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Let’s Talk About Transgenderism and How We View Transgender People

christians attack lgbt people

Summit Ministries, an Evangelical group (their list of faculty will tell you everything you need to know about their theological orientation — definitely straight, white, Republican Evangelical) dedicated to “equipping and supporting rising generations to embrace God’s truth and champion a Biblical worldview,” recently conducted a survey of 1,000 Americans on their views about transgenderism. Here are the “(anally) probing” questions they asked (in the order they were asked):

  • Do you believe it is possible to distinguish between men and women?
  • Do you believe a person’s biological sex and their gender are two separate things?
  • What are your personal opinions about transgenderism? 1) I believe it is a healthy human condition that should be celebrated. 2) I do not believe it is a healthy human condition, but I stay silent on the issue to not offend others. 3) I do not believe it is a healthy human condition, and I am willing to say so.
  • What is your opinion of schools teaching about sexual identity and sexual behavior with elementary-age students? 1) It is a perfectly appropriate use of instruction time. 2) It is inappropriate in a school setting. 3) It is dangerous because it could be used to groom children for sexual encounters at a young age.
  • Should underage minors be encouraged to undergo permanent gender alteration, or wait until they are adults?
  • Should medical professionals performing gender-altering be required by law to disclose the common, long-term medical, and psychological impact of such procedures?

According to Dr. Jeff Myers, President of Summit Ministries:

Everywhere Americans look, the media and education culture is bombarding us with relentless, daily messages in support of transgenderism without limits. Despite this intensity, these stunning numbers show plainly that the vast majority of Americans aren’t buying what they’re being sold. A huge majority of Americans don’t think this issue belongs anywhere near our kids. Yet, we also see a powerful chilling effect that this propaganda is having on society, as this research shows that tens of millions disagree with what they see, but are afraid to say anything about their views. We trust this poll will spark all-important conversations so we can properly address these issues as a nation.

Summit Ministries believes this study tells us:

  • 64% of American voters who have an opinion about the issue do not believe transgenderism is a healthy human condition
  • 34% stay silent on the issue to not offend others
  • 30% are willing to speak out on the issue
  • 36% of American voters who have an opinion about the issue believe transgenderism is a healthy human condition
  • 72% of American voters who have an opinion on the issue do not believe schools should teach about sexual identity and sexual behavior with elementary-age children
  • 42% believe it is inappropriate in a school setting
  • 30% believe it is dangerous and could lead to children being groomed for sexual encounters at a young age
  • 28% of American voters who have an opinion on the issue believe it is a perfectly appropriate use of instruction time
  • 93% of American voters who have an opinion on the issue believe it is possible to distinguish between men and women.
  • 7% of American voters who have an opinion on the issue don’t believe it is possible to distinguish between men and women
  • 90% of American voters who have an opinion on the issue say minors should be required to wait until they are legal adults before undergoing permanent gender alteration
  • 10% of American voters who have an opinion on the issue say minors should be encouraged to undergo permanent gender alteration
  • 90% of American voters who have an opinion on the issue believe that medical professionals performing gender-altering procedures be required by law to disclose the common, long-term medical and psychological impact of such procedures
  • 10% of American voters who have an opinion on the issue believe that medical professionals performing gender-altering procedures should not be required by law to disclose the common, long-term medical and psychological impact of such procedures.

All based on loaded questions. All based on narrow question constraints. All are based on demographics that conveniently ignore religious identification. And most of all, all based on 1,000 Americans — sixty-seven percent who are forty and older — out of a population of 333,000,000 people (260,000,000 if you remove children from the mix).

Further, Americans are largely ignorant about science in general, and sex and gender specifically. This is another issue where Evangelicalism, Mormonism, and Conservative Catholicism have inhibited or prohibited meaningful discussion on these issues. As a society, we must come to terms with the fact that transgender people exist; that they are family members, friends, neighbors, and coworkers. We must come to terms with the fact that gender and sex are far more complex than we would like to admit; that it’s time to put our Adam and Eve view of the world into the dustbin of history with the Bible from whence this belief came.

That said, we need to have a vigorous debate about when it is appropriate to teach children about sex and what they should be taught when they are. We need to have a national discussion about gender reassignment surgery and puberty blockers. Sadly, current discussions are dominated by extremes. So let’s discuss this issue folks — politely, openly, and honestly. I know that a number of my readers are LGBTQ. Some of the most active commenters on this site are transgender. I consider them my friends. I have long been a supporter of LGBTQ rights, though, I must admit, that I am troubled by some of the things I hear in some corners of the LGBTQ world. I have six adult children and thirteen grandchildren. It is likely (in fact, I know this to be true), that one or more of my children or grandchildren might not fit neatly in the gender/sex categories which I grew up with and dominate the society I live in. As these issues come closer to home for me, my liberal sensibilities have been challenged. It’s easy to support LGBTQ people from a distance, but when it’s one of your own? I pride myself in being supportive of all people, regardless of their sex or gender. I am a fiery advocate for LGBTQ rights. I am proud of the fact that I have LGBTQ friends. Yet, fifty years of religious indoctrination and social conditioning are hard to shake. I wish I could have a Men in Black mind-wipe, as I’m sure many of you wish too. However, that’s not going to happen. We must confront our biases and prejudices head-on. And make no mistake about it — we all have them. Even Jesus, Christians. Just look at how he treated Gentiles. 🙂

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Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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13 Comments

  1. Avatar
    BJW

    I have a transgender woman friend. A younger person who was first friends with my sons as a teenager when she identified outwardly as a young man. I watched her change her clothes, and right before she finally told me she had pink hair and was wearing a miniskirt. Very cute, too! And she is a better person being who she is, NOW.

    Bruce, I imagine that your love for your family member(s) will overcome baked-in biases. Because you are a good person who is willing to change. I can’t say that about many others. And I hate that such hatred is targeted towards transgender people, and the LGBTQ community in general. Fundies hate what they fear, and they fear all who aren’t White, Christian, cis-het males (women accepted as long as they believe women aren’t really equal to men). sigh

  2. Avatar
    MJ Lisbeth

    First off, Summit Miniistries’ questions are based on an invalid premise: that those of us who are transgender have “changed” our gender. Rather, our gender identities are innate and don’t necessarily fit into the male/female binary.

    Also , they (and other religious fundamentalists) like to talk about the “research” or “evidence “ that supports their beliefs. But they either don’t provide sources or cite badly outdated reports or articles.

    In response to something Bruce said, I must say that I, as a transgender woman, still find myself falling into (non-)thought patterns shaped by the prejudices of the churches of which I was a part—and societal attitudes. Sometimes those notions metastasize into feelings of worthlessness and self-loathing.

  3. Avatar
    MJ Lisbeth

    Bruce, I am writing a separate comment specifically to thank you for your support of LGBTQ people—and the truth.

  4. Avatar
    Lacy

    I’d like to see their sources for demographics. Was it a cross-section of Americans from all walks of life, or just a handful from their local community or church? I see no verifiable source information and only speculation. Did they use an outside statistical party to compare their analysis? Probably not. Any scientific or statistical claims should always have a reliable source to retrieve how the conclusion was made. These folks don’t understand how it works so they contrive propaganda based biases and claim to hold the answers for their congregants to consume: The very people who believe in fairy tales without any verifiable references to back up the outlandish claims of divinity.
    Although I was once one of them, I always had questions no one could answer and when my education started to conflict with my religion, I started to think more critically and situations in my life led me to conclusions I currently embrace-RELIGION IS ALL BULLSHIT.

    I have a handful of friends and acquaintances that are LGBTQ and one relative. The one relative was raised in a very fundamentalist home and struggles as an individual due to the horrible brainwashing and bullying by “Jesus loving, bible thumping” zealots. This person grew up in a fundamentalist home but somehow managed to always feel different than outward appearances, ever since this person could remember-like, as a child. This person can quote scripture with the best of them and still denies themselves the opportunity to be authentic because of the indoctrination. This person is squeaking out of the closet, at times, but never fully embraces authenticity of self. We have talked many times about it and I am being vague intentionally. I fully support the LGBTQ community and I am appalled, that in this day and age, we still have to remind the Bronze Age folks that science is a real thing and is ever-evolving and many times, people aren’t like THEM, thankfully.

  5. Avatar
    Lacy

    Wow. I have to admit, this surprises me a little, with the exception of the majority being white. Ignorance?
    We need to do better when it comes to education and the sciences.

  6. Avatar
    Sage

    My first thought is that, as MJ indicates, the survey and questions, like much of the commentary that comes from religious and conservative groups, is based on a very rigid and unbending view of sexuality and gender. Their goal is not discussion, but to prove transgender or non-binary people are mentally unhealthy or sexual deviants or perverted or driven by sexual desire. None of this is true, but the desire of religious people and others to prove this really precludes any discussion.

    This is manifested in the current push to eliminate trans and non-binary children. The right pushes the idea of protecting children, but only want to enforce their own view. If they truly cared about the health of children, they would not create a blanket ban on any discussion. I can assure you that many children know their gender before age 6. They just know innately, like any other child. But the people pushing these laws claim children are indoctrinated or somehow misled as part of an agenda or taught this in school, or are just trying to be cool or trendy.

    Trust me, there is nothing cool or trendy about the problems trans people face on a daily basis.

    Sadly, they attack children because they are most vulnerable and easiest to control or scare.

    If anyone wants to have a real discussion about trans or non-binary people, without a goal to belittle or control, then I am always willing. Unfortunately this is not very common. However, I feel little need to respect or have civil discussion with religious or conservative anti-trans zealots, and will always push back very aggressively against their hateful words. Maybe that is stating the obvious?

    I have more to say on this topic, but that will come in a later post.

    Bruce, I appreciate your desire to have a discussion, and the concerns you expressed. These concerns are genuine, and need to be discussed to separate the reality from the uneducated rhetoric that is heard nearly every day from many different sources.

  7. Avatar
    ObstacleChick

    Sampling data and framing of questions are always important when conducting polls and surveys.

    One thing that I find is that even among educated and open-minded people, there is a vast misunderstanding of the definitions of gender, sex, and sexuality. People conflate these terms in ways they should not be, or they use them interchangeably. When the terms are clearly defined, it’s easier to have a discussion of the many issues surrounding these concepts.

    Add to the problem the fact that a huge number of people did NOT have comprehensive sex education in school. I am 52 years old, and most of my age cohorts, even the ones who attended public school, are wildly deficient in sex ed knowledge. This impacts understanding of gender and sexuality issues, as well as abortion and reproductive rights, as well as issues on rape and consent.

    While I cannot fault people for the shortcomings in the education they received, I can and do fault people for not making an effort to seek out information themselves.

    Recently I had a conversation with my mother-in-law who is a Boomer trying really hard to understand these issues. We attended the wedding of her oldest granddaughter to her partner who is a nonbinary trans person going through some hormone treatments. Their pronouns are he/them and their name is now different. My MIL still struggles to call L by the new name and pronouns. I told her that pronouns can be confusing, but the least we can do is to get the name right. People should be called by the name they prefer, period, and she understood that. Then she asked me if L was going to “go all the way” (meaning surgery), and I told her I didn’t know, and really, it doesn’t concern us. It only concerns L and M, who clearly love each other and isn’t that what’s most important? That she could also understand. We both felt like it was a good conversation.

    My father-in-law, on the other hand, still calls L by their dead name and old pronouns. Even after both my husband and I tried to explain the importance of calling someone by the name they prefer- as a basic sign of respect – he insists on dead naming L. I correct him every time because his Boomer Trumper ass is purposely being disrespectful because he refuses to change.

    I also like to shock my father-in-law sometimes. That may be mean, but I don’t care. I have tried to explain the difference between sex and gender. I told him that my biological sex is female, I have all the physical hallmarks of female, and I have reproduced with my reproductive system. However, my gender is neither male nor female – as I like to say, I am just me. He can’t understand that. It’s not something I make a big deal about, and it’s really only relevant to me when people try to attribute “female traits” to me that don’t fit me. Even my incredibly informed Gen Z kids kind of struggle with that – they accept it, but they were visibky stunned when I told them. Honestly, I was stunned that they were stunned lol – I figured informed Gen Z people wouldn’t have batted an eyelash.

    Another interesting thing – my incredibly informed Gen Z daughter struggles with the right terms too. She recently introduced me to T who is nonbinary, but she introduced them as K’s “girlfriend” and T laughed and said, “Girlfriend, that word” and my daughter and T discussed what T preferred to be called in that scenario. It was interesting to witness the open discussion. My daughter amplified and asked what the proper term was, and T told her, and then everyone moved on. Respect.

    So yes, I do believe comprehensive sex education is of UTMOST importance.

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Bruce Gerencser