Should Psychological Identity Trump Physical Identity for Transgender Persons?

Denny Burk, professor of biblical studies at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, recently addressed the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission on the subject of transgender.

Saying that the gay marriage battle is all but over, Burk believes “sexual revolutionaries are turning their attention to the ‘T’ in LGBT” which will lead to significant cultural changes.

Burk, author of What Is the Meaning of Sex?, said,

At the heart of the transgender revolution is the notion that psychological identity trumps bodily identity. In this way of thinking, a person is whatever they think themselves to be. If a girl perceives herself to be a boy, then she is one even if her biology says otherwise. If a boy perceives himself to be a girl, then he is one even if his biology says otherwise. Gender is self-determined, not determined by the sexual differences that the Creator has embedded into every cell in our bodies.

He doubts that most Americans have thought through the implications of accepting without question that psychological identity should trump biological identity when there is a conflict.

Burk gave the example of a man named John who was featured on Fox News a few years ago. He felt like he was a one-legged man trapped in the body of a man with two legs. “When I see an amputee — when I imagine the amputee — there is this inner pull that says ‘why can’t I be like that?’” the man asked. It wasn’t until after 42 years of marriage that he revealed this “secret” to his wife. He suffers from what psychiatrists call “body integrity identity disorder.” The only known cure is amputation of the offending body part.

“The primary ethical question is whether a man in John’s position would be right to amputate an otherwise healthy limb,” Burk said. “Would it be right for a doctor to remove his leg so that John can feel whole? If John feels himself to be a one-legged man inside a two-legged man’s body, why not encourage him to have his leg amputated? At a gut level, most people recoil at the suggestion. Nevertheless, this is the implication of the view that psychological identity trumps bodily identity,” he said.

Typically, individuals who suffer from such a disorder cannot find physicians to accommodate their requests for amputations, and they are not encouraged to amputate otherwise healthy limbs. Most people would say the individual’s thinking needs to be altered rather than taking drastic steps to alter the body.

download (26)

Burk asks if it’s right to alter otherwise healthy body parts for transgendered persons.  “Is the problem here damaged limbs or a damaged mind? Does the body need adjusting, or does the thinking? Is our culture ready to embrace the implication of the view that psychological identity trumps bodily identity? Is our culture willing to make those permanent body-altering decisions for children who report transgender feelings? Although this is not a majority view, it is clear that some people are ready to make these decisions for children,” Burk says.

Noting the rise in the reports of parents who allow their gender-confused children to undergo hormone therapy to delay puberty until a decision can be made about gender reassignment surgery, Burk says it is ironic that these same parents “believe that it is permissible to surgically alter a child’s body to match his sense of self but it is wrong to try and change his sense of self to match his body.”

“If it is wrong to attempt to change a child’s gender identity (because it is fixed and meddling with it is harmful), then why is it morally acceptable to alter something as fixed as a biological body of a minor?” Burk asks.  “The moral inconsistency here is plain.”

He said Americans need to think more critically about the claims of the transgender movement. Compassion is needed for those who experience gender identity problems, he said, and the church should come alongside them and love them. “But that kind of care will involve persuading them to change their minds before surgically and permanently altering their bodies,” he said.