Why transgender ideology is harmful for children (and everyone)

A better way forward for those experiencing confusion about their gender and sexuality

December 3, 2020

This week marked both a step forward and a step backward for the transgender movement. On Wednesday, actress Ellen Page, who starred in the films “Juno” and “Inception,” among others, announced that she is transgender. In her announcement, she declared to the world that her name is now Elliot Page and that she wished to be addressed with the pronouns he/they, instead of the feminine pronouns she/her. Immediately, the internet was abuzz with the news of the announcement, mostly celebrating Page’s courage, offering well wishes, and applauding another individual “embracing” her true identity.

But on the other side of the Atlantic, the High Court in the United Kingdom dealt a serious blow to the transgender movement. 

Moral sanity

In a landmark ruling, judges in the U.K. denied that children under the age of 16 are able to give informed consent to receive puberty blockers, which “suppress the body’s release of sex hormones, including testosterone and estrogen, during puberty.” As Alison Holt told the BBC, “The judges have effectively split the issue into stages. They concluded a child under 13 is ‘highly unlikely’ to be able to give informed consent and at 14 and 15 it is still ‘doubtful’ they can fully understand the implications of the medication. Even for 16 and 17-year olds the ruling says it may be appropriate to involve the courts in the decision.” In issuing the ruling, the court noted that puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones used as treatment for individuals experiencing gender dysphoria or wishing to “transition” genders are in fact experimental treatments, the long-term effects of which are still very much unknown. 

The news from the U.K. represents a victory for moral sanity. The court was right to recognize the experimental nature of these so-called treatments. And though it is shameful that this needs to be said, we should not experiment on the bodies of children. Moreover, we certainly should not do so when the treatments in question are invasive, dangerous, and could bring with them lifelong consequences. This leads to the larger point: Children experiencing confusion about their gender and sexuality are not in need of drugs or hormones. Instead, they are in need of nurture, guidance, and support. Oftentimes, what they are most in need of is truth. And this is the problem with the transgender movement.

The solution to gender problems is not puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones, or surgeries. Instead, it is the pattern of God’s design for men and women that is set forth in the Scriptures and applied with the grace of the gospel.

The transgender movement is predicated upon a disturbing ideology that denies basic facts about human beings. But denying fundamental realities like the relationship between a person’s gender and his or her biological sex does nothing to alter these realities. Instead, it simply fosters an inchoate form of dissonance, typically in those who are already vulnerable or struggling. It tells those experiencing gender dysphoria that their bodies are incidental to their identities. It creates a disconnect between how individuals think and feel and who they actually are. But contrary to transgenderism’s harmful and destructive ideology, the theology of Scripture (not to mention biological science) offers a much better framework for understanding ourselves and our sexuality.

Bodies matter

The Bible not only tells us that God makes each person as either male or female (Gen. 1:26-27); the Scriptures also teach us what a person is. Human beings are complex creatures, to be sure, but fundamentally every person exists as an integrated whole. We are not simply our emotions, our minds, our bodies, or spirits. We are all of those things. And we are all of them at the same time. None of the things that make a person a person are fungible. Each of these aspects, together, make us who we are. 

For example, Christians are commanded to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mark 12:30). This combination of the physical (heart, mind, and strength) with the spiritual (soul) represents loving God with our whole selves. This is why theologians will sometimes define a person as an “embodied soul.” Defining person this way clarifies that all of the things that make us who we are form an integrated unity. And the concept of unity is important when it comes to gender and sexuality because our bodies are not any more incidental to our identities than our emotions and feelings. 

Our biological sex, that is, whether we are male or female, was determined by God long before we were born. Our gender, or, the way we express our maleness or femaleness, is not something we choose either. Gender is tied to the biological reality of sex. And our sex, gender, and bodies are permanent features of our identities that we must not seek to change. Instead, as we embrace these elements of our identities, we are truly “finding ourselves.”

Broken but beautiful

Because our world is broken by sin, we often experience incongruence and discomfort within ourselves. This can manifest in all sorts of ways, but one of the most common ways it surfaces is with our sexual identities. Children experiencing gender dysphoria need to hear that it is natural to experience confusion or discomfort when it comes to their bodies and sexuality. Everyone does to some degree. And the presence of those feelings is no sign that a person was born as the wrong sex or should seek to transition to another gender.

This week’s High Court ruling from the U.K. recognizes the dangers of allowing children to pursue radical actions to relieve issues related to gender that can be detrimental to their long-term health. It is tragic that people who experience gender dysphoria or claim to be transgender also experience a host of other difficulties including bullying, rejection, and even self-hatred that can lead to depression and suicide. No wonder many cheered Page’s announcement this week. She was seen as a champion for those who are suffering in silence with the very same issues. But the solution to gender problems is not found in affirming something as deceptive and pernicious as transgender ideology. Instead, the answer is found in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The gospel says that God made you and loves you. Male or female, he made you as you are and as you were always intended to be. You are broken but beautiful. You are flawed but infinitely loved. Whether you experience occasional discomfort or unbearable incongruity, God gave you your body and sex and gender. And none of it was done by accident. The solution to gender problems is not puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones, or surgeries. Instead, it is the pattern of God’s design for men and women that is set forth in the Scriptures and applied with the grace of the gospel.

Josh Wester

Joshua B. Wester is the lead pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Greensboro, North Carolina. Read More by this Author

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