“Gender is a social construct.” That’s shocking to people who have assumed that gender and sex were synonyms but at least since I was in college, in the ‘80s, we were taught that “gender” refers to the forms, the customs, the traditions that our culture teaches us to define what it means to be male or female. Gender is being masculine or feminine; sex is being male and female. Gender is about dresses, make-up and hair length. Sex is about chromosomes and private parts. So, gender is a social construct – something society makes up – like using a fork or chop sticks is a social construct. Eating is biology. How we eat, with utensils and, if so, what kind, is a product of culture, a “social construct.” In America, we were taught from young-age to use forks. In China, they are taught from just as young to use chop sticks. One can fluidly go back and forth between the different social constructs. Transgender advocates say the same principle is at play with gender. “Gender is a social construct.”
I’m not keen to argue over the definition of that word. Even if we decide to completely sever the connection between the social construct of gender from the biological reality of sex, then I’ll shrug my shoulders. “Gender” would then become meaningless. It would be whatever you make it to be. But I noticed something about the advocates of transgenderism: they start by saying that “gender is a social construct,” it’s about wearing lip-stick or long hair or a dress and so we can choose to be masculine or feminine or not. Okay, so far I’m following. I don’t know if I agree but I’m not going to fight either. But then they do a bait and switch. They’ve baited me into agreeing that “gender is a social construct,” but then they switch to talking about sex, about male and female, about calling a male a “she,” having hormones and surgeries to make a female look like a male, or vice versa, or having males run in the women’s 100 meter dash or XY chromosome people who were, just last year, swimming with the males now dominating the women. They’re no longer talking about gender. They’re talking about sex and so are effectively saying that sex is a social construct; that we make it up; that we can go back and forth between sexes like we can go back and forth between eating with forks or chop sticks; that a XY chromosome person can suddenly claim that he’s a woman and we’re supposed to let him swim with the women. Apparently, they know that sounds ridiculous so they still try to hide it under “gender” talk. But if we’re talking about a “social construct,” why are we turning to medicine? No one wanting to trans from chop-stick-using to fork-using goes to the doctor and asks for hormones or surgery for the solution. Social constructs are not the specialty of physicians. Transitioning to different customs doesn’t require the surgeon’s scalpel or a prescription. To transition “gender,” if it’s really merely a “social construct,” go to a traditional “finishing school,” or go to a dude ranch, and learn how to be a lady or a macho man. Doctors and pharmaceuticals are about altering biology not culture.
The problem is that despite the superficially sophisticated talk of gender being distinct from sex, gender has swallowed up sex so much so that now, they think, sex is a social construct. They don’t want to say that because it’s so obviously absurd. But that’s what explains why they do the bait and switch, baiting us with gender and immediately switching to sex as if sexual identity were like uniforms athletes put on.
I find the idea that sexual identity is as superficial as a jersey amusing since I come from track and cross-country. I was a mediocre college runner. If I had been a woman running at the same times, I would have been vying to make it to the Olympics. Compare the times or distances of Olympic events for men and women. The differences are stark. Sports are not divided by gender, by masculine or feminine. They are divided by sex, by male and female, precisely to make it possible for females to compete. I’m all for female athletics but let’s stop pretending they’re competitive with men. It’s obvious that the differences between male and female are not just “social constructs,” merely cultural expectations imposed onto people. Women don’t run or swim slower or throw discuses or javelins shorter because society imposes onto them expectations of lady-like demeanor and they meekly obey.
The transgender crusaders don’t want people to know this obvious fact. Recently, I was suspended for a month by Facebook for writing, simply, “Women are weaker than men,” in response to a question as to what 1 Peter 3:7 means by calling women “the weaker sex.” Now, the empirical reality that women are not, on average, as strong or fast as men is considered hate speech worthy of censorship. They are no longer merely putting masculine and feminine into a gender blender. They’re at war with the biological reality of the binary sexes. If people see that the sexes are distinct, they’ll know those distinctions don’t end with athletics. Women don’t get pregnant and give birth because society tells them to but because biology does. Then they might see that the distinctions don’t end with reproduction either. If male and female are different for child-bearing, maybe – or definitely – they are different for child-rearing and even for church leadership.
Let’s call it what it is. It’s the absurdity of transsexuality, not mere transgenderism; once it is exposed that they are claiming one can trans from one sex to another, their cause is undone, as long as we’re allowed to broadcast empirical reality. Their agenda is undone because sexual identity is woven into every cell of our body. One can mutilate a body to make it appear like the opposite sex but one cannot, really, trans from one to another. Male and female are different; and those differences determine what kind of relationships you will be in and those relationships will, to a degree, define you. No amount of bait-and-switch, obfuscation or out-right censorship can change that truth.
John B. Carpenter (@JohnCarpenter64), Ph.D., is pastor of Covenant Reformed Baptist Church and the author of Seven Pillars of a Biblical Church (Wipf & Stock, 2022).
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