Ryan T. Anderson

Loving Those Caught in Gender Ideology: The Ethics and Metaphysics of Sexual Identity

Written by Ryan T. Anderson |
Wednesday, February 22, 2023
Children who feel deep discomfort with their bodily sex should be treated with kindness, respect, compassion, and love. They need to be protected from bullying, teasing, and any form of mistreatment. But they deserve to know the truth and to be guided to embrace the truth with whatever assistance we can give to help them feel comfortable with their bodies.

Every newborn child is either a boy or a girl, just as every human adult is either a man or a woman. This is a biological reality. Boy and girl, man and woman, are just the age-specific terms for human males and females. Sex for human beings, like all other mammalian species, is binary. And stable. Sex does not exist along a spectrum, nor is it fluid. That’s why activists use different words—gender, and gender identity—to make those claims.
But stick with sex for a moment. The reason we can confidently say that sex in humans (like other mammals) is binary and stable is because there are two ways of being organized for sexual reproduction. What do I mean by that? Organisms are organized. Human beings, like other organisms, are composed of parts—organs—that work together as an integrated unit (a whole or complete entity). The various organs perform various functions, but not in a haphazard or disorganized way. They are, rather, organized. All of us humans—male and female alike—are organized the same way when it comes to our respiratory system and the function of breathing, and our circulatory system and the function of pumping blood. But we are organized differently in one key respect—sexual reproduction. So when we say there are male and female human organisms—people—we are talking about two ways of being organized sexually—that is, in respect of sexual reproduction and the reproductive system.
Sex is not “assigned at birth,” nor at a twenty-week ultrasound. It is identified, that is, recognized, based on the organization of the organism. Sex—in terms of male and female—is determined by the organization of the organism for sexually reproductive functioning. So sex as a status—male and female—is a recognition of the organization of a body to reproduce in a certain way. More than simply being identified on the basis of such organization, sex is a coherent concept based—and based only—on that organization. The fundamental conceptual distinction between a male and a female is the organism’s organization for sexual reproduction.
Why say it’s binary and stable? It’s binary because there are only two types of sexual organization, and their component parts. There are two gametes, two genitals, two sets of reproductive organs, and two reproductive systems. That is, there is sperm and egg, penis and vagina, testicles and ovaries. There is no third genital, no third gonad, no third gamete, no third reproductive organ, no third reproductive system. That’s the binary. It’s stable—rather than fluid—because unlike some other species, the human being does not—indeed cannot—change sexes, morphing from male to female and vice versa. Nor do truly “intersex” people or “hermaphrodites” exist. Yes, there are disorders of sexual development, where someone may develop without a complete reproductive system and perhaps even with vestigial aspects of the other reproductive system, but these people truly are—and they know themselves to be—male or female—that is, their bodies are fundamentally organized for either the male or female role in procreation. Not both, not neither, and not somewhere in between. (For more on this, see Chapter 4 of When Harry Became Sally.)
“Gender Identity” is Gender Ideology
Of course disorders of sexual development are not what is driving modern transgender ideology. When you see someone appeal to so-called “intersex” conditions, it is a red-herring. What’s taking place today is not the question of how to identify sex in cases where it’s not fully formed and thus hard (at least early on) to classify.[1] No, instead a new ideological framework is being imposed, one where sex is said to be merely “assigned at birth” and then something called “gender identity”—one’s inner sense of something called “gender”—determines one’s sex. On such a theory, there is no intrinsic meaning or importance to the sexed body. Instead, subjective feelings determine reality, so that all of us must adopt a “gender identity.” The end result is that identifying as a boy or a girl, or a man or a woman—or both, or neither, or somewhere in between—is what makes you a boy or a girl, a man or a woman—or both, neither, or somewhere in between. That’s the new dogma, rather than boys being immature human males, and men being mature human males; and girls being immature human females, and women being mature human females. We’ve moved from an objective recognition of reality to a subjective assertion of identity—and to ruthless demands that everyone affirms these identities.
But what could determine this so-called “gender identity” as an inner sense of “gender” distinct from sexual identity and bodily sex? The answer is simple: Social and cultural assumptions based on stereotypes. Stereotypes about how boys and girls, men and women, are supposed to behave, what they’re supposed to be interested in, how they’re supposed to look. Some claim that with “gender identity” there’s an inner truth that is “discovered” (and then asserted) while others say “gender” is a self-created “performance.” What is discovered or performed, however, will be the result of cultural assumptions. In this sense, “gender identity” is a social construct. And today, many new “gender identities” are an explicit rejection of the stable sex binary itself: hence the rise of non-binary identities. Indeed, increasingly it appears that many young women are just opting out—rejecting—their femaleness without any real sense of what it is they’re embracing.
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How the Person Became a Self

Written by Ryan T. Anderson |
Tuesday, April 19, 2022
The modern self seeks to give expression to our individual inner lives, rather than seeing ourselves as embedded in communities and bound by natural and supernatural laws. Authenticity to inner feelings, rather than adherence to transcendent truths, becomes the norm. 

The following is adapted from the foreword to Carl R. Trueman’s new book Strange New World: How Thinkers and Activists Redefined Identity and Sparked the Sexual Revolution. Used with permission of Crossway Books.
In 2020, while the world was on lockdown due to COVID-19, Carl Trueman published one of the most important books of the last several decades. In The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self, Trueman built on the insights of contemporary thinkers such as Philip Rieff and Alasdair MacIntyre to show how modern thinkers and artists such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Friedrich Nietzsche, Karl Marx, Charles Darwin, Percy Shelley, and William Blake gave expression to a worldview—what Charles Taylor called a “social imaginary”—that made possible and plausible the arguments of the late-modern theorists who shaped the postmodern sexual revolution, people like Sigmund Freud, Wilhelm Reich, and Herbert Marcuse. It is a penetrating analysis of recent intellectual history that shows why people are willing to believe ideas today that our grandparents would have rejected out of hand—without need of argument, evidence, or proof—just two generations ago.
The only problem? The book is over 400 pages long. And most people have never heard of many of the names I listed above. I knew that many of Carl’s potential readers would not have the time or appetite to wade through so many of his finer, nuanced discussions. So I emailed Carl, praising the book as essential reading. But I also suggested that he consider writing a shorter, more accessible version of the basic argument for non-specialists. Carl has now produced that volume with Strange New World, and it sparkles on every page. It is the primer for every American who cares about a sound anthropology and healthy culture.
At the risk of oversimplifying what Trueman accomplishes, I would summarize the broad arc of his work as an account of how the person became a self, how the self became sexualized, and how sex became politicized. Of course the narrators of the psalms, of St. Paul’s epistles, and of St. Augustine’s Confessions were also “selves” in the sense of having interior lives. But the inward turn of the biblical tradition was at the service of the outward turn toward God. The “self” that Western civilization cultivated was what Harvard political theorist Michael Sandel has described as an “encumbered” self, in contrast to modernity’s “unencumbered” self. The person was a creature of God, who sought to conform himself to the truth and objective moral standards in pursuit of eternal life. Modern man, however, seeks to be “true to himself.” Rather than conform thoughts, feelings, and actions to objective reality, modern man regards his inner life as the source of truth. The modern self finds himself in what Robert Bellah has described as a culture of “expressive individualism”—where each of us seeks to give expression to our individual inner lives, rather than seeing ourselves as embedded in communities and bound by natural and supernatural laws. Authenticity to inner feelings, rather than adherence to transcendent truths, becomes the norm.
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