“Is it possible for a man to be trapped in a woman’s body, or a woman in a man’s body?”
Questions like this are difficult but so important to address. Not simply because they require an answer, but because the fact that they are being asked reveals so much about the way that our world thinks.
Our immediate response may be to turn to science for the answer. For all of its merits however, science alone cannot provide an answer because contained within the question are so many assumptions about our ultimate beliefs:
- What is the nature of humanity?
- What is the difference between our brain and our body?
- Is my brain my “true self”? If not, where is my “true self” found?
Our answers to these types of questions cannot be supplied by science. They belong to the spheres of philosophy and religion.
But hasn’t science proven that a person could be born with a male body but a female brain, or vice-versa?
The short answer to that question is “NO.”
Three things I’d say:
- Good luck finding a clear scientific answer.
- Louann Brizendine, The Female Brain, (Aug, 2007)
- [Thanks to modern imaging technology] “scientists have documented an astonishing array of structural, chemical, genetic, hormonal, and functional brain differences between women and men.” (p.27)
- Although, she admits, “Despite the differences…it’s important to note that male and female brains are more alike than not…”p. 8.
- Louann Brizendine, The Female Brain, (Aug, 2007)
- Gina Rippon, The Gendered Brain: The New Neuroscience that Shatters the Myth of the Female Brain (Feb 2020)
- “So, the advent of brain imaging at the end of the twentieth century did not do much to advance our understanding of alleged links between sex and the brain.”
- SECOND: Even if there are clear cut male and female physical brain differences,
- And some men’s brains display some female typical characteristics
- And some women’s brains display male-typical brain characteristic
- How does this make their brain the opposite sex?
- It’s like Seinfeld’s date who had “man hands”.
- It made for a funny sketch, but regardless of how exaggerated her hands were, she did not actually have the hands of man.
- So even if there are, for example, men whose brains share some female-typical characteristics, this does not make their brains female.
- They are still male brains because they exist within a male body.
- The most we could say is that there are men in the world whose brains share some female-typical characteristics. (And similarly, for women whose brains share male-typical characteristics.)
- THIRD: To the extent that we can link brain and mind together, what all neuroscience does agree on is the brains ability to adapt and change over time. Something neuroscientists refer to as neuroplasticity.
- Which mean that we can actually change our brains by changing the way that we think.
- And this aligns very nicely with a biblical worldview.
- The bible makes clear that for those who place their trust in Jesus Christ, God re-creates them to be a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17) and frees their bodies (of which their brains are a part) from slavery to sin. (Romans 6:6-7)
- This means that we are not determined by our brains.
- Our minds and lives can actually change.
- As Paul says in Romans 12:2 – “Be transformed by the renewing of your minds.” (Romans 12:2)
- This is why God is intensely interested in the way that we think, because the way that we think shapes the way that we live.
But we can’t deny that people may feel as though they were born in the wrong body. There are men and women who live their lives truly feeling at odds with the gender of their bodies.
- In more recent times issues of gender identity and transgenderism have been greatly discussed and debated, and we don’t wish for a moment to minimize the real-life experiences that some people endure.
- The term used by health care professionals in diagnosing people who feel at odds with the gender of their bodies is gender dysphoria.
- This is a very real and challenging psychological condition which ought to evoke a great deal of compassion and sympathy.
- One cannot think of any more frightening state of affairs than to feel out of place in your own body.
- However, it is important to note the great difference between the questions: “Can a person be born in the wrong body?” vs. “Can a person feel as if they were born in the wrong body?”
- Of course, a person can have these feelings.
- In order to truly help that person, however, we must assist them in accurately and truthfully interpreting those feelings.
- In other words, we do them the greatest service when helping them determine what those feelings really mean.
- What the Bible allows us to do is to help people see the truth about those feelings from God’s perspective rather than the perspective of the culture.
How does the Bible help us to interpret the feeling a person may have of being trapped in the wrong gendered body?
- The Bible provides us with an ultimate standard for truth about the world from God’s perspective.
- This means it is a standard of truth that is untainted by our own sinful perspective, or that of the world.
- This allows us to bring every thought, feeling or experience we have into the light of God’s truth in order to evaluate, and if necessary correct, or alter or modify the way that we view those feelings or experiences and the weight that we give to them.
With respect to this question, what the Bible gives to us is a true and very clear picture of the nature of our being.
- It dispels the myth that I and my body are two different things.
- The Bible views our bodies as sacred, and inseparable from who and what we are.
- While it’s true that we are more than just our bodies, we certainly are not less than our bodies.
- This is born out in the “body language” of the Bible, especially within the teaching of Jesus and most notably through the incarnation of Jesus.
- That the eternal Son of God was born as a human being and has forever taken on embodied human nature communicates the eternal significance of the bodies that God has given to us.
- But not only does the Bible communicate the inseparable nature of us and our bodies, it also clearly reveals the gendered nature of our bodily existence.
- Genesis 1:27 tells how God created humanity as male and female, and the Genesis account makes it clear that how this male/female distinction was differentiated was according to the gendered bodies we were born with.
- In short, my gendered body tells me who and what God made me to be.
But what about those born with intersex conditions?
- A very small percentage of people are born with intersex conditions. (Approx. 1 in 1000-1500 births)
- These conditions present themselves as some form of discrepancy in the presentation of the sexual organs, internally or externally.
- First, we should point out that these are not instances of someone being born in the wrong gendered body.
- Rather, these are instances where someone is born with a body that, for whatever reason, is not presenting the clear and typical markers we look for when identifying a body as male or female.
- In other words, their body is presenting some degree of ambiguity about their gendered distinction as male or female.
- This is very different from someone born with a body that presents itself clearly as male or female, and yet that person experiences some degree of psychological disconnect from their gendered bodies.
- For the majority of intersex cases, people’s bodies exhibit a sufficient degree of sex characteristics to determine actual gender.
- In extreme cases, however, where certainty cannot be reasonably achieved, it is possible that a person may go through life never feeling entirely clear about what gender God made them to be.
- In this case, we should be gracious and compassionate.
- But here is where the gospel of Jesus truly is “good news.”
Our ultimate sense of identity is found in Jesus Christ
So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:26-28)
- The apostle Paul remind us that when we place our faith in Jesus Christ, he gives us a new identity.
- It’s not that social distinctions like nationality, socio-economic status or gender distinctions disappear. It’s just that they no longer form the core of our self-understanding.
- Who we are is defined by our relationship to God through Jesus Christ.
- And as Paul says, we become “children of God”.
- And so even if, for whatever reason, my sense of place in this world is not secure I can still have security in knowing who I truly am in God’s sight. I am forever his child.
Where can we turn or point others to for help who may be struggling with feelings of uncertainty about gender or gender identity?
- Few people in the church feel equipped to dealing with the kinds of issues that accompany gender uncertainty, and we shouldn’t presume to know how to resolve such things.
- However, one thing every person in such a situation needs is the assurance and comfort of belonging to a truly loving and accepting community of faith.
- The average Christian doesn’t know about psychology or counselling, but they do know how to love.
- The task for the Christian church therefore is to become a safe and loving community where people can work through whatever challenges they face.
- There is a place for professional counselling by a trained mental health professional.
- Due to the prevailing ideology governing mainstream treatments and therapy, however, it would be wise to find someone who shares your worldview.
- Here are a few helpful resources to turn to from a Christian point of view:
- Helping children with gender identity confusion (Focus on the Family)
- Glen Stanton, Secure Daughters, Confident Sons: How Parents Guide Their Children into Authentic Masculinity and Femininity
- Stan and Brenna Jones, How and When to Tell Your Kids About Sex
- Where Do Parents with Gender Struggling Children Turn?
- Gender Identity – FAQ Guide
- Why Did God Make Male and Female?
- How Should Christians Respond to Identity Confusion?