Understanding the Definitions of the New Sexual Tolerance

April 8, 2015

Last month, USA Today reported that Facebook is now recognizing 58 distinct gender options, with a 59th for “fill in the blank.”

According to Facebook, “We recognize that some people face challenges sharing their true gender identity with others, and this setting gives people the ability to express themselves in an authentic way.”

There is nothing “authentic” about defining oneself by a sexual or gender impulse inconsistent with who one is. But more on that later. For now, here are some thoughts on terms increasingly used in the public parlance but which merit a bit more than casual acceptance – both for the sake of linguistic integrity and for the sake of the troubled men and women and the social conditions about which they speak.

Transphobia: “Intense dislike of or prejudice against transsexual or transgender people” (Oxford English Dictionary). No one should be treated cruelly, in word or action, because he or she dresses or behaves in a manner commensurate with his or her opposite gender. Period.

On the other hand: People who believe men and women should only be allowed to enter restrooms or locker rooms designated for persons of their same biology or those who believe companies should have the right not to hire persons wearing opposite-sex attire are not prejudiced or phobic. They are responding naturally and intuitively to things that not only are visually jarring but internally dissonant. These responses are innate, inherent, natural.

Moreover, one’s gender cannot be undone by cosmetic changes or even surgery: DNA is permanent. As my friend Russell Moore has written, “We believe we can no more surgically alter our gospel than we can surgically alter our gender.”

Homophobia: “Dislike of or prejudice against homosexual people” (Oxford English Dictionary). So, unlike transphobia, the dislike doesn’t have to be “intense?”

There is no doubt some people bear hostility to homosexuals and cause deliberate pain to persons open about their same-sex attraction. That is regrettable and, for Christians, completely unacceptable. But the following beliefs do not represent such hostility:

People who believe in marriage as the covenantal union of one man and one woman, for life.
People who believe children thrive and mature most successfully with a mother and a father.
People who believe that sexual intimacy is reserved for one man and one woman within the covenant of marriage.

Disagreement is not, by definition, evidence of fear or hatred, whether it deals with moral deliberations or things less profound (you’re a Yankees fan, I like the Mariners). Asserting a moral viewpoint that such has implications not only for personal behavior but law and culture is not necessarily hostile or a demonstration of bias.

For example, when in the civil rights movement the heirs of Lincoln proclaimed that human equality meant that people of color should be treated with legal justice and social dignity, their proclamation was informed substantially by religiously-based moral conviction. So are the claims of people of religious faith who argue that marriage is solely the union of one man and one woman. This is not irrational bias or hateful speech; these claims are grounded in 3,500 years of Judeo-Christian moral teaching and social understanding.

Cisgenders: According to sociologists Kristen Schilt (University of Chicago) and Laurel Westbrook (Grand Valley State University), “cisgenders” are “individuals who have a match between the gender they were assigned at birth, their bodies, and their personal identity.” In other words, they are men who identify as men and women who identify as women.

In an article this past December, TIME magazine explained that the word “cisgender” “exists to serve as an equal to transgender.” The author, Katy Steinmetz, writes:

Cisgender is a word that applies to the vast majority of people, describing a person who is not transgender. If a doctor announces, “It’s a girl!” in the delivery room based on the child’s body and that baby grows up to identify as a woman, that person is cisgender. Similarly, a baby designated male in the delivery room who grows up to identify as a man is cisgender. This is the case for about 99% of the population, at least according to the best available statistics.

Steinmetz goes on to note, “In general, there aren’t too many places outside of a dictionary or chemistry lab where one would likely see the prefix being used, but cisgender is seeing an uptick in use.”

Well, maybe. But it is saddening and quite forced that some are asking that the vast sphere of those who understand that their maleness or femaleness is determined by their biological sex – in which, as Steinmetz observes, “about 99 percent of the population” coheres – has to be defined in distinction to a tiny fraction of self-identified “transgendered” persons.

Heteronormative: “Denoting or relating to a world view that promotes heterosexuality as the normal or preferred sexual orientation” (Oxford English Dictionary).

To say someone is abnormal is understood commonly as aspersive. Consequently, saying someone with same-sex attraction is “abnormal” can be perceived as unkind, even if in the most literal sense of the term it is true (if the overwhelming percentage of a certain group – say, about 99 percent – is identifiable by the same characteristics, can they not be considered normative?).

However, it is indisputable that all but a small percentage of the persons in North America are heterosexual. As such, they compose the norm against which that small percentage is cast in relief. It is not pejorative, then, to assume the heterosexuality of most of one’s fellows.

Recently, the editor of an LGBTQ blogsite wrote me that “Genitalia determines sex, not gender. Trans people should use facility of their gender; it’s safest.”

Trying to divorce biology from gender is akin to attempting to separate wings from a bird: That which defines its very being constitutes its essence.

Genitalia do indeed determine sex. And biology, morphology, neurology, and other factors do as well, such that if someone is a biological male, he is a man, or if she is a biological female, she is a woman.

The editor who wrote me argues that apparently one’s sincerely-held beliefs about his or her gender determine whether or not he or she is a man or woman. This defies logic, of course; believing something sincerely does not make it so. And to claim a man is a woman, or vice versa, and insist such a claim be taken seriously in law and public conduct erodes the healthy, safe, natural functioning of society.

As far as my editor correspondent’s apparent claim that it is safer for “trans people” to use public facilities commensurate with their self-asserted gender, (a) I wonder on what basis he asserts this and (b) if, in his world, other people matter.

That sounds harsher than I would like, but it’s fair to ask: What about the men and women and children who feel, understandably and naturally, offended, frightened, or even traumatized by viewing opposite-gendered persons disrobe in front of them in locker rooms or use opposite-gender bathrooms? The reactions of dismay and even fear of the great majority of heterosexuals to such behavior are understandable given that such behavior is evidence of an internal disorder within those who commit it. Their behavior runs counter to their identity; it is inauthentic at a most fundamental level, and thus jarring and disturbing to others who observe it, at the least.

And given a culture in which sexual assault is much too common, is it really surprising that women would be frightened by seeing men in their showers, even if those men profess a genuine internal alignment with their opposite gender?

Must some in the “transgendered community” simply demand that those opposing their agenda get over their native sense of shock or fear? Must all of culture bow before an insistence grounded in the abandonment of rationality?

The “laws of nature and of nature’s God” cannot be reversed by political pressure or popular will. Two plus two always equals four. The sun always rises in the east. Water always runs downhill. And men will always be men and women always will be women.

To make this latter claim is not homo- or trans-phobic. It is not inherently hateful (and should never be used as a pretext for hate, either). It’s a matter of simple honesty we should not be afraid of speaking. To have, or inspire, such fear is to encourage ratiophobia – the fear of reason.

People struggling with same-sex attraction deserve the same compassion, respect, mercy, and grace that Christ offers all sinners – to every person, in other words.

In sum:

Politically, Christians need to oppose efforts to change public law to accommodate those who wish to undo the undoable (human nature, biology, sexuality, et al). Not to oppose initiatives to conform law and custom to sexual unrealities would be unloving both to the advocates of such (by enabling and encouraging them to believe and participate in falsehood and error) and the broader culture, including persons whose well-being or livelihoods are jeopardized by others who press for legal and social change involving religious intolerance and crass personal and public disruption.

But as the church of Jesus Christ, as His representatives, we must also be there for those same persons, ready with compassion and counsel and practical help. Opposing their political efforts does not mean either to hate or abandon them as beloved image-bearers of God.

For years, psychologist Dr. Jerry Leach struggled with feeling like a woman in a man’s body. Through counseling and the transforming power of God’s love, he overcame his gender identity disorder (GID). Describing his journey, he writes:

I began the painful process of exposing my secret to trustworthy leaders of my church, as well as good friends. I fully expected their rejection. Instead, they reached out to me with overwhelming love, acceptance and compassion. This simple act of exposing my secrets defused much of the inner anguish and shame. Discarding my secret identity was one of the most painful things I’ve ever done. Many times, I didn’t know if I could emotionally survive without cross-dressing. Eventually, however, I came to realize that casting off that false feminine persona was the best thing for my life. Today, as I gaze out the window of my office, my reflection in the window pane is different. It’s no longer a stylishly-dressed woman, waiting for the receptionist’s announcement. Now I see the man – the healthy man – God created me to be.

Rob Schwarzwalder
Rob Schwarzwalder has served as chief-of-staff to two members of Congress and is a long-time member of the Evangelical Theological Society. He currently serves senior vice-president of Family Research Council.

Rob Schwarzwalder

Rob Schwarzwalder is a senior lecturer at Regent University.  His op-eds have been published in numerous national publications, ranging from TIME and U.S. News and World Report to Christianity Today, The Federalist, and The Public Discourse, as well as scores of newspapers and opinion journals. Read More

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24