“I am a woman trapped in a man's body.” What explains THAT?
Apparently, yesterday was #transgenderdayofvisibility, as the hashtag lords have spoken. There’s a great deal to be said on the transgender issue, including the (not unimportant) political angle, such as CNN’s recent “report” that declared, “It's not possible to know a person's gender identity at birth, and there is no consensus criteria for assigning sex at birth.”
What I’m most interested in (here) is what would explain the two VERY different reactions to such a statement as that (and other comparable ones). One reaction from my “progressive” friends is “Amen” (so to speak). They, often enough, continue with something like “…all you hateful, bigoted transphobes who are “against” trans people ought to be ashamed of yourselves. All these legislations do is “…permit discrimination against trans people.” Disagreement and opposition to a statement like CNN’s, in other words, is nothing but pure, ignorant hatred.
Other’s reactions amount to “What color is the sky in the world in which you live? No one “assigns” sex at birth, and even if we did, we’d know exactly how to do it in virtually every case since the dawn of time.” Not an unreasonable reaction, of course. It’s one in which I agree. But my question is this: how do we have such different reactions? It’s like oil and water on a hot day…it’s like yin and yang…it’s like a super nova vs a black hole. I don’t know what, but those reactions ARE like people from different worlds.
What explains that? Well, I just happen to have the answer! Or, rather, Carl R. Trueman has the answer. I just finished he masterfully clear, concise, scholarly-yet-accessible book “The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self” (add subtitle which doesn’t actually help understand the book).
He sets the stage of the book very helpfully with the following:
“The origins of this book lie in my curiosity about how and why a particular statement has come to be regarded as coherent and meaningful: ‘I am a woman trapped in a man’s body.’ My grandfather died in 1994, less than thirty years ago, and yet, had he ever heard that sentence uttered in his presence, I have little doubt that he would have burst out laughing and considered it a piece of incoherent gibberish. And yet today it is a sentence that many in our society regard s not only meaningful but so significant that to deny it or question is in some way is to reveal oneself as stupid, immoral, or subject to yet another irrational phobia. And those who think of it as meaningful are not restricted to the veterans of college seminars or queer theory or French poststructuralism. They are ordinary people with little or no direct knowledge of the critical postmodern philosophizes whose advocates swagger along the corridors of our most hallowed centers of learning. … In short, to move from the commonplace thinking of my grandfather’s world to that of today demands a host of key shifts in popular beliefs in these and other areas. It is the story of those shifts…that I seek to address in subsequent chapters.”
And address it he does! With vigor, wit, precision, historical, philosophical and theological insight that is necessary to get thru the otherwise often incomprehensibleness of the modern transgender movement (ala his grandpa’s reaction, which I think is still shared by many).
He adds, “At the heart of this book lies a basic conviction: the so-called sexual revolution of the last sixty years, culminating in its latest triumph - the normalization of transgenderism - cannot be properly understood until it is set within the context of a much broader transformation in how society understand the nature of human selfhood." “Understanding”. A simple concept, and one which you think everyone could agree is a great goal before we start lobbing accusations and claims around. You’d be wrong. Virtually no-one is actually interested in true understanding.
So, the whole post is basically nothing but one long commendation to read Trueman’s book. I would suggest that any thinking christian in the 21st century basically needs to have a working understanding of what is going on in our culture. I have a hunch that no other resource will be as helpful for many years to come, then Carl Trueman’s “The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self”.
The first chapter or two can be listened to here for free. You can purchase it via Amazon, or less discriminating and censorious places like Crossway (same link).
Here is Neil Shenvi’s *EXCELLENT* review/summary, “Liquid Souls”.
Here’s Shenvi's conclusion (though I’d suggest reading the whole review, it’s not long): “In summary, The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self is crucial reading for all Christians and especially Christian pastors trying to understand the underlying assumptions at work in the culture around us. I will say loudly what Trueman says softly: *THESE IDEAS ARE DEADLY* [my emphasis]. They are grounded in a denial of human nature, they are predicated upon an understanding of reality that views God’s commands as evil and oppressive, and they sow seeds of misery, fragility, and discord wherever they go. Those are the Tweetable bullet points. But if you want depth (and you should want depth), read the book.”
Other books for this #transgenderdayofvisibility should include:
“When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment” by Ryan T. Anderson. Excellent and very narrowed on this issue.
“Love Thy Body” - by Nancey Pearcey, which has a couple chapters on transgenderism, as well as a broader approach. It is super duper as well.
“Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing our Daughters” by Abigail Shrier. I have not read this yet, though I’ve listened to a few interview of hers, and she’s very helpful. I actually disagree with her on a handful of rather significant points, but I think her main thrust is extremely necessary right now. And given how dangerous it is to say such things in this climate, the more people with the guts to do so, the merrier.