He, she or ze

I am of the generation that was brought up on the King James Version of the Bible and that was irrespective of whether or not I believed the Bible. One of the things that intrigued me was that when referring to “the third person”, a masculine pronoun (he, his or him) as opposed to a feminine one, irrespective of the gender being referred to (usually it was both) was used and it was taken for granted it could be a man or a woman and it was unnecessary to explain further, and this notion was reflected in my writings.

Later as the move toward gender equality gathered momentum, I noted instead of “he”, the words “he or she” were used, no doubt to reflect that we to be inclusive even at the expense of the language used becoming more cumbersome. In order not to give offence, I succumbed to the change and followed suit. From what I can make out most have, but now things appear to be moving on yet again.

An article tilted “The Need for a Gender-Neutral Pronoun” begins: “What is a gender-neutral pronoun? What does English need a new pronoun for, anyway? Many people have expressed the need for a singular gender-neutral third-person pronoun: that is, a pronoun to use when someone’s gender is unknown or when the individual is neither male or female. Such instances occur when addressing transgender and genderqueer people who don’t feel comfortable being addressed with masculine or feminine pronouns, computers or robots with artificial intelligence, sexless fictional creatures, angels, and the God of many monotheistic religions. “He,” “she,” or “it” won’t do, “one” doesn’t work …

While using something like “ze” instead of he or she is appealing, what is less so is the main reason for making this change. It is not that I want to be disrespectful of transgender folk, but I fear there is an unwholesome move in our culture to do away with gender distinctions altogether. My view goes back to the first chapter of Genesis when we are told God made man and woman and clearly there was from that point onwards a distinction. While I recognize that people who are born of one gender may come to identify more with that of the other gender, and may take measures to become or be more like the other gender, in my view the gender one is born with should be the one we live with, unless something exceptional occurs (and I make this point because I need to hear the stories of those who change gender and am given to understand because of genetical make up etc. a (very) few may be between genders ).

I have long come to a view that in a pluralistic society it is necessary to accommodate people holding different views, including those relating to sexual identity. Where I take issue is when someone can impose their views on me, especially when I am right and they are wrong and my views are more in line with what is better for the country. I see this happening in the transgender issue. Already we see in the USA employers being forced to pay health insurance for employees who may wish for a sex change and businesses being forced to let people use the bathroom that aligns to the sex they identify with rather than which they were born. In the UK, young school children are now being taught what some see as falsehoods about sexual identity, even though it is against their parents wishes.

sussex

In a report relating to a recent example of gender politics, under the title: “Avoid ‘he’ or ‘she’, Sussex University students warned”, we are told: “The use of ‘he’ or ‘she’ has been strongly discouraged in a new policy released by the University of Sussex Students’ Union (USSU). The ‘gender inclusive’ language policy states that “the gender-neutral pronoun ‘they’ should be used as opposed to ‘he’ or ‘she’”, where an individual has not expressly stated their preferred pronoun. The news comes shortly after it was revealed that students at the University of Oxford could be expelled if they fail to use gender-neutral pronouns. Training for elected union officers on the USSU policy will be developed with a group that “seeks to free individuals and society from the oppressive confines of the gender binary”. ‘Gender Liberation Sussex’, which campaigns for “trans and non-binary rights” at the university, believes the “gender binary, and all the harmful stereotypes and heteronormativity associated with it is fundamentally unjust, and should be dismantled””. The report refers to a paper titled “Transexuality”.

The paper begins: “Transsexualism – wanting to change physical sex because you feel you are ‘in the wrong body’ – has become an increasingly high-profile issue. People in the public eye have ‘changed their sex’, and the media normalises transsexualism. There has been a corresponding push for greater transsexual rights, helped by the introduction of same-sex marriage and gay rights group Stonewall deciding in 2015 to make transsexualism a new focus of its work. Underlying the transsexual movement is a radical form of self-determination. The assumption is that a person’s subjective feeling overrides objective, biological reality. This exalts human emotion and will above God’s design as our Creator. The drive for transsexual rights is characterised by intolerance of dissent: everyone is expected to endorse a person’s self-identification. Some of those campaigning for transsexual rights are motivated by the ideology that we should all be able to choose our own gender from a whole range of possibilities, without reference to biology.In this climate, Christians need to be clear on the Bible’s teaching and on how they should respond at both a personal and a public policy level.” This briefing introduces some of the issues at stake and what follows is a discussion on some of these, from a “Christian” perspective, citing concrete examples.

In rounding up, I want to make mention that “trans” issues are something I am a long way from fully understanding. Just like the “gay” issue that almost all who wish to venture outside their small bubble have had to come to terms with so it is with trans. I have stated broadly some of the issues facing us in our dealing with the subject and the trans folk, who are people and not issues, and feel it is one as a Christian minister I am duty bound to address and guide others in understanding. LBGT or not LGBT, we are all made in the image of God. While we must stand for truth, we must also be kind.

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