On welcoming transgender people

Last July, General Synod voted on a contentious motion about the welcome of transgender people in the Church, proposed by Chris Newlands as a Blackburn diocesan motion. That it was contentious was already evident from the fact that the Bishop of Blackburn had voted against it when it was previously debated in the diocesan synod. The motion read as follows:

That this Synod, recognising the need for transgender people to be welcomed and affirmed in their parish church, call on the House of Bishops to consider whether some nationally commended liturgical materials might be prepared to mark a person’s gender transition.

Chris Newlands had introduced the issue with a story about someone who approached him wanting a liturgical rite akin to baptism, because they were not sure that God knew them under their new gender identity. In his Synod speech, he cited the story of a five-year old as an example of transgenderism:

“David” and “Ruth” are active members of an evangelical Church of England parish church and they have been for a long time. Five years ago, they became parents of a healthy baby boy, “Nathan”. The church was delighted to share their joy at his birth, but it was not long before Nathan showed every sign that he was actually their daughter and not their son. He refused to wear trousers and showed absolutely no interest in any boy toys, only pink princess-type toys and decorations for his bedroom.

The striking paradox about this story is the detachment of the terms ‘daughter’ and ‘son’ from any sense of biological reality, coupled with an absolutising of socially constructed gender markers. In the Victorian period, pink was associated with boys and not girls. And the projection of transgender ideology on children when they are so young appears to be highly damaging, especially to young girls, a group who already have enough to cope with as they form their understandings of themselves in society.

But the problem with the motion as it was presented was the absolute connection made between ‘welcome’ and ‘liturgical materials’. There was an attempt to separate these two issue out, in the form of an amendment proposed by Nick Land, but this was resisted by Chris Newlands, largely on the grounds that he refused to ‘acknowledge different understandings around gender dysphoria and the field of gender identity more widely’, and rejected in the debate. (I had already discussed this prior to Synod, and asked whether he would accept a friendly amendment, but he refused point blank.) Despite this, members of the House of Bishops had indicated clearly that these were indeed different issue. Richard Frith, bishop of Hereford and Vice-Chair of the Liturgical Commission, made it clear that the ‘consideration’ that was being asked for would result in a decision not to act:

We already have liturgical materials which speak of our common identity as Christians and which are appropriate for the welcome of transgender people. I do though very much welcome the motion as it gives us an opportunity to make a positive statement about inclusion and openness.

A cynical listener might have classified that final statement as an expression of virtue signalling—but the comment does have the virtue of clarity. This was made even more clear in the final speech in the debate by John Sentamu, Archbishop of York.

Chair, members of Synod, there are two parts to this motion and they both have to be taken with equal weight. The first is the need to welcome and affirm in their parish transgender people. Is there any one of us who does not say “yes” to that first part? Anybody? So on that first part we will say “yes”.

Then the second bit talks about the House of Bishops. It is the House of Bishops being asked “to consider whether” and “whether materials might be”. Actually, the motion has been very carefully crafted. I welcome it because it allows us to do what Chris Newlands was trying to suggest without kicking it into the long grass. The theology has to be done but that cannot be done very quickly.

Because the first part of the motion is affirming, the need to affirm that people should be welcomed in their parish church, I want us to vote “yes”, and the second bit, because it is “considering” whether some materials might be prepared, it is provisional, and because it needs a lot of work we shall come back to the Synod from the House with what we thought, but we are going to give it very serious consideration in light of the Secretary General’s paper, particularly paragraphs 12 and 14.

From these comments, it was very predictable what the House of Bishops would decide (not to introduce new liturgy) and when it was leaked to the Daily Mail, a statement was quickly issued. Despite what was said in the debate, the Mail’s report characterised the bishops as ‘throwing out’ what Synod had ‘demanded’—and this apparent volte face was widely interpreted by supporters of the motion as hypocrisy, of saying one thing in the public forum of a Synod debate, but the opposite in private when there would be less publicity. The House of Bishops’ statement makes the same separation between welcoming and the devising of new liturgy, but it seems clear that the response is to say: ‘That which the campaigners have united, let not the House of Bishops divide.’

Don’t forget to book your place at the Festival of Theology on Jan 30th!

The cementing together of welcome/affirmation and agreement with transgender ideology is evident in other discussions in this area. Paris Lees, a trans woman journalist who grew up in Nottingham, documents the traumatic experience of bullying, taunting and violence experienced by her and other trans people—and I can’t help wondering whether the Synod motion might have made more explicit mention of this. But at the centre of the piece there is a quite extraordinary claim:

This violence is often justified on the grounds that we’re not “real” women, that we’re tricksters, sick men who deserve to be beaten and murdered. I wonder if cosy establishment figures who question whether we’re real women have considered how that directly contributes to this culture of violence? The abuse trans people face doesn’t occur in a vacuum. The things people read or hear about trans people in the media affect the way they perceive and, ultimately, treat trans people.

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168 thoughts on “On welcoming transgender people”

  1. Is the HoB developing a theology of sex, which includes this issue? We seem to be continuing to take actions without an agreed theology, in an obviously very contentious and divisive area.

    I note in William Nye’s original note (GS 2071B) paragraph 13 states:

    The Church of England does not currently offer any liturgical provision for the ‘naming’ or ‘re-naming’ of an infant or any other person. There is no legal or doctrinal difficulty about a baptised transgendered person re-affirming their baptismal vows using a name different from the Christian name given at baptism. This is because whilst the Christian name given at baptism can only be changed formally in very limited circumstances – notably by the Bishop confirming the person concerned under a new name – a member of the Church of England may be known by, and use, different names from those given at baptism or confirmation provided that they do not do so for fraudulent or other similar purposes.

    Wouldn’t it be fair to say that trying to pass oneself off as a member of the opposite sex comes under ‘fraudulent or similar purposes’? It doesn’t seem sound for the church to appear to sanction such a move by using the name in an affirmation of baptism intended to mark a ‘transition’. Particularly as the HoB has said it will be issuing guidance on using the rite for this purpose. There is more than a little affirmation of highly controversial and unorthodox gender theory implicit in all this.

    Consider the following from William Nye’s latest note (GS Misc 1178) (why are statements from the HoB being left to its Secretary to issue – when did this practice start?):
    It provides the opportunity, requested in the Diocesan Synod Motion, for ‘a liturgical marking of a person’s transition which has the full authority of the Church of England, as an appropriate expression of community and pastoral support’… Some guidance on the usage of these resources for the important work of welcoming and affirming transgender people will be issued by the House later in 2018.

    That sounds like a pretty sizeable slice of salami to me.

  2. Thanks – a well-analysed antidote to the normal approach of rushing in with a highly culture-specific ideology.

    One so frequently hears the word ‘trans’ without further clarification. I think that is one sign that the position cannot have been thought through. ‘Trans’ could mean *any* of the following:

    (a) biologically intersex

    (b) biologically non-XY and also non-XX

    (c) medically transitioning from one to the other

    (d) transvestite

    (e) not identifying with either of the normal binary (male or female)
    – in our pansexual age this will be incredibly common…
    -…not least as there are such large numbers of sexualities available in tickbox surveys

    (f) not agreeing that the normal binary should be the default

    (g) disaffected and/or contrary

    (h) neither disaffected nor contrary but wanting to identify with those who don’t think they fit into the binary (a bit like providers of unisex loos or those who selflessly – or otherwise – want to have heterosexual civil partnerships: in each case, as a gesture of solidarity)

    (i) having fully transitioned hormonally

    (j) having fully transitioned to the extent of having had body parts removed or grown/added

    (k) saying ‘I’m male/female’ (in cases where one is not), which Justine Greening and others would accept as sufficient.

    I have probably forgotten l-z.

    • (l) would be gender dysphoria – having a sense of self that identifies with the other gender than one’s body might lead people to believe.

    • Hi Christopher,

      I note you don’t give any support for your assertion that ‘trans’ is so loosely used. I would suggest that trans usually only means your points (c), (i) and (j). (a) and (b) would be intersex, surely? Most of the others would come under non-binary or queer I’d have thought… I think there may be more precision in some of this language than you suggest. The glossaries I mentioned in my comment to Mat below might give some support for what I’m saying, I hope.

      in friendship, blair

      • Yes, I think you are on the ball here. But it is the merest sleight of hand to conflate things at the intersex end of the spectrum with things at the I-say-I-am-(fe)male-so-I-am end of the spectrum. Trojan Horses. Smuggling in the rogue element in an innocuous container.

        The term is loosely thrown around without sufficient definition. Given that broad spectrum, that is a very serious matter, and detrimental to truth and honesty.

        • Hi again Christopher,

          I think if such conflation were happening, it might be concerning, but as i said above, you aren’t giving any support for this. The acronym LGBTI does group things together but also implies a distinction between each. Also, I’m not at all keen on your phrase “rogue element” but would suggest that, rather like the ‘gay question’, this is a question of truth – it needs to be discerned what the true characterisation of being trans is (your own view is clear from your phrasing above, i realise). I note that John Sentamu is quoted above as saying, “The theology has to be done but that cannot be done very quickly”, and wonder if that might reassure some?

          in friendship, Blair

          • When you talk about ‘the true characterisation of being trans’, you are wrongly assuming that ‘trans’ is a coherent term in the first place. One can never assume that concepts are coherent.

  3. I find this distressing.

    I agree with Will in the first instance: in that any conversations on this subject is unlikely to be productive until we have a well-articulated theology of sex/sexuality. Potentially damaging even.

    I also agree with Christopher, and made a similar point myself in previous comments elsewhere. We are in need of an agreed glossary of terms, if such a thing is possible, so when a bishop speaks of (for example) the ‘trans community’, we know who is, and isn’t, being referred to.

    I am worried by John Sentamu’s comments:

    “Chair, members of Synod, there are two parts to this motion and they both have to be taken with equal weight. The first is the need to welcome and affirm in their parish transgender people. Is there any one of us who does not say “yes” to that first part? Anybody? So on that first part we will say “yes”.

    Because while I agree with the first part concerning welcome, he is conflating welcome with affirmation, and they are not the same thing. I support a push for the church to be more welcoming to people, but I do not thing that welcoming, by definition, necessitates a tolerance of that person’s lifestyle/character/decisions.

    What about the general way this has been handled?..

    Well, I think it’s about as good as one could hope. The Bishop’s hands are tied really, I can’t see what else they could have done.

    • A clarification. My comment about welcoming/affirming a person’s “lifestyle/character/decisions” was not meant to be specific to transgender people, but a general point, true for everyone.

    • Hello Mat (and all),

      there are glossaries available on the internet … such as this one by Stonewall:
      I don’t mean to provoke in linking to it; am aware many of you who post here won’t be fans of at least some of what Stonewall does but their glossary looks pretty clear to me.

      I’m more reluctant to mention this, as I vehemently disagreed with many of the essays gathered in it, but it should probably be said that the glossary co-written by the late John Richardson in ‘God, gays and the church’ is also helpful… and probably surprisingly similar to that of Stonewall…!

      in friendship, Blair

      • Thanks, I personally accept much of stonewalls glossary, so it’s good to have a link.

        That said, I think you may have misunderstood the nuance of my point. The “we” in my comment meant the church, specifically the CofE’s general synod, is what needs an agreed glossary. If it gets it from stonewall, fine. 😉

        • Thanks Mat. You’re right that I misunderstood that nuance… although I am tempted to ask, how do we know that John Sentamu (or other senior C of E figures) are not speaking from within an understanding shaped by Stonewall’s glossary (or similar)?

          in friendship, Blair

          • We don’t.

            The glossary is just a specific and necessary part of the wider need for an articulated theological statement. People in the CofE just need to stop talking across each other as if they mean the same thing when they don’t.

  4. An observation on all this: this post will be a fairly typical one (esp on sexuality) in that it will get 2,500 views today. But I notice there is very little dissension or contention.

    As with Facebook, it seems as though we all agree that this is a mess, and it comes about from what I have called the cementing of welcome with agreement.

    For me, this confirms that we will only begin to have a chance of sensible discussion if we can treat these two issues in differentiated ways, and apply (as Mat says) our common distinctions between welcome and affirmation to this situation as we do in every other.

    • You didn’t really say anything contentious yourself, or at least, nothing provocative enough to warrant fightback. You are too careful, so the disagreement, if it exists, will be polite.

      Unlike, say, Will, who has the advantage to be very blunt, writing “trying to pass oneself off as a member of the opposite sex comes under ‘fraudulent or similar purposes’?” thus describing people who have gender dysphoria (or whatever the correct term is) as both outwardly and inwardly decietful. Whatever your opinion on the ‘mental health’ of those people struggling to come to terms with their biology, this is not the way to show emapathy. 😉

      My apologie to Will, who I deliberately reading his comment in a worse light than it was probably meant to make my point.

      • It was a little blunt – and made only slightly less blunt by being stated as a question.

        The sentiment is valid though: changing name is usually just a matter of taste. But changing name as part of simulating the opposite sex – that’s surely something different. It’s part of asking us to endorse something which is untrue.

        • I’m sorry, everyone is being so polite and agreeing that this is a mess. But I am very concerned about Will’s comment. You may believe you are being asked to endorse something which is *untrue*. The trans person, and lots of other people who see gender dysphoria as real (and I mean real, not as a mental health condition) believe that we are being asked to endorse something which is true.

          On a related note, what do priests/ministers feel when they baptise a child knowing that neither the parents nor the godparents have any belief in the promises, nor any intention of following them up? Do they feel they are endorsing something which is not true?

          • Penelope – FWIW I for one wouldn’t and haven’t baptised a child of unbelieving parents. To do so would be to participate and condone a public lie before God and the church – if parents do not believe the creedal affirmations they publicaly state and the renunciations and repentance they make, then they lie. How can one baptise in such a context? There are always services of thanksgiving and blessing to offer where baptism is not appropriate.

            Will – Penelope is surely right in saying ‘Gender dysphoria is undoubtedly real and true’ for those who experience it – the question is what is it they experience? The NHS officially claim: ‘Gender dysphoria is a recognised medical condition, for which treatment is sometimes appropriate. It’s not a mental illness’ – but what evidence can be shown that it is biological, chemical, or neurological to support the claim it is not a mental/psychological condition?

          • Simon: you can delay the baptism for the purposes of instructing the parents. You can’t actually deny their request for a baptism. This is very basic canon law.

            Will: everything is a mental health condition. You can easily be cured of your unreasonable prejudices against homosexual and trans people if you are willing to undergo the necessary therapeutic journey.

          • Thanks Andrew – yes you are right – but then it becomes a matter of interpretation and pastoral care. “No minister shall refuse or, save for the purpose of preparing or instructing the parents or guardians or godparents, delay to baptise any infant…” – but in classic Anglican breadth this doesn’t make clear what preparation or instruction means and so in evangelical tradition the priest generally takes that to mean the parents (at least1 parent) of the infant clearly understands the meaning of what they will claim and expect they believe what they will claim. Then, legally, if they wish to go ahead, it is their right and between their consciences and God. Increasingly it is rare for unchurched parents to want their child baptised anyway (I can recall only one request in 25years) and then it was really granny putting pressure on the parents. Awkward for everyone. But in traditional communities where this is more prevalent, I still believe we must offer clear instruction on what promises and declarations they are making before God. I believe the pastoral responsibility to the parents not to perjure themselves before God, church and child outweigh all other considerations and mean we dont fudge this preparation and instruction. Fortunately we have great liturgies for blessings, thanksgivings and dedications to offer non church/fringe church parents and we find these readily welcomed.

          • ‘Everything is a mental health condition’ – ah yes, true postmodernism at work. What is madness, tell me Foucault? What is sex, Derrida? But a construct of society, arbitrarily created by the bourgeoisie to maintain their privilege. For there is no reality, you see, no nature. We are all but atoms bouncing around, in a Hobbesian state of nature – atoms with fevered dreams of false order conjured by fanciful minds.

            There is no design, no inherent intention evident in the nature of things. Just bundles of pleasure-seeking nerves searching for peace. You think otherwise? You are the fool, the self-deceived. It is you who must be enlightened with Epicurean insight. The only ‘normal’ is to recognise there is no normal; the only nature to see there is no nature. ‘Everything is a mental health condition’, there is no sound psychology, no healthiness of mind. For God himself is a madman, the pinnacle of madness, unrestrained by reason, uncommitted to order, a playful being beholden to fancy. There is no order in the divine and no order in his creatures. Just varying degrees of madness. And the greatest madness of all is to think otherwise.

          • Will: excellent! The problem for you however – and there really is no way round this – is that you live in a society where the NHS is clear that Gender Dysphoria is NOT a mental health condition, and a society where people who have an irrational fear of homosexual and trans people, as you seem to do, are considered prejudiced.

          • Andrew, claiming that Will’s view is ‘an irrational fear’, is a slur and a failure to engage in proper discussion. Yellow card.

            Please stop using this kind of language. Thanks.

          • Ian: apologies.
            Claiming that gender dysphoria is a mental health issue is clearly intended as a slur and is factually inaccurate. It’s a dangerous opinion and simply has to be challenged.
            What view do you. or Will for that matter, take on the fact that transgendering is no bar to ordination and also takes place after ordination with the explicit approval of the House of Bishops?

          • Will is right to refer to Gender Dysphoria under the category “mental health”, as the NHS refers to it as such, much as Andrew might deny this. It categorically is a ‘condition’ and it has both ‘symptoms’, ‘diagnosis’, and ‘treatment’. Andrew is right to object though, and we should be more careful about describing those for whom this is a label as “mentally ill”, not because this is explicitly wrong on factual grounds, but because the phrase “mentally ill” still carries much historic baggage that is patently unhelpful.

            If we think of depression and anxiety we can see how the balance is to be found here. Both are issues of mental health, and only a few people deny this, but as a society we are very careful about referring to those who suffer from these as being mentally ill because this attaches a stigma that is detrimental to the recovery of those who suffer from it.

            So there is no doubt on what the NHS says: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/gender-dysphoria/


          • “Will is right to refer to Gender Dysphoria under the category “mental health”, as the NHS refers to it as such,”

            …..And so was I. Just to be clear that I am not trying to stand outside as if I am an impartial observer here. 😉 We just need to be a bit more careful with our words I think. We can all pursue the truth of this without needing to be hostile and uncharitable to each other.

          • Simon

            I was suggesting that many parents and godparents are prepared to make those promises without really believing in them and that priests/ministers must sometimes be aware of this. Ditto weddings, that doesn’t mean that you should withhold the sacraments, but that things can be a little, shall we say ambiguous.

          • Ian

            I appreciate that it’s your blog and your rules! But I find Will’s comments about transgender people trying to pass themselves of the opposite sex and declaring that this is fraudulent is much more inflammatory and unchristian than anything anyone else has said on this thread.

          • Thanks Penelope. I agree this is quite provocative language—but it is not anywhere near as strong as language Robert Gagnon uses. And it is actually quite close to the feminist position I cite above from Jenni Murray: ‘Trans women are not women’, a view supported even by some within the trans community.

          • Ian In passing …. ‘….. a slur and a failure to engage in proper discussion. Yellow card. Please stop using this kind of language. Thanks.’ Fair enough. As someone still feeling bruised by the responses of several people to my faith and theology (and others) on previous threads without any such intervention from you …. well could I encourage something a bit more even handed at times ….. grateful as I continue to be for this discussion forum.

          • David, yes I do vary in the amount of time that I can give to scrutinising comments. But I am not aware of anyone responding to factual information with the accusation that they are irrational and hateful, which Andrew has done more than once.

            Do point out if I have missed something.

          • Ian ‘a slur and a failure to engage in proper discussion’ is not the same as responding to factual information is it? Made my point – but in no doubt it is a lot of stuff to cover here! Thank you.

          • Ian thank you. Though I wouldn’t take Gagnon as a model. Nor Jenni Murray – her dead naming Carole Stone was dreadful.

          • Penelope, I think it is never possible to make sweeping statements on the reliability of an individual, since this may vary immensely from topic to topic. Is every single one of the sayings and doings of said individuals somehow contaminated, or ought we not to treat them on a case by case basis?

            When I was wondering what you meant by ‘trans’ (which is, after all, rather an opaque word to me), I was thinking of the twelve possibilities I had just listed. Of course, I was speaking rather loosely and some of these twelve are far better described by trans than others. Nevertheless the word trans falsely unites totally different things. E.g., people who are recognising and acting upon some physical/gender abnormality on the one hand, versus people who are inclined to be contrary and want to call themselves the gender they are not, on the other hand. (I am not using the word gender in the trendy sense – but that’s another discussion.) If trans can mean such different things as that, it follows that in intelligent discussion the word trans cannot possibly be used without further clarification.

          • David, I think my point is simply that there is a difference between giving a reason why someone’s theological position is problematic (however robust and difficult that might be) and simply throwing around the accusation that someone is irrational and hateful. That latter language has marked this debate in many places, and it’s not helpful. I am not aware of anyone using it of you.

          • Penelope, I think I was locating your concern about Will’s comment in the range of views. And it seems to me that, in this particular discussion, the range of ‘acceptable’ views is narrowing down almost to vanishing point.

          • Ian – I wasn’t going to comment more but you keep changing your criteria for yellow cards or not. The latest is that ‘giving a reason why someone’s theological position is problematic (however robust and difficult that might be) – is OK but ‘throwing around the accusation that someone is irrational and hateful’….. I’m OK with that too – but that is not the same as ‘a slur and a failure to engage in proper discussion’.

          • Christopher

            Transgender means someone whose gender identity does not match their birth sex. They may identify as the ‘opposite’ gender or as gender non-binary or genderqueer.

            There is no correlation with intersex, in which the biological sex is ambiguous for a number of genetic and/or hormonal reasons. Intersex people may identify as male, female, a third sex, or gender non-binary. In the past, including the recent past, medical intervention was often undertaken very early to ensure that the child conformed to an identifiable gender, usually female. This was usually ideological, since there was no medical necessity for surgery. Simply the child had to conform to what society regarded as acceptable models of sex and gender. This has caused significant medical and psychological problems for many intersex people.

          • Thank you Ian.

            I’m not sure I agree. Surely it must be possible to take a non affirming position without accusing transgender people of living a lie and forcing other people to collude in it. Or, like Andrea Williams, putting Tina Beardsley’s gender in inverted commas. There is very little charity in such dismissal of people attempting to live faithful, authentic, Christian lives.

          • Hi Penelope:
            ‘I can assure you that women are more concerned with the men who attend such events as presidents Club dinner than they are by MTF trans people or transvestites.’ I am very concerned about the women who were subjected to the self-serving groping of those men. However I am also very concerned about, for instance, .the Girl Scouts who have had to share bathrooms with non-transitioned males who have self-identified as female . Those Girl Scouts and their parents have my full sympathy.

          • Yes, and it is not just bathrooms/toilets, it is also showers and bedrooms.

            However, if you demonstrate at Guides’ HQ, they put security on you (for the crime of seeking the *girls’* security).

          • Hi Penelope

            I know that ‘trans’ means that, but given that ‘gender identity’ is not at all a clear or uncontested phrase, that doesn’t solve anything. Are you:1

            -enforcing the sudden and new idea that gender and sex are different?

            -treating claimed and genuine feelings as the same thing?

            -making no mention of the central fact that feelings are fickle?

            -ignoring the fact that if one does not belong to a gender/sex, then it is not possible to know what it feels like to be a member of that gender/sex in the first place?

          • Christine
            I know that people are concerned about sharing bathroom spaces. But, believe me a bathroom/loo is a far less safe place for a mtf trans person than it is for cis women/girls.

          • Christopher

            I am not enforcing anything.
            The difference between gender and sex is neither sudden nor new.
            How would you distinguish between claimed and genuine feelings? I would not care to.
            Trans people do not feel that they belong to their birth gender/sex

          • Penelope,

            You wrote …. “….believe me a bathroom/loo is a far less safe place for a mtf trans person than it is for cis women/girls.”

            So explain to me and others – because it is unsafe for mtf trans people … why is that then a reason to make unsafe for all the girls ????

          • A good question, Clive. Why indeed are girls as young as five being exposed to anxiety and possible risk in order to protect non-transitioned males who identify as female from the anxiety of sharing all-male bathrooms, showers and sleeping quarters? Penelope, what evidence do you have to support your claim that ‘a bathroom/loo is a far less safe for a mtf trans person than it is for cis women/girls’

          • Maybe I am missing something, but it seems to me that Andrea Williams is obviously accurate to put the claimed gender in inverted commas, and it would also (again obviously) be better to avoid the commas at all and just call people by their own gender ‘he’ or ‘she’.

            People think this is about the topic of gender, but it is more fundamentally about truth and reality. And than that, nothing can be more important. Some people think that they have the right to impose a version of reality not based on evidence. None of the rest of us has that right (even supposing we were dishonest enough to wish to have it) – and if we don’t neither should they.

            Thinking you can disregard reality on a whim led (among many other things) to the suspension of poor Joshua Sutcliffe for the new crime of calling girls girls.

            Supposing George from the Famous Five had been the girl in question, she would with her sulky ‘I’m not a girl, I’m a boy’ have gained the power to sabotage a good teacher’s career. Correction: any and every honest teacher’s career. How dare they?

            That is why in the Famous Five situation there is scope for plenty of humour and light heartedness in a girl claiming to be a boy (a far preferable option), whereas in our (not my, as I obviously disclaim it) dismal society, with the abandonment of even the most obvious truth-framework, dilettante privileged people who have nothing like the troubles that war generations had (though many times more mental illnesses, deserved or not) can hold good people to ransom for the sake of maintaining their adolescence. The 1950s could laugh. They had innocence. The 2010s are bidding fair to abandon both these virtues. They take themselves too seriously.

            That is not a perspective on anything and everything that calls itself transgender. It is a perspective on the idea of lying that a he is a she or vice versa, as though we had nothing better to think about.

          • Clive and Christine

            The statistics about attacks on and abuse ot trans people is horrific. MTF trans people simply want a safe space in which to ‘pass’. It is scaremongering to suggest that they are there to endanger girls and insulting to !TF women.

            I can’t see children being traumatised simply by the presence of a MTF woman. If they thought the person was a woman, fine; if they thought the person was a man, fine. Surely they are used to seeing their daddies (or other male relatives) in their bathrooms.

            Paedophiles do not need ‘bathroom laws’ to target children.

          • Penelope:’I can’t see children being traumatised simply by the presence of a MTF woman’ (we were talking about such a presence in a shower /sleeping quarters) I’m astonished that you can’t ‘see’ it!

          • The idea that gender is all in the mind, and that humans’ gender is not a synonym for their sex, is certainly new, or at least new in the mainstream, which amounts to much the same thing. It is an example of people with an audience or influence attempting to control the language, since with the language goes the society.

            The whole point about analysing an issue is that all angles are explored. Why do people claim to be the other gender/sex? People being contrary…
            or provocative…
            or stirring things up…
            or trying to get their own back on a particular gender…
            or simply lying
            -are all possibilities. Being possibilities and not impossibilities, they have to form part of our analysis. To be selective is to be inaccurate.

          • Penelope, would you have been on the side of Joshua Sutcliffe and all the others in the same position, or on the side of those who penalised them?

          • Christopher You write – ‘To be selective is to be inaccurate’. And your list is highly selective.

          • Christopher

            No, I’m not on the ‘side’ of Joshua Sutcliffe. If he had simply misgendered a child at school and apologised, that would have been fine. But, although he claims it was a simple mistake, he has, in defiance of the school’s policy and in public, on TV, continued to misgender that child and promoted his own ideology. I don’t know whether he is being disingenuous or whether he is being manipulated by Christian Concern. If legal action is taken, CC will lose as always (I don’t know who is bankrolling them); they will attract a lot of publicity and Joshua will be left high and dry. I do feel sorry for him.
            Likewise, I am not on the side of Andrea William’s version of ‘reality’. If she believes God is gendered, she’s moved a long way from orthodox Anglicanism. But, perhaps, we already knew that.

          • Hi David

            It doesn’t matter that my list is selective, because:

            (a) unlike some, I will always add to the list things that people remind me of that I had either forgotten or never knew about;

            (b) every list ever made is, if not selective, at least incomplete. But at least I am committed to maximal completeness.

          • So Penelope, you are actually saying that a school should be allowed to have a policy that calling a genitally male and chromosomally male person male (he, his, male name) is an offence of any kind, a serious offence, a sackable offence?

            Misgendering is another word you use as though people should accept it. If we are forced to accept vocabulary we are forced to accept the worldview that goes with it. But often the worldview will be wrong. Do you see this problem of vocab – worldview connection, and how would you address it. I would naturally address it in the only possible way: examining the worldview for cogency. We cannot mould reality (and with it vocab) to our own desires.

          • I am not sure AMW (or most other Christians) cares whether she is on the side of ‘Anglicanism’ so long as Anglicanism is not in line with Messianic position.

            Christian Concern have a long list of wins too, not least with street preachers. However, it is hit or miss depending on judges. Judges in what are perceived as closely balanced cases go with the Zeitgeist often. Just failing at law does not make your position incorrect. Law is to some extent concocted as a convenient independent reality. There is no obligation for law to match science or reality, as I have confirmed with the DPP in 2015-16. Red can be voted green, and the vote will stand.

          • Yes, Christopher, that is exactly what I am saying. If a genetically male child wishes to identify as a girl/woman, that choice should be respected, and most schools have such a policy. Sutcliffe knew that. One slip up would, I am sure, have been overlooked. But he seems to be determined on a crusade.

            My contention is that CC likes losing cases because it fits in with their narrative that we live in a secular world which is inimical to religious belief.

            AMW doesn’t attend a CoE Church so she seems to have little interest in Anglicanism. I thought she might be more concerned about being heterodox though.

            Reality is not simply reducible to genitalia. People have brains and hearts, intellects and emotions too. What appears obvious can be deceptive.

          • Christopher I am struggling here
            You say it doesn’t matter if your list is selective.
            But if anyone else’s list is selective it is ‘inaccurate’.

          • Hi David

            If you say I think one rule applies to me and another to others, then that is not only untrue but obviously so.

            I am never *knowingly* selective. That is probably what I should have said.

            That anything knowingly selective is inaccurate is a truism, agreed on by all.

            Which list did you mean?

            Penelope –

            (1) I am still trying to work out why anyone would think that we should actually have *more* interest in Anglicanism than in Jesus Christ. What an upturned priority-list when life is short and unique.

            (2) Why can’t people be allowed to identify as a different
            than they are?

          • Peneleope,

            Jordan Peterson, who famously refused to go along with the absurd multiplicity of pronouns, revealed to the news presenter on Channel 4 (Cathy Newman) just how completely illogical it is to call gender naming confrontational so I feel a Jordan Peterson moment coming on where you think teachers should be sacked for “misgendering”.

          • Hi Penelope,

            You wrote: ‘Reality is not simply reducible to genitalia. People have brains and hearts, intellects and emotions too. What appears obvious can be deceptive.

            Yes, reality is not reducible to genitalia. Nevertheless, genitalia remain part of our normative incarnational embodiment, and, as such, part of our God-given reality.

            Surely, it’s resorting to Cartesian (‘I think, therefore I am’) ontology and Gnosticism to treat our overt material embodiment as merely ostensible, while asserting that however a person self-identifies should be affirmed to demonstrate respect.

          • Clive

            Most, if not all, schools have policies on this. Presumably Sutcliffe knew what the policy was when he was appointed. One simple slip shouldn’t, perhaps, have resulted in suspension (but, then, I don’t know the context), but he has since embarked upon a crusade in which he continually misgenders the child in front of millions of TV viewers. He is also, I believe appearing at Christian Concern’s reprehensible meeting at General Synod.

          • David S.

            Brains are also part of our physicality/materiality, which is often forgotten in this debate. If someone’s brain is telling them that they are the wrong gender, that is not gnostic, nor a denial of material reality. A denial of material reality would ignore or spiritualise the physical aspects of the body and the materiality of the brain/mind.

          • Penelope,

            ‘ If someone’s brain is telling them that they are the wrong gender, that is not gnostic, nor a denial of material reality.’

            Yet, you wrote earlier in this thread, ‘What appears obvious can be deceptive.’

            Surely, that is true of the brain/mind ‘telling [sic] them that they are of the wrong gender’. If not, you are denying material reality and that is gnostic.

          • Will , Penelope – is the Spirit ‘material’? This is a long shot and just me looking ‘through a glass darkly’ but I wonder if the Spirit may be ‘material’ in a similar way to the way that sound waves, light waves, electricity and wind are ‘material’ – we become aware of their existence because of the effects of their power. I just read this again;’The wind blows wherever it pleases.You hear its sound but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.’ John 3:8

          • Penelope

            You wrote: “Most, if not all, schools have policies on this. Presumably Sutcliffe knew what the policy was when he was appointed.”

            your assumption that the policy was written before teachers were employed is just bizarre when, in reality, such policies only came into existence in the past year …. a period you can reasonably count in just months.

            Your vehement attacks on Mr Sutcliffe are noted.

          • This is wrong, wrong , wrong.

            (1) The two main and surest ways of knowing what sex someone is are anatomy and chromosomes. If these both point one way, there is no other kind of evidence that can ever add up or mount up to exceed the evidence of anatomy plus chromosomes.

            (2) Anatomy is where the idea of male and female came from in the first place.

            (3) One can dissemble about one’s feelings but not one’s anatomy or chromosomes.

            (4) One’s feelings can change but one’s anatomy cannot nor one’s chromosomes.

            (5) In mixed up or messed up societies, people can become confused, but their anatomy and chromosomes are two reality-checks that back one another up.

            Thus where someone is of a certain gender/sex, the evidence for that is clear and there is nothing that can be sufficient to controvert it.

            The points would, as ever, need addressing one by one.

          • Clive
            Frankly, I find your comment faintly absurd. I have not been vehement abut Mr Sutcliffe, nor have I attacked him. I assume that he had agreed to his school’s policy, whether it was pre or post his appointment. I was answering Christopher’s questions about whether I was on Mr Sutcliffe’s ‘side’. As I said, I am not. But, as I also said, I feel sorry for him. Even though he has repeatedly attacked the transgender pupil.
            What do you mean by saying that my ‘vehement attack’ has been noted? By whom? Is this a veiled threat?

          • Hello Christine.

            Somewhere, further down this thread I think, Will and I had a conversation about the materiality of spirit. So yes!

          • Christopher

            1) to an extent,yes. However, there are males and females who are typically male and female but who have atypical chromosomes. There may be more than we, as yet, know about because, if they look typical, there is little reason to test them.
            2) it might be, I don’t know. It certainly isn’t where the ‘idea’ of man and woman came from, e.g. a slave girl in antiquity wasn’t considered a woman.
            3) why is it dissembling?
            4) being transgender isn’t about feelings; anatomy can change
            5) perhaps all societies are mixed up; transgender crosses cultures and epochs
            If someone knows that their birth sex is wrong, something can change it: changing gender.

          • 1. I thought we already knew the percentage or likely percentage of people with atypical chromosomes, given that such percentages are being quoted.

            2. I didn’t say anatomy was where the idea of man and woman came from (though it is splitting hairs to distinguish man/woman too strongly from male/female). I said anatomy was where the idea of male and female came from. Can you give a likelier source for it to have come from? Or even as likely? More: One can scarcely differentiate person-with-male-anatomy from male person, or person-with-female-anatomy from female person. I am not sure these are 2 distinct ideas at all. They are just the same thing.

            3. Why is what dissembling? I didn’t say any dissembling or lying was taking place (though given that there are 7.6 billion people in the world, it is a given that sometimes it is taking place, most of all in this ’emperor-has-clothes’ context). I said that anatomy cannot be lied about to the same degree that inner feelings can be. That is quite undeniable, and I would be amazed if you disagreed.

            4. Not only can ‘being transgender’ mean various quite different things, not everyone is obliged to consider that the phrase is meaningful. If on one’s analysis it is not meaningful, then who is allowed to force others to consider it meaningful?
            Anatomy can change?
            People can spontaneously become male when they were female before? Or vice versa? When did that take place?
            Which is more likely, and by what degree? (a) Someone’s anatomy changing from one to the other; (b) someone first calling themselves male and then female or vice-versa. You know that (b) is far more likely, which gives the lie to your answer. Proof: many examples of b can be cited. How many examples of a can be cited? Just because something *can* happen it does not mean it is remotely as common as something else.

            5. So perhaps all societies are equally good or bad? None is better than any other. None is attuned to reality any better or worse? That would be a bit of a coincidence. There are thousands of societies. They just so happen all to be doing equally well?
            Surely you would make an exception for the patriarchal ones?

            ‘Knows that their birth sex is wrong’?
            ‘Know’ is a strong word.
            ‘Wrong’ is a word that needs definition.
            Changing gender is not a mental decision.

            Almost every phrase in your answer seems to produce separate problems, one by one.

          • Christopher

            1) no we don’t. There is an indication that chromosomal variation is more common than was once thought.
            2) I said it might be. I don’t know.
            3) you can dissemble about feelings but because being transgender is not about feelings, this is irrelevant
            4) ditto. And, of course anatomy changes for many reasons and all the time
            5) since all societies and cultures appear to include transgender or non binary people, it is a flawed conclusion that your estern contemporary society is mixed up or messed up because they are people in it who change gender
            Someone knows that their birth sex is wrong (or inappropriate) if they know that they have been born in the wrong (inappropriate) body. It is a visceral knowledge and it is not undertaken lightly

          • Your answers are so short that they don’t address the majority of the points I made.

            I think your point (3) can be demonstrated to be wrong:
            Wherever there is no physical evidence for someone being transgender (and since transgender is not the same thing as intersex, the only possible physical ‘evidence’ for a transgender state is evidence that they have brought upon themselves deliberately, i.e. manufactured evidence) then there are only 2 other possible scenarii:
            (a) there’s no evidence of any kind
            (b) the evidence is mental/emotional rather than physical.
            You speak of ‘knowing’, but that is clearly wrong. How can someone actually have certitude about what the other sex is like (or feels like) inside?

            (4) Anatomy does not change from male to female all the time. I don’t think it ever does that. Other types of anatomy change (more minor) are not relevant to this particular discussion. So, my 2 questions:
            A- Do you accept/reject the point that anatomy does not change from male to female ‘all the time’, and
            B- Do you accept/reject that any such change would be an incredibly rare event?

            In (5) you are making the perennial error of conflating all rates of occurrence together. That would mean that a society where one transgender person had ever been witnessed would be regarded in the same way as a society where the idea of transgender was constantly in the public consciousness, resulting in huge rises in clinic visits. That approach says (at its most extreme, but also in principle) that 0.0001% is much the same as 99.999%. Such an assertion bids fair to be the most inaccurate ever.

            It is the healthier and happier societies (e.g. Indians and Sri Lankans in the UK) who have the lowest rates of homosexuality and transgenderism. They are comfortable in their own bodies and are less likely to be resentful, contrary or troubled. All of these things are factors. In a society like ours where so many cultures mix, one can see graphically the differences and how they play out.

            I didn’t say that our society is mixed/messed up because people change gender. there are things that are mixed/messed up about it before we even reach that topic.

          • Christopher

            Re 3). Yes, of course, the evidence is mental. How could it be otherwise? However, since the brain is an organ, it is also physical, unless you are a dualist.
            4) you didn’t say anatomy changing from male to female in your original comment. You said one’s anatomy cannot change.
            5) I make no such error. I stated that transgender and non binary people occur in all cultures, societies and epochs. Quite a high incidence of trans and LGB people in India, I believe.

          • (3) Then you agree that the evidence is mental.

            Would you say that a complete change of mind is more easily attained than a spontaneous complete change of body?

            Much more easily or only slightly more easily?

            How about a substantial change of mind (or body)? Which is easier & which is more likely? Slightly more likely or much more?

            The fact that the brain is physical is not relevant to that particular point.

            (4) Which means you have not yet addressed my A and B (last comment). How would you do so?

            (5) Yes, but if you agree that there are very different rates of occurrence (anywhere between 0.0001% and 99.999% potentially – i.e. all the difference in the world potentially), then my point has again not been addressed.

        • Hello Will,

          your position on the true meaning / characterisation of being trans is clear (as it is on being gay…..) but that doesn’t make it unquestionable – I suggest that what is true here is exactly what’s in question. You said to Penelope above that gender dysphoria is a mental health condition – but that prompts the question of what the treatment should be, and a (very cursory) search on Google Scholar shows there is no shortage of material on this. One example:
          I don’t think your phrasing or assertions are warranted.

          in friendship, Blair

          • Hi Blair

            Which assertions are unwarranted? My assertion that gender identity disorder(/ dysphoria) is a mental health condition? Didn’t you just agree with that and cite treatments on Google? Surely then you should rather be pointing out to Penelope that her assertion that it is not is unwarranted.

            My ‘phrasing’ was to tie in with the quote from Nye. Dissimulation surely falls under a category of purposes similar to fraud, even if the motivation is different. The point was to highlight the morally problematic nature of the act being commended.

          • Hello Will,

            sorry – I wasn’t very precise in my previous comment to you. The assertions you made that I feel are unwarranted, are those such as “trying to pass oneself off as a member of the opposite sex” and your word “dissimulation” above. I don’t see how there can be an intention to deceive, especially on the part of a trans person who is ‘out’ about their status. You may not believe that the person has truly changed sex, but (a) that’s partly what’s in question here and (b) it does not follow from your belief, that a trans person is intending to deceive.

            Again, I wasn’t clear enough on the mental health part – but I note that Mat has linked to the NHS page I was going to mention and that simon has already quoted the part i wanted to quote, namely:
            “Gender dysphoria is a recognised medical condition, for which treatment is sometimes appropriate. It’s not a mental illness”. So Mat, I don’t think it’s accurate to say the NHS refers to it under the category of mental health.

            in friendship, Blair

          • Hi Blair

            The American Psychiatric Association classifies it as a mental disorder. According to Wikipedia:

            The American Psychiatric Association, publisher of the DSM-5, states that “gender nonconformity is not in itself a mental disorder. The critical element of gender dysphoria is the presence of clinically significant distress associated with the condition.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gender_dysphoria

            You say: ‘You may not believe that the person has truly changed sex, but that’s partly what’s in question here.’

            This is simply wrong. A person cannot change sex. A person’s sex is coded into every cell in their body. You mean change ‘gender’ i.e. how they present themselves. The fact that a person cannot change sex is the fundamental point in this whole debate.

            The dissimulation is presenting themselves as a sex which differs from their biological/chromosomal sex – and they do know they are doing that.

            I obviously have great sympathy for anyone who suffers with this or any disorder of body or mind, but it hardly seems necessary to state this (particularly as I don’t imagine many will want my pity).

          • hi again Will,

            fair point – another mistake. I accept that a person can’t change biological / chromosomal sex and should have said gender. I still don’t accept that your language of dissimulation is in any way justified, though – especially if, as I said above, the person is openly trans. I don’t see how this can be seen as an attempt to mislead or deceive. I’m also not sure where this would leave people who are not chromosomally XX or XY – how should they present themselves, on your view?

            I’m not sure the APA straightforwardly classifies it as a mental disorder. This is from a piece in ‘Scientific American’ from 2017: it mentions the 2013 change to the DSM (DSM 5) and says, “A new condition called “gender dysphoria” was added to diagnose and treat those transgender individuals who felt distress at the mismatch between their identities and their bodies. The new diagnosis recognized that a mismatch between one’s birth gender and identity was not necessarily pathological, notes pediatric endocrinologist Norman Spack, a founder of the gender clinic at Boston Children’s Hospital. It shifted the emphasis in treatment from fixing a disorder to resolving distress over the mismatch”. It’s the distress, not the mismatch in itself, that’s now classed as a mental disorder, I suggest.

            in friendship, blair

          • Hi Blair

            The problem with a man presenting as a woman (say) is that in doing so he is inducing others to endorse a fiction and he is presuming to behave as a woman and be treated in every way as a woman (including by people who do not know he is not) despite being in fact a man. While given his state of mind it may be understandable that he would wish to do this, it cannot justify the behaviour or overcome the ethical problems with it.

            You say: ‘It’s the distress, not the mismatch in itself, that’s now classed as a mental disorder.’ This is misleading. It is not any distress, it is distress at the mismatch between body and identity. In any case, this is all obviously ideologically and politically driven – it certainly isn’t justified by any studies or symptoms or an objective view of the matter. How health professionals can in good conscience assert that a person whose sense of identity does not match up with their biology and anatomy is sound of mind, just because they don’t see the problem themselves, is truly incomprehensible to anyone not immersed in ‘progressive’ ideology.

            Intersex conditions obviously require separate treatment.

          • Hello Will,

            thanks for continuing to engage.

            Evidently we still disagree 😉 though I find the language of your last comment rather more palatable than that used earlier. I don’t think that trans people are “inducing others to endorse a fiction” but I’d submit that at least this doesn’t quite have the same meaning as deception or dissimulation, m’lud. Your position (correct me) seems to be that biological sex and socially presented/constructed gender should be as closely aligned as possible, but as I asked above, what of those who are not chromosomally XX or XY… your remark “Intersex conditions obviously require separate treatment” doesn’t quite answer that.

            At the risk of picking nits … I wasn’t intending to mislead but to summarise what I quoted, especially the last 2 sentences. More importantly though, how would you support your general statement that “it certainly isn’t justified by any studies or symptoms or an objective view of the matter”? Replying to simon and David W further down the page, I’ve linked to three articles in the literature with some bearing on what we’re discussing; if the comment shows up I wonder what you make of them, and also where your objectivity comes from.

            in friendship, Blair

          • Hi Blair

            I should have added that in any case gender dysphoria is still very much a mental health condition, even if defined in terms of particular forms of distress, so my my earlier point stands.

            Objectivity comes from a clear view of the facts of the matter.

            My understanding is that studies of GID are sparse and suffer from selection bias but what evidence there is suggests very high rates of significant distress and comorbidity post-‘transition’.

            The filter for the comments thread triggers a need for moderator approval when a comment includes more than one hyperlink, so if you post the three links in separate comments you shouldn’t need to wait for Ian to get round to approving it.

          • Will

            The NHS statement says that being transgender is not a mental health condition. And this is how it is viewed at gender reassignment clinics.

            I cannot see the problem with, for example, a man ‘identifying’ as a woman. I can assure you that women are more concerned with the men who attend such events as the Presidents Club dinner, than they are by MTF trans people or transvestites.

            Intersex conditions don’t often require treatment at all, if by treatment you mean surgical intervention.

          • Hi Penelope

            The NHS is not always correct.

            I don’t think you should presume to speak on behalf of all women! Besides that’s not a good way to argue about different issues.

            I meant intellectual treatment.

            You can’t see the problem. Others can.

            I have to say I find your attempts to close down serious debate by expressing ‘concern’ at your opponents’ lack of charity or whatever pretty poor form, though very typical of this debate. Nobody tip toes around sincere Christian beliefs, and nor should they, so why should we tip toe around sincere but mistaken beliefs about so called gender identity?

            Presenting as the opposite sex is a form of dissumulation, even if subject to mitigating psychiatric circumstances.

            You say that it ought to be possible to hold a non-affirming position while not holding it to be a form of deception. Of course. But you seem to want it to be necessary, and you complain to the moderator about anyone who espouses any view you think is unduly offensive. Why not just argue why it isn’t a form of deception rather than complaining about how unchristian a position is?

          • Will Your comment to Penelope: ‘your attempts to close down serious debate by expressing ‘concern’ at your opponents’ lack of charity or whatever pretty poor form, though very typical of this debate.’ Penelope is a resilient contributor here and engages all the time in serious and often bruising debate. The notion she is using a complaint (which I thought very reasonable btw) to shut down debate here is completely untypical actually, out of character and flies in the face of all the evidence.

          • Hello Will

            Every time I type that I think of Oklahoma.
            I would rather take the knowledge of the NHS and gander reassignment clinics as experts than, say Christian Concern
            You were right. I should not have claimed *all* women. Nevertheless, I and the women I know are far more scared of abuse, sexism and misogyny from cis men than from MTF trans people who are simply seeking a safe haven.
            I am not attempting to close down the debate. I simply think there is no ‘debare’ if you accuse trans people of meretricious intent. That is not saying you believe that gender dysphoria is a mental health condition; it is, well, I can’t think of another word but slander.
            I didn’t complain to Ian. I said that I thought your language was more unacceptable than that which he had yellow carded.

          • I agree with you Will, in that I also think Gender Dysphoria is a mental health issue, but I am also not so sure we are talking about this in the right way. Words are important, and truth does not exist independently of the context and way we communicate it.

            Also, charity in debate should not take precedent, but is important.

            To go back to the NHS again, I’d like to once again link to this:


            and ask everyone 2 questions.

            1) Does this statement categorically state either way, if GD/GID is a mental health issue?

            2) If it does not make an explicit judgement either way, what can we infer from the language and terminology about how to classify such things?

            That is where I am:

            I do not think the NHS is as clear as I would like on this, but to my understanding there is no escaping the use of terminology and description as indicative of A: GD being a ‘condition’ that people experience, and B: requiring or obligating treatment. This is a balance I am conformable with, because I can remain confident that GD is neither the natural nor desirable state for a person, but neither do I feel that I must label them in such a way as to victimise them because of this.

          • To be clear though, there is this line:

            “Gender dysphoria is a recognised medical condition, for which treatment is sometimes appropriate. It’s not a mental illness.”

            But this is surely a ridiculous statement by any account? How can something be a recognized condition that causes discomfort and distress, with identified symptoms and suggested treatment, and yet simultaneously not be recognized?

            A lot of diagnostic medicine is about classification, and this just feels like an aberration. If GD/GID is not a mental health issue, then what is it? Nothing? It doesn’t make sense to me.

            If it looks like a duck and sounds like a duck………

          • Hello folks,

            Will – in response to your last comment to me: I suggest that your original point about gender dysphoria being a mental health condition, is at least qualified by the 2013 changes to DSM 5; I don’t think it simply still stands.

            “Objectivity comes from a clear view of the facts of the matter” – well yes… but this prompts more questions, such as what the facts are and how we discern them.

            On the question of evidence from research: this is a literature review from 2016; the abstract acknowledges the weakness of some of the evidence but notes that it doesn’t point the way you suggest re levels of distress post-transition. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26835611 Thank you for the tip about hyperlinks – I won’t add any more to this comment 🙂

            I notice that you said to Penelope that “the NHS isn’t always correct” but on what basis do you say this?

            Mat – thanks for your words about the language we’re using. Am aware also that all this thread (so far) rather fails the ‘nothing about us without us’ test as there are to my knowledge no trans people commenting…

            Also i note that you pick up on the line from the NHS page that simon and I quoted before – I don’t think it’s as self-contradictory as you suggest but rather is trying to do justice to the 2013 change to DSM 5 i mentioned. Will post a link in next comment.

            in friendship, Blair

          • Hi Blair

            My basis for thinking the NHS isn’t always correct is that it is human!

            Even from your point of view it used to say GID and homosexuality were psychiatric disorders and it hasn’t suddenly become infallible.

            Many paediatricians are deeply concerned about these ideologically motivated and harmful developments backed by no real evidence.

            Studies can be skewed towards a particular outcome in lots of ways, particularly if they have small non- random samples without proper controls.

          • Evening Will,

            haha yes indeed 🙂 the NHS is human and not infallible. However, on something controverted like this surely you need some evidence in addition to pointing this out….?

            I don’t think your phrase “no real evidence” is justified. I am aware that as a generalisation, “studies can be skewed” for the reasons you give, but the question is whether that applies to the 38 studies reviewed in the article I linked to – I admit I haven’t yet checked that.

            in friendship, Blair

          • Mat – I agree, the NHS statement makes no sense and appears to be doublethink.

            I agree that language is important but I also think a key strategy of advocates of identity politics is to so constrain the range of permissible or appropriate language because of offence that it becomes impossible to speak about the subject rigorously or accurately.

            I think GID is a mental health problem, and I think it’s tragic that people are encouraged by those who should know better to find a solution in simulating the opposite sex, sometimes in brutal ways. I don’t think presenting as the opposite sex is fraud but I do think it is not unrelated to it, since objectively it is trying to be something you are not and seeking to cause others to believe something that it is untrue and induce them to endorse it. Obviously I realise they are themselves suffering from a mental disorder which mitigates their culpability for this, but even so, the objective pretence or dissumulation stands.

            This is a good article: https://mbarrattdavie.wordpress.com/2018/01/25/a-failure-to-take-sex-seriously-a-response-to-gs-misc-1178/

          • “Also i note that you pick up on the line from the NHS page that simon and I quoted before – I don’t think it’s as self-contradictory as you suggest but rather is trying to do justice to the 2013 change to DSM 5 i mentioned. Will post a link in next comment.”

            Thanks for the correction Blair, but I disagree. The NHS page is self contradictory precisely because the DSM is contradictory. Like Will I am not persuaded by some of the studies in it either, which seem dubious, but then I’m not a medical professional or a psychologist, so I’ll restrain further judgement on that.

          • Will

            Not only is Davie’s theological anthropology fairly hopeless (in my opinion) his statistics are wrong. Intersex is estimated at 1 in 1500 to 2000 births, with some other conditions appearing later in life.

            Once again, you may regard gender dysphoria as a mental health condition. Most reputable health practitioners do not.

            You find surgical transition brutal. Some find it life saving. That is their reality.

          • Hi Penelope

            We have already established that medical authorities are speaking in contradictions on GID, presumably for political and ideological reasons. How then can we trust what they say?

            By ‘fairly hopeless’ you must mean ‘biblical and what everyone thought till about 10 minutes ago’!

            On the prevalence of intersex conditions and their normality, this is from Wikipedia:

            ‘According to Leonard Sax, intersex should be “restricted to those conditions in which chromosomal sex is inconsistent with phenotypic sex, or in which the phenotype is not classifiable as either male or female”, around 0.018%. This definition excludes Klinefelter syndrome and many other variations. He in turn criticizes Fausto-Sterling for counting Late-Onset Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia for 88% of her figure. His rebuttal concludes, “The most original feature of Fausto-Sterling’s book is her reluctance to classify true intersex conditions as pathological (Fausto-Sterling, 2000, p. 113) … She often uses the word natural synonymously with normal. However, natural and normal are not synonyms. A cow may give birth to a two-headed or Siamese calf by natural processes, natural being understood as per Fausto-Sterling’s definition as “produced by nature.” Nevertheless, that two-headed calf unarguably manifests an abnormal condition. Fausto-Sterling’s insistence that all combinations of sexual anatomy be regarded as normal… follows that classifications of normal and abnormal sexual anatomy are mere social conventions, prejudices which can and should be set aside by an enlightened intelligentsia. This type of extreme social constructionism is confusing and is not helpful to clinicians, to their patients, or to their patients’ families.’

          • Will
            Commenting ‘biblical and what everyone thought till about 10 mins ago’ is, I i assume, a sneer?
            Are you arguing that Judahite religion, early Judaism, rabbinic Judaism and Christianity have always read the Genesis narratives in the way Martin Davie does? To take, but one example, Gregory of Nysa certainly didn’t. Is he not part of the Christian tradition. As I write this, I am wearing trousers; doesthat transgress Deuteronomy 22? Did Paul be
            Ie e that the human person comprised a material body and an immaterial spirit? Since he wasn’t a Cartesian probably not. That’s why I find Davie’s theological anthropology problematic.
            Equality problematic is Leonard Sax. It’s ironic to cite Fausto-sterling as biased by referencing Sax. Fausto-Sterling is quite right to see intersex conditions as non pathological. Many intersex children do not require medical or surgical intervention. Such interventions have all too often been made to ensure that bodies which are regarded as problematic can be normalised. That is ideology.

          • Hi Penelope

            I was disappointed not to see you yesterday at the Festival of Theology. I do hope to be able to meet you in person one day :).

            You raise an interesting issue about Paul’s anthropology. Did Paul not believe in an immaterial spirit and material body? What alternative is there?

            Consider the following verses:
            ‘For what human being knows what is truly human except the human spirit that is within?’ 1 Cor 2:11
            ‘For though absent in body, I am present in spirit… When you are assembled, and my spirit is present with the power of our Lord Jesus, you are to hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.’ 1 Cor 5:3-5
            ‘And the unmarried woman and the virgin are anxious about the affairs of the Lord, so that they may be holy in body and spirit.’ 1 Cor 7:34
            ‘But it is not the spiritual that is first, but the physical, and then the spiritual.’ 1 Cor 15:46
            ‘Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and of spirit…’ 2 Cor 7:1
            ‘For though I am absent in body, yet I am with you in spirit.’ Col 2:5
            ‘May your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.’ 1 Thes 5:23
            (And a few from elsewhere:
            ‘Are not all angels spirits in the divine service, sent to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?’ Heb 1:14
            ‘For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is also dead. James 2:26
            ‘The scripture says, “God yearns jealously for the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”.’ James 4:5)

            These passages do seem to depict an immaterial spirit ‘dwelling in’ and giving life to the body, and which can be ‘present’ when the body is not. What other idea is there? Is the suggestion that the spirit is material? Or that the spirit is not separable from the body? I’m struggling to see what the alternative viewpoint is here.

          • Hi Will

            Sorry to miss it. I saw some of the content on Twitter, but had a supervision and a seminar.

            My material/immaterial thought is based very much on Dale Martin’s argument in ‘The Corinthian Body’. Martin argues (I don’t have the book beside me) that our modern contrast between physical and spiritual is very dualistic and Cartesian. In late antiquity (and classical Greece) spirit was perceived as ‘stuff’ too – light, ethereal stuff, but still something of substance. This is why Paul talks about different kinds of bodes in 1 Corinthians 15 (heavenly and earthly bodies) and why all translations of the difference between the earthly body and the resurrected body are so disastrous, because in speaking of a supernatural or spiritual body they suggest a disembodied embodiment. For Paul, the resurrection body is both composed of and animated by spirit.

            This seems to me to make very good sense of Paul’s quite dense reasoning in that marvellous passage.

          • Thanks Penelope.

            Ah – so the thought is that the spirit is material too? I guess this links with pneuma also meaning wind or breath?

            Does this mean they thought God was material, since the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God?

            It definitely seems that the spirit is deemed in some sense closer to and more like God, as per the use of spiritual as better than physical, and the spirit to be saved by the destruction of the flesh.

            I also wonder – does being material or immaterial make much difference to the general idea, since there is still a strong sense of humans having a body (of flesh) and a spirit which dwells within and gives life and can be present apart from the body?

          • Will and Penelope re the ‘material’ spirit I wonder if this links up with C S Lewis’s idea that the reason the resurrection body of Jesus could pass through walls etc was not because it was a less substantial reality as commonly thought – ie more ‘spirit’ less matter – but because it was more solid.

          • I wonder how much Paul’s concept of spirit owes to Stoic philosophy:
            ‘In Stoic philosophy, pneuma (Greek: ??????) is the concept of the “breath of life,” a mixture of the elements air (in motion) and fire (as warmth). Originating among Greek medical writers who locate human vitality in the breath, pneuma for the Stoics is the active, generative principle that organizes both the individual and the cosmos. In its highest form, the pneuma constitutes the human soul (psychê), which is a fragment of the pneuma that is the soul of God. As a force that structures matter, it exists even in inanimate objects.’ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pneuma_(Stoic)

            This would correspond with a kind of matter (Stoics thought that all being was corporeal in some sense since otherwise, they argued, it couldn’t interact). It leaves a question about the Holy Spirit.

            I’m not sure this makes much difference to anthropology. Is it immaterial whether spirit is immaterial? When a modern person says immaterial don’t they typically mean something like ‘not body or flesh’, in line with the idea of spirit which ‘gives life’ to the body, ‘dwells within’ yet can be ‘present’ apart from the body, rather than anything more metaphysical?

            When Jesus speaks of unclean spirits (pneuma) he speaks of them being able to enter people, influence them, leave them, travel, reason and speak. They seem to have some substance. But not flesh or body. Like many modern accounts of ghosts I guess, which move around physical objects.

          • Hello Will and David
            Only just caught up with these. V. Interesting. I suppose the idea that everything is ‘stuff’ means in some sense that God and His Spirit are also stuff, albeit aery, ethereal stuff. I don’t know if Paul was influenced by Stoicism. Maybe. His argument in 1 Cor. 15 gets a bit tortuous, moving from bodies to seeds to flesh, and contradicts Job (in my flesh I shall see God), though I think the Septuagint translation of Job is different.
            Also interesting that one of the translations of the Creed is consubstantial, or of one substance, which suggests materiality more than of one being does. I don’t know whether it’s immaterial if spirit is immaterial or not, but I do think it affects the theology of 1 Cor. 15. If people think that the resurrection is wholly spiritual as suggested by some versions, we lose Paul’s emphasis on the resurrection of the body. Or we risk losing it.
            David, thank you for the C.S. Lewis.

  5. I’m struggling to see the sense in this in a real situation:

    “The Church of England does not currently offer any liturgical provision for the ‘naming’ or ‘re-naming’ of an infant or any other person. There is no legal or doctrinal difficulty about a baptised transgendered per son using a different name….”

    Surely the liturgy will affirm to any neutral observer that a new ‘identuty’ has been accepted and ‘launched’ by the church. Whether or not the church’s doctrine agrees will be irrelevant. ‘What you see is what you get’? Does this not make the whole thing a hostage to fortune? Or am I missing something?

  6. I would agree with those saying that there are some very deep issues here.

    The transgender issue raises the important issue of our nature as human beings. Are we, as Tom Wright has expressed it (along with others, no doubt), embodied spirits or animated bodies? In the first we are eternal creatures temporarily resident in a body. The second sees us as essentially physical, but with the breath of God breathed in. Is our body in some sense disjoint from our self, or are we defined fundamentally by our physical nature?

    Interestingly, the other day the ‘Thought for the Day’ on the Today programme on Radio4 from a Hindu ascribed the acceptance of a third ‘gender’ in India to the doctrine of incarnation – a self visiting different bodies in turn which might be male or female. However, I consider that a Biblical view of humanity sees us as fundamentally ‘earth creatures’ (Adam), and when we die, to the dust we return. Resurrection is bodily. Without a body, we are not.

    Our Western sensibilities do not seem to accept any other disjunction between self and body. We do not applaude the anorexic for their view of their body as obese and their desire to be thinner. We are horrifed by the woman, clearly European, who claims that her true identity is black, and so is undergoing treatment to attempt to make herself look black (and the result is worse than any blackface). Then, why do we seem to accept as ‘good’, the mutilation of a perfectly healthy body to make its external appearance resemble that of someone of the opposite sex?

    • David – I have always found the logic of your last paragraph very compelling – and you state it very well.
      I wonder how professional medics/psychologists (or anyone for that matter) actually reason that the body dysmorphia of an anorexic seeking to starve themselves is categorically different than the body dysmorphia of someone wanting a sex change. Why does current medical practise treat the former as a mental health condition and seek to change the patient’s self-perception and ensuing actions, whilst the other is recognised and medically assisted in transition? Are there any articles folk know of which address both and show how categorical distinctions are arrived at?

      • Hi simon (and David?),

        just a thought or two here… I’m not trying to suggest cosmetic surgery is a good analogy for being trans, but applying the logic of David’s last paragraph, would you be against it? It seems to me that a case could be made for calling cosmetic surgery the altering at the least (perhaps not mutilation…..) of a perfectly healthy body. In allowing cosmetic surgery, I suggest that space is given to another “disjunction between self and body”.

        simon, you used the example of anorexia – I haven’t searched for any articles, I admit, but wonder if part of the reasoning might be that anorexia is a self-destructive condition; untreated, the person will kill herself. Some might argue that if gender dysphoria is not treated (with surgical transition a possible part of that) the person is also more likely to kill him/herself. I note that current guidelines say that any mental health / psychiatric problems alongside gender dysphoria, need additional treatment:

        in friendship, Blair

        • Hi Blair,

          The difference between cosmetic surgery and gender re-assignment is that the latter involves a demand for official recognition.

          For example, you may be aware of Dennis Avner, who has had extensive surgical procedures since 1980 to become more like his totem animal, the tiger.

          These include nose and brow implants, several silicone injections, a lip-splitting surgery, ear re-shaping and tiger-stripe tattoos. Stalking Cat has also had all of his teeth removed and replaced with fanged dentures includes cat-like facial features and other prosthetics.

          His transformation is so central to his self-identity that he prefers to go by his Native American name, “Stalking Cat”.

          However, unlike gender re-assignment, there is no official requirement to recognise his feline identity.

          So, I’d agree that gender dysphoria does need treatment, but just like cosmetic surgery, the procedure should not require the wholesale mandatory, official connivance of society!

          • Evening David,

            I’m sure you realised I was trying to test out simon’s / David W’s logic 🙂 …but to the purpose. I hadn’t heard of Dennis Avner til you mentioned him but I’m not sure such an extreme example helps overmuch.

            I haven’t spent ages on Google but I note a couple of things – first, that he was American and so I am risking the assumption that he paid privately for his body-modifying surgery. Am wondering if such surgery (if that’s the word) could be done here, even privately, but admit I haven’t tried to find out. Secondly, that he was found dead in 2012 and that this was likely a suicide… perhaps I shouldn’t infer too much from this as it is probably unknowable to what extent his modifications were part of this. Making the analogy with trans people – one of the things I’ve found in contributing to this thread, is that there is evidence both ways for whether, after surgery, trans people’e mental health outcomes improve or not. Also, you rightly say that “there is no official requirement to recognise his feline identity”, but, name change aside, is there evidence that Dennis Avner wanted his *legal status* to be ‘feline’? For these reasons among others I’m not sure the comparison with his case works that well.

            in friendship, Blair

          • Hi Blair,

            Earlier, you wrote: ’it seems to me that a case could be made for calling cosmetic surgery the altering at the least (perhaps not mutilation…) of a perfectly healthy body.’

            The example of Avner was intentionally hyperbolic: the point being that, by comparison with the most extreme case of cosmetic surgery (albeit privately funded), gender re-assignment differs by its consequent requirement for legal recognition.

            In fact, apart from gender re-assignment, I’m hard pressed to come up with any other surgical procedure carried out on a perfectly healthy body, which incurs a consequent chahge in legal status and legal requirement for recognition.

            At a stretch, perhaps a successful C-section could be said to result in parenthood, but that’s really clutching at straws!

          • Hi David,

            belatedly responding to this – I take your point but perhaps one question then would be, is gender re-assignment properly characterised as a kind of cosmetic surgery? (That’s not meant as a rhetorical question – I’m not sure I have a clear answer to that myself, for all that that matters). Perhaps another would be: why is it wrong for legal recognition to be given, seeing as the person will have had to live as the gender they identify with for some time prior to surgery (I linked to guidelines on this further up the page).

            in friendship, Blair

      • hello again simon,

        have found these articles which i think are germane, though they don’t directly address the question you’re asking…
        http://apt.rcpsych.org/content/18/1/2 (gender dysphoria: recognition and assessment)
        http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/eat.10247/full (on anorexia and gender identity disorder in male twins)
        https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26835611 (2016 literature review on mental health and gender dysphoria)

        in friendship, Blair

  7. Hi Ian,
    Another thoughtful blog on a difficult subject – thank you. Just a personal comment – I think we can forgive ourselves and each other if we feel uneasy about people who transition from one sex to the other. This unease reminds me of several years ago when I started having hemi-facial spasm because of pressure on my brain. Some people were at a loss to know what to say to me, and some looked away in embarrassment. I felt pretty embarrassed about it myself and I was also getting severe headaches, so I started to feel quite isolated at times. I did not want barriers to exist between me and others because of my condition and I gradually realised that I needed to put others at ease as far as I could. For instance if someone seemed to be particularly embarrassed about my face, I would say,’Oh, is my face putting on a gala performance again?’ Some people seemed to relax when I spoke of my condition in this way, and it also helped me, because it opened up conversation and I felt less isolated. My face is much calmer now, but I have never forgotten that chapter in my life.
    I know that facial spasm and transitioning from one sex to the other do not bear comparison in many ways, but I think that many people feel unease about both and that this unease is very understandable.

  8. Looking at the question in the title of Ian’s post. May ask what I believe to be the fundamental question in a different way.

    Can Christians find a way to communicate Christ’s love for all people without necessarily agreeing with them on their values.

    I think the evidence of the feedback we are getting is that for many our criticism from LGTB people is so often that all they receive is a message of hate. Our public disagreements only seem to further this view.

    Gilbert and George were interviewed on BBC R4 Today this morning and were quite clear that Christian’s were hateful people. If that is the view that is coming over then we are not reflecting the nature of God, but a lie.

    Do any of you remember as a child hearing your parent criticising you to another adult as if you were not in the room? Remember that our internal debates are very public and sometimes come over as being very ill tempered.

    Did the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11) go away feeling that the God the Scribes and Pharisees reflected was a God of Love? Did she go away think that the God that Jesus reflected was a God of Love?

    Which are we really closest to?

    • This sort of conversation has been going on so long, yet the simple reference to ‘LGBT people’ ignores the points that have so often been made:

      (a) L is different from G is different from B is different from T

      (b) by referring to classes of people this can be made to seem like an equality issue – which is indeed the deliberate intention. This will only work if these classes are indeed what people *are* as opposed to *become*. And when people *become* things, then they may do so by fair means or foul or a mixture of both.
      – The most basic terms here are things like ‘sexuality’, ‘gay’, ‘homosexual’ – all of which have been terms that are not in many cultures’ vocab since they have talked about behaviours not immutable natures. The question is what the science says. Behaviours? Immutable natures? Fluid? A mixture? Different for men and women? We have already discussed this many times.
      – It is going to be regarded as sleight of hand or a ‘dodge’ if you present ‘sexuality’, ‘LGBT’ etc. as agreed terms when the entire debate is whether these classifications fit the facts or not!

    • Yes, but… Love (and trying to keep it springing from truth) isn’t always going to be received as love. After all love challenges behaviours. (Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on ksin no more.) I’m definitely not saying that *we* always get ‘love’ right but that getting it ‘right’ is not the same as it being welcomed.

      Gilbert and Geiorge are unlikely to perceive any commentary on them as loving if it does not fit their worldview. This is no superficial issue for them but deeply personal.They are not alone on that one. Isnt It pretty normal?

      • Christopher,

        I deliberately chose a broad phrase because this argument is equally applicable to the way we address all these groups – or, in many cases, rather the way we speak about these people in their presence.

        Ian H,

        It is not just what Jesus said, it is the the time that he said it (and possibly also voice that he said it in – though obviously we cannot know that). He waited until the woman’s accusers had left before he spoke to her of her sin – It was not said in public. He also said it after saving her from a baying crowd that could so easily have turned on him.

        Too often Christians take the concept of ‘speaking the truth in love’ as a licence to be gratuitously offensive – seemingly forgetting the last two words of the phrase.

        Of course it is much easier in a one to one with an individual – though some simply ignore this fact and publicly insult people they disagree with.

        It is much more difficult in internal church debates. When we forget the fact that we are talking about people in their hearing – whether directly or indirectly through the media. The closed session of General Synod on this was perhaps the first step in realising this.

        Of course none of this is easy but if we are to be reflections of a loving God we need to work at this.

        • Of course! But the brief phrase is extremely question-begging, since the whole issue is whether some people are that way in essence or not. Even your response is making that assumption. But that prejudges the entire discussion and debate before it has even begun. Which would be convenient for those wanting one outcome to it, but also neither honest nor accurate.

          • Christopher,

            If you believe that is relevant, then you have completely missed my point. It is not the subject of the debate that is of issue, we could be talking about the rights or wrongs of banking, selling carpets or anything else. Finding a way to discuss the rights or wrongs of an action or state, while showing love to those involved in that action is what is important here.

          • Yes, I was lax in recognising what your main point was.

            If, however, your last summary is correct, people have been saying the same thing for decades. I cannot believe no-one has already found a way to achieve that.

          • Loads of us have been doing it for years. It’s unlikely we can improve on the biblical ‘speaking the truth in love’ Eph. 4.15 or ‘full of grace and truth’ John 1.14 as a model for how to do things best.

            Love is not indulgence. Quite the reverse: indulgence can be very unloving. Love means wanting the best for someone. We don’t need others to indulge our lower nature; we are all too able to do that without any encouragement.

            If we speak in us-and-them ways, or in superior or judgmental ways, then that is not loving either.

            These are tried and tested Christian principles, and it is better to apply them than to seek to improve on them.

          • Ahh that phrase “speaking the truth in love” again. As I said above:

            “Too often Christians take the concept of ‘speaking the truth in love’ as a licence to be gratuitously offensive – seemingly forgetting the last two words of the phrase.”

            If you read all of Eph 4 it is much more difficult to justify this.

            How can you use offensive language if you take seriously the words (for example) of Eph 4:2-3

            “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”

          • Truth and love are both nonnegotiables. I see a lot of compromise on truth; I also see that people operate with nonbiblical definitions of love. The Eph. context is an astonishing highlight of inspiration, to which we can only assent.

  9. Hello Ian and all,

    a ragbag of more general thoughts…

    1) Must say that I think it’s much more helpful that you’ve posted an article on trans issues alone – I felt that lumping these with questions about giving to people begging on the street, as a recent post did, really didn’t do justice to either topic.

    2) Ian I’m struck by your comments – “The striking paradox about this story is the detachment of the terms ‘daughter’ and ‘son’ from any sense of biological reality, coupled with an absolutising of socially constructed gender markers” and “based on a relatively recent and clearly negotiable gender characteristics which are given a bizarre rigidity”.
    It’s the ‘socially constructed’ parts of each sentence that struck me. I can’t help thinking that “bizarre rigidity” could be used of other social constructions of gender – such as those of the Nashville Statement, perhaps, or the construction(s) of masculinity Rachel Mann’s new book (‘Fierce Imaginings’) speaks of. I wonder if at least some of what trans, non-binary and queer people say could be seen as a reaction or protest against rigid gender norms, and whether or not that’s so, perhaps a good deal more context is needed. With the backdrop of various centenary events perhaps it’s worth reflecting on how the 1914-18 war changed social constructions of gender and if or how such changes still shape how we imagine today. These thoughts are all a bit unformed I do accept. …but I wonder if / how we might be led to self-critical thinking about how we’ve bought into constructions of gender and what distortions or double-binds these may have put on others. I fear I’d find I have a lot more work to do than I would like to think…

    3) Voices of trans people: I would commend Rachel Mann’s memoir / reflection ‘Dazzling Darkness’ to folks here seeking more understanding.

    4) I confess I don’t have a copy of this but some of it is available on Google Books: Elizabeth Stuart’s ‘Gay and lesbian theologies: repetitions with critical difference’ (Ashgate, 2003). Part of her argument draws on the funeral liturgy to argue that, in death at least, all identities apart from our baptismal identity, are relativised. Again this is very unformed but I wonder if /how this might apply to the present furore.

    in friendship, Blair

  10. What I find so very, very difficult is the actual reality is that those who think they are being supportive of transgender people encourage them in the idea of taking drugs with a high probability (i.e. more than 50% chance) of making them infertile so they can’t pass on their genes and they encourage them to take operations which medically remove parts that are perfectly healthy – i.e. a form of mutilation.

    These people are the very worst transphobic people of all and show in their actions the contempt and hatred they have for transgender people instead of actually helping them. Equally as bad as that, they then call everyone else transphobic: A clear case of hypocrisy when they are themselves the worst of all transphobic people.

    Professor Winston pointed out that gender change results in more than 50% getting severely depressed and his reward was hate mail from the vocal trans-“supporter” minority.

  11. I seem to have come rather late to the party but was prompted by Blair the other night. Just a few thoughts after reading the article and comments:

    I was chatting in person to one of my Facebook friends who is married to someone who transitioned and she said that it’s a “different way of being a woman.” So a woman isn’t just defined by their biology. This was helpful for me as it is difficult to get one’s head around it. I do have some sympathy with the white woman who identified as black – if it’s not harming anyone, what’s the problem?

    I really appreciate Nick quoting Ephesians. My pastor has been quite critical of my unkindness on social media. I would say that I just speak plainly and clearly like Will Jones does. However I’ve been suitably chastened and I’m trying to act out the fruits of the Spirit online – especially being kind to people. It’s difficult though especially when people have views about LGBT people that I find grossly offensive. How does one be kind about Martin Davie’s blog for example? 😉

    One thing that helped me was what Peter Ould always used to say: “My blog, my rules.” If Ian wants to give out yellow cards then that’s his prerogative. It may be biased against our side but he makes his position on LGBT matters very clear.

    • This ‘party’ lasts all night….. 😉

      Two thoughts in response.

      First, I agree and sympathise with your comments about being chastened in regards social media. Like you I have have fallen foul of this (not here on Psephizo, where I am usually a notorious devil’s advocate) and been formally rebuked by my pastor, quite correctly, for language unbecoming of a Christian. I would add however that kindness is not a virtue in every circumstance, and sometimes there is a place for terseness and bluntness. Kindness was shown to me by those who cared about me telling me the truth, though it was painful to be exposed in that way.

      Second, I have very limited sympathy at all for the woman who claimed she identified as a different ethnicity. It wasn’t about the colour of her skin specifically, it was about the cultural association; she felt more a part of one community than another, and that community defined itself by a biological marker she didn’t have. Her solution, and why I think she was wrong and foolish, was to change herself to conform to that standard rather than change that standard to be inclusive of her. A failure to draw a distinction between immutable biological traits and transient cultural patterns just creates a confusing mess. It is harmful, because it shows contempt for truth.

      There is more I could say about your anecdote re the married couple, but I am not sure we have enough information. It sounds like a complicated issue.

  12. Maybe “there is a place for terseness and bluntness” – but only off-line?? I think written communication is very different and there is no tone of voice or facial expression or touch. I try and put emojis in these days to express more warmth 🙂 My argument to my pastor was that Jesus whipped the money changers out of the temple, but now I wonder whether society has moved on and the non-violence of MLK or Ghandi is more ethical? Anyway, I feel better about myself being nice to people as well as falling in with what is expected of me at church!

    The tension seems to arise on blogs like this where the blogger has a diametrically different ethics than I do. Like with Tories, I think these views damage others irreparably and it is difficult not to respond in kind. How do we work out how to love our enemies when they keep on hurting us? I’m trying…

    I guess my view would reflect ‘do unto others as you would have them do to you.’ If I were trans how would I like others to treat me? And if I were to come across this blog, how would I feel about my gender being described as a mental illness or fiction or fraudulent?

  13. What I find most disturbing about this debate is the way it is influencing people’s attitudes and behaviour towards young children. Chris Newlands’ example of five-year-old Nathan, quoted by Ian, is a crass example – and by no means just because of the “pink.” What Nathan needs to be told is that it’s OK for a boy to play with princess dolls and decorate his room if that’s what he likes doing. It dpesn’t mean he wants to be a girl. He might grow up to be a dress designer or an interior designer. Men can do that. And plenty of men do it who have no desire to change gender. Some of them are gay, but gay of course is totally different from trans. What is puzzling is that the same people who argue for not imposing traditional gender roles on young children also use precisely those roles as indicators that a child has gender dysphoria and really wants to be the opposite gender. This muddled thinking was glaringly obvious in the Church of England Department of Education’s advice to C of E schools. It was very revealing that the first version of the advice used, as an opposite-gender example to a boy dressing up as a princess, a little girl who puts on a “fireman’s helmet” for play. They were apparently unaware that we have had women fire fighters since 1989. Alerted to this they changed the wording to “firefighter’s helmet” – but the basic error remains. A little girl wanting to be a firefighter does not indicate that she wants to be a boy – and all feminists should be outraged by the idea that it does. There may be young children who have a serious and profound sense of gender dysphoria (trans people often say that they did when they were young), but the problem is that what gender means to a young child must surely be largely limited to conventional gender roles or majority gender tastes. If we project back onto them whatever gender might mean to a mature trans adult we are playing a dangerous game with their developing sense of self. This is serious and I wish the C of E would take it seriously.

    • 1 Is this an appeal to natural law, Richard:
      “but the problem is that what gender means to a young child must surely be largely limited to conventional gender roles or majority gender tastes.”?
      2 Is there a need to address in any way at a professional psychological level: “There may be young children who have a serious and profound sense of gender dysphoria…”?

      While this reorders the points you make, in point 1 above, who, how when and where will, even must, limit gender to coventional gender roles?

      • Geoff, I think you have misunderstood me. The sentence wasn’t prescriptive. It was just a common sense observation about what (in all likelihood, it seems to me) young children do think about gender, if they think anything much about it at all. I found it hard to think else they could think, since they lack the experiences that come with puberty. If you know any research on what yoiung children think about gender, I’d be interested.

        I don’t know whether there are young children afflicted by a serious and profound sense of gender dysphoria, such as some people do have at a later age. That’s why I said “maybe.” Yes, I guess we need more research. But what I was concerned to say was that I certainly do not think we should deduce gender dysphoria from preferences for toys or activities that are stereotypically associated with the opposite gender.

        • Many thanks for your response, Richard. It clears up any misunderstanding, particulary in deducing and distinguishing disphoria from child preferences.

          There doesn’t seem to be a great deal of common sense these days unless it is seen to be research, evidence based, otherwise there is a risk that it is set aside as “myth”. Sanctified, common sense, even less so: such an alien idea these days.

          I’d agree that children, in general, left to their own devices, will not think much about gender (as a fairly recent, in history, social construct), but they will readily recognise brother and sister biological difference.

          The difficulty comes, does it not, when the gender ideological preferences of activist are shoehorned into the child’s shoe? And when disphoria has become manifest and at what age?

          An interesting newspaper article, fairly recently, by Mary Portas, said that she, in a SSM, had brought up their (adopted?) male child as gender neutral, but he had robustly refused to be so neutralised and determined to be traditionally male in clothes and activities. Yes, it is just one evidence, I know. But there is some evidence that funding and approval for independent research into gender disphoria and trans is hard to come by (Bath Spa University).

          • “The difficulty comes, does it not, when the gender ideological preferences of activist are shoehorned into the child’s shoe?”
            Yes, exactly.

            Of course children recognize the biological difference, but that is not as such gender. And the evident biological differences in children are pretty much limited to the genitals. A good deal less evident than in adults.

            I’m obviously only guessing, but what might have been happening in the case of Mary Portas’s child was that he simply observed gender difference all around him in society and so adopted what he observed to be the practices of the male child. Or did he have an innate sense of basic gender difference that he expressed by adopting the conventional expressions of his gender as he observed them.

  14. Thank you Richard. I strongly agree and note this has the effect of muddying the quality of the debate itself on all sides.

  15. Just a comment on an extreme instance of a man wanting to transition to a woman. There was a recent twitter thread about Soham murderer Ian Huntley’s wish to transition to being a woman because he hopes that will enable him to be transferred to a prison for women. This was my comment on that twitter thread : ‘Holly and Jessica also hoped to become women, but Huntley robbed them of that possibility.’

    This comment received 56 ‘likes’ and 16 re-tweets, which is unusually high for my comments! I don’t want to speculate about this response, but I was interested in the range of people who responded, which included several people from the LGBT community.
    As far as I know, the most-hated people in the prison population are child murderers and paedophiles, and of course Huntley is both a child murderer and a paedophile. I imagine he has been given a hard time in an all-male prison for this reason. If he transitions to being a woman and moves to a prison for women, I think they will also give him a hard time, but that this will be primarily for being a child-murderer and paedophile, and secondarily for being trans.
    I know that Huntley’s is an extreme case, but I just cannot believe that he wants a gender change because he thinks he was ‘born in the wrong body’- I think he just hopes to have an easier (or less difficult) life in prison.
    I am still mindful of the fact that the theme of this blog is welcoming transgender people in church, and I can’t help but wonder if Huntley will be welcomed in the prison chapel if he transitions.If not, I suspect that he would be allowed to receive a visit from a chaplain in his cell.
    My mind is well and truly boggled by this!

    • Christine I am really not sure what place this story has here – even if it is true, which I for one do not presume. To introduce a notorious child murderer/paedophile with chronic mental health problems into the discussion here is not very sensitive to those for whom this issue is vital and central to their sense of who they are.

      • In fact I think my comment about Ian Huntley was respectful towards the LGBT people who liked my twitter comment, and I think my comment here also highlights the difference between Huntley’s apparent. motives for wanting gender transition and the gender dysphoria of ordinary people who seek/undergo gender transition. I also indicated here my concern about whether or not Huntley would be able to receive pastoral/spiritual support in prison, because I personally believe that pastoral /spiritual support needs to be available to all who ask for it. I think the nature of that support is what is debatable both in the case of Huntley in prison and also in the case of transgender people in church.

        • Christine I agreed with your twitter comment. I still struggle with introducing such a bizarrely extreme story here. but thank you for clarifying your intention.

          • What we are finding is that the prison population (mostly male) is leaping at the chance of saying ‘I’m female’. This gives them access to women, no disadvantages, and many privileges. If you cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel, any such improvement is very welcome.

            No evidence is required for this claim!!!

            This is exactly the mess predicted once reality was abandoned.

            Moreover, taking the step of abandoning reality makes people find it hard to stop their slide down the slippery slope. More and more obviously inaccurate things get asserted; consequences get worse.

            What did anyone else expect?

  16. Christopher If you mean that there are people out there who will exploit the needs of the most vulnerable for their own ends, that is sadly true, and the prison environment will be more ruthless than most (though I assume your use of ‘we’ does not mean you are writing from one).
    Otherwise I do not think your comment has any relevance to the theme of this thread.

    • The comment concerns truth and lies. And the reasons (personal benefit / opportunism / bringing about a desired scenario) that people have for telling lies.

      That is centrally relevant to the theme of this thread. And to the entire fabric of our lives too.


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