My English 2010 students this past semester had to write argumentative essays for their final assignment, in which they researched a current issue and took a stand on it. I told them multiple times that while they would probably start out with an opinion on their topic, they should keep an open mind and be willing to change it if the research led them in a different direction, instead of trying to make it conform with what they already believed.
I don't know how many took that advice in practice. But I had a student who started with the opinion that transgender athletes should be banned because of their unfair physical advantages, and then after he did the research he changed his mind. He found that there's a lot of misinformation on this topic. He found that when people complained about transgender high school wrestler Mack Beggs dominating girls' wrestling, they wrongly claimed or implied that Beggs' transition was male-to-female instead of the opposite and left out the part where he wanted to wrestle with boys and was denied by Texas law. He found that transgender women are not dominating women's sports to anywhere near the extent that people (specifically Republicans) claim they are. He found that their physical advantage is severely curtailed by the hormone treatments they're required to take, and that various cisgender athletes also have unfair physical advantages for the simple reason that people's bodies are different. Perfect parity in sports is impossible to achieve, but in his view (which I share, though I have less credibility since I don't really give a crap about sports), it's best served by letting the small number of transgender athletes participate with the gender they identify as, provided they meet the same physical requirements as everyone else. I'm so proud of his open-mindedness, and his essay was one of my favorites.
I'm not an expert on this topic by a long shot, but I noticed quite a while ago that people who deny the validity of intersex, transgender, and non-binary people's experiences are the ones who invariably end up looking stupid in online arguments, because they just repeat "There are only two genders" while their opponents cite scientific research. These people insist that they're the ones on the side of biology and common sense, yet their understanding of sex and gender remains at the elementary-school level of "penis equals male and vagina equals female." And at this point their ignorance is a deliberate choice. Lots of information is out there for anyone who cares to look at it, but they choose to pretend otherwise, obviously to protect themselves from the cognitive dissonance that the actual complexity of sex and gender causes with their beliefs. In my book this qualifies as lying. And it leads them to something that should cause even more cognitive dissonance with their beliefs - bearing false witness against their neighbors. This year I've been disgusted by members of my church and other so-called Christians lying about Lia Thomas' athletic record and lying that transgender athletes are overrunning women's sports and we should all be very afraid of them. I'm disgusted by the Utah Legislature's recent passage of an all-out ban to address the nonexistent problems not being caused by Utah's four transgender high school athletes. (But I'm proud of Governor Spencer Cox for jeopardizing his reelection by vetoing the bill on principle even though he couldn't stop it.)
My favorite lie about this topic is that gender dysphoria is caused by Satan's lies. Apparently Satan can just whisper in a girl's ear that she's a boy and that explains everything. This kind of thinking is about on par with diagnosing epilepsy as witchcraft. My second favorite lie is that all sex and gender anomalies can be lumped together and dismissed as "mental illness," not because these liars have one iota of love or compassion for people with mental illness, but because they don't. Anyway, the other day someone in the church's Newsroom group on Facebook mentioned transgender people and said "We need to show them love, and also have the courage to steer them in the right direction with a good loving advice led by the Holy Ghost." I saw an opportunity to speak up, but because I wanted to actually make a positive impact on people and not start an argument (I do switch things up once in a while), I limited my remarks to something so basic that no one seriously attempting to follow Christ could have a problem with it.
Given that posts in this group about how Covid exists or how we shouldn't be racist are regularly overrun by triggered right-wing snowflakes who make me want nothing to do with the church, I was pleasantly surprised by my comment's positive reception. Only one person argued with me, in fact, and she was very polite and capable of writing mostly coherent sentences. But she obviously misunderstood me because she went on about chastity and how we can call people to repentance without being unkind, when all I said was that telling a transgender person they're not the gender they think they are doesn't magically make them stop feeling like the gender you say they aren't. And she also brought gay marriage into it for some reason. So at that point I did bring up the fact that sex and gender are demonstrably far more complicated than the church tries to make them, and that unless you've examined a person inside and out and down to the cellular level (which would be gross), you don't know how much they biologically lean one way or the other, let alone what eternal gender their spirit is supposed to be, and should mind your own business. I linked to this article for more details - all of them physical, tangible realities of people's bodies, not even touching on the touchier subject of gender identity. As one would expect, she doubled down and responded to the details by not responding to them at all. Her non-response was the inspiration for this post.
If she wasn't saying that gender dysphoria is a sin, then she had literally no reason to start arguing with me. I hadn't said anything related to chastity or anything about sex reassignment surgery (or same-sex attraction for that matter). I hope this comment's lack of substance is self-evident enough that I don't need to analyze every sentence here. If this is the best argument you can come up with to defend your viewpoint when presented with substantial inconvenient evidence, then your viewpoint almost certainly doesn't deserve to be defended. In this case I mean the infantile and demonstrably wrong viewpoint of sex and gender, not the entire gospel, which I believe can stand on its own without lying about science - but if this argument represents the level of intellectual and spiritual rigor that God expects of me in defending the gospel, then count me out.
I will just say that accusing LGBTQ+ people of promoting division in this nation, as opposed to, oh I don't know, the straight cisgender people who have persecuted them for centuries, is really ignorant. Most of this comment is really ignorant, but I just felt compelled to point out that this particular part, like most of the parts, is really ignorant. It's like blaming racial minorities for the racial unrest in this nation. Oh wait, conservatives do that too. Anyway, "the Pride narrative" literally only exists because LGBTQ+ people have had to assert their right to be accepted as human beings and not hate themselves for the way God made them. Pride is the opposite of shame. Also, of all the things the Bible is good for, a science textbook is not one of them. Also, the Bible says God created day and night, but I don't see anyone complaining that scientists worship Satan because they've determined that various stages of twilight exist.
But again, in fairness, only this one person argued with me. A few others pushed back against her. People like this guy are the future of the church, unless they all leave because it's a toxic environment for them.
Ah yes, the laugh reaction (which came from someone else who didn't participate in the discussion) is also a standard fallback for people who can't refute facts and are allergic to empathy for anyone different than them. Dallin H. Oaks did state in late 2019 that "the intended meaning of gender in the family proclamation and as used in Church statements and publications since that time is biological sex at birth." But that was a few months before the church updated its handbook to acknowledge for the first time in its history that intersex people exist - albeit only one very limited kind of intersex people - so maybe it's different now. Or does President Oaks really mean to imply (in keeping with the family proclamation's vague statement) that people who are biologically intersex at birth were created with intersex spirits and will continue to be intersex for eternity? Somehow that doesn't seem like an idea he would accept. I apologize for the snark, but intersex people have been known to exist for the entirety of human history, so I feel just a little impatient.
On a related note, a few months ago BYU administrators directed the Department of Communication Disorders to cease providing gender-affirming speech therapy for three transgender students. This is a violation of both the HIPAA Privacy Rule and the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association Code of Ethics, and consequently BYU is under investigation (again) and its speech-language pathology Masters program will most likely lose accreditation if it doesn't reverse course. I won't lose a moment of sleep over BYU getting what it deserves, but I will feel awful for the faculty who, according to rumors that I have no reason to doubt, are not in agreement with this decision, and for the students who will be royally screwed over when the degrees they invested their time and money in turn out to be even more worthless than most college degrees. And then BYU administrators and church leaders will probably spin the incident 180 degrees backwards and portray themselves as the ones being persecuted.
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About the Author
C. Randall Nicholson is a white cisgender Christian male, so you can hate him without guilt, but he's also autistic and asexual, so you can't, unless you're an anti-vaxxer, in which case the feeling is mutual. This blog is where he periodically rants about life, the universe, and/or everything.