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The debate over gender identity and bathrooms

by and

Published: 24 May 2016 (GMT+10)

On May 13, the Obama administration released a federal directive to public schools in the US regarding student access to bathrooms1 requiring schools to allow students to use whichever bathroom and locker room facilities align with the perceived gender identity of the student. Similar things are happening in other countries as well.

In Jacksonville, Florida a worker changes the signs on a restroom at a local business.

First, some preliminary comments. CMI is not a political organization, especially since as an international organization, regional political affiliations in one country would not apply elsewhere. However, we comment when something in the political realm directly contradicts biblical teaching (that is, God-defined gender and the bounds of sexual unions). Another area that is often politicized but which has direct biblical application is the issue of abortion and euthanasia. So we comment on this issue as Christians, not as politically-motivated individuals.

Second, this is an attempt to make school easier for a very, very small minority of students who struggle with gender-identity issues. It should (but often can’t) go without saying that everyone should feel safe at school, and we are naturally against any bullying or marginalizing of any student for any reason. Scripture teaches us to be kind and share the Gospel with such people, in fact, all people. However, it is not kind to affirm something that isn’t true.

We would encourage interested readers to read the entire directive, as well as the text of Title IX, the legislation which supposedly supports the directive.

Does Title IX require gender-neutral bathrooms?

For people confused by the terminology surrounding this issue it may be useful to first read our article Male and female He made them … by Dr Kathy Wallace.

First, Title IX was passed in 1972 to ensure that girls received equal opportunities to boys in schools. Ironically, when this bill was passed it was mainly to protect girls’ rights. However, this current edict now makes girls vulnerable by allowing biological males into their bathrooms. The 1972 law also never prohibited, for example, boys’ teams and girls’ teams, or boys’ and girls’ living facilities, or boys’ and girls’ clubs. And even though the Obama administration document states, “Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (Title IX) and its implementing regulations prohibit sex discrimination in educational programs and activities operated by recipients of Federal financial assistance. This prohibition encompasses discrimination based on a student’s gender identity, including discrimination based on a student’s transgender status”, Title IX does not even include the words “gender” or “identity”, together or separately.

Second, the document specifically prohibits one of the most common-sense solutions that both respect the difficult situation of the transgender student and the comfort of the other students—i.e. offering individual bathrooms and changing facilities. Anyone who remembers being in a public school would regard that as a privilege and an ‘upgrade’ from the often-terrible ‘all-in-the-open’ locker room experience for uncomfortable students. But the Obama administration regards the right to personal privacy as unacceptable discrimination. This is yet another worrying trend, as it exemplifies that governments are not allowing any room for dissenting voices because ‘discrimination’ of any sort is not acceptable. The US Supreme Court’s ruling on ‘gay marriage’ overturned states’ rights on this matter, and even religious protection or exemptions for businesses who refuse to conduct or participate in gay weddings on the grounds of personal conscience or religious beliefs have been struck down or vetoed.

We should have nothing but compassion for students experiencing this very rare condition. But we should also respect the right of biological girls to not be exposed in front of biological boys. Even if that boy has a ‘female gender identity’, any sane person, and certainly any sane woman, would understand the visceral discomfort of the situation that recently caused a whole school’s female student body along with their parents to protest about a boy being allowed in the girl’s locker room. Boys and girls should have a right to privacy in situations where they are more vulnerable such as in locker rooms and bathrooms.

What is ‘gender-identity’? Is it ‘redefining’ or ‘undefining’?

Gender-identity is simply a term that describes what sex someone ‘feels like’ regardless of what their birth sex is, and to allow them to express that feeling. When someone’s gender identity doesn’t match their biological sex, this is actually a condition known as Gender Dysphoria or Gender Identity Disorder (GID), included in the DSM-5, a diagnostic manual for mental illness.2 And like the issue of same sex attraction, there is no evidence that gender dysphoria has a genetic component, although researchers continue to look for one.

In our booklet Gay marriage: right or wrong? we discussed the concept of same-sex marriage actually being an ‘undefinition’ of marriage, rather than a simple ‘redefinition’. That is, marriage has always been between one man and one woman because reproduction requires one man and one woman. Even in polygamous societies, where one man had marriages with multiple women; the wives weren’t married to each other. Even societies like ancient Rome, which allowed various types of homosexual activity, did not have anything like ‘gay marriage’. We also predicted that the gay marriage issue would be ‘a line in sand issue’ for the church, because even religious dissent would not be allowed. How true this has become in such a short amount of time.

In a similar way, decoupling ‘gender’ from biological sex is undefining what male and female actually are. If a ‘girl’ can actually have the biological hardware of a boy, or a ‘boy’ have the biological hardware of a girl, what exactly are girls and boys? In fact, recently a Youtube video demonstrated the inability of various college students to tell a white man why he was not an Asian woman, and many of them actually said that if that’s what he felt like, as long as he wasn’t hurting anyone, why not?

The ‘all gender’ bathroom issue is really an insidious development. While most bathrooms in businesses are currently private rooms (see picture at top), it is rare that such private bathrooms exist in schools. The unfortunate experience of a young female being exposed to biological males (regardless of whether that male ‘feels’ he is a female) is a high possibility. And being exposed to such images at a young age can have damaging and long term effects on a child in the same way as if being exposed to pornographic images or even sexual abuse. And while it is true that young females are unlikely to be molested by gender confused males, what is to stop a male sexual predator masquerading as a ‘female’? This has already happened.3

How should we respond?

The possibilities for exploitation and damage to our children are frightening. Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:14). More than ever it is our Christian duty and responsibility to protect the most innocent ones under our care, and this includes not legitimizing gender confusion, or same-sex marriage, or anything else that takes away from the Creator’s ordained roles for us. As such we have a responsibility to lovingly engage culture in these controversial areas.

A primary concern should be for Christian parents to protect their children. If your child is in public school, do you know if your school district would currently allow a biological male to use the girls’ bathroom, or vice versa? If it currently protects the right of boys and girls to privacy in the bathroom, is your school district prepared to stand up to the federal government? If not, many Christian parents will want to look at the multiple other education options such as online public school, homeschooling, or Christian schools, or even consider banding together to veto the school in favor of one supporting your views. One reason the government can issue this directive is because schools receive public funding, which can be withheld if schools do not cooperate. Because Christian schools and other private education options are not subsidized by the government, they are largely exempt from this sort of political pressure. In a democratic society Christians (who make up a large percentage of the population in the US) need to voice their own views on the matter. Religious freedoms must be maintained.

Schools should be a safe place for learning for all children, for the rare gender-confused student as well as their classmates. It is a concern that in order to make transgender children feel comfortable, the government is now attempting to mandate the school’s cooperation in this fiction, even to the detriment of the vast majority of students.

This directive is a humanistic attack against the categories of male and female that God created, and Christians have a duty to affirm the biological reality of the gender binary, even if the culture becomes increasingly opposed to it.

The ultimate answer, of course, is the Gospel, which has the power to change hearts and minds far beyond what our ability to change laws in the culture might be. It is encouraging to remember that Christianity emerged when the Roman world was far more debauched than the Western world can even imagine today, yet the Gospel of Jesus Christ transformed the culture then, and it can do so again.

References and notes

  1. ‘Bathroom’ (US) = ‘toilet’ in many other countries. Return to text.
  2. Gender dysphoria, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gender_dysphoria, 18 May, 2016. Return to text.
  3. For instance, see lifesitenews.com/news/sexual-predator-jailed-after-claiming-to-be-transgender-in-order-to-assault Return to text.

Helpful Resources

Gay Marriage: right or wrong?
by Gary Bates, Lita Cosner
US $3.50
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Gay Marriage: right or wrong?
by Lita Cosner, Gary Bates
US $2.00
Kindle (.mobi)
Gay Marriage: right or wrong?
by Lita Cosner, Gary Bates
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eReader (.epub)

Readers’ comments

Darren P.
I feel that changing a law that effects the majority for that of the minority. Às in this issue needs to be monitored very closely . It bothers me that schools will be held to ransom for funding when there is clear wrighting on the wall that this will be exploited buy some individuals who may do the wrong thing . What about the children with weight isses ,nothing has ever been changed like this to make there life easier in the change rooms. I feel this is a very big mistake on behalf of the human race
Ulrich K.
Thank you for the article. It has been quite alarming to see a significant portion of the media (though not all) becoming highly critical of conservative views, even views that do no more than honor current laws.
For some time now there has been significant ridicule by many to any who dare step outside of a purely secular approach to any discussion, as if to bring in Jesus Christ was to leave the realm of science, reason and logic to one of fairy tales, myths and blind faith. This by all measures is false, as any reasonable person would conclude. There are very weighty arguments to choose the teaching of Jesus Christ above those of Penny Wong and Co. I do hope that she and others with her will understand when we are forced to make a choice between the clear teaching of Jesus Christ and any other man or woman, we must choose Christ, because we know, with clear and substantial evidence, that he is truly God. It is a most reasonable and realistic faith.
Robert N.
"I think, therefore I am"...NOT !!!
Timothy J.
Thanks for this highly relevant article. I saw a similar video on TV recently where an interviewer was asking college students these same type of questions. What I notice in all of the students is fear; genuine fear that they will be labeled as a hater or worse if they state the most obvious facts. The tortured look on their faces as they try their best to wrap their heads around the illogical positions stated by the interviewer should tell us that we are headed for some quite turbulent times. If college students are afraid to state something as obvious as "no, you are not a Chinese woman" to an obvious white male, then who is to say the 2+2 still equals 4?
K. V.
I was recently booked onto a "Gender Mainstreaming" course for "Senior Managers in Government Service" in good old South Africa! The ideology is now state sponsored. Four day stay in four star hotel included. Regarding the bathrooms the next step is to simply train those poor worried girls to overcome their fears. Psychological re-engineering. Say after me: "they're not boys, they're not boys, they're not boys..." - now THAT'S the way to step on the gas to get the nation thinking the "right" way. (Reminds me of the Health Department's "Attitudinal Transformation Workshop" on Abortion I was also signed up to attend recently. Hell's agenda, mints included. The enemy is at the gate, also in South Africa.
Peter W.
This is clearly an issue rooted in rejection of God's Word, manufactured to generate chaos, and built on confusion: If a person born female REALLY was a male, he would be delighted to continue using the female bathroom, shower, and locker facilities. As far as a person born male who wants access to female facilities? They are perverts and/or deeply confused children, who deserve our pity and helpful guidance, not institutional encouragement. Romans chapter 1 explains all this.
Julie K.
As so many have stated in one way or another, we feel like we are walking on eggshells here, trying to not offend those who may be confused about their gender. Sadly, we can do little to assist these children in the way that would be the most helpful, based on God's good and perfect and of course sovereign plan. We can still pray - for the children, and for those in power. It is frightening how many people now actively, or ignorantly, support these changes. I feel strongly, though, that all the other children should keep their right for privacy, and each and every one of them should have the same right to use a private change room if any professed transgender child wishes to use their change room and this makes them feel uncomfortable. From the link, 'The entire directive', "A school may, however, make individual-user options available to all students who voluntarily seek additional privacy." It is therefore the right of all the other children to make use of individual change rooms, and they should not be discriminated against either. This will slow the getting changed process down quite a bit I would imagine, but if my children were there, I would want them to be in a private room.
These are such difficult times, but we know that God has defeated satan ultimately through His son Jesus and we therefore we have (a sure) hope.
Charles S.
First, this is a matter of public safety. While true transgenders generally don't pose a threat, what is to stop a sexual predator, such as a child molester, peeping Tom, or even a serial rapist from masquerading as a transgender, in order to gain access to women in an area in which they are most vulnerable? Second, God does not make mistakes. The gender you are is the gender God intended. Transgenders need to seek professional help, in order to deal with this issue.
Patrick P.
The basic problem here is the fact that people have rejected any objective truth and live in a world of subjectivity. This has happened for a long time now with their view of The Bible - the revelation of the almighty God to His creation.They reject Gods laws and want to make up their own.It has now gone as far as rejecting the way God has Created things. They refuse to submit to the way God has made things - 'We will design our own world independent of God' We can see what a mess they are making!!!
Tani N.
It's encouraging to think that Christians might consider not sending their children to public (state/government) schools over this issue, but isn't it a bit sad that things have to get THIS bad (i.e. utterly degraded and totally insane!) before we can wake up and see that there is something wrong out there?
Mike G.
As a South African I have always seen the USA as the "Great Democracy", so I am really puzzled by this. How is it that in a democratic country, where the majority of the citizens are Christians, the government has been given these draconian powers to force unchristian values onto the majority of the population? How is it that a small minority can enforce its aberrant views onto the majority without any major backlash. If this is happening in the "home of democracy", God help the rest of us!
Thelma A.
To condone transgender is the same as saying to God "I don't like the way you made me", which is just what satan want's everyone to do. God wove us wonderfully together in the womb which all the surgeons in the world are not able to do despite the wonderful skills the Lord gave to them.
Jean P.
This problem needs to be widened because it wo ,t stop at bathrooms and locker rooms. As with all these attempts to change cultural norms, it is only the thin edge of the wedge. Remember that the Wolfenden Report in the UK all those years ago only cancelled the law against homosexuality and the right for consenting adults in the privacy of their own homes. That sounded rasonable but it has gone in approx 50 years to the current state. So mixed bathrooms will spread to wider issues. Eg. If a male identifies as female does he go to the women,s prison? If a male identifies as female can he wear a dress & make-up and teach in an all girls school?
Not to mention the restrictions on preaching in a church setting. This won,t stop at bathrooms.
robin S.
We have to stay strong and fight for strong values.
Anil G.
Excuse me, but, . . . The directive is claiming Title IX prohibits discrimination based on gender identity, and transgender status even though the legislation does not even include the words gender, identity, or transgender. It consistently uses the word 'sex' only. Yet the directive itself, also in it's first page distinguishes between "Gender identity" as different from "sex assigned at birth". The directive therefore blatantly contradicts itself on a foundational basis. You can prove from the definitions in the directive that the legislation was never intended to apply to gender as distinct from sex. I hope someone in the US is willing to test it.
Arthur L.
I think the focus on biological gender doesn't encompass the full story of why this policy has come around. A large segment of youth are struggling with gender dysphoria, and as a result are living tortured lives where they can't find identity, self-worth and acceptance, and are often spiralling into depression and suicide. This policy is a compassionate response to that. To get a sense of what life is like for children growing up with gender dysphoria, I recommend watching the documentary "Growing Up Trans" which I showed at my documentary club last weekend. I agree that it doesn't make sense to allow people to dictate any height, or ethnicity. But if a large enough segment of the population struggled with this and had their lives ruined due to height and race, a similar policy could in theory arise. A compassionate government sees the struggles of its people and does what it can to alleviate it, weighing the pros and cons. Biological origins are only one aspect of the discussion. While it's a good one, I think there's more to consider. Maybe the policies aren't perfect out of the gate and need amendments to ensure the safety of all people of all genders.
Lita Cosner
Arthur, I hope you can tell from the article we understand these children are suffering. But our response to them also has to respect the privacy and rights of children who aren't. It is understandable that teen girls would not want to be exposed to a teen boy in the changing room. Even if that boy believes he is a girl, he is still biologically male. And there would also be the case of boys or men abusing this policy to gain access to women's changing rooms or restrooms.

Perhaps a young person experiencing gender dysphoria would feel excluded if asked to use either the changing room of their biological sex or a single-occupancy room, but honestly, the latter is the most compassionate and sensible response.

And as we have stated, we absolutely reject any bullying, humiliating, or any sort of harming of these youth, who are already going through something intensely difficult.
Bob S.
"We also predicted that the gay marriage issue would be ‘a line in sand issue’ for the church, because even religious dissent would not be allowed. How true this has become in such a short amount of time."
And yet here you are, speaking your mind. Perhaps Christians aren't as besieged as your fantasy tells you.
Lita Cosner
Tell that to the Christian bakers, photographers, and florists who have been taken to court over their exercise of religious freedom regarding non-participation in gay weddings.
James T.
I do agree with this article.I have nothing against transgender people,but i just think its wrong for people to encourage them to believe something that they are not.I certainly would stick up for them if someone is bullying them if they're being made fun of.I always see it as if you're born a boy,you're a boy and vice visa.Its just the problem is that if you try to help convince them that they are not something they think they are,then you get label as homophobic.
Dan M.
It continues to baffle me how illogical and confused human beings can be. We believers know satin is the author of confusion and wants nothing else but our destruction and he is working his magic in these last days. Did you notice the uncomfortable reactions of the collage students in the video. Even though they affirm the post modern identity agenda they know it's wrong, (a total lack of courage)! Just go with the flow as long as it doesn't hurt anyone. Well it is, hurting people! We are all for civil rights except when the rights of certain people groups counter the modern day agenda, then they are labeled as haters or religious zealots. We have to counter such ridiculous intellectual insanity with reason, (Isa 1:18) Come lord Jesus!
Cameron N.
I remember when I was in my College Philosophy class(3 years ago) we discussed the idea of there being several genders as brought up by a paper we were reading (I forget who it is by). The paper's basic thesis was that we only are the genders we are due to societal engineering, and that it is the fault of men and woman engaging in traditional gender roles that we are the way we are. The paper suggested that if we threw off those roles we could be pressured to evolve into 5 different genders instead of the 2. The paper even had an air of hostility to the genetic facts of male and female identity. Most shockingly, everyone in my class rejected her thesis and proclaimed that there are just two genders. This was shocking to me because the school I went to is among the most (if not the most) liberal/progressive in the south. This was considered lunacy by most Millennials my age just 3 years ago, and a non issue for the most part to those who do identify as the opposite gender. But due to the narrative in media and true social engineering by reactionary and activist laws and practices, we have reached a point where people are actually taking this fringe paper's ideas and enforcing it on the general populace.
margaret P.
It's important to make people aware it's impossible to change gender. You will always be what you were at birth. Any surgery done to a person to 're-assign' them to the other sex is only ever cosmetic and hormone treatment will have to be taken for the rest of their lives or apparent sexual features will be lost.
Gender is not fluid but most people I've spoken to don't know this. They have a vague notion that gender is something to do with societal conditioning. We are letting these troubled people down by encouraging them to reach for a goal they will never attain.
Jill R.
Actually, Gender Identity Disorder is not in the DSM-5; it has been changed to Gender Dysphoria because the APA now states that "gender nonconformity is not in itself a mental disorder". GD was only included in the DSM-5 because"persons experiencing gender dysphoria need a diagnostic term that protects their access to care" - ie, surgery, hormone therapy, and "counseling to support their gender transition".(source: [link deleted per feedback rules])While the APA's stated goal was to de-stigmatize the condition, the tragedy is that affected individuals, including children, can no longer be helped by psychiatrists to accept their biological reality. Treatment is limited to encouraging the person to make the transition to the opposite sex (or some semblance thereof), and leads to a suicide rate much higher than the rest of the population. Yes, I am outraged by the fallout for girls in public washrooms, but even more by this callous lack of care toward these terribly confused people.

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