“Not dismissing the reality of their inner feelings, however, is not the same as affirming those feelings. It’s important for Christians to understand that people who experience distress, anguish, and conflict over their perceived gender identity really do exist.”
The latest issue of Time magazine features an essay by Jessi Hempel telling the story of her brother, Evan, giving birth to a son.
That opening sentence might catch you off guard, especially since human biology does not allow for biological men to give birth. Such an idea is common knowledge, but in our own day the claim that only women are able to give birth needs to be reasserted. The photo the story features is designed to elicit attention, as it shows what looks like a man breastfeeding an infant son. But the story’s title—“My Brother’s Pregnancy and the Making of a New American Family”—is designed to document the brave new frontier transgender individuals are promising to bring to America, a frontier that requires accepting the supposed reality that men can give birth.
Hempel tells the heart-wrenching story of her brother who had undergone a female-to-male transition at 19, but who still desired to give birth—and did so at 35. The writer describes the long-ago transition that included Testosterone injections, which produced thick hair over her former sister’s knuckles, a vestige associated with masculine hands. Evan elected not to have her breasts removed. Recounting how much they once looked alike, Hempel laments the loss of her doppelgänger.
The story is not without painful admissions. At one point, Hempel observes that her brother, while pregnant, experienced a “traumatizing disconnect between his masculinity and the female attributes of his body.” Such trauma should be expected when a person tries to live out in their mind what their body contradicts.
Hempel goes on to ask a question that helpfully frames how Christians should begin thinking about the transgender revolution: “What if you are born into a female body, know you are a man, and still want to participate in the traditionally exclusive rite of womanhood? What kind of man are you then?”
Pew Behind You
We might be tempted to respond to this type of question—and this kind of person—with shock and dismissal, reducing someone like Evan’s psychological experiences of gender dysphoria1 to bizarre novelty or even derangement. But that’s most certainly not the Christian response to a person experiencing gender dysphoria. Instead, we must approach these individuals with both grace and truth (John 1:14).
Some respond that dismissing the legitimacy of a person’s experiences is to dismiss them wholesale. To be clear, we shouldn’t dismiss but feel compassion for anyone experiencing mental distress about a perceived misalignment between their gender identity and their body. Not dismissing the reality of their inner feelings, however, is not the same as affirming those feelings. It’s important for Christians to understand that people who experience distress, anguish, and conflict over their perceived gender identity really do exist. They’re not freaks. They’re not simply cross-dressers or people desiring to “gender-bend.” In most cases, their experience cannot be reduced to simply “living a lie” since most don’t feel they’re lying to themselves. In fact, just the opposite is true. People with genuine cases of dysphoria believe it’s their biological body that is lying. A person in this situation truly believes he or she is a member of the opposite sex.