I recently perused an article titled “Transgender: Bringing Clarity to a Confused World,” by Owen Strachan. I perused it because I try to keep my finger on the pulse of anti-LGBT rhetoric, particularly among conservative Christians (I grew up in an evangelical home and attended rallies against marriage equality as a child, so the interest is personal). This particular article, posted on the website of Answers in Genesis, a young earth creationist organization, used a term that had me scratching my head: “transgender rules.”
How do Bible-loving, Christ-worshipping men and women respond to “transgender rules” that normalize such behavior?
What exactly, I wondered, are “transgender rules”? And what is the significance of this terminology? Does it suggest a shift in rhetoric, or the recycling of a particular rhetorical strategy? I looked through the article for a definition. There isn’t one—not directly. So instead, I pulled up every use of the phrase. The next instance is this:
First, we can remember that transgender rules oppose Scripture and common sense. Christians have a tremendous opportunity today. In an age that opposes wisdom, we can humbly and boldly make the case for it.
There’s not a lot of clarity here.
God’s Word tells us the truth. God made mankind. God designed men and women according to his own super-intelligence. Because this is true, we can point our neighbor to this design in the confidence that they will see just how foundational sexual distinctiveness is to humanity.
Transgender rules confuse these embodied truths, but we have the chance to untangle the madness for people.
Nope, there’s no clarity on the term here, either.
In the last two uses of “transgender rules” in Strachan’s piece, we finally learn what he means by the term:
There are a stunning number of wrongs carried out today in the language of fairness, tolerance, and equity. We are told as believers that we are unfair if we oppose the mingling of the sexes in public bathrooms. We are labeled intolerant for failing to celebrate individuals who undergo physically risky surgery to alter their bodies. We hear that we are creating an unequal society by refusing to remake law to support sinful behaviors. In truth, it is the side that wishes to normalize what is abnormal and affirm what is evil that acts in an unjust, unfair, and hostile way.Transgender rules work only in a make-believe world.
And there it is. It would seem that Strachan uses the term “rules” to make it sound as though “transgender” is a thing that is being imposed on society in some sort of dogmatic fashion—as rules all people must live by. How we talk about things is important. Our rhetoric shapes our thought. Strachan’s rhetoric, in other words, is intentional—and thought out.
What exactly are the “rules” Strachan references? First, transgender bathroom access. Second, therapies and surgeries that accompany transition. So when Strachan refers to “refusing to remake law to support sinful behaviors,” he appears to be talking not about laws that force people like him to do anything, but rather laws that allow transgender individuals to exist and to transition.
People who suffer from gender dysphoria (a physical disorder where people feel their gender is different from their anatomical sex) have a real challenge, and this physical disorder necessitates deep spiritual care. But it does not call for a new human identity, nor for the overhaul of society—not now, and not ever. We cannot compromise on this point.
While Strachan repeatedly refers to “transgender rules” he claims are being imposed on society, in reality he is the one who wants to impose rules on society. That is why rhetoric matters. By framing the issue the way he does, Strachan obfuscates reality. He paints himself and others like him as victims, rather than as individuals who want to limit others’ rights and freedoms.
The doublespeak is strong here.
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