls, throughout these articles of some common fallacies that either side could fall into.
Ad Hominem: Attacking your counterpart’s character or personal traits – either in a conversation or debate – in an attempt to undermine their argument.
Ad Hominem example: After reading these articles you immediately dismiss or attack the “argument” or article by attacking me, personally, because I am a male who does not struggle with gender-identity, as well as (or) because I proclaim myself as a follower of Christ.
The debate-at-hand has seemingly been exacerbated by the retail chain store “Target”. In a recent release, Target said the following:
“In our stores, we demonstrate our commitment to an inclusive experience in many ways. Most relevant for the conversations currently underway, we welcome trans-gender team members and guests to use the restroom or fitting room facility that corresponds with their gender identity.“
In order to understand the trans-gender debate we must take the aforementioned first step.
Understanding the trans-gendered person:
It is, first and foremost, critical to understand the battle facing off between biology and gender identity. Your biological sex is a physical trait or characteristic that is determined at conception. Gender identity is, on the flip side, a nonphysical trait or characteristic that develops at some point from birth to ones adulthood. In most cases, your gender identity follows its natural course – your biological sex. It is, obviously, possible, however, for one to develop a gender identity that is different from ones biological sex. These individuals – noted as “trans-gendered” – have a conscious gender of their biological sex, while subconsciously having a gender identity that is opposite of that. (When I speak of biology, I mean a male is born with XY chromosomes while females are born with XX chromosomes.)
In our pursuit of understanding the trans-gendered person, let us stop right here. Though I may have oversimplified in the prior paragraph, I did so purposely because it has to – and needs to – be boiled down to the crux of the matter in order to be able to see the person as they are. Making leaps based on religion or ill-informed opinions does not serve anyone well in a “debate” (if you will) such as this. Trans-gendered people, even when looking at what transsexualism is, deal with many emotions while working through these feelings. Often you will hear a trans-gendered person state that they feel like a “man trapped inside a woman’s body” (or vice-a-versa). Is that not enough of a statement to tell us all that we should provide love and assistance to them? The answer is yes; however, to properly love and assist, we all must bring truth with it. After a quick perusal of reports completed on the emotional and psychological distress that a trans-gendered person can go through (that over 40% will attempt suicide); it is quickly – and rather, painfully – obvious that society, as a whole, has failed these people. The Church is included in this.
Many trans-gendered persons, because we have not done all that we could to love and assist them in their emotional and psychological battle, jump as quickly as possible to taking hormones to change their bodies; or, are opting for sex-change surgery. Instead of possibly pursuing an attempt to change their gender identity to match their biological sex, they desperately want their biological sex to match their gender identity because they want to feel “normal”, they want to feel “whole”.
What has happened in most cases is:
1) We snide and sneer at them while we walk away to never engage them in meaningful conversation.
What does this do for the trans-gendered person?
Absolutely nothing positively. And maybe nothing negatively; however, the options are only “nothing” or “negatively” and I would submit that both are, by nature, negative.
For the Christian, both, absolutely, are negative. To snide and sneer them as well as walk away, not only, is reprehensible but is ,also, exactly contrary to Jesus’ approach to people. Jesus, in all his perfection, brought with him compassion and truth – not dis-compassion and apathy.
2) We engage them but immediately jump to discussing how they are “messed up” or “confused” or “going to hell”
What does this do for the trans-gendered person?
This only causes, either, a further divide between you and them; or, worse, further alienates them (without ever knowing them) while possibly pushing them closer to the end of their self.
For the Christian: this, too, is contrary to Christ. While it is very well possible that the trans-gendered person is “confused”, leaping to that without engaging them in conversation to get a better understanding and grip on the topic is lazy and serves the person a dish of something they may already be feeling: “unworthy” to live; “confusion” on why they are how they are; and even more “depressed”; because, rather than seeing light, all they see is darkness surrounding them. Darkness only overcomes light when there is no light present. When a flashlight is turned on, though, darkness has no chance. Why would self-proclaiming Christians ever decide to throwaway the light?
3) When the trans-gendered person reveals their intention or what they are feeling – we encourage them to follow those feelings lock-stock-and-barrel without ever considering other possible implications of such a drastic decision and the fallout thereof.
What does this do for the trans-gendered person?
While it may be very possible that this type of feedback is what the trans-gendered person is looking for – refusing to bring along truth with love and compassion is neither loving nor compassionate. Regardless of, either, you or my belief on what to-do or not-to-do, maybe some level-ground for us all is to agree that such a decision should never be treated lightly without considering the seen and unforeseen consequences.
4) When the trans-gendered person – who also claims to be a Christian – announces their decision, to another Christian, to follow their gender-identity over their biological sexual identity, the Christian on the receiving end says, either, that they will pray for them; or, never engages them on what both sides have at-least stated they agree upon: that is, them both being Christians.
What does this for the trans-gendered person?
With the built in assumptions what they are (that is, both being Christians); refusing truth is, in all actuality, hating the person (and Jesus called hate “murder”). At the same time, the receiving Christian is sinning their self.
Scripture calls Christians to live according to the commands of Christ. Scripture also authorizes and permits Christians to judge (yes, it really does) each other’s behavior to see if it is in alignment with a biblical standard (1 Corinthians 5:12-13). Because they are “trans-gender” does not matter per say – inasmuch to say that, we are not looking at them as wholly-“trans-gender” but as a brother or sister in Christ; judging accordingly; and traversing throughout the conversation in that respect; still, though, with love, respect, compassion, and truth.
Target 1: The Bridge:
You see, in all of the discussion in this article, what I have really been talking about is a bridge. That bridge is the first target!
What this bridge stands for is the gap between your encounter, either, with the person or family member who is struggling with their gender identity, and the other side, where you both arrive understanding each other better and more intimately.
If I encounter a trans-gendered person and my only goal in mind is to leap from this side to the other, without ever touching feet to bridge, I have missed an immense opportunity. This opportunity is not to “convert” them, because that is not something I can even do anyway; it is not to get them to change their mind, because I also cannot do that either while on the other side as the person I have encountered is still so far away; and it also is not to berate them, “bible-thump” them, or use my, self-identified, amazing intellect to show them how “wrong” or “right” they are for doing what they are doing. Not only would I be leaping ahead of them while screaming at them in mid-flight; not only would I be pushing them further away from even stepping on the bridge; but, also, in the process I have removed their ears from even being able to hear any truth I may have wanted to convey. I cannot reattach an ear.
This immense opportunity I call “the bridge” is, first, getting to know the person, understanding the person, seeing, fully, where the person has come to this point from, and, too, loving the person. Second, the bridge is an opportunity to better educate yourself on the issue at-hand; in this case – being trans-gendered. We all can make very grandiose statements about this or that, but if those statements are not founded first in your own understanding and research into the topic as opposed to “feelings” then you are doing, both, yourself and the person you are speaking with a disservice.
The bridge could be a long or a short bridge. It is possible that the, in this case, trans-gendered person is, in their own right, irrational and unwilling to embark on a logical, compassionate, and loving stroll across the bridge; but, rather, turns around or leaps ahead their self. On the other side, it is possible that the trans-gendered person walks with you, mile after mile and day after day, all the way to the end. Then, at that “end”; you know them, they know you, and you are both the better because of it. That “end” is the point at which you know and understand them and the issue more. Then, and only then, the rest begins.
You must hit this target first before ever moving forward and being able to hit and discuss the targets that we will talk in subsequent articles.
For now, love your neighbor. Cross the bridge.