When I wrote my original article, I was frankly not expecting to enter a prolonged dialogue. I was intending to intimidate what I hastily assumed was a Bible-thumping troll. To quote a venerable proverb, “‘assume’ makes an ass out of ‘u’ and ‘me.’” This erroneous assumption accounts for my intent to be annoying and for my unprofessionalism in the last paragraph, which I will admit were pretty inexcusable, and for which I would like to publicly apologize. (I already privately apologized to Fowler and thus by proxy to Erdvig via email.) As noted by Fowler, Erdvig has not yet written his own response to my essay, or at least has not told me or Fowler about it. Fowler, however, has written a pretty dispassionate critique[i] of my essay “Against Transphobes”; I will address his critique here.
In my use, the word “evangelical” means most broadly Protestant Christians in general, but most especially those who are not Pentecostal, and who base their faith mainly on some reading of an English Bible minus the Apocrypha, not on spontaneous or invoked revelations of the spirit. This is still a rather broad definition, including Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Methodists, and Southern Baptists, all of whom have often widely differing beliefs on a variety of doctrinal and social issues. I would welcome a glossary of sub-types of Protestant Christianity, from an emic perspective.
Fowler cites his definition of the evangelical Christian worldview on transgenderism: “one that is less interested in making people comfortable in their choices or situations and more interested in addressing what to us seems like a tragic condition. It seems strange to simply accept that a little girl has begun to identify as a little boy and not try and find reasons for it. Why? Because our worldview says that God has not made people this way. So, since that is what we firmly believe, we look for solutions; for answers. The idea that gender is “by definition . . . a psychological concept” is a strange idea to us and one we cannot accept.”
I must admit that I find this approach problematic. First, it seems to imply that one should seek to find the root of a problem, but then not pursue a viable solution. It is all well and good to seek the causes of transgenderism, if only to eventually be able to prevent anyone from ever having to suffer gender dysphoria in the future, but what about aiding those who currently have it? To use an analogy, if some heinous oversight in safety procedures caused a massive industrial fire, one would obviously amend the regulations, but still treat the burn victims. To do either, but not the other, would be illogical and inhumane. So far as we know, gender cannot be externally changed, or even consciously internally, though some individuals do experience some gender fluidity (more on that later). If gender could be externally changed, we would be psychologically curing dysphoria instead of having patients undergo expensive (and often not covered by insurance) surgeries and hormone treatments. If gender could be externally changed, any other treatment for dysphoria would be malpractice. So far, the most likely etiology of transgenderism is prenatal hormone imbalances. I have already expanded on this topic, with endnotes, in “Against Transphobes.” The problem is that a complete etiology may be impossible to establish: It is obviously impossible to interview infants, and while gender identity may be formed in the womb, the way to express that gender is certainly learned after birth. Whether or not an etiology can be established, however, treatment must still be provided. A doctor does not withhold ibuprofen for a fever until all the lab tests come back.
Fowler’s quibbling over the introduction of the semantic difference between “gender” and “sex” is completely irrelevant. To imply its relative recency or its being “a strange idea to us ” as a reason for devaluation is the classic chronological fallacy. Incidentally, the semantic difference, as found in the gender studies field, officially dates from a 2001 Institute of Medicine recommendation for making journal articles less confusing[ii]. Too many physiological studies were using the term “gender” to mean physical sex, which could result in interpretations relying too much on social issues and not on direct physiology. It was only a couple years later that the distinction became extremely crucial in transgender studies. However, terminological difference had been postulated as early as 1978[iii], and implied before that.
[i] Fowler, Scott. “In response to a response from crazyqueerclassicist.” CCITHINK, 2 April 2013. Web. 4 April 2013.
[ii] Minson, Christopher T. and Torgrimson, Britta N. “Sex and gender: What Is the Difference?” Journal of Applied Physiology, Vol. 99 no. 3 (September 2005). Digitized 13 September 2011. Accessed 4 April 2013. Search terms: “use of gender and sex as different concepts.”
[iii] Kessler, S., & McKenna, W. (1978). Gender: An Ethnomethodological Approach. New York: John Wiley & Sons.