Published on October 13, 2021
As the world grapples with the transgender revolution, one area where the revolution refuses to subside is in the area of sports. There are now too many documented instances to count, but Christian legal advocacy organization Alliance Defending Freedom has put together a helpful clearinghouse of information on the subject.
As many might remember, the issue of allowing transgender-identified persons to compete in the category of their preferred gender identity rose to the cultural surface during this year’s Olympics when a transgender female (biological male) competed against other females in a weight-lifting competition. The athlete in question failed to advance, which, for some, may have put to rest the question of there being an unfair advantage in play when males competed against females.
But the issue shows no signs of going away, especially as a report from the European Sports Councils Equality Group is questioning whether innate advantages in male athletic performance can be reduced solely down to testosterone levels, which is what most regulatory bodies have tended to focus on in their rule-making.
What “retained differences” reveal
The report offers these words summarizing their findings: “Our work exploring the latest research, evidence and studies made clear that there are retained differences in strength, stamina and physique between the average woman compared with the average transgender woman or non-binary person registered male at birth, with or without testosterone suppression.”
The language of “retained differences” is a massively revealing tell that we cannot ignore. There are admissions and clues given to us even from an unbelieving world that end up reaffirming God’s created order. It’s a sentence that also reveals why such a report needed to be written in the first place: “Retained differences” evidences an unwitting theological category for “nature” in general, and human nature in particular. Nature is a created reality (Genesis 1:26-27). The idea of “essence” speaks to there being a human nature known as male and female. And these categories, in Christian thought, are said to be immutable categories that cannot be transcended based on choice or self-willed preference.
We know the nature of a thing by understanding its purpose, and purpose is never severed from a thing’s design. Hence, when we speak of male and female, we are speaking of those sexed persons whose bodily design bears a teleological purpose toward a particular end, namely, reproduction. As the Nashville Statement rightfully states, “the differences between male and female reproductive structures are integral to God’s design for self-conception as male or female.” The Nashville Statement’s wording testifies to the reality of an enduring gender binary. When God made us males and females, he did not make that an exclusively psychological category, but a physically enfleshed reality.
Even where testosterone is hormonally altered by medical therapies to make it virtually negligible to compete against women, that does not altogether reconfigure the innate advantages that males possess. There are more aspects to maleness than mere testosterone alone — such things as muscle, bone density, and anaerobic capacity. We cannot escape who God made us, despite our best attempts. Our true self will always shine through. The question is whether we will live in conjunction with it, or in futile opposition to it.
The underlying problem of the transgender revolution
The report proposes several solutions to resolve transgender competition. But the attempt to resolve this dilemma will ultimately be pointless, because where you have a culture trying to suppress what is simply there by virtue of nature, human creativity will not, for long, withstand the natural flow of the universe.
Where all interested parties in the report attempt to find supposed satisfaction in striking compromises, what it really does is reveal the underlying problem of the transgender revolution: When society takes the drastic action to separate gender identity from biological sex, it has done grave damage to the sustainability and equilibrium of gender and sex throughout virtually all segments of culture. The report seems to admit that there are no perfect solutions. It is the Christian who can help explain why that is: It is fruitless to treat nature as a malleable substance. It simply cannot be done without grave confusion and injustice happening.
This latest controversy reflects a truth of the Christian worldview: We are embodied beings whose sex is always brought to bear in our everyday life. While I might be more than a “male” as far as how I understand myself in the world, I am never less than a male. My experience as a professor, a husband, a father, and even as a friend, is an intrinsically sexed experience.
The sooner that our culture recognizes this, the sooner we can return to what is true.
Andrew T. Walker is Associate Professor of Christian Ethics at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and a Fellow with The Ethics and Public Policy Center.