Angry reaction to news that President Donald Trump’s administration may revert to the traditional definition of gender in some federal programs, three evangelical commentators say, reveals society’s confusion and need for ministry.
The administration’s proposal “may sound controversial, but it is not,” Andrew Walker of Southern Baptists’ Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission wrote in an Oct. 23 commentary. “The only stable way to determine what defines male and female are primary and secondary sex characteristics.” Reaction to the proposal “by transgender activists demonstrates how confused our society is on what it means to be human and how far ingrained the transgender worldview has become in our thinking.”
The New York Times reported Oct. 21 that a memo circulating within the Trump administration proposes interpreting “sex” in federal antidiscrimination legislation to mean “a person’s status as male or female based on immutable biological traits identifiable by or before birth.” The memo, reportedly drafted last spring within the Department of Health and Human Services, adds, “The sex listed on a person’s birth certificate, as originally issued, shall constitute definitive proof of a person’s sex unless rebutted by reliable genetic evidence.”
This suggested interpretation of “sex” may be presented formally to the Justice Department before year’s end, The Times reported, and would affect how multiple executive branch departments enforce sex discrimination provisions in Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.
Such a move would continue the administration’s reversal of 2016 regulations by the Obama administration interpreting “sex” in Title IX based on an individual’s perceived gender identity.
Pro-transgender activists voiced opposition to the proposed Trump administration change, and The Times described it as “the most drastic move yet in a government-wide effort to roll back recognition and protections of transgender people under federal civil rights law.”
Catherine Lhamon, a former Education Department official under President Obama, told The Times defining sex in biological terms “quite simply negates the humanity of people.”
In response to news of the memo, people who identify as transgender took to social media under the hashtag #WontBeErased.
But Walker, author of God and the Transgender Debate, said, “The Trump administration is desiring a classification for male and female on the standard definition that all of human history has, up until recently, acknowledged. This is not revolutionary. To muster outrage at circumstances that simply return us to pre-2016 legal definitions is shortsighted.”
Humans never will “overturn” the “male-female binary,” Walker said, because “our createdness as male and female is stamped onto human nature.”
“The Trump administration is not defining people ‘out of existence,’” as a Times headline announced, Walker said. “Rather, it is taking the correct step to define sex based on created reality; not simply self-perception. This matters because law is a teacher. Its pedagogy communicates norms and expectations for how society ought to govern itself, therefore providing stability and order to the community underneath its authority.”
R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. said defining sex based on self-perception is “unworkable” for society, and at least some negative reactions to the Trump administration’s proposal have been unreasonable. He noted in particular a Times op-ed written by a transgender individual under the headline “Trump cannot define away my existence.”
“A rhetorical strategy” being employed by “the moral and sexual revolutionaries” is “the argument that to disagree with them is to erase them” or “eradicate them,” Mohler said Oct. 23 on his podcast The Briefing. “If you allow that kind of language, we are simply left in a position of absolute cultural nonsense.”
Bob Stith, the Southern Baptist Convention’s former national strategist for gender issues, told Baptist Press nonsensical arguments from transgender activists should spur Christians “to be thoughtful and compassionate.”
“Regardless of what we may think of the arguments,” Stith said in written comments, individuals who identify as transgender “are real people facing a struggle for which they did not ask. The pain is real, and we must always keep that foremost in our discussions. But it is not compassionate to promote a solution that isn’t really a solution.”
Citing Genesis 1:27 and Matthew 19:4, Stith said “true compassion will make every effort to bring men and women into alignment with God’s creative intent.”
A 2014 SBC resolution “on transgender identity” affirmed “God’s good design that gender identity is determined by biological sex and not by one’s self-perception – a perception which is often influenced by fallen human nature in ways contrary to God’s design.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)