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Personal Identity: My Response to Alan Schlemon

I am who I am

Alan Schlemon is a Biola University-trained Evangelical apologist; a man who allegedly “train[s] Christians to persuasively, yet graciously share their convictions.”

Recently, Schlemon wrote an article for the Stand to Reason website titled Rejecting Your Creator Means Rejecting Your True Identity.

Here’s what he had to say:

Baskin-Robbins was my go-to place for ice cream when I was a kid. At the time, they boasted “31 flavors.” With that many options, I was sure to find one that would satisfy my craving.

Though it makes sense to choose your favorite flavor of ice cream, it seems strange to take this approach when figuring out whether you’re a man or a woman. Not long ago, that aspect of who you are wasn’t decided, but discovered. You were born either male or female and grew up to be either a man or a woman.

Not so today.


Although many factors probably play a role, the emergence of these “identities” is not surprising. Society has jettisoned belief in God. When you reject your Maker, you reject the one who establishes your identity. People, though, naturally want to belong. They crave to connect with a community of people who share their values and feelings. With the Maker gone, there’s an identity vacuum that begs for a new way to view oneself. It makes sense that the concept of gender identity was born. There’s a potentially endless offering of identities.

With no external Maker to tell them who they are, people look internally. Often, they tap into their inner thoughts and feelings in an attempt to create their own identity. They’re basing their identity on their internal experience, an approach that is fraught with problems.

First, it presumes your inner thoughts are a reliable source for determining your identity. Everyone knows that thoughts and feelings change. What you experience one day can differ tomorrow, next month, or next year. If you base your identity on your internal experience, your identity will change on a regular basis.

But why think your internal states determine your identity? Of all the aspects of a person, why ground identity in an abstract and ever-changing component? That’s why the body is meant to signal one’s identity. After all, if you ground identity in your body, then it’s hard to mistake what sex you are and impossible for it to change over time. This allows your identity to endure. You remain the same no matter how you feel or how you express yourself.

Second, it presumes your identity is a matter of choice, not an objective reality. Choosing an ice cream flavor is a matter of preference—just pick what you like. Today you might want Oreo cookie ice cream, but next month it might be mint chocolate chip. There’s no problem with changing your favorite flavor because it is your prerogative to choose what ice cream you eat.


If identity is an enduring part of who you are, then leaving it up to a personal decision is problematic. People end up identifying as one or more of dozens of possible identities based on how they feel inside. It becomes a subjective exercise. We allow children to do that when they role-play. They might pretend to be a pirate, prince, or princess. We recognize they might feel the internal bravery of a prince, but everyone knows they are not objectively a prince.

Third, it presumes you are like God. You’re not the Creator, though. You didn’t make you. Determining who you are is, frankly, above your pay grade. If you create something yourself, you have full knowledge of the process, the materials, and the purpose of what you made. That’s when you can decide its identity.


Mere mortals shouldn’t take the role of the divine. Since the Creator creates the creature, it’s his prerogative to decide his creation’s identity. Transgender ideology subverts the role of the Maker by allowing the creature to determine its identity.


Our Maker, though, knows best. He not only made us; he loves us. That’s why we can trust him and ground our identity in him.

There are eight billion people in the world, yet Schlemon believes most of them are living in denial of or are rejecting their “true identity.” Schlemon, a presuppositionalist, lives in a black-and-white world. People are saved or lost; in or out; headed for Heaven or Hell. Either we accept our true identity or we live in denial of our identity. Of course, the world is far messier than Schlemon would like it to be. It seems the Christian God lacks competence when creating human beings and the world they live in.

There’s much I could say about Schlemon’s post, but I want to focus on a fatal flaw in his thinking. Schelmon says our true identity comes from God. Fine, when we are born, what is our true identity? Evangelicals believe that all humans at birth are sinners; enemies of God. We don’t become sinners, we are sinners. That’s our identity. Yet, if people want their sins forgiven and want to go to Heaven after they die, they must change their original identity (whether by regeneration, an act of volition, or both). So, people can and do change their identities. In fact, the Bible says newly saved sinners become new creations in Christ, old things pass away, and all things become new.

Further, Evangelical Christians identify with a plethora of sects, beliefs, and identities. They have peculiar traits by which we can identify them as Baptists, Charismatics, Pentecostals, Calvinists, Arminians, Independent Fundamentalist Baptists, etc. These religious traits are very much a part of their identity, are they not? And don’t Evangelicals change identities? I know I did.

People personally choose whether to believe (or not) and, after believing, they choose which sect they want to identify with. Surely, Schlemon would agree that these are individual and personal decisions. How are these decisions any different from people choosing their gender? Of course, Schlemon, much like the homophobe Dr. David Tee, denies that there are multiple genders; that there are more than two sexes. He can deny these scientific facts all he wants, but the fact remains that there are more than two sexes and there are more than two genders. Certainly, we need to discuss how gender is chosen and how people identify with a particular gender. But, people change their minds, Schlemon says. Yep, what is his point? I am sixty-six years old. My life has been one of frequent movement and change. My identity has changed dramatically over the years. Why this is so can be explained from a sociological perspective — no deity needed (though certainly the fifty years I spent in the Evangelical church influenced and affected my identity).

I will leave it to you, the reader, to further challenge Schlemon’s assertions. Enjoy!

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 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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  1. Avatar

    This guy should really talk to someone whom who is trans of gender queer so he can understand the reality, instead of the misinformation that is so freely shared in his world. To be honest, I am not surprised that he does not make effort to reach out and learn. Just like they do with atheists, it is much easier to repeat what you are told instead of actually talking to the people you are preaching against.

    His misinformed post does touch on something that I dislike – the concept of “I identify as…”. I think this concept leads to a lot of confusion and unnecessary problems. Because of this concept, some people will assume that a person over time, or even on a given day, just decided that they were trans or non binary or some other gender definition. This is used as an argument to prove that gender is binary, and these people are just confused at the moment and will once again changed their minds later. In this particular post the writer seems to argue that gender identity can change regularly depending on how person feels.

    The point is that I do not identify as non-binary, I AM non-binary. I was born this way and will die this way. A trans person has always been trans. Gender queer has always been gender queer. The terms may change as people learn about themselves and as society starts to understand the dynamic of gender, but the person is who they are. Their identity was not chosen, it was there from the day of their birth.

    Now I realize people struggle with their gender. There are many reasons for this struggle including societal bias, religious belief, family pressures and many others. Especially in todays world, living your true gender, if it doesn’t match your birth certificate, is very challenging. This post by Schlemon is a perfect example of the challenges a person raised in a Christian household can face. Living your gender, in many cases, means you risk losing literally everything – friends, family, jobs, religious belief, housing, and safety are just a few examples.

    In the face of this intense pressure, many people choose to deny their gender or just try to pretend to be the “correct” gender. This may seem a better option than facing them risk of being out, but this leads into a whole different set of problems that often lead to a horrible end.

    Perhaps one day our society will be allow people,to,live as their true gender. Sadly this moment won’t come until people like Schlemon stop harassing people for simply existing.

    • Avatar
      Charles S. Oaxpatu

      Schlemon is talking about gender identity and forwarding the notion that God bases gender on the usual morphology of the human crotch. Penis = male and camel toe = female. However, even God knows there is much more to the human crotch than just “sex organ morphology.” For example, the human crotch emits various odors, depending on which day of the year it is and what has been happening in the crotch owner’s life. God and I would like to jointly put forward the notion that there are actually 365 separate human genders, and human gender should be based on whatever crotch odor prevails for each person at 1:00 p.m. exactly on Easter Sunday of any given year at the age of 15 years old. If you do not like this gender criterion, for whatever reason, feel free to offer up your own. God and I are good friends, and he assures me that he is very patient and likes to create new things slowly, across billions of years and in endless variety.

  2. Avatar
    Neil Rickert

    It’s too obvious that Schlemon does not understand atheism.

    When I left Christianity, I was not rejecting God. Rather, I was rejecting the Church. In particular, I was rejecting the Alan Schlemon types of people who dominated the church.

    Yes, once I had separated from the church, I began to see the extent to which it was man creating God, rather than God creating man. But that change took time. It was the ugly anti-Christian behavior of so many church members that repelled me from Christianity.

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    MJ Lisbeth

    Where do you begin with people like Schlemon, Thiemann, et al?

    All right, that was a rhetorical question. Although I AM transgender (Thank you, Sage!) I will start with something that jumped out at me: Schlemon’s intentional or unconscious colonialism. He asserts, “when you reject your Maker, you reject the one who establishes your identity.” I don’t know the exact number, but there are many, many peole in this world who are not brought up in a religion and culture that teaches there is a “Maker.” I am not talking only about atheists and agnostics; There are many religions and other kinds of belief systems that don’t have a concept of a “maker” or “creator.” Following what Schlemon says, if you happen to spend your life in one of them, you don’t have an identity. That, to me, is a bit like saying that the indigenous people of Africa, Asia, the Americas and Oceania had no identity until Europeans force-fed them Christianity.

    I won’t even get into what Schlemon says about “choosing,” “discovering” or “changing” one’s gender identity or sexual orientation because comparing it to picking an ice cream flavor is ludicrous and just plain insulting, not only to those of us who are trans, non-binary, lesbian or gay, but even to cisgender heterosexual people who have never had to go through the often-painful process of realizing that they didn’t fit into one of the boxes folks like Schlemon construct. They don’t deserve to have their gender identity and sexual preferences so trivialized any more than those of us whom Schlemon sees as being “confused” about our identities.

  4. Avatar

    In one of my college major psychology courses, we discussed that sexuality is on a spectrum, and that really resonated with me. Growing up in a binary evangelical world, I had a really hard time as someone whose brain naturally observes and processes issues from a variety of angles and perspectives. Because my brain processes in that way, presenting multiple possibilities and scenarios which all need to be analyzed and weighed, I have a difficult time making decisions quickly; but because I weigh a variety of scenarios before choosing what I have analyzed and concluded to be the best option, I am confident in my decisions. All this is to say that I see just about everything as a spectrum, gender included. I feel like there are even more options for gender than male, female, non-binary but that we don’t have the language yet to represent them. I don’t feel like I have a term to represent my own gender identity which is why I don’t question someone who tells me what theirs is. If you are confident in your gender and can name it, awesome! If you have a sense of yourself and don’t have a name for it yet, I hope that one day we do expand our vocabulary to include that too.

    As for not being able to trust ourselves, that’s one of the biggest problems I have with evangelical teaching. There are many situations in which trusting ourselves is the key to staying safe and staying alive. Ignoring our instinct when we feel something is off, or suppressing the desire to leave a situation that feels like it could be dangerous, those are situations where giving up our agency can lead to abuse – or even death. Additionally, if I don’t know myself or trust myself, who the f$%& can know me, and who the f$%& can I trust? And don’t say Jesus – he has been MIA for 2000 years.

    • Avatar
      MJ Lisbeth

      OC—K wept as I read your comment. One (but not the only reason) why It took me as long as it did to transition is that while growing up in a Catholic environment (though perhaps not as restrictive as your environment) five to six decades ago, I got no sex education, let alone any knowledge of words like “transgender.” So I didn’t even have a starting point for explaining myself to myself, let alone others. “Transsexual “ was a term of derision or contempt.

      When I learned of the word and concept of “transgender” I thought I’d “named it, tamed it.” I still use the term, but instead of “transgender woman,” I see myself who happens to be transgender, in part because “woman” and “transgender” have different (and perhaps more expansive) meanings for me than they did when I started my transition. Knowing that, I try to avoid labeling people in terms of gender identity or expression or, for that matter, sexuality or much else. And, like you, trust what people say about theirs unless it’s obvious that they’re grossly misrepresenting themselves in order to hurt someone else.

  5. Avatar

    While I am not transgender, I have two good friends–relatives of my best friend–who are. According to the oldest of them, she was 70+ when she was able to transition. She had known since she was five years old that the way she felt about herself did not match her birth certificate.

    Transitioning wasn’t possible in her youth, so she did what was expected of her at the time: she, as a then-male, joined the army, got married, and fathered a family. When the children were adults and the wife no longer living, she was able to explore living as a woman, undertaking psychological counseling, and undergoing hormone therapy. She swears that she found what she was looking for all her life, and was truly happy.

    She met another person also transitioning to female, and the two of them completed the final surgeries together, prior to their getting married. According to both of them, female is what they always were, and now their outward selves match what they feel. I wish them nothing but happiness, and admire their determination and courage.

    • Avatar
      MJ Lisbeth

      Thatotherjean—Thank you for sharing the story of your friends. It’s familiar to me in so many ways. When I was beginning my transition, in my mid-40s, my first support group included a woman who was starting her transition at age 65. So, perhaps, I am more fortunate than her or your friends.

      One thing everyone in that group had in common was an early awareness that our gender identities didn’t line up with our bodies or other people’s expectations. And those of us who were transitioning in mid- or late-life had reasons from basically the same menu as to why we couldn’t transition earlier: families, religious communities or other milieux, or simply fear or finances. And, like your friends, we did things expected of us: I, too, was married (albeit briefly), was an Army reservist and played sports. But deep down, we had the sense we were, at best, performing and, at worst (for ourselves and sometimes others) we were betraying ourselves.

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