My daughter lives in California and in the last few weeks has had two startling encounters with Californians. The first was with a woman, a medical professional, who asked about Katie’s pregnancy. Katie told her how excited she and her husband were when they thought at first they were having a boy. When later in the pregnancy they learned she was in fact carrying a little girl, they were just as excited but it took some getting used to. That’s when the woman dropped a bombshell. “Maybe if you have a girl,” she said, “she’ll be gay and everything will work out the way you wanted in the first place.”
My daughter was stunned—not by the stupidity of the woman’s response, which was considerable—but by her understanding of sexual identity. What does gender matter if it’s so fluid it can be shifted on a whim?
The second encounter was with a neighbor with a four-year-old son confused by the difference between boys and girls. His mom and dad helped him solve his confusion—so they thought—by promptly beginning to treat him as a girl. They dressed him as a girl, bought him girl’s toys, and adjusted their perspective of his gender to conform to what they thought he wanted to be. Their little boy became their little girl. All it took was a shift in parental expectations.
Both conversations seem to confirm the general perception that the west coast is the source of all weirdness in the country. While that may be true, it’s also true that beliefs and practices originating there are usually accepted by the nation as a whole in short order. California isn’t so much crazy as it is first.
The principle is especially true regarding sexuality and gender. It’s no accident that Olympic gold medal winner Bruce Jenner, arguably the most famous transgender person in the country, is from California. But his well documented journey from male to female has become the most visible expression of a much wider movement. Today, transgenderism is a central feature in almost every facet of American culture—popular imagination, political decisions, legal precedents, business practices and the role of traditional religious convictions.
Sex and gender until a few years ago was simply understood in terms of male/female relations. The homosexual revolution expanded those two basic categories. That designation soon seemed too restrictive and morphed into LGBT (lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender). Today, the alphabet soup of gender and sex has exploded to include LGBTTQQFAGPBDSM (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Transsexual, Queer, Questioning, Flexual, Asexual, Genderf—, Polyamorous, Bondage/Discipline, Dominance/Submission, Sadism/Masochism)—a list of sexual proclivities the student body of Wesleyan University demanded two weeks ago be recognized by the university administration.
The word “transgenderism” is shorthand for the diversity of sexual beliefs behaviors now generally accepted and founded on the idea that traditional understandings of gender and sex are not only out-dated but also unhealthy. Today, gender identification and whatever sexual practices accompany it are the free choice of the individual. Sex is a buffet line, and each person chooses what, how and with whom they can indulge.
It’s hard to grasp how quickly and deeply transgenderism has taken root in American culture. According to estimates, only about 0.3% of the population identifies themselves as transgendered (3% say they’re homosexual). Yet that small group has managed to dominate the national consciousness over the last few years to the degree that the entire moral landscape has changed. What once was unimaginable is now commonplace. There are two reasons for the shift, both embedded in the American psyche. The first is our historic priority on the freedom of the individual to do whatever they choose. The second is our tradition of civil rights: once sexual beliefs and practices are framed in that way, we have little recourse but to accept them.
Which is why, today, transgenderism has become enshrined in popular culture through celebrities like Jenner, movies and social media; institutionalized through the educational system via curriculum changes; politicized through the power of special interest groups within the larger electorate; federalized by treating transgendered people as a protected class under anti-discrimination laws; and confirmed in the economic community where acceptance of transgenderisim is now a requirement of success in business.
One of the few voices of dissent is traditional religion. Individuals and churches that base their beliefs on biblical revelation cannot go down this road, and our stance will more and more put us at odds with the surrounding culture. We’re already called backward and bigoted. In the near future we’ll be labeled as criminals.
The reason for our position isn’t that we’re trying to be judgmental, although our fear of God’s wrath is very real. Neither is it that we’re trying to be morally superior—we’re all far too conscious of our own sin to hold ourselves above anyone else. The reason is that the transgender movement represents the nation’s final step downward into darkness. The transgendered person claims the authority to define his own existence. For the Christian, that’s the essence of idolatry.
The issue isn’t primarily sexual, moral or even religious. Transgenderism is existential—it’s the conviction that people can create themselves in an image of their own choosing. In a recent blog posting, Rod Dreher quotes a professor (he had to remain anonymous because any criticism of the transgender movement in academia results in termination) on the point:
The trans movement represents this idea’s apex: if we can free ourselves from basic biology and anatomy, then truly we have become gods. “I am that I am” is no longer confined to Exodus 3; it is the mantra of the willed self freed from all external barriers. There is nothing beyond the subjective, the personal, the therapeutic, because all that matters is how I define my own self, my own existence, and my own gratification.
The biblical reference the professor makes is to Exodus 3:14, part of a larger passage describing God’s revelation of himself to Moses at the burning bush. When Moses asks God who he is, God responds by saying, “I AM WHO I AM.” In those few words God not only reveals his name—in the Hebrew language of the Old Testament, God’s sacred name YHWH is in fact the verb for being—he also reveals his essential nature. He is being itself, the ground of being. He alone is self-existent and independent of the created order. He has no beginning and no end, and unlike all created things isn’t contingent on anything or anyone else.
The transgender movement seeks the place that God reserves for himself. That’s why it’s the end of the world as we know it.