Author Alan Shlemon
Published on 01/02/2024
Sexuality and Gender

Listen to Your Maker on Transgenderism

Alan Shlemon introduces his new Stand to Reason University course, “Transgenderism: Truth and Compassion,” explaining why we should listen to God’s direction for our sexuality and clarifying some important terms that may come up in conversations about transgenderism.


What is the truth about transgenderism, and how do we graciously engage the topic or navigate our relationships with friends and family who identify as transgender? That’s what I want to teach you in this course, “Transgenderism: Truth and Compassion.” In this first class, I’ll introduce you to some key terms and answer the fundamental question “Who says who you are?”

I’m sure you’ve heard of GoPro. They’re the company that makes those tiny action cameras that capture footage of extreme sports. Now, their promotional videos show people surfing massive swells, skiing off cliffs, scuba diving along beautiful reefs, and jumping cars and trucks, all while the camera is mounted on their helmet, their surfboard, or under a wheel. Well, I’m telling you, the footage is very impressive, but I have some questions. How far underwater can you take a GoPro? What’s the lowest temperature it can tolerate? What’s the best way to optimize its battery life? Is there a way to mount it so it doesn’t fall off accidentally? Well, GoPro owners need to know what this camera can handle. Now, who is the best person to answer those questions? Would it be a famous athlete? Probably not. What about a doctor? Also no. How about a United States senator? Again, they wouldn’t provide the best help. The best people to answer my questions would be the engineers at GoPro. They’re the ones who decided what materials to use, designed the device, and fabricated it. They know its limits and how to optimize its performance. After all, they’re the makers of the GoPro camera, and they’re the ones who are in a position to know how it’s supposed to operate, and that’s why every GoPro camera comes with an owner’s manual that’s informed by the makers of the device. It tells the camera owner how far underwater you can take it, what temperatures it can tolerate, how to optimize its battery life, and many more important limits and features. Failure to heed the directions in the owner’s manual will lead to damage or catastrophic failure.

In the same way, there are lots of questions that we humans have about ourselves. How are we made to live? How should we build relationships like friendships and marriages? Should there be any boundaries for sexual activity? What’s the best way to resolve conflict? There is an endless and important list of questions. Now, again, who is the best person to answer those questions? Should we listen to a news anchor? A biologist? Or maybe even a Hollywood celebrity? Well, obviously, none of those people is the most qualified person. The best person to answer those questions would be our designer—our engineer. He’s the one who made us and designed us to function a certain way. He’s our maker. In fact, he’s also provided us with an owner’s manual that we call the Bible, and in it we can learn about how we should live our lives, how to build relationships, how to behave sexually, how to resolve conflict, and countless other instructions.

It makes sense to ask God. After all, he’s the one who made us. He’s the one who best knows how we’re supposed to function, and failure to heed the directions in our owner’s manual—the Bible—can also lead to damage or catastrophic failure. So, in this course, we’ll look at what our maker says in Scripture about who we are and how we’re supposed to function. Although our maker has spoken through his Word, which is called special revelation, we also know that he speaks through the created world, which is called general revelation, and provided that mankind discovers true things about the world that our maker has made, we can learn truth from that revelation. So, that’s why we’ll also look at what secular research has demonstrated about our understanding of biological sex and concepts like gender identity.

In fact, let’s define some terms that are relevant to this topic. Biological sex is a person’s classification as male or female according to their physical sex characteristics. Some people in recent years have claimed that there are more than two sexes or that sex is on a spectrum.

The sex spectrum is the idea that people can be classified as male, female, or fall within a range of variations in between, and it is basically a rejection of the sex binary, which is the idea that there are only two sexes, male and female.

Gender identity is a psychological belief about whether you are a man, a woman, or something else. And according to modern gender theory, your gender identity can be different than your biological sex. So, for example, you could be biologically male but have a female gender identity.

Transgender is a condition when a person’s gender identity does not match their biological sex. So, for example, a biological female whose gender identity is male would be described as transgender because her self-perception does not match her physical body.

Cisgender refers to a person whose gender identity matches their biological sex. So, for example, my biological sex is male, and my gender identity—my self-perception—is also male. Therefore, I would be classified as cisgender. This term, however, presupposes that the opposite condition, transgender, is a legitimate and equally normal identity. So, although I might be classified as cisgender by society, I don’t use that term to describe myself, because I reject that classification system altogether.

Gender dysphoria is the distress someone experiences because their gender identity does not match their biological sex. People who experience gender dysphoria often try to resolve their distress by attempting to make their body match their gender identity.

Gender affirming care is a variety of social, hormonal, and medical treatments that are designed to support and affirm a person’s gender identity, especially when they experience gender dysphoria. Now, these treatments presuppose that a person’s gender identity is their true self, and therefore the goal is to align one’s body and behavior to make it match up with their gender identity.

Gender is a term that has multiple meanings depending on the context. Historically, it was a synonym for biological sex, but today it can also refer to gender roles, gender identity, gender expression, and actually many, many other things. I don’t recommend using the term unless you qualify it, because it’s ambiguous, and people oftentimes equivocate on its meaning, which makes conversations confusing.

So, there are some basic definitions for this topic, but before we end this first class, I want to explain the overall approach of how to understand and falsify transgender theory. You see, transgender theory is based on two pillars. The first pillar is the sex spectrum, and the second pillar is gender identity. If you can falsify one or both of these pillars, then you will undermine transgender theory. It turns out that both Scripture and science falsify both of these pillars, and in classes two and three, I’ll unpack the details of what that looks like. In class four, I’ll address the topic of preferred pronouns and provide a tactic to help you navigate a conversation about it. Finally, in class five, I’ll provide you some practical principles to help you navigate your relationships with friends and family who identify as transgender. But now, in the next class, we’ll look at how Scripture falsifies these two pillars of transgender theory.