Transgender

Of Parental Rights: My Letter to Fort Worth Independent School District Board Members

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Cowtown, Texas (a.k.a. Fort Worth) is generally a fairly quiet place to live. For nearly a decade, I have called this place home. Three of my four children are native-born Texans. While every city has its warts, I have thoroughly enjoyed the slow-paced, down-to-earth culture of the place where the West begins.

However, in recent days there have been developments within our little slice of Texan paradise that have made me wonder if I am living in New York, Los Angeles, or (gasp) Dallas. Just last week news headlines started appearing that the Fort Worth Independent School District had enacted new guidelines regarding transgender students and bathroom/locker room use. Such guidelines never appeared on a FWISD meeting agenda, nor did the school board seek public comment. The new guidelines seem to be the work of Superintendent Kent Scribner. Yesterday, Lt. Governor Dan Patrick called on Superintendent Scribner to resign.

The gist of the guidelines follow the same pattern that Target has recently touted in its bathroom policies. There are also provisions related to private bathroom facilities, athletic teams, and school counselors. In essence, FWISD schools are now to allow students to use whichever restroom matches the gender with which they currently identify. Students may play on athletic teams of the gender with which they identify unless that sport is regulated by the University Interscholastic League (UIL), which states that student athletes can only play on gender-specific teams according to the gender listed on the student’s birth certificate.

There is also a significant statement in the section entitled “Privacy and Confidentiality.” In this section, the guidelines read:

All students have a right to privacy. This includes keeping a student’s actual or perceived gender identity and expression private. School personnel may only share this information on a need-to-know basis or as the student directs. This includes sharing information with the student’s parent or guardian. When contacting the parent or guardian of a transgender student, school personnel must use the student’s legal name and the pronoun corresponding to the student’s gender assigned at birth unless the student, parent, or guardian has specified otherwise.

Since the FWISD school board meets again tonight, I have sent the following letter to my specific board representative as well as the board president, first vice president, and second vice president. Even though there are many different approaches for addressing an issue like this, I have focused on the parental rights angle. I hope you find this letter helpful.

Dear School Board Member (specific names used in actual letters):

As a resident in FWISD District 6 and a parent of 4 children, I am greatly troubled by the new transgender student guidelines. Without any opportunity for public comment nor any opportunity for constituents to contact their school board members, FWISD has enacted politically-motivated, controversial, and potentially damaging policies. Of particular concern is the section of the guidelines that notes the following:

“All students have a right to privacy. This includes keeping a student’s actual or perceived gender identity and expression private. School personnel may only share this information on a need-to-know basis or as the student directs. This includes sharing information with the student’s parent or guardian.”

I have four school-age children. Their well-being and livelihood is the responsibility of my wife and myself. No government agency, school employee, or educator has the right to usurp my authority as a parent. Parents should always be informed of issues that happen at school. The school should never intentionally withhold information from parents. This is government overreach at a most egregious level.

For this reason, I respectfully ask you to call for the school board to rescind these new guidelines immediately. At the very least, the entire school board should suspend the guidelines, take up this issue with great caution, and receive input from the constituents whom they represent. Action like this on the part of the school board contributes to a culture of distrust for the school board on the part of Fort Worth’s residents.

Thank you for your time and service to our community. If you would like to discuss this further, my contact information is listed below.

Evan Lenow, Ph.D.
(Contact information included in original letters)
If you would like to contact members of the FWISD school board, their names and emails are listed below. Remember to keep it succinct, direct, and respectful.
Jacinto “Cinto” Ramos, Jr. – jacinto.ramos@fwisd.org

Tobi Jackson – tobi.jackson@fwisd.org
Christene Chadwick Moss – christene.moss@fwisd.org
Theophlous Aron Sims, Sr. – ta.sims@fwisd.org
Judy Needham – judy.needham@fwisd.org
Ann Sutherland – ann.sutherland@fwisd.org
Norman Robbins – norman.robbins@fwisd.org
Matthew Avila – matthew.avila@fwisd.org
Ashley Paz – ashley.paz@fwisd.org

To find your specific board member, a map is available here and the list of board members by district is located here.

A copy of the new guidelines can be found at the end of this news story.

Bending Gender Norms: Why the Narrative Is Not So Unified

If you are like me, your news feeds on social media have been overwhelmed by the Jenner transition from Bruce to Caitlyn. Everyone has an opinion, and no one seems to agree on how to address it. The range of responses runs the gamut from ESPN deciding to give Jenner their Arthur Ashe Courage Award to some describing Jenner’s transformation as evidence of mental illness (and then pretty much every possible response in between). My goal here is not to address the Jenner story directly but to expose the underlying narrative of the cultural conversation. That underlying narrative is the not-so-unified agenda within the LGBT movement.

Many Americans see the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) movement as a unified whole marching toward an end-goal of equality, acceptance, and significance within society.1 The four letters used to describe the coalition flow off the tongues and through the keyboards of activists and dissenters alike. However, not everything  is as unified as some may portray. Is the narrative of the LGBT movement really a unified whole, or are there underlying differences between factions in the group? Is there a unified political goal to be achieved that hides a schism below the surface? Such questions are beginning to be asked, and Christians contending for truth need to be aware of fissures within the LGBT movement.

What rests beneath the surface is a conflict of narratives between the LG’s (Lesbians and Gays) and the BT’s (Bisexuals and Transgenders). Jillian Todd Weiss acknowledges this division when she observes,

While many gays and lesbians feel that ‘bisexual’ and ‘transgender’ are simply names for part of their community, others actively reject the idea that bisexuals and trans- genders are part of their community, seeing them as entirely separate and distinct. Heterosexism against bisexuals and transgenders exists not only in the straight community, but in the gay and lesbian community as well. Some feel, as we shall see, that bisexuality and transgenderism are detrimental to the social and political acceptance of gays and lesbians.2

The divisions between LG’s and BT’s are clearest on the issues of gender and marriage. This essay will sketch out the typical, public LGBT narrative on gender and marriage and then demonstrate some of the divisions that undermine the public agenda of the LGBT movement. In doing so, we will see that this coalition of convenience may rupture unless one of the two groups is willing to shift its narrative to appease the other.

THE GENDER NARRATIVE

The supposedly unified LGBT agenda attempts to remove any distinction among genders, particularly for roles in relationships, ability in the workforce, and cultural stereotypes. There is a commitment to pure egalitarianism whereby no specific gender has a unique role or function. This is crucial especially for homosexuality because the nature of their relationships require no gender differences. When two women or two men enter into an intimate relationship, any gender roles they express must be socially constructed rather than biologically determined. Thus, one of the points of the LGBT narrative is that gender has no real impact on roles. Supporters of the LGBT movement who also claim to write from a Christian perspective have picked up on this and even point out the inconsistency of Christian egalitarians for dismissing specific gender roles in heterosexual couples as unbiblical while still holding to anatomical differences for a proper understanding of sexual intercourse.3

An added aspect to the LGBT narrative regarding gender is the idea that any gender roles evident in society are the result of outdated cultural stereotypes. These stereotypes have been carried along from days of yore by older generations, but the LGBT movement  calls on the younger generation to jettison such distinctions between male and female for the sake of gender equality. They demand equality without distinction. They want culture to be “gender blind.” While these calls for gender equality have some merit—because it is important to acknowledge there have existed and still exist women who are oppressed—the current push for gender equality goes much further than a desire for equal rights or equal pay. The LGBT agenda demands that there be no distinction made on the basis of gender for anything—public  facilities, athletic competition, and even marriage. The LGBT position on gender appears to be the epitome of egalitarianism. But is it consistent?

CHANGING GENDER REINFORCES  STEREOTYPES

The often-forgotten quadrant of the LGBT movement is the ‘T’—transgendered  individuals who sometimes face the scorn and opposition of the more mainstream lesbians and gays. Even though some may find it odd that there is division in the ranks of this powerful movement, there is good reason for division. Transgenderism undermines the public gender narrative that has been successfully promoted in the culture.

Susannah Cornwall describes transgender people as those “who feel that their gender identity, or sense of being a gendered self, doesn’t ‘fit’ their biological sex according  to the usual pattern.”4 As a result of this conflict of identity, transgender individuals take various measures to conform to their sense of gender. This can include anything from dressing in styles typical of the opposite gender, taking hormones to change hair growth and voice, or even include the radical measure of gender reassignment surgery to change their genitals to match their sense of gender. In June 2014 Time released a magazine issue with the cover story headline: “The Transgender Tipping Point: America’s Next Civil Rights Frontier.” In the article, Katy Steinmetz follows the lives of several people who have made the transition from the gender with which they were born to the opposite gender. In each case, however, the transgendered individual took steps to conform to the cultural norms of male or female. In no example did the author attempt to demonstrate how transgendered individuals sought to lose all gender identification.5

The problem with such behavior for the LGBT movement  is that changing appearance or physical features conforms to stereotypical gender norms that the LGBT movement publicly dismisses as unimportant. Thus, it should come as no surprise that there is a competing narrative within the LGBT community regarding gender. The public narrative calls on society to erase gender distinctions and make gender a cultural artifact. At the same time, transgendered  individuals seek to conform to cultural stereotypes of dress, appearance, voice pitch, and sometimes even sexual complementarity.  Such conformity undermines the public narrative on gender. However, as Weiss notes,

The difference between ‘homosexual’ and ‘GLBT’ is elusive to many Americans. . . . Many are unaware of any significant distinction between ‘GLBT’ and ‘homosexual.’ Yet within the GLBT population itself, these distinctions mark intense personal and political struggles. The divisions between gay and lesbian and bisexual and transgender are far deeper and more significant to each other than to those outside.6

For those of us pursuing a biblical understanding of gender, we can actually take note of the division within the LGBT movement to emphasize our perspective. While we do not condone the lifestyle of transgendered individuals, we recognize that they have a glimpse of the truth that gays and lesbians have sought to eradicate. The underlying goal of transgendered  individuals  is to pursue the unique gender distinctions of either male or female. The problem is that they deny their own biological gender to do so. Thus, they see the beauty of gender distinctions, but they deny the gender they were born to be. Gender distinction  is part of what God has revealed to us in nature about how he created mankind (Gen 1:27; cf. Rom 1:18–32); however, the specific way that transgendered individuals pursue such distinctions  is still corrupted by the fall. Even in sin, we sometimes get a glimpse of the truth.

A CALL TO BIBLICAL SEXUALITY

The LGBT movement is not as unified as the public face of the community would have us to believe. There are major divisions and inequalities in the movement that typically rest below the surface of what most people in our culture see. However, the divisions are real, and they threaten the strength of the movement if they ever come to the surface.

Even though the focus of this essay has been to expose the fissures in the LGBT movement, I want to end with a call back to biblical sexuality. Genesis 1–2 gives us a clear picture of God’s design for sexuality from the beginning. In Genesis 1:27 we read, “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female, he created them.” From the outset, God created two genders—male and female. Every example of godly sexual expression we see from that point forward in Scripture comes through the union of a man and woman in marriage. Genesis 2:24 tells us, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.” When Jesus discusses marriage and sexuality in Matthew 19 and Mark 10, he appeals to these two foundational verses in Genesis. When Paul talks about marriage in Ephesians 5, he also appeals to the complementary nature of man and woman and points back to Genesis 2:24 as the key text.

Monogamous,  heterosexual marriage is commended, and even celebrated,  as the biblical expression of sexuality. All departures from this standard are considered acquiescence to the sinful, fallen nature of mankind. Thus, we do not point out the conflict in the LGBT movement as an end in itself, but we do so for the purpose of calling everyone caught up in sexual sin back to God’s plan for sexuality. We should be reminded of the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 6:11 after he pointed out a number of sins—including some of a sexual nature—in the church at Corinth: “Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.”

_________________________

1. As it stands today in the ever-evolving world of queer studies, LGBT is an outdated acronym. As Allen Metcalf observes in a recent article in The Chronicle for Higher Education, the alphabet soup of queer studies now includes queer and questioning, unidentified, intersex, asexual, and genderqueer, resulting in a new acronym: LGBTQQ2IA (Allen Metcalf, “LGBTQQ2IA,” Lingua Franca, August 19, 2014, accessed October 24, 2014, http://chronicle.com/blogs/linguafran- ca/2014/08/19/lgbtqq2ia/). For the purpose of this article we will simply focus on the first four classifications.

2. Jillian Todd Weiss, “GL vs. BT: The Archaeology of Biphobia and Transphobia Within the U.S. Gay and Lesbian Community,” in Bisexuality and Transgenderism: InsterSEXions of the Others, ed. Jonathan Alexander and Karen Yescavage; (New York: Rutledge, 2012), 29.

3. Matthew Vines, God and the Gay Christian (New York: Convergent, 2014), 27–28.

4. Susannah Cornwall, Theology and Sexuality (London: SCM Press, 2013), 47.

5. Katy Steinmetz, “America’s Transition,” Time, 9 June 2014, 38–46.

6. Weiss, “GL vs. BT,” 29.

*This post is part of a larger essay that was published in the Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. They subsequently posted the essay in its entirety on their blog as a response to the recent news about Bruce Jenner. You can read the entire essay here.

When a Man Is Not Really a Man

No MenWomen have been giving birth to children since the beginning of the world. Men, however, have apparently figured out how to accomplish this feat only recently. In fact, it seems quite popular these days for media outlets to plaster across their pages a headline that includes some version of “Man Gives Birth.”

The latest account of this comes out of Germany via UK’s The Telegraph. The headline reads, “Transgender man gives birth in Germany.” Below the headline, the paper adds this description: “A transgender man has given birth to his first child in Germany and wants to be registered as the baby’s father.”

To the typical reader, such a headline and description sounds ludicrous. How can a man—even one who is described as a transgender man—give birth to a child? Isn’t childbirth a biological impossibility for a man?

Here is the rest of the story. The Telegraph reports:

Although the birth took place on March 18 of this year the news has only just come to light. The baby was born at home, in the Neukoellin district of Berlin, attended only by a midwife.

The father had insisted on a home birth to avoid being listed as the mother on hospital documents—a German legal requirement.

Although the father has been taking hormone replacement therapies for years he elected to retain the reproductive organs of a woman.

Because he physically gave birth to the child the unidentified man is seen as the mother, however by law he is recognised as a man.

The reality in this situation is that the person who gave birth to the child is physiologically a woman who happens to self-identify as a man. She has been taking hormone treatments (testosterone) in order to develop some traits of a man (e.g., facial hair, deeper voice, etc.), but she is still biologically female. In fact, she most likely had to stop the hormone treatments to get pregnant and give birth.

So what should we think of this?

This news report is evidence that our culture is attempting to strip words of meaning. The term “man” has always included biological and genetic markers distinguishing it from “woman.” One of the clearest markers is that men do not have the biological capacity to bear children. In this case, however, the mother wants to be officially recognized as the father.

In his book, On the Meaning of Sex, J. Budziszewski proposes definitions of womanhood and manhood with respect to identifying what makes each unique. Regarding the term “woman” he writes:

We can say that a woman is a human being of that sex whose members are potentially mothers. The broad category here is human beings; an essential characteristic that distinguishes some human beings from others is the potentiality for motherhood.

Budziszewski explains that potentiality for motherhood is more than the biological possibility of giving birth, but it certainly includes the biological. Even when a woman is physically incapable of bearing a child, it does not negate the potentiality of motherhood.

In addition, he offers a definition of manhood that is more than just a negation of the definition of woman. He states:

These few paragraphs about womanhood may have given the impression that men are to be defined negatively. Someone reading them might suppose that if a woman is a human being of that sex whose members have the potentiality for motherhood, then a man is simply a human being of the sex whose members lack the potentiality for motherhood—making the man a sort of incomplete woman. On the contrary! A man, like a woman, is correctly defined only when he is positively defined. He is a human being of the sex whose members have a different potentiality than women do: the potentiality for fatherhood.

In the same respect as before, Budziszewski considers fatherhood to be broader than merely the potential to sire children. It also includes the way a father relates to children, cares for and protects his family, and relates to women. Budziszewski laments that men have been taught not to be men by false and deluded teachers in the culture. He concludes his description of true manhood by noting:

Unlike the achievement of biological maturity, the achievement of manhood is hard work, labor that requires a firm hand with the desires and devices of the heart. Alas that the carving and shaping of these impulses is so unfashionable. . . . The truth is that not to endure being carved and shaped well is unnatural, and a source of numberless miseries. The best instance of an oak is not a gaudily decorated acorn, but a tree; in the same way, the best instance of a human male is not a glorified, walking packet of urges, but a man who, for the sake of the highest and greatest goods, commands himself, strengthens his brothers, and defends his sisters, regarding even the meanest of women as a lady.

According to biological descriptions and on the basis of a fuller vision of manhood, this “man” in Germany who gave birth is not really a man. She is a woman who sees manhood as a self-identified packet of urges as desires.

Words have meaning. Manhood means something, and this woman in Germany is attempting to remove that meaning.

God established the differences between man and woman at creation. “God created man in his own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:17). God intended differences between male and female from the beginning. These include biological, genetic, emotional, and other differences. The terms “man” and “woman,” or “male” and female,” are not interchangeable because someone feels like he or she wants to be the other.

In the face of stories like this one, we need to stand up for the real meaning of manhood.

_________________________

Jocelyn Spottiswoode, “Transgender man gives birth in Germany,” The Telegraph, September 11, 2013.

J. Budziszewski, On the Meaning of Sex (Wilmington: ISI, 2012).

Can a Man Give Birth?

News out of Santiago, Chile reports than the first recorded male pregnancy in the nation’s history has officially resulted in the birth of a child. Male pregnancy? Did I read that correctly? Here’s the opening paragraph from The Santiago Times:

A transgender man in Chile’s northernmost city of Arica gave birth late last week. The birth marked the first recorded male pregnancy in Chile’s history.

Read the rest of my article here.

*I have the privilege of now being a contributor to the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood’s Public Square Channel. I will be writing articles for them periodically and linking back to their page from here. Find out more about CBMW at www.cbmw.org.