Donate to RNS

Southern Baptists need a lesson in ‘gender identity’ vs. ‘biological sex’

The Southern Baptists are wrong. Gender identity is not determined by biological sex. It is determined by individuals and societies. It can be fluid. There are more than two options. Deal with it.

'Orange is the New Black' star Laverne Cox, who is transgender, delivers a lecture at the University of Missouri - Kansas City in 2013.
Laverne Cox

‘Orange is the New Black’ star Laverne Cox, who is transgender, delivers a lecture at the University of Missouri – Kansas City in 2013.

Earlier this week the Southern Baptist Convention passed a resolution affirming “God’s good design that gender identity is determined by biological sex and not by one’s self-perception.”

This is utter nonsense. Sex is biologically determined (think chromosomes, genitals, the stuff you’re born with or without), but gender identity is self-perception based on social constructs.

The SBC also affirmed “God’s original design to create two distinct and complementary sexes, male and female,” apparently forgetting about intersex individuals who are born with conditions that make this clear-cut binary impossible.

So to further muddle an already false dichotomy, they argue that two distinct sexes should equal two distinct gender identities. Hogwash. Poppycock. Gobbledygook.

Gender identity, by it’s very definition, is determined by “one’s self-perception” and influenced by other societal structures at play. It is an identity that one chooses to identify with or is otherwise socially pressured into doing so.

Most people in the U.S. are cisgender, meaning that, based on dominant social norms, their gender identities “match” their biological sexes. But many many many people do not fit this cookie-cutter mold that the SBC is pushing.

In much of South Asia “hijra” is recognized as a legitimate third gender, even legally so in Bangladesh and India. Australia now allows anyone to list their gender as “X” (rather than “M” or “F”) on official documents. And, as cited in TIME’s recent cover story, there are approximately 1.5 million transgender Americans.

Facebook, one modern arbiter of what’s legit, recently added about 50 new gender options for users to choose from. Male and female are both there, but so is agender, bigender, gender fluid, genderqueer, transgender and gender questioning, to name a few. Fill-in-the-blank isn’t an option (presumably for the sake of targeted advertising).

So why is the SBC taking such a strong and public stand against this very real gender identity rainbow to support an outdated and inaccurate black-and-white notion of gender?

Why do they feel the need to tell people that their social identities are illegitimate? If someone says they identify as X, who is the SBC to tell them that they should be Y? I’m not just talking about chromosomes.

If someone says they’re agender, bigender, transgender, trigender, genderqueer, why try to convince them otherwise? What benefit does the SBC gain in doing so? And what harm do they bring about declaring subjective identities somehow objectively wrong?

In its resolution, the SBC affirms love for its transgender neighbors and condemns acts of abuse against them while simultaneously opposing legislation to protect them or efforts to educate children about their existence.

I guess we shouldn’t be surprised that the SBC’s resolution refers to god as ‘Him.’ I wonder if they’ve checked to see whether His biological sex matches His gender identity.