Article

The Transgender Movement and Government Overreach: Why it Matters

Nov 5, 2015

This week, disturbing news out of Palatine, IL, hit national headlines. According to a report from The New York Times, this Chicago suburb’s school district is facing scrutiny by the federal government’s Department of Education for not allowing a self-identified transgender female to have free use of female locker rooms. For those not familiar with this terminology, here’s what’s happening: a biological male, who subjectively identifies as a female, desires unrestricted access to female locker rooms.

While the high school in question offered many accommodations to the student, the government insists that the school is still in violation of federal policy. The school asked that the male student change behind a privacy curtain while in a female locker room in order to safeguard female students who were uncomfortable changing around a biological male, or seeing the male student nude. This very accommodating proposal was not sufficient by government standards. By not allowing the student unrestricted access to the female locker room, the federal government alleges that the school is in violation of federal non-discrimination laws pertaining to sex discrimination. In response, the government is threatening to legally sanction the school district, which could result in the loss of millions of dollars of federal funding.

The events out of Palatine are deeply, deeply troubling from a Christian worldview. There is great cause for concern and vigilance.

First, it shows the extent to which the Sexual Revolution has gained official government support from the current administration. The principles of the Sexual Revolution are incompatible with biblical Christianity. By taking the action it has, the federal government is endorsing a worldview of expressive individualism—a worldview that shuns limits, endorses controversial gender ideology, and opens up society to ever-evolving standards of sexual morality.

Second, the government’s overreach demonstrates the power of the federal government to force compliance—especially on heavily contested categories such as “gender identity,” where no settled consensus exists other than a person’s subjective self-identity. The message by the government is clear: Comply with controversial, radical, and subjective gender theory or face the possibility of withdrawn federal funds. Funding, standards, and legal compliance are the primary mechanisms that the government uses to ensure that policy is uniformly implemented and followed. In this case, the government’s threatening answer to policy and moral difference is to financially cripple a school district. This is gravely wrong and should be rejected.

Third, the action taken by the government sets bad precedent for how the government will handle similar situations if other schools or school districts do not agree with transgender ideology or are not sufficiently accommodating. This top-down approach to federal educational oversight is but another example of government overreach. Local jurisdictions in conversation with parents ought to be empowered to decide for themselves what is or isn’t appropriate conduct and accomodations for students experiencing confusion about their gender. The message of uniformity and consensus by the government falsely assumes that these matters are settled debate, which simply isn’t true. As co-author Denny Burk and I wrote in a 2014 Southern Baptist Convention Resolution, “God’s good design that gender identity is determined by biological sex and not by one’s self-perception—a perception which is often influenced by fallen human nature in ways contrary to God’s design.”

Fourth, it demonstrates the abandonment of common sense on two accounts. First, to allow a biological male unrestricted access to a female locker room elevates the subjective experience of one person over the concerns and protests of others. By enforcing their policy of comply-or-else, the government is overlooking the concerns of females who feel uncomfortable dressing around a male and is therefore discriminating against their opinions and values. It makes no sense to allow one individual’s subjective experience to override the legitimate concerns that other women have about a male changing in front of them. Secondly, to predicate federal funding on controversial political debates punishes an entire community’s children who attend these schools. It is an excessive show of force to usher in compliance by undermining the education of others.

Fifth, government action in this situation violates public decency and public safety. There are legitimate reasons that men and women use separate restrooms and dress separately. This has been tacit knowledge up until the last few years, until activists advanced transgender ideology at the expense of biological and biblical reality thereby undermining citizens' rights and dissenting viewpoints. Men and women are different (Gen. 1:27; 2:18; 5:2). This difference manifests itself in biological distinctions. For reasons of modesty, safety, and privacy, men and women should continue to use separate bathroom and dressing facilities. Furthermore, it is not the role of the government to devalue the legitimate opinions of others by forsaking their interests.

Sixth, the action taken by the federal government shows that no school district is safe from having its values thwarted or undermined by federal policy. Parents of children in public schools need to take extra caution about what policies are happening not only on the federal level, but the state and municipal level. Parents would be wise to elect federal and local officials who pledge to restore a measure of commonsense to public schools.

The federal government’s actions in Palatine, Illinois is government overreach at its worst. Citizens who stand for the truth about male and female complementarity, and who want to see these truths reflected in educational policy, should oppose the federal government’s action.

Andrew T. Walker

Andrew T. Walker is the Director of Research and Senior Fellow in Christian Ethics at the ERLC. In his role, he researches, speaks, and writes about the intersection of Christian ethics, public policy, and the church’s social witness. He also... Read More