Adventures in Misgendering

The rapidly changing landscape of supposed non-binary genders is dizzying to most of us – myself included. This isn’t an attempt to help you navigate that mindfield of pronouns – because in all likelihood, by the time you read this, it would have all changed anyway. Which pronouns they want us to use, or not use, is irrelevant in most ways. We’re being told that “misgendering” is now rude – more than rude, really – a cardinal sin of oppression. One of my sons, a high-school senior, was recently the subject of an “intervention” by his classmates for his refusal to “use the correct pronouns.” Well, more accurately, for the implication, that should such an instance arise, that he wouldn’t use the correct pronouns – because he hadn’t actually had the opportunity to even meet the person in question yet.  So goes our Brave New World.

In our continuing Sexual Revolution, the gender identity debate has eclipsed, in some ways, the debates over feminism, homosexuality, and abortion – but it will be helpful to note that that this new focus has actually taken much of the “cultural” force away from those other debates. For instance, if becoming a “woman” now only takes a solemn pronouncement, then anyone’s all in the feminist camp, aren’t they?  While I was (understandably) annoyed at the treatment my son received, I was also intrigued by the assertion made by his classmates. My son already has the habit of using the singular “they/them/their” to avoid the discussion when inopportune (or when he has no earthly clue what they are when they‘re t’home). That, you see, wasn’t good enough.

It’s good enough for the Boston Globe, whose protagonist (you know that pieces about conformist ideas in the “new normal” of this Revolution  have protagonists now, right?) argues strenuously for the use of they:

Corey Prachniak-Rincón self-identifies as genderqueer because “male” just doesn’t seem sufficient. Born male and married to a man, Prachniak-Rincón has had various styles over the years — sometimes wearing longer hair and a more feminine look — and a few years ago dropped the masculine pronouns for the more ambiguous, if plural, “they/them/theirs.”

Still, they aren’t attached to “they.” They would adopt another pronoun if one came along. They understand that “they” is difficult.

And if you’re having trouble reading this story right now, they sympathize.

“It can be grammatically awkward for people who aren’t used to practicing this,” Prachniak-Rincón acknowledged. “It’s a change in grammatical structure as well as a change in norms, how they’re conceptualizing gender.”

Rapidly changing gender norms, resisted by many traditionalists, are prompting changes to the language that can be jarring to almost everybody at first. Words like “them” used to be scolded out of speech when used to refer to a singular, identifiable person or object. Now, they’re being put to work as benign stand-ins for individuals whose gender identities are not that easily described.

Some gender-nonconforming individuals fully embrace the pronoun “they.” Others who reject the strict confines of traditional gender roles use it by default.

“If there were some new, popular nonbinary form to emerge, I would probably jump on the bandwagon for the sake of simplicity and camaraderie,” said Prachniak-Rincón.[1]

I do appreciate the admission that it is a bandwagon – but it’s illustrative of the issue at hand, is it not? As he points out, it’s a change in grammatical structure and a change in norms. This “new normal” is just that – a novelty.  It’s a revolutionary novelty – and if there’s anything certain, it’s the fate of reactionaries after a Revolution. What wasn’t good enough for my son, I suspect, was that he had “improper motives” for his usage of they.  It isn’t good enough to merely use the word – you have to celebrate the lifestyle, and acquiesce to the new normal as reigning over you, and your grammar. He was engaging in wrongthink, whatever the wording. That’s what gets their goat.

That’s also what got the goat of the Romans, when they insisted on the pluralism that (they felt) kept their Pax Romana. Back then, we were the revolutionaries – so keep that in mind – it’s not just a staid conservatism at work here. What’s actually at issue is not the overthrowing of a mere cultural norm – but the deconstruction of an objective truth. See, the Romans were just fine with Christianity – if it would just assimilate. They didn’t care about yet another religion. What they cared about was that this religion claimed to take supremacy above the demands of the Empire. Especially an Empire with a divinized Emperor. When Domitian took the throne after the death of Titus, he decided that some changes were in order. These were conservative changes, of course. Going back to the good old days – when due honor was given to the gods who brought them to their present status, and worship was properly done. Just some down home, good old fashioned polytheism! Not nearly enough rallying around the… standard, the home gods, and the Empire was going on – and Domitian had just the plan to fix that. The Romans were quite enlightened, when all is said and done. Anyone was free to worship the gods of their people. Some allowances had to be made (although let’s not take it too far, the just-cooled ashes of Jerusalem cautioned!), but all in all, they were quite the pluralists. You were free to worship whatever you wished – as long as you also, under Domitian’s scheme, would drop a pinch of incense at the altar to Caesar’s genius (divine spirit, divinization – you take your pick. They weren’t picky.) and declaimed “Caesar est Kurios!” Christians… not so much. Like those pesky Jews, they weren’t interested in pluralism, accommodationism, or getting along. They only had one Kurios – and that was Christ.

All they had to do was add a little pinch of incense, say the words – and poof, no more problems. They couldn’t. Not knowing what it meant, what it was intended to convey – and not knowing the Triune God. But, many will object at this point – isn’t your son already doing that now? Well, if he was, they certainly wouldn’t have gone after him, would they? It wasn’t enough to simply avoid the image of Caesar; to avoid pinching the incense, or the declaration. My son uses “they” substitutionally, because it is acceptable (if unpopular) grammar which avoids the issue. However, they want my son to use “he” for a female who “identifies as” male. You can’t just leave well enough alone. You must, at all costs, pinch the incense and make the declaration. Just to be clear – these are his high school peers, not administrators. This is a case of “peer pressure”, nothing more.  It illustrates the direction of the culture, though. These two (putatively) Christian teens are going out of their way to have an “intervention” with another teen to get him to renounce an article of faith – or, at least, to go along with societal mores.

So, let’s look at what Scripture says, since our assertion is that this is something we cannot render under Caesar – or to our fellow citizens. Not even for the Pax Romana.

When Christ speaks of creation, he is twice recorded quoting Genesis 1:27, and emphasizing that man was created male and female.  Not only does God incarnate say it, but he’s quoting the words of our foundational creation story; the same passage that says we were created in God’s image,the imago Dei.  What this means is that sex is assigned – but it is assigned by God, not just an arbitrary “assignment” by the doctor who delivered the baby. It also means that we believe that gender is equivalent to sex. Necessarily. We aren’t exaggerating here when we say this is all foundational stuff. When the choice we are given is whether to deny the foundational truths of Scripture or to accede to the demands of societal mores, we are being given the choice of whether to burn incense to Caesar – or to affirm, as our forebears did, that Jesus is Lord, instead. It’s no choice at all.  κύριος Ἰησοῦς

As many love to point out, “In approximately 1 in 2,000 infants, there is enough variation in the appearance of the external genitalia to merit hesitation about appropriate assignment by the physician involved[2]” – which sounds serious, until you look into the rest of the numbers. Also according to the same wikipedia article (but lacking a citation this time) “[a]pproximately 1 in 20,000 infants is born with enough ambiguity that assignment becomes a more drawn-out process of multiple tests and intensive education of the parents about sexual differentiation.” This seems to be akin to the claim on isna.org[3] that “1 in 20,000 men has no Y chromosome, instead having 2 Xs.” This would mean, the article goes on to say, that assuming that women have the corresponding problem equally often, that there are approximately 15,000 Americans who don’t show the chromosomes they are “supposed” to have. Given that we also teach that we live in a fallen world – with a concomitantly disordered functionality – this is not an argument against Christian teaching, It is an argument for it.  If creation is fallen in Adam, and we are part of creation, it follows that we would also be affected. In fact, the Scriptures say that we are fallen, and that we do have disordered bodies, minds, and affections.

What we typically encounter, however, is not an individual with a chromosomal disorder. It is someone experiencing some sort of gender dysphoria[4]. Note that “[c]hildren who meet the criteria for gender dysphoria may or may not continue to experience it into adolescence and adulthood.” While this is all well and good – what about those for whom it does persist? Well, my question is, what about those for whom kleptomania[5] persists? To be brutally honest here, there are a plethora of disorders – both physical and moral – for which our current society has a far better response.  This one, however, is considered acceptable – so it is tolerated – and we are now being told to celebrate it, at the risk of being castigated for “bigotry.” It is now something for which we must now have have “interventions”, if others engage in wrongthink concerning it.

Lest we be accused of hanging it all on one verse (not that there’s anything particularly wrong with doing so – and not that this was a single verse – but the ways of objectors are always mysterious), let’s examine some more.  We believe, as Jesus said, that the Scripture cannot be broken. If woman is bone of bone and flesh of flesh of man[6] – and if, when a man and a woman join together, they become one flesh[7], then there is something particular about the sexes in view here.  Not just any sex can do – that gender binary is correlative. They complement each other, and together, when joined, they are one.  Not just anyone can be one flesh – the man and his wife are one flesh. This isn’t a plug and play situation here.  We can talk about Leviticus 18:22, and Deuteronomy 22:5 too – but please understand me here. When we tell you that we cannot accede to these demands, we aren’t just being “conservative.” We believe the same thing about our identity that we believe about your identity. Who and what we are is what God created us to be. We will not and we cannot submit on this point.

For if we have become united with [Him] in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be [in the likeness] of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with [Him], in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin.  Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God.  Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.  Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts,  and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin [as] instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members [as] instruments of righteousness to God.  For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace. (Romans 6:5-14, NASB)

If I, as Scripture says, am united to Christ in His death – I am also united to Him in His resurrection life. My old self – my old identity – was crucified with Christ. I am not a slave to my disordered identity. I am free, in Christ. Death and sin no longer control me – no longer shackle me. Life is mine – for I am alive in Christ Jesus. Sin does not, cannot reign over me. That is the demand of the world on this point. I cannot obey. I cannot “present the members of my body to sin.” Note the interesting parallel here to “present yourselves” in the transgender lexicon. The language of identity used here.  We cannot offer that pinch of incense. We cannot say that this sexual revolution’s novel ethics are Lord over our life. We already have a Lord. This is, and will remain, an antithesis with no synthesis.

Repent of your allegiance to sinful desires that contravert God’s created order[8]. Ask for deliverance from these disordered affections, plea for God’s salvation from the ravages of sin that result from the Fall.  In Adam, all died – but in Christ, one can live, and live to God. Only he can save you from this body of death[9]. Only if Christ is Lord, not Caesar, can you be truly free. Just don’t be surprised if the world hates you[10]. After all, that’s a promise from Christ[11], too.

If you’re aghast that we can’t submit over a small thing like a preferred pronoun – incense and a few words wasn’t any bigger a deal, was it? That also involved itself in the foundational beliefs of Christianity. See how that turned out.

  1. [1]https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2018/03/10/change-gender-norms-brings-pronoun-revolution/IKhxVBptQUwaDJ1IcZszUN/story.html
  2. [2]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sex_assignment
  3. [3]http://www.isna.org/faq/y_chromosome
  4. [4]https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/gender-dysphoria/what-is-gender-dysphoria
  5. [5]https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/kleptomania/symptoms-causes/syc-20364732
  6. [6]Gen 2:23
  7. [7]Gen 2:24
  8. [8]Rom 7:5
  9. [9]Rom 7:24
  10. [10]1 John 3:13
  11. [11]John 15:18-19

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