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Cover of "Transgender" by Vaughan RobertsContinuing to look at this much-talked-about subject, below is a short synopsis of Chapter 2 of the book "Transgender" by Vaughan Roberts, published by thegoodbook company, ISBN 978-1-78498-195-2 which can be obtained from your local Christian bookshop or by going to the website. The cost is just less than £3. 

Chapter 2:

Roberts begins his second chapter, entitled ‘The iWorld’, by highlighting the ‘profound individualism’ that now marks our culture. He traces the roots of this to the priority given to human reason over divine revelation at the time of the Enlightenment, but also notes that the initial confidence of Enlightenment thinkers that reason would lead us to the truth has gradually dissipated so that ‘our culture has now largely rejected objective truth, at least when it comes to big issues, such as meaning and morality.’ For many, truth has become subjective with the result that we will not let any external authority whatsoever tell us what to believe. ‘It’s up to us to draw our own conclusions and live our own lives.’

A second and related ‘highly prized value’ of the iWorld is that of authenticity, which, at the core, requires us to be ‘true to ourselves,’ expressing ourselves as we feel we should while refusing to follow any moral code imposed on us by others.

Roberts argues that these two core values of the iWorld have affected society’s views of gender and gender distinctives, as one slogan puts it: ‘anatomy isn’t destiny.’ ‘Not even our bodies should be allowed to restrict us in our self-definition.’ He notes that one evidence of the change in society’s attitude to gender is that within the space of 20 years what used to be called ‘gender identity disorder’ is now referred to as ‘gender dysphoria,’ the emphasis now being placed on the distress caused to the individual rather than on any notion of ‘disorder’ being present.

Approaches to treatment of gender dysphoria have also changed with attempts to try to ‘correct’ a person’s gender identity so that it conforms to their biological sex being seen as increasingly unacceptable; while, on the other hand, there has been a growing use of hormones or surgery to change our body so that it conforms to our felt identity.

However, voices of concern have been raised with regard to these changes in treatment. For example, he mentions a group of American paediatricians opposed to the practice of providing puberty-suspending hormonal treatment for children who believe they’re opposite sex (this opposition being based on the fact that 80% of such children depart from their earlier feelings during adolescence). Other paediatricians point to parallels with anorexia which, in contrast to gender dysphoria, is not treated in ways that ‘affirm’ the patient’s false feelings that they are overweight. Roberts also mentions the case of Johns Hopkins Hospital which pioneered sex-change surgery of adults but then stopped offering it when they realized that the psychosocial adjustments of those having undergone surgery were ‘no better than for those who hadn’t.’

Roberts concludes the chapter by placing the spotlight on the fact that people who speak out against the current consensus may well find themselves accused of transphobia, a term which is ‘often extended to include not just those who fear or mistreat transgender people but anyone who doesn’t fully support the idea of gender fluidity.’ The accused include Germaine Greer, ‘an icon of the feminist movement.’

The reason for such a strong stand, argues Roberts, is that the ‘debate goes far deeper than scientific and medical arguments. It involves a clash of worldviews,’ and, indeed, of ‘different gospels: different understandings of what leads to freedom and fulfilment.’

On the one hand the iWorld’s ‘gospel’ is a call to throw off the oppression of ‘restrictive traditions and morality’ in order to ‘follow our own light’ unhindered and ‘enter into the freedom that comes when we become who we really are.’ In contrast to this Roberts prepares us for his final three chapters in which he unfolds for us God’s story in the Bible: ‘as we find our place within his story, we can discover our real identity, as well as true freedom and lasting fulfilment.’

Summary prepared by Rev Hector Morrison