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Pronoun Predicaments and Gender Confusion
June 03, 2005
Al Mohler recently blogged about Jennifer Finney Boylan, a transsexual who was a guest on the Larry King show. Jennifer began life as James, but went through a male-to-female sex change at the age of 43 and changed her name to Jennifer. Also appearing on the show was Dierdre Boylan, whom James married (when still a man) and to whom s/he is still married after having undergone the sex change.
As I read Mohler’s article and the transcript of the program, I was reminded of an article I wrote early last year. At that time I had been browsing through the newspaper and came across an article that caught my attention. It was a rather tragic story of a young man who hated who he was. At some point in his early teenage years he became convinced that he was actually a girl trapped in a boy’s body. He began to live like a girl; dressing in girl’s clothing and taking estrogen to try to combat his male hormones. As he grew older he began to become promiscuous, engaging in sexual behavior with boys, yet never revealing that he was actually male. Eventually some of the men with whom he had engaged in sexual acts became suspicious and began to think they had figured out his secret. They resolved to find out once and for all, so in a fit of rage tore off his clothes and learned that their behavior had not just promiscuous, but also homosexual. Enraged, they beat him to death and buried him in a shallow grave. One of them later confessed to the crime and they are now (justly) awaiting trial on charges of murder.
It was a terrible story of sin, misery and death. And while the story was tragic, what really stood out to me was that the journalist who wrote about it continually described the subject of the story as “she.” Because this boy had decided he wanted to be a girl, the journalist described him that way. And of course the same is true of Jennifer Boylan, though she, at least, has had her male genitals replaced with female counterparts, at least removing the external evidence of her masculinity.
I am experiencing a pronoun predicament as I write this. How do I determine who is a “he” and who is a “she?” This used to be a simple matter. When a child was born, the doctor would look at the child’s genitals and exclaim, “It’s a boy!” or “It’s a girl!” based on the external, visual evidence. Of course this still happens. Some good friends of ours are going to visit a doctor in just a couple of weeks to determine if their unborn child is male and female. The ultrasonographer will look for the obvious, external evidence. But in our changing society it seems this is no longer the truest measure of gender. Today gender is something ultimately determined by mind and emotion. Body parts and chromosomes may point the way, at least through the early years of life, but if later in life I decide these have been bearing false witness to my gender, I am free to alter my male identity. When it comes to gender, mind trumps matter.
I see this is a perfect but shocking example of evidence that our society no longer believes in absolutes, for now even gender has become relative. The story I read in the newspaper was about a person who was born male – he had male anatomy, male chromosomes and grew up as a little boy – but at some point he allowed his mind to convince himself that he was female. Now common sense tells us that a human being who has male anatomy and male chromosomes in every cell of his body is male! But our confused, politically correct society seems to disagree. Just because every cell in his body cries out that he is male, we should not assume that he is, for his mind may tell him otherwise. And if a boy decides he is actually a girl, we certainly are not to judge him for that decision. We should assume that he is correct and give him full support.
Mohler rightly points out the difficulties faced when we experiement with God’s gift of gender. “For her part, Dierdre Boylan commented that she is a ‘straight’ woman who has no desire to have sexual relations with Jennifer, through they are still legally married. ‘I do miss having a husband, and being a husband and wife,’ she admitted. ‘I miss our physical relationship. In many ways, particularly now, sort of five years down the road, most of the things that I loved about Jim are still present in Jenny. The things that aren’t there are the most male things.’ That comment has multiple meanings, to be sure. In any event, this case represents the convoluted complications that ensure when the Creator’s gift of gender becomes an experiment in self-expression rather than a focus of objective identity.” Imagine the difficulties faced by their children, who apparently call Jennifer “Maddy” - a word which combines Mommy and Daddy.
Jennifer explains transexuality in this way: “A transsexual is a person like me, someone born in one body with a lifelong conviction that they are the other sex.” So it does seem that today even gender is a decision. If tomorrow I decide I want to be a woman, what is to stop me? I will expect and demand that you treat and address me accordingly!