How should we respond to this transgender moment?

May 9, 2018 by

by Ian Paul, Psephizo:

When it comes to the issue of transgenderism, there appears to be one thing everyone is agreed on: it is complex and challenging! The claims of transgender ideology appear to have rushed on us in a moment; the issues involved touch everyone very deeply; there are bizarre contradictions between advocates of transgender ideology and the other elements of the LGBT+ community, and even within the transgender ‘community’ itself; and philosophical questions seem to blur into some real and personal issues of deep pain which demand a pastoral response.

These issues are what makes a book like Ryan T Anderson’s When Harry Became Sally both so important and so helpful. There are several things that are immediately helpful about Anderson’s approach (quite apart from the brilliant title!). The first is that it is rooted in primary research, and gives (in chapter endnotes) references to published papers. The second is its careful analysis of the evidence—indeed, a focus on evidence which is not pushed out of shaped by Anderson’s own theological agenda (Ryan is Roman Catholic). In fact, one of the striking things about the book is that it contains almost no theological reflection at all in its mapping out of the issues, a phenomenon to which I will return. Although there is a lot of detail about what is happening in North America in terms of legislation and ideology, the book is much less technical than Mark Yarhouse’s exploration of transgenderism and the intersex condition, and though Anderson is acutely aware of the pastoral response required, he does not offer anything comparable to Yarhouse’s threefold ethical paradigm. Instead, Anderson looks at the big picture of what is happening and why we have reached this ‘moment’—and this idea is also important. He cites clear evidence that this is not a linear trend in culture, but a particular moment on which we will likely look back in amazement.

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