“Call Me Caitlyn.” How ‘Bout No.
I have a little daughter of three years, named Piper Grace. Piper, like many children of her age, has an imaginative personality and a very expressive vocabulary – in short, she talks without ceasing. Rarely is there an idea in her head that doesn’t proceed from her adorable little mouth. Whether Piper is sharing her imaginative thoughts to her parents, her siblings, the dog, the cat, her dolls or random inanimate objects, she expresses herself.
Several months back, she insisted – strongly – that everyone call her ‘Ava.’ For a time, without our knowledge, she even had her older siblings obliging her. Little girls like Piper, you see, can be very persistent. One morning at the top of the stairs, she was called by her name to come to breakfast and shouted, “I am Ava.”
“No, you’re Piper,” her mother replied.
“No! I am Ava! Call me Ava! I want my name to be Ava! I am Ava!”
I had to intercede into the argument and explain to this rather insistent, strong-willed child that her given name is Piper, that she is sometimes called “Pipey” or “Pipey Baby” or “Pipe-Pipe” by her parents or siblings as loving nicknames, but that she is Piper. Whether she likes it or not, her name is Piper Grace. That is who God made her to be. I explained that when she marries the man God provides for her, her last name will change but her first name will not. She will always be Piper. And if she calls herself “Ava,” she’ll still be Piper.
After this came a stage where she insisted on being called “Pop.” I have no idea where or why that came to her mind, but as parents we had a choice to make; we could reinforce whatever strange or imaginative thing came into her head or we could reinforce the message that God made her as he would have her, and that she was who God made her to be and not who she wanted to be – and not even who she wanted to be called. She was, is, and will always be, Piper. What my daughter wanted to be called didn’t change who she really was.
Being a dad taught me that kids are weird. Like – really weird. The only difference between an insane person and a toddler is size and the social acceptability of strange behavior. But being a pastor has taught me that most adults are weird, too. In fact, what keeps us from being overtly weird is the lack of social acceptability of strange behavior for adults. Think about it – your toddler can follow through on virtually any bizarre thought and it’s considered cute, funny, or at least forgivable. If your 21 year-old does it, it’s considered disturbing.
As the social acceptability of strange, toddler-like behavior among adults changes, societal mores and taboos drift and sway in the wind of culture.
Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie have decided to let their daughter, Shiloh, dictate her own name. In 2008, Jolie explained to Oprah…
“She only wants to be called John. John or Peter. So it’s a ‘Peter Pan’ thing. So we’ve got to call her John. ‘Shi, do you want…’ ‘John. I’m John.’ And then I’ll say, ‘John, would you like some orange juice?’ And she goes, ‘No!’ So, you know, it’s just that kind of stuff that’s cute to parents and it’s probably really obnoxious to other people.”
Well, what was “cute” to the Pitt-Jolie family has led to Shiloh not only changing her name, but “identifying” as male. Two years later, Jolie explained to Vanity Fair…
“She likes to dress like a boy. She wants to be a boy. So we had to cut her hair. She likes to wear boys’ everything. She thinks she’s one of the brothers.”
Five years later, and the press is no longer referring to “Shiloh,” but only to “John,” and uses male pronouns in reference to her. The idea is, Shiloh wants to be John, so Shiloh is John. Shiloh wants to be a boy, so Shiloh is a boy. Something “cute” that most parents have encountered has led to this unfortunate young woman to be living a culturally-accepted lie that’s reinforced by a society short on reason. And yet, listen to Jolie – “she likes to dress like a boy. She thinks she’s one of the brothers.” Even Jolie knows that her daughter is not a boy. She knows that Shiloh is not one of the brothers by her own admission. And yet, everyone in this young lady’s life, from parents to siblings to culture is willing to tolerate her toddler-era silliness that’s now become a genuine mental disorder. Instead of bringing the toddler out of silliness, Shiloh’s mother and father have embraced it and done incalculable harm to their child by acting like pacifying playmates rather than parents.
What our culture is now playing, from Shiloh Jolie-Pitt to Bruce Jenner, is an epic game of The Emperor’s New Clothes. Everyone knows that Bruce is Bruce. Everyone knows that Shiloh is Shiloh. Everyone knows that wearing lacy underwear does not make Bruce a woman. Everyone knows that short hair does not make Shiloh a boy. Everyone knows this. And yet while unable to denounce deviation from God-assigned gender as sin, one bunker-junk post mentions the “sin of mis-gendering” someone (calling someone a he when they want to be called a she, etc…). “Mis-gendering” is a thing, now.
And yet, our culture ignores the reality that external dressing doesn’t change gender any more than putting lipstick on a pig makes it a beauty queen. Activists have programmed a “tweet-bot” that scours Twitter for references to “Bruce Jenner” and male pronouns like (he and him) and will correct the tweeter, saying phrases such as “it’s she, not he” – and I can only assume this automated tweet-bot exists because it’s just that hard for human beings with a sense of rationalism or reason to say that with a straight face. Say it all you want, that man is a man. Period.
Our culture tries desperately to avoid the following realities, and if you have friends using the wrong pronouns to avoid the “sin of mis-gendering someone” (found in the Book of 1st Opinions, by the way), you point out these realities. Oh, and when I say “realities,” I mean “facts” (I hyperlinked it to the online dictionary in the likely event some in our post-modern culture have forgotten what those are, exactly). Facts, unlike opinions, aren’t subjective. Unlike feelings, the existence of facts don’t wholly depend upon the person who holds them. Facts supersede and transcend emotions and instincts and liver-shivers and gut reactions and empathy and cultural outrage or societal delusion. They’re stubborn little things that outlive people, places, trends, fads, movements, philosophies and outlast civilizations.
Fact 1: Your manhood or womanhood is not determined by what you wear. I know this, personally. I had superman pajamas when I was five, complete with cape, and found out I couldn’t fly when I jumped off the arm of the couch. It hurt, but it was a good lesson. Wearing a cape doesn’t make you a superhero, wearing a badge doesn’t make you a police officer, wearing a black belt doesn’t make you a martial artist, wearing boots doesn’t make you a cowboy, and wearing a bra doesn’t make you a woman.
Fact 2: Your manhood or womanhood is not determined by distinctive, gender-specific features. If a man mutilates his genitalia by lopping it off, he does not become a woman; he becomes an emasculated man. If a man adds fatty tissue to his chest, he does not become woman; he becomes a deformed man. Removing a man’s reproductive organs doesn’t turn him into a woman anymore than removing the shell of a turtle turns it into a fish, or putting that shell on a fish turns it into a turtle. Self-mutilation cannot change your manhood or womanhood; it can only deface it.
Fact 3: Your manhood or womanhood is not determined by your determination. Bruce Jenner may really, really want to be a woman. Some toddlers want to be a dinosaur when they grow up, and mommies and daddies have to explain “you can be anything you want to be” with a little more precision. At the age of 33 and with more than enough fatty insulation to survive these cold Montana winters, you’d probably laugh if I said that with enough determination I could become a decathlete like Bruce Jenner. In fact, that idea might even be ridiculed or mocked. And yet, it’s an actual possibility. It’s a possibility so incredibly slight that the odds probably couldn’t be calculated or quantified – it’s infinitely small and is worse odds than getting struck by lightning while scratching the wining lotto ticket while your bread falls on the floor butter-side-up, but technically, it’s a possibility. Human determination, however, while capable of some pretty amazing things, is not capable of changing Fact 1 or Fact 2. Biologically, a man changing into a woman is no more possible than a man changing into a dinosaur – your level of determination is simply irrelevant.
Certainly, those three facts should be agreed upon by both secularists and Christians. Those are facts, like it or not. From a secularist pespective, the fact is that sex is determined on a chromosomal level, which cannot be changed by sharp scalpels or hormone therapy. From a Christian perspective, sex is determined by a God who knew what he was doing. Both sides could agree that there are instances when – in tiny, fractionally-insignificant and incredibly rare cases – there are problems in the external designation of sex because of birth defects or molecular malfunctions. And yet, these cases do not undo Facts 1, 2 or 3. Your manhood or womanhood is not determined by what you wear, by your gender-specific physical features or your determination.
So, no. I’m not calling you “Caitlyn,” Bruce. And frankly, no one who calls you Caitlyn really believes you’re Caitlyn. They believe you’re Bruce and even if you further mutilate yourself, you’ll still be just a mutilated Bruce.
Christians are asking, “What do we call self-mutilated people (actually, they probably use the less accurate term, transgender)? Do we use the pronouns God assigned to them or do we use the pronouns they want us to use?” And, some might even ask, “What’s the harm in being compassionate enough to call them what they want us to call them?”
My friends, to call Bruce Jenner “Caitlyn” or use the pronouns she or her in reference to him is bearing witness against God. Culture is very willing to lie to Bruce and take part in his delusion. Christians, however, cannot lie about what God has done in creating Bruce. God created them male and female (Genesis 1:27), and this one he created male. Do not bear false witness about your Creator, beloved. Do not deny reality. Do not supplant facts with subjective emotionalism.
Do you want me to lie against God? How ’bout “no.”
[Contributed by JD Hall]