The issue of homosexuality has gained increased exposure and acceptance by the media and American public, respectively. Now, as the Senate reviews a hate crimes legislation that would add violent attacks against individuals on the basis of gender, sexual orientation and gender identity, the transgender is emerging in the media with more reports laying out the struggles of persons with gender identity disorder or those who have already made their transition.
Dr. Robert A.J. Gagnon, associate professor of New Testament at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, shared his concerns about the media bias on transgenderism and explained that there is more to being a male or a female than a minute portion of the brain, as some experts have argued about the cause of gender identity disorder.
CP: Pete LaBarbera, executive director of Americans for Truth, had mentioned how media has been glorifying the transgender movement. Major news media such as ABC and Newsweek have been reporting on the transgender movement and the reports have seemingly drawn sympathy towards this community. And a popular TV show Ugly Betty added a transgendered character to its cast this year.
Gagnon: This is just what they used to do about homosexual practice earlier.
CP: So do you see the transgender issue emerging on the same path that homosexuality did through the media?
Gagnon: Yes, of course they're trying to normalize transgender existence. There's no question about that. That's why you have the GLBT (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender) movement.
Initially, for example, even [Congressman] Barney Frank even said with regard to hate crime legislation and employment non-discrimination legislation, the transgender community would have to forget about that including them because America was never going to accept that. They were just going to work on getting approval for gays and lesbians. But now that's changed because the culture has changed and now they're going to try to get in the transgender too.
It's always been pushing for the homosexual agenda with the attempt to eventually – once they get that accepted – move into the acceptance of bisexuality and transgenderism.
CP: LaBarbera also said that mainstream media is justifying its biased reporting on the transgender movement in the name of compassion. Is that how you see it as well?
Gagnon: Yes. They're trying to present a case where they're able to demonstrate that these persons cannot help themselves; this is not something they asked for; if you don't allow them to become transgender, they'll probably kill themselves.
CP: What's your take on that?
Gagnon: Well, the biggest problem is the failure to recognize that being male and being female is about more than one possible element of the brain. The argument basically is that the particular portion of the brain that has to do with sexual identity is more female-like in males who become transgendered and more male-like in females who go from a female to male reassignment surgery. And so it basically can all be correlated to congenital developments in the brain.
And what I'm arguing is that being male is about more than just that portion of the brain even if you granted that. And it's by no means clear there's any one-to-one correspondence here because in some of these studies, some persons that did not experience this part of their brain as being more female-like (for males) nonetheless became transgendered as females. Some persons who did have that portion of their brain resembling more female-like did not become transgendered. So you have both sides. The change of this part of this brain is neither necessary nor sufficient element for transgenderism. It may create a risk factor, but it's not a deterministic model. That's one thing.
The other thing to be said about this is that's not all that goes into making up males or making up a female. So for example, a person who is male who gets sex reassignment surgery to become female still is very much male. And I'm not just talking about male in the sense of anatomy … I'm talking about the way they interact with others they remain very much male. For example, a male who's become female still is pretty much stimulated in the same kinds of patterns and behavior that we expect in males. There's a difference between male sexuality and female sexuality. Males are more visually stimulated, they're more genitally focused on average than are women. And for that reason, they have a higher difficulty for maintaining monogamy. That same pattern for male sexuality persists in male-to-female reassignment surgery. They don't change that part of their maleness.
There's a whole package about what goes into being male and it involves anatomy, physiology, and personal psychology. We're talking about here persons (males) who think of themselves as females; we're talking about only one small portion of their maleness being problematized by a female quality. The whole rest of them remains male – anatomically, physiologically, and psychologically.
So in a sense you're saying that one minute portion of the brain, but not the total brain, not everything that goes into making the male brain, but one small fragment of it will be the decisive factor in overriding one's sex. And that's the problem.
If you could genetically alter a duck's brain so that the duck thinks it's a horse, does that make it a horse? You change one little portion of the duck's brain to be horse-like and it thinks it's a horse. It remains a duck. The part that's 'duck' is so much greater than the part that's 'horse.'
That's what we have happening here. You have young males thinking I'm not really male. And why is he thinking that? He's thinking that because of a relatively small portion of the total package that goes into being. But the whole rest of him is male. Now for that one small portion, we're to completely dishonor his maleness by attempting to do radical surgery to eliminate it? That's the problem.
When you look at Scripture for example, when Paul talks in 1 Corinthians 6:9 about the following group of people will not inherit the Kingdom of God. One of those groups of people he calls the "soft men." Now the meaning of that essentially, in its historical context, is men who feminize themselves to attract male sex partners. And that's the closest thing you have in the ancient world to transgenderism. Paul lists them among the group of people who risk not being included in the Kingdom.
Now, the reason for that becomes clear when one looks at Romans 1:24-27 where he talks about homosexual practice as a dishonoring of the sexual self. And the dishonoring is basically this: the logic of a sexual union is that it involves two people of different sexes. The reason for that? One sex doesn't capture the totality of sexuality in the species because there are two sexes. The logic of a sexual pairing is two sexual halves integrate into a sexual whole. And when you have two males in a sexual union or two females in a sexual union, the logic of those two unions is that each partner is only half their sex. So they have to integrate with their other half and in effect they have to conceive of their sexual same as a sexual other. And that means in effect they're saying, 'if male, I'm only half male' and 'if female, I'm only half female,' so I have to merge with somebody of the same sex to complete my sexual identity. And that dishonors the integrity, Paul says, of the sexual self because God has created males wholly male and females wholly female and what they bring to the sexual table, if you will, is their maleness and femaleness. What they don't bring is what the other sex has.
CP: And regarding transgenderism?
Gagnon: Transgenderism simply accelerates that crisis by in effect a person totally denying their maleness or femaleness. The homosexual half denies it. In the case for transgendered person, they've essentially conceived of themselves as entirely other than what they are and that's an even greater radicalizing or dishonoring of the sexual self because of the total denial of their maleness or femaleness.
CP: Would you say that a person with gender identity disorder would be going through the same struggles as someone with homosexual attraction?
Gagnon: There's some degree of complexity in answering that. But the short answer would be 'yes, but….' The way in which they're similar is that they're both struggling with their sexual identity. And it's simply a more radical struggle in the case of somebody moving towards transgenderism. … As children, persons who identify as homosexual, more likely than not, experienced a high level of gender non-conformity. That is, they weren't the stereotypical male if male or stereotypical female if female. That person struggles with his sexual identity as a child. Am I really male? And he perceives fellow males as being significantly different from him. And at a certain point in time, if he hasn't validated for himself his maleness … then that felt need to have his identity as a male validated and to have his perceived deficiencies as a male be filled can become sexualized so that he sees the remedy to his deficiency in maleness as merging with another male.
A man having sex with a man is really making a statement that he perceives himself as only half male and that dishonors the maleness that God has stamped on his being. It degrades it. It devalues it. It says something isn't all there that God has imprinted as being all there, for the most part.
They're not in need of structural supplementation as a male. They have a need for structural affirmation – that is affirmation of their structure as a male. They don't need to supplement it by merging with another male. By sexualizing it, they're only regularizing the misperception of themselves as half male when they ought to rather be affirming their maleness through intimate relationships with other males that are non-sexual.
So in a sense, the transgendered person is simply taking that up a notch.