I fully recognize that in some rare cases a person’s sex may not comport with their gender identification. For example, hermaphrodites (or “intersex” people) who were born with both sets of genitalia simply have to live with whichever decision their doctor made at their birth regarding their future maleness or femaleness—the physician decides that their body should be female regardless of his not knowing (or being able to know) how his patient will feel about this decision when she grows up. There is no doubt that this can, and certainly has, caused great suffering for those who feel trapped in the wrong body.
Still, these are murky waters, and discussion of this issue can be dangerous.
Many who dared draw the comparison between Caitlyn Jenner and Rachel Dolezal were virtually crucified by the Left for suggesting that the latter, the former NAACP leader who identified herself as black even though she’s white, was doing something similar to the former, who is identifying himself as female even though he’s male. “What’s the difference,” they asked, “between being racially white while identifying and portraying yourself as black, and being biologically male while identifying and portraying yourself as female?”
Setting aside Dolezal’s dishonesty for the sake of argument, it’s a fair question. If Dolezal is biologically white because both of her parents are white, then is not Jenner biologically male since he has male chromosomes and genitalia?
But the counter-argument is interesting, and goes like this: “Jenner may be biologically male, but (s)he feels, and has always felt, like a female trapped in a male’s body.” I consider this to be a powerful point, one that I do not want to dismiss or cavalierly gloss over.
And now for the unique twist I promised above. . . .
In order for this feeling on Jenner’s part (or any transgender’s part) to be valid, a person must be more than their mere biological body alone. Otherwise, there’d be no “real them” to be trapped inside the outer shell of their physical appearance in the first place. In other words, if, as many atheistic naturalists claim, a person is simply a collection of cells devoid of a mind or a soul, then the transgender’s frustration is delusional on its face, since there simply is no “inner you” to feel trapped within the “outer you” (because the latter is all there is). But if those with a more religious and/or supernaturalist worldview are correct about humans being both a body and a soul, then there’s a basis for understanding the transgender’s frustration—such people actually have a lexicon and vocabulary to deal with such claims, and a framework for beginning to try to understand them.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that every claim like this should be taken uncritically or at face value. After all, the majority of people “feel like” on the inside what they “look like” on the outside, and therefore in those rare cases where there is a disconnect, patient care should be taken to understand and diagnose the true nature of the problem.
But it seems to me that in order to even begin dealing with transgender people (with the goal of eventually understanding and showing compassion toward them), we need to first have a paradigm that allows for their claim and that makes their frustration possible.
And I’m sorry, but due to its closed system and closed-mindedness, atheism cannot do that.
Hashtag, Irony. . . .