Tackling Gender Chaos in Sports
Transgenderism, Truth, and Gospel Compassion
David E. Prince
It seems our culture has gone from the acronym LGBT to LGBTQIA+ at breakneck speed. As the acronym continues to grow increasingly longer, so does the cultural chaos surrounding this iteration of the sexual revolution.
Historically, there was no distinction made between biological sex and gender. But, in recent years, gender has been redefined as fluid and changing. Merriam-Webster now defines one of the usages of “they” as referring to “a single person whose gender identity is nonbinary.” Nonbinary is defined as, “a person who identifies with or expresses a gender identity that is neither entirely male or female.”
The “T” in the acronym stands for transgender. According to “The Language of Gender,” “Sometimes [transgender] is used broadly as an umbrella term to describe anyone whose gender identity differs from their assigned sex.”1https://static1.squarespace.com/static/63ebbd468a9d2d129d622b91/t/64db93a93f8fd737be18e581/1692111785914/The+Language+of+Gender.pdf In other words, if a biological male says he psychologically identifies as a female, he should be considered a female in every situation and circumstance, and vice versa.
Real-world implications in athletics
Adopting these ideas amounts to the erasure of biological sex as a meaningful cultural and legal category. This move cannot be brushed off because real-world implications affect all of us. One of those real-world implications is found in athletics, particularly biological males competing in female athletics.
Allowing biological males to compete in women’s sports is nothing less than an assault on women and women’s athletics. Ignoring the reality of biological sex in athletics harms all of us, disproportionately harming women. Acknowledging biological differences in athletic competition is as necessary as acknowledging age differences in youth sports or school size in team sports competitions. This reality is why we do not consider classifications in high school sports, age requirements in youth athletics, or weight classes in boxing as discrimination. In fact, they protect students and empower them for success.
Vital laws, such as Title IX, protecting women from discrimination based on “sex,” are now upended by arguments that biological sex is less meaningful than self-defined gender identity. How can you have anti-discrimination laws in place to protect women if there is no verifiable way to identify who is male and female? In athletics, refusing to account for biological needs and differences will legally enshrine inequality in sports.
As the father of five daughters, these issues are not theoretical for me. My two college-age daughters earned tennis scholarships and now compete for their respective universities. They are good players. Yet, a simple glance at the men’s tennis courts makes it evident that the women’s tennis teams would stand no chance against the men’s teams. No one can honestly make a case to the contrary. This observation is rooted in visible biological reality. Simply put, males are generally physically taller, heavier, stronger, and faster than their female counterparts.
I am also a Christian pastor who holds unapologetically to orthodox biblical morality and ethics regarding the sinfulness of transgender behavior. But the absurdity of allowing biological males to compete against girls and women is so clearly wrongheaded it doesn’t demand a Christian worldview to point out its folly. Former women’s tennis legend and lesbian activist Martina Navratilova unequivocally stated that it is not fair for women to be forced to compete against biological males.2https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-11903643/ Martina-Navratilova-says-banning-trans-athletes-womens-events-step-right-direction.html
As sad as it is, these are real issues we face. Thus, we must speak the truth on these issues, but we must also do more. Consider the following suggestions as you and your family navigate these chaotic cultural waters.
See people made in God’s image
Scripture teaches that God created men and women in his own image as male and female (Gen 1:27) and speaks to the goodness of the human body. God’s Word calls us to glorify God with our bodies (Gen 1:31; John 1:14; 1 Cor 6:12-20). The Bible clarifies the inherent honor, dignity, value, and equality of the two sexes as created in God’s image, with each bringing unique and complementary qualities to sexuality and relationships.
Jesus affirmed God’s order and design in creating his image bearers “male and female” (Matt 19:4). God opposes any rejection of his purpose and plan, including dismissing one’s God-given, biological sex. Christians should likewise oppose sexual confusion and sin. However, Christians ought to do this while simultaneously recognizing the inherent dignity of those who struggle with their sexual identity.
Christian families may deem it necessary to refuse to allow their daughters to compete against biological males or leave a school over the issue. Still, our ultimate goal is always to show compassion and to respectfully share the gospel with those God has created. I envision Christian families speaking out passionately against these harmful policies at their schools while also praying fervently for the transgender students and families involved. There is no place for degrading or mocking these individuals. Instead we ought to show intentional kindness toward them even as we oppose harmful policies. We must always see those made in God’s image, not merely issues.
Resist all worldliness
The spirit of the age wrongly points us in two opposing directions that we must resist. Both are manifestations of worldliness and normalize sin. Worldliness pressures us to disregard sin and to call evil good and good evil on all matters, including sexual ethics (Isa. 5:20; 2 Tim. 3:1-5). If we truly desire to love God and our neighbor, we must not do so. Caving into worldliness would be an unloving, cowardly, and self-protecting act rooted in the fear of man. Deceiving others for self-centered reasons is the antithesis of Christian love.
But there is another brand of worldliness that we have a much harder time identifying as such. It stands on the biblical side of an issue but in an unbiblical way. A troubling number of evangelical Christians today argue that contending for truth means we must abandon displays of Christian kindness and gentleness toward our cultural opponents (1 Pet. 3:15).
The implication is that what the Bible says about sweetness of speech (Prov. 16:21), turning the other cheek (Matt. 5:39), loving your enemies (Matt. 5:44), blessing those who persecute you (Rom. 12:14), gracious speech (Col. 4:6), and honorable conduct among those with whom you disagree (1 Pet. 2:12) is weak-willed and unable to meet the present challenges. That kind of worldly rejection of biblical truth must be repudiated and rejected as well.
Years ago, John Piper called Christians to be “winsome weirdos” in the world. I love the description. We must be willing to be viewed as weird by calling things what they are. The truth is that transgenderism is wrong and sinful. Likewise, allowing biological males to compete against biological females in athletics is wrong, unjust, and dangerous. In all things, we should unapologetically speak the truth of what the Bible says, in any context, no matter the costs.
But we should also display our weirdness in another important biblical way. As stated above, no matter what is hurled our way as we stand for the truth, we must do so in a way that can be rightly described as speaking the truth in love (Eph. 4:15) and marked by an unyielding kindness and generosity to all. Loving our enemies, blessing those who persecute us, and gracious speech are not optional for Christians.
Scripture does not permit truth and love to be pulled apart—as if love for others demands ignoring sin or faithfulness to biblical truth could exclude the love and compassion of God in which the truth is rooted. Truth and love do not dilute each other; the God of truth is love (Isa. 66:16; 1 John 4:8). May we reflect him and his gospel faithfully in all directions as we speak boldly and lovingly about the gross harm of allowing biological males to compete against biological females in athletics.