First They Change the Definition, and Then They Claim the Right

The other day, I retweeted Brian Seagraves’ tweet: “The transgender community wants a right no one has had: the right to use a bathroom that doesn’t match your sex.” Someone replied that transgender people are just looking for the same right that everyone has already had – to use a bathroom that matches their gender identity.

This sleight of hand has been used before. Redefine marriage as a union of two people who love each other rather than as a lifelong union of one man and one woman. The sleight of hand is to change the terms of a right and then claim it or reapply it in a way that has never been thought of before. Like any trick, sometimes it’s easy to miss what happened. Christians sometimes don’t know how to respond because they missed the substitution.

The definition of marriage was usually not specified as a man and a woman, but that’s because it was taken for granted. It also took for granted one of each sex. But things began to change decades ago when people began to vow “as long as we both shall love.” The initial sleight of hand meant marriage wasn’t for life any longer. That was the first change of definition—to be able to end a marriage easily (at least legally; divorce is never easy). A few decades down the road, the change of definition allows the further substitution of definition for male and female and the number of people. Now we have rights no one has ever had even though they claim it’s equal rights. No one of the same sex and no group of more than two fit the definition of marriage. Change the definition, and then claim the right.

That’s what’s going on with transgender access to bathrooms. Bathroom use was never ever divvied up according to gender identity. Gender identity is a new category as distinct from sex. Bathrooms have been assigned to sex, not gender identity. Thus, literally and figuratively, the plumbing matters. But change the definition, and then claim the right.

Look, we can and should continue to point out the erroneous thinking and resist changes in the law that have no rational or ethical foundation. But since that isn’t currently having much affect in these policy changes, the main point of this post is to encourage you to not be duped to change your mind, even when you don’t quite notice the sleight of hand. Watch for it. But don’t be dissuaded in your convictions.


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Melinda Penner

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