Gender-bending News Report

Sign of the times alert. Here’s the opening paragraph from a recent news report:

Woman charged in transgender beating at McDonald’s
ROSEDALE, Md. — An 18-year-old woman has been charged in an attack on a transgender woman over using a McDonald’s restroom in a Baltimore suburb —an incident captured on video by a McDonald’s employee.

This is a sad story, and we should be outraged at the crime reported here. Nevertheless, the events in the report aren’t what I want to focus on. Instead, I want to highlight a subtlety in how the story is written that may go unnoticed. Notice that the victim is designated as a “transgender woman,” and the rest of the report refers to this person with the feminine pronoun “she.”

Why am I nit-picking this detail? Because there is a worldview embedded in the gender language of this report that we would do well to be aware of. Perhaps a bit of explanation would help.

A transgender person is someone who identifies psychologically with a gender that is opposite of his biological gender. The whole category of transgender assumes that gender is a social construct. This view treats gender not as something that you are born with (vis a vis biology) but as a set of stereotypes and preferences that one learns from his culture. On the nature-vs.-nurture spectrum, gender is all nurture and no nature. Gender is something that you learn, not something that you are.

Thus in contemporary gender theory, one’s gender is not biologically determined. It is set by whatever a person feels themselves to be. If a person that is biologically male feels like he should be a female, then we should call him a “she.” Because maleness and femaleness is a social construct, one need not be biologically male to in fact be a female.

As you can see, this point of view differs radically from the biblical worldview which sees maleness and femaleness as distinctions that God Himself has embedded in the order of creation. In the Christian worldview, maleness and femaleness originate with the creative intention of God, not with a social construct we learn from human culture. In the beginning God differentiates humankind as male and female, and God unambiguously calls this differentiation “good” (Genesis 1:27, 31).

Back to the news report. Does this report take sides on the underlying worldview question? Yes, it does. Does it side with contemporary gender theory against a biblical worldview on gender? Yes, it does. Instead of identifying the victim as a “man posing as a woman,” it identifies the man simply as a “woman” trying to make use of a public bathroom.

Be a discerning reader. Even in popular writing like this news report, you are constantly being asked to take on assumptions that cut directly against biblical revelation. The passive reader will eventually accept these assumptions uncritically until they become a part of his own worldview. So be an active, wise reader. And know the biblical worldview so that you can take every thought captive in order to make it obedient to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5).

[Postscript: There is human tragedy in this report at a number of levels, and I think we would do well to pray for both the victim and the victimizers.]

37 Responses to Gender-bending News Report

  1. yankeegospelgirl April 26, 2011 at 10:09 am #

    What a messy situation. I agree the assault was wrong, but man…I can just see where this is all headed, and of course you’re right that everyone is completely following along with the fantasy that this is a “she.”

  2. Kyle Roberts April 26, 2011 at 10:24 am #

    Here’s what’s most alarming to me about your gloss on this news article: one could read it and assume that Burk thinks the most disturbing thing about the story is not the violent assault, but the journalist’s use of the pronoun “she” (and I’m sure that would be a faulty assumption). I understand you are making a “worldview” point from a detail in the story, but perhaps a different story/illustration would have been a more appropriate venue? In other words, it’s hard to sense the “outrage” you claim we should feel in light of your commentary here. – just my perception.

  3. Kamilla April 26, 2011 at 10:49 am #

    Kyle,

    Would you be less curious about Denny’s discussion of the story if the victim of the attack were a non-crossdressing heterosexual male?

    It sounds like this attacker has a problem with, ahem, anger management. But I sometimes wonder if part of this frustration isn’t driven by the fact that we know that we know that we know this is deeply and disturbingly wrong but our culture tries to tell us it is okey dokey while the law defends sexual deviance and has ceased to be a moral (in the customary sense) instrument.

    Kamilla

  4. Nathan April 26, 2011 at 10:52 am #

    I’m not an expert on contemporary gender theory, but I’m pretty sure that it’s not a nurture-only construct. Isn’t it the idea that one’s psychological biology is opposite one’s physical biology?

    I’ve asked this before… does “male and female created he them” necessarily mean he created one all male and the other one all female? The english sentence could mean each were created with male and female attributes. We see a mixture of masculinity and femininity within both the male and female populations.

    I can’t even begin to pretend to understand another’s psychology. Some people are more complicated than the little boxes we place them in.

  5. Trey Reid April 26, 2011 at 10:57 am #

    When I first heard about this story, there was no mention of the “woman” being transgender. I simply heard it as “she” was being attacked. Maybe early on they didn’t know the transgender nature of this man or perhaps they chose not to report it. So I guess that proves your point!

  6. Donald Johnson April 26, 2011 at 10:59 am #

    I agree that the majority of people are differentiated into genetic XY chromosomes and become male body type and masculine and genetic YY chromosone and become female body type and feminine.

    But this is not the case with ALL people and science is still figuring out some of the details in these sad cases where it is not the case. But it is already clear that there are some genetic XY chromosomes that result in a female body type; for example, due to Testosterone Insensitivity Syndrome. As believers, such people with these possible MAJOR challenges in life deserve our love and support and not rejection of who they are by a oversimplistic dichotomization of reality.

    If I am going to err, I want to err on the side of love, as Jesus said that loving God and people fulfills the Torah and are the highest principles in the Kingdom.

  7. Kelley Kimble April 26, 2011 at 11:02 am #

    Kyle, I think it’s even more complicated than Denny lays it out. I have noticed this trend in other news reports too. What we have here is a situation where a person who is biologically male “identifies” as a female and assumes the right to use women’s public restrooms. Bottom line here is, a woman beat up a man who was in the women’s restroom. I’m not excusing the actions of the woman (the one born female) but do you not think it ironic? Medical science has reached the point where they can surgically alter the sex organs and change the appearance through the use of hormones. Yet, genetically, they are still the way they were born. Other than the rare cases where babies are actually born with both sets of organs, the transgender phenomena is just another pop-psych crazy train. Rather than help these people by speaking the truth, great lengths are taken to get them (expensive) sex reassignment surgery and help them to live out their dream. We should be outraged about that. Someone should have the courage to speak honestly to these people and get them the psychological help they need to accept themselves as they are – male, or female. What will happen when some of these people start understanding that they have mutilated their bodies to appear as something they are not, which cannot be undone?

  8. yankeegospelgirl April 26, 2011 at 11:04 am #

    I agree—the damage such people are doing to themselves by forcing themselves to be something they’re not is downright heart-breaking. It would be in their own best interests to take measures against it.

  9. Nick April 26, 2011 at 11:11 am #

    It’s an interesting upside down culture we live in. A culture where you are born with a sexuality but not a sex.

  10. Rorty April 26, 2011 at 11:34 am #

    I am astonished at many things in the post and the responses but I am most concerned about little others seem to know and understand the function of language as it concerns transgender identity. Also I agree with Kyle – the phobia around LGBTqi persons seems to mitigate what ought to be more than just a cursory ‘acknowledgement’ of how ‘awful’ this hate crime is. In fact, the social and ideological violence extended to this individual in this post and subsequent responses nearly matches the physical violence against the assailant. Somehow I doubt that Jesus himself would have responded as you have to his story, Mr. Burke.

  11. Dillon April 26, 2011 at 11:48 am #

    ” Somehow I doubt that Jesus himself would have responded as you have to his story, Mr. Burke. ”

    Well, how are we to speak the truth, in love, then?

    The guy ( not girl ) is living in sin.

  12. Christiane April 26, 2011 at 12:17 pm #

    At least compassion for the PHYSICAL harm done to the victim is present in this post.

  13. yankeegospelgirl April 26, 2011 at 1:13 pm #

    To enlarge on my point, check out this report on the same girl and some of her “friends”:

    http://www.thesmokinggun.com/documents/crime/mcdonalds-attacker-prior-bust-908732

    Clear-cut racial crime. No other way to describe it.

  14. yankeegospelgirl April 26, 2011 at 1:14 pm #

    Er, sorry, I realize that looks a bit ridiculous because my original point hasn’t been published yet, but in it I explain what I’m getting at here.

  15. Fletcher Law April 26, 2011 at 1:28 pm #

    Really this is a sign of the times.
    A few years ago the article would have said woman defends self when man invades women’s public rest room. The woman [the real woman] would have been applauded not arrested. The economy, immigration, war and look what our government is concerned with. What’s to keep the beer gutted male construction worker with a McLovin t-shirt on deciding he is transgendered when he[maybe a she today if he/she feels like it that day] wants to go potty at a busy Mcdonald’s at lunch time. She/he got what she wanted-attention. Liberal moralist – sometimes people just need to go. Look down stairs. Match up your biology to the appropriate labeled rest room – then enter. Or of course you can just go to court about it.

  16. Dillon April 26, 2011 at 1:37 pm #

    ” Match up your biology to the appropriate labeled rest room – then enter. Or of course you can just go to court about it. ”

    Enda.

  17. David April 26, 2011 at 1:51 pm #

    The facts are that biologically “it” has the the outward appearance of a female, and nowhere does anyone say “it” has had surgery to complete t6he outward look. when you have to look into it’s genes to find it’s birth orientation, you have a reassigned person. And how does one deal with God’s choice when a hermaphrodite is created? God then creates both male and female, and most hermaphrodites “Choose” the sex they wish to live.

  18. Christiane April 26, 2011 at 4:50 pm #

    We had a ‘transgender’ student at the last middle school where I worked as a teacher.

    It was a case of a ‘him’ thinking he was female. This had to be difficult, because Allan was bigger than our football players in height and for sure bigger in bulk/weight.
    But ‘Allie’ as he preferred to be called, wore silk flowered shirts, and high heels and the principal put up with it until he started carrying a purse . . . whereupon they had ‘a little talk’.
    Everyone loved the gentle giant and he was allowed to be on the girls’ ‘step-team’ where he was a huge hit. We don’t know what happened to him, but he was kindly and funny, and didn’t cause trouble for anyone. He was just ‘Allie’, and he was a good kid.

  19. yankeegospelgirl April 26, 2011 at 8:47 pm #

    That’s such a sad, sad story…

  20. yankeegospelgirl April 26, 2011 at 8:52 pm #

    You know, about a year ago there was a local ordinance we were protesting that would remove restrictions regarding gays, lesbians, and trans-gender people. At a city council meeting where people from both sides had gone to make their presence known, a trans-gender “female” walked up to a good family friend and said, “You hate me.” Just said it, out of the blue. I think perhaps he targeted our friend because she’s a middle-aged lady who wears skirts. No matter how much she gently tried to say she didn’t hate him, he would not leave her alone.

    Maybe some of those people are gentle and mean no harm, but others are, quite frankly, bullies.

  21. yankeegospelgirl April 26, 2011 at 8:57 pm #

    Note: In this specific situation, of course, it was blatantly obvious who the bullies were. I was just making a general observation on the topic of what these people CAN be like.

  22. Kelley Kimble April 27, 2011 at 1:26 am #

    Many concepts that were almost universally understood at one time have been re-defined. Among those concepts are hate (which now means simple disagreement), tolerance (which apparently means the full embrace of lifestyles that you may believe are unhealthy or even inconsistent with Biblical teaching), and love (it’s become a warm and fuzzy feeling that makes you feel good, rather than something you do that is sometimes painful). I can agree that gender roles are often stereotypical, which is why girls who are athletic or mechanically inclined are often pegged as lesbians, and boys who prefer dolls to guns are often pegged as gays. Maybe this is the root of the gender identity problem that some people struggle with. Certainly there are cases where people have genetic abnormalities, and their situation is not the same as a person who has all the physical and genetic make-up of one gender, but insists that he or she is actually the opposite. If a woman claiming to be a man decides she wants to play on the men’s basketball team, insisting that she’s a man trapped in a woman’s body, is that okay? It’s a reality at George Washington University. This player has decided to delay the hormone treatments and and medical transition until after “his” eligibility to play sports expires, which means this is a woman playing on the men’s team. You can refer to her as “him” all day long and that does not change the fact that this is a woman competing against men in a demanding sport. This player suffered two concussions in her first season as a man, and I expect that if we keep watching we will see a rather sad spectacle unfold.

  23. Brittney Nicole April 27, 2011 at 1:29 am #

    “The guy ( not girl ) is living in sin.”

    can you be sure of this? what, that you know of, has been Chrissy Lee Polis’ sin?

    Is it the sexual orientation that you are assuming is skewed? What if Chrissy abstained from sexual intimacy? Would this still constitute sin?

    Or is it the reframing of identity? Well, what if a boy wanted to “dress like a girl”? What if he still “felt” and “claimed” complete “maleness”? Would this be sin?

    And then, what of those that are born with both reproductive organs? They certainly tend to gain a “sense” of their gender orientation at a pretty early age (although often understandably confusing at various points). What would you say their “righteousness” looks like? What are their options that you would not see as sinful?

    anyhow.. this is personal, and i wish I could be more tender in my reply, but WE ARE THE CHURCH, my believers. If we claim to love Christ and want to follow Him more than ANYTHING else in the world, how is THIS our response?

    I completely relate to Mr. Burke’s point. This is sad. People are hurting and so lost in so many ways. But I would say we are, as well. We are all in need of grace and the Love that Jesus called us to bring to the nations. This is the good news. Love is the only Goodness. And I can’t claim to know what that looks like all of the time, but I can bet Chrissy would not read this post or the ensuing threads from the Church and feel the Love of the Savior of the world.

    I just think this could have been addressed with a little more humility and sensitivity. I don’t even see the need to site the specific incident. Let’s just consider what message we are sending to the world. Judgement, yes. Righteousness, yes. Goodness, yes. But these are all the ways of our GOD. We will be judged. But we are NOT the Judges. We are called to righteousness, but we are NOT righteous. We are charged with Goodness. But we are so often the very opposite of Good. This is Our God. He is these things, and we are called to Love.

    We are called to be Love. To be the force of Unity. To come beside the prostitute. To hold the hand of the outcast. To touch the eyes of the leper. And not tell them, “it’s okay whatever you do. Jesus loves you, and thinks everything you do is just dandy.” (although He does love us in spite of it all). But t is by His grace, each day, each hour, each act of love, that we begin to become the fine-tuned instrument in his orchestra, where His sovereignty and Perfect Shalom can be a part of the perfect opus that played in His mind at Creation.

    sorry, i got sappy. and i don’t think so highly of myself to believe i could even convince or change anyone’s opinion. And I am sure there are 30 verses to both support and contradict this overflow of my heart. But perhaps if even just one person finds Love in the words that are written in this comment, God has used me in spite of me.

    seek good. do love.
    Brittney*

  24. Kelley Kimble April 27, 2011 at 1:33 am #

    *Correction to the previous post* I did some checking and found that the GW basketball player is still on the women’s team, but insists on being referred to as a male. Still – can it get any more confusing?

  25. Brittney Nicole April 27, 2011 at 1:35 am #

    *cite
    please pardon my err

  26. Kelley Kimble April 27, 2011 at 2:15 am #

    Not your error, Brittney, mine. You do raise very relevant points, though, about showing the love of Christ to everyone, as we are all in need of His love and forgiveness. However, while we have Biblical examples of Christ encountering prostitutes, greedy tax collectors, people who loved their money, as well as sick and diseased people, we do not have any examples of His encountering people who were cross-dressers or who had submitted to outright surgical sex-changes (although there were eunuchs, which we have a little info about). I am sure there are people who have come to Christ after going to such extremes, and undoubtedly they would be new creations in a spiritual sense. But I am also aware of Paul’s warnings in Romans 1; that people who persist in a sinful path risk being given over to it. Isn’t “change” part of the gospel message – that we do not have to be slaves to our sin, but through Christ we can turn from it, resist it?

  27. Brittney Nicole April 27, 2011 at 3:50 am #

    Kelly,

    Absolutely. Christ calls for repentance now. in this moment. And from the Jesus that has been revealed to me, I see this as the most integral part of our purpose in this world.

    But I think we have the tendency to believe that WE could bring God’s judgement, or that it is Our responsibility to pronounce the ultimate, infinite truth. We are a creation bound to the finite, and even our concept of infinity is tied to the repetition of fixed amounts of time. So, although through the Holy Spirit we know all things, how can we know if we are being informed by the Holy Spirit. Let me say–I do not subscribe to nhilist theology. There are things we can know. We can know that God is Love. He tells us. We should believe this. Yet, can we know the nature of Love? Well, I think we could all admit that knowing what love is can be tricky sometimes. We know that God is Justice. Again, it is in the Text. But can we honestly say we understand Justice? and the list goes on. But this is why Jesus is so important. He says–I am God, yet I am human. Follow me. Do what I do. And Jesus bares the truth–much more boldly than our Sunday School Felt Board, Blue-eyed Jesus’ portray even. I think He was burning with passion in His love for God, and devastated by the misunderstandings of the Pharisees and teachers of the Law that held their own personal piety and righteousness above Loving their neighbors. This was a huge “hot topic” in Jesus’ day. How to interpret the text, and which of the commandments to obey when they seemingly contradict. The parable of the Sabbath and the neighbors donkey is an example of this. Then the greatest commans-Love God. The second? Love your neighbor. So like PEMDAS, when the laws seem to work against each other, Jesus gives us an “order of operations.” Love God first. the Love your neighbor.

    Sure, people may be on a sinful path, such as Romans 1 suggests. But when I had to deal with a gay family member, and this passage rang loud in my ears every night, I was DEEPLY SADDENED. I mourned this outlook. But had I gone to him and sad, “Romans 1 says you are going to hell, and must be set apart for the Lord (which we are commanded to be), so I can’t have a relationship with you anymore. Well, I can’t say. And even in my slightly mocking approach, I would have wanted to show love and humility, but would this have sent the message about my Messiah that my Messiah delivered himself? What I see in Jesus is crazy, incredible, powerful, unbelievable, courageous love. The extra-mile, turn the other cheek (even in the face of sin), die on a cross kind of love. I do not dismiss God’s wrath, but He has not called me to be the instrument of it. He has called me to love. I will just try to follow Him, and have faith that God will reveal Himself to others through/in-spite-of me.

    A final metaphor. Christ is the cornerstone of the Church. We, too are stones. But we do not come from the quarry, ready to be placed in the Church. God is building His house, and He is the stonemason, continually for His purpose. He is reading us with the meticulous patience, and wisdom of a crafted stone mason. But in order to be shaped, we must be in His hands. In order to go into the building, He must form us, according to His purpose.

    And masonry is a process. I stand under the belief that He is working on all of us, if we allow Him. He has a purpose for each stone–a form and a place in His house. (this is obviously a limited metaphor, but bare with me) He picks up a rock, holds a rock, taps it, reads it, turns it, and chisels away making His precise chips. He WANTS to use every rock He holds, or He would have never picked it up (created it) in the fist place. And yes, we may resist His chisel. And perhaps he allows us the time we need until we are ready to brake or be formed at His masterful hand. Perhaps we are never ready. But as stones, we must realize that we are all continually being transformed with the renewing of the mind. Who is to say if I am closer than someone else to the final measure of what God has intended for me. I certainly want to stay in the hands of my Mason, but at the same time, the Church may be helped in adapting a mindset that recognizes our own role as fellow stones in shaping. We are not selecting the stones. Even Jesus did not select himself. He is the Chosen One. And with this understanding, we see that in order for the house to be built, i will need to remain a willing stone in the hands of the mason so that I can fit in my place in the House of the Lord. But also, if this House is so important to my Mason and to me, I desperately want/need you to stay in His hands, as well. So, I think it is just a difference in perception. I just feel that too often we, as the Church, make pronouncements about the stones that will be used, and those that will be cast out. I always try to remember that God is choosing the stones.

    Build my Church. Chirst is the cornerstone. These are His words.

    Chrissy may be a stone as well (and I certainly think God wants Chrissy to be a stone). So maybe instead of focusing on whether or not God has chosen Chrissy, or if Chrissy will at some point choose God, isn’t our role to show Chrissy the incredible, masterful Mason we know… and the amazing place our Mason has for Chrissy in His House?

    just a thought. 🙂
    blessings,
    Brittney*

  28. yankeegospelgirl April 27, 2011 at 8:05 am #

    Just a quick note about eunuchs: Those would generally have been slaves who were forcibly castrated. So it wouldn’t be something they actively chose.

  29. Christiane April 27, 2011 at 8:50 am #

    The focal point of fundamentalist-evangelical evaluation of the situation of those with ‘gender issues’ centers on:

    did they ‘choose’ their situation, or not

    Since the consensus among fundamentalist-evangelicals is that these people DID CHOOSE their situation;
    then that evaluation forms the whole reaction of fundamentalist-evangelicals towards those with gender issues.

    I am wondering if it ever crosses the minds of these Christians that there actually may be those out there with gender issues that have NOT chosen their situation, and are appalled by the charge that they DID choose. ?

  30. Donald Johnson April 27, 2011 at 10:16 am #

    YKG,

    Jesus says that some eunuchs who chose it.

    Mat 19:12 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.”

  31. yankeegospelgirl April 27, 2011 at 10:18 am #

    I stand corrected. Sorry.

  32. Kelley Kimble April 27, 2011 at 10:47 am #

    Certainly, there are biological issues that affect gender identity, but aren’t they very rare? No, those people did not choose their situation, and for many of them, medical assistance is a viable option. But it brings to mind the question, is there an alcoholic gene? Are alcoholics given a pass, then? I am putting forth the idea that the overwhelming majority of “transgender” people do not have any kind of genetic abnormality. They “feel” that they are actually the opposite gender. The larger question is, what “feelings” define a woman or a man? If I am a woman but I enjoy, for instance, tinkering with pianos (taking them apart, fixing them, tuning them) – does this mean that I am really a man? No, it does not. It means that I am a woman who loves pianos, who had better be stong enough to put one on its back on a tilter. If I am a woman who loves to run, play sports, and exercise, does that mean I am really a man? No, it does not. I have encountered solid Christian women who are not girly-girls, who experienced pressure to become lesbians simply because they did not fit the girly-girl pattern, yet they chose to resist that pressure, marry and have children. Any time someone raises this issue and asks these kinds of questions, the “fundamentalist evangelical” label comes out, which is polite speak for “homophobe.” Cloaking these discussions in words that really have no meaning only stalls them. Are we called to change, to let the Holy Spirit and the Word of God direct and guide us? If it doesn’t matter how we live or what we choose, then why did Jesus and the apostles spend so much time giving us instructions? Why does Scripture weave a pattern of admonitions to be holy? Is holiness a meaningless concept? I once heard someone use the analogy of being at a picnic and knowing that the potato salad has been sitting in the sun too long to be safe to eat, but not telling anyone and just watching them all put it on their plates. Are we doing that when we take the easy path of least resistance to this social phenomenon?

  33. yankeegospelgirl April 27, 2011 at 11:04 am #

    And some folks aren’t even polite enough to leave it at “fundamentalist evangelical…”

  34. Dillon April 27, 2011 at 11:32 am #

    The turn in this discussion reminds me of this article regarding a Pastor in my area:

    http://www.christianpost.com/news/outed-pastor-says-no-to-homosexuality-follows-jesus-46157/

  35. Kelley Kimble April 27, 2011 at 4:16 pm #

    Thank you for the link, Dillon. I find that I agree with this Pastor and I commend him for having the courage to speak up. In many circles, he would be shouted down and called all kinds of names.

  36. Nathan May 3, 2011 at 10:49 am #

    Denny needs to address the disparity between his beliefs about biblical sexuality and observations that show human sexuality isn’t strictly binary (at least physically) before his blog post has any credibility, IMO.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Gender Bender? « Daniel Haas - April 26, 2011

    […] of anti-transgender hate. Burk thinks she must not be called “She” because, well, he doesn’t like that: “In the Christian worldview, maleness and femaleness originate with the creative intention […]

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