One of the arguments made by transgender activists is the relative normalcy of being trans. Suppose only transgender persons could be granted the ability to live lives unbothered by the outside world. In that case, we’re told, the uniqueness of someone identifying with a gender different than their biological sex would become commonplace. Because gender has no connection with biology, one can step into their preferred gender’s lived experience. The only obstacle confronting the realization of self-willed gender identity are those who insist on the existence and objectivity of non-discrete categories, such as sex.
The problem with this argument is that the testimony of transgender persons, and a snapshot of the community, tells the exact opposite story. Such is the case with HBO’s new documentary Transhood, which follows four transgender individuals — Leena, Phoenix, Avery, and Jay — and their parents across a four-year journey of coming to terms with their transness.
Before I launch into an analysis of what viewers observe, let me say this upfront: The documentary is painful to watch at many, many points. Misleading authorities deceive children, compounding the mind’s inner confusion. The children are the collateral damage of their parents’ fanciful illusions and political predilections. We have developed a new variation of gender expression, but also a new class of victims.
Despite my ideological concerns about normalizing transgenderism, we must begin discussing transgenderism by acknowledging this population’s vulnerability — from their dysphoria, mental and emotional health, and managing their day-to-day lives. The Christian should have no desire to conquer a foe or relish misery. Just the opposite, in fact. The Christian should be the least surprised at the variety of brokenness this world manifests and the most sorrowful. We should be a people able to extend a principled account of sympathy and heartache, not because the condition of gender dysphoria is inexplicable, but because from the vantage point of the biblical storyline, we know that the ultimate cure to brokenness is found in the promise of new creation and the mercy of Jesus Christ — not suppressing, whether hormonally or surgically, the truth of the body.
The painful experiences of those who identify as transgender acknowledged, allow me to offer a few thoughts about the Transhood documentary.
First, the documentary casts no doubt on whether it is appropriate for young children to be in authority over massively consequential decisions about their future. The mindless “You Do You” ethic is instead on full display, such that parents are unable to offer any fixed guidance around their child’s identity. The whole documentary is a manifest display of parental dereliction. It is only the transgender movement that invests such normative authority in the adolescent psychology of children. On no other issue would we defer to a child’s authority as the determinative factor as the transgender movement does. There is no more straightforward way to say it: It is unbridled madness to defer to children the ability to control their destiny with irreparable outcomes on the horizon.
Second, and relatedly, what one observes in the documentary is how parent-driven and parent-influenced the children’s lives are. On the one hand, the documentary insists upon the child/teen’s agency to make decisions about their identity. Still, throughout the documentary, it is apparent that there’s an invisible leash where glamor-seeking and activist parents are making props of their children and living vicariously through the attention the children receive. Thankfully, (spoiler alert) at least one child reverses course in the documentary, and the parent comes to grips with the absurdity of what they subjected their son to in the interest of self-exploration.
Third, and perhaps most importantly: Transhood accomplishes the opposite of what it set out to do. It confirms the pain, uncertainty, and endless search for holistic personhood. None of the children have a childhood I would wish for my children; I would instead do everything I could to shelter them from such volatility. The emotional distresses and broken relationships are manifold. There are only two options: This elusive self-acceptance is either the product of their environment, or else there is something endemic to the experience of transgenderism that produces perpetual instability. If the documentary was supposed to convince the public of the normalcy and routineness of transgenderism, I would argue that all it does is convince observers that the trans worldview is sowing mass confusion under the guise of tolerance, diversity, and inclusion.
Lastly, the documentary vindicates the supremacy of nature and the futility of denying it. No one should deny the reality of distress that results from gender dysphoria. But the acknowledgment of its pain does not override the objectivity of the body and nature. One can hope Transhood somehow backfires against its goal and contributes to the growing body of skepticism around the unsustainability of the transgender worldview.
Andrew T. Walker is Associate Professor of Christian Ethics at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Executive Director of CBMW’s Eikon Journal.
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