Answering Challenge 28: “It’s wrong to discriminate on the basis of gender identity.”

Part Three of Critical Conversations answers 27 different challenges people raise, trying to show that Christianity’s position on marriage and morality is wrong. 

Here’s number 28.

The Challenge:

“Transgendered people should have access to the bathrooms and locker rooms of their choice, because it’s wrong to discriminate against people based on their gender identity.”

The truth your teen or preteen needs to know

The idea, “discrimination on the basis of gender identity,” is so mixed up, it’s impossible to pass a law or set a policy to prevent it that doesn’t actually cause it. The rule itself is so broken, there’s no other answer but to discard the rule.

Digging Deeper

Parents, no matter how obvious the answer to this challenge might seem to you, for your children it might not be so clear after all. The culture they’re immersed in — not including any solid Christian training you’ve made available for them at home, church, or school — has really primed them to reject discrimination everywhere. So it isn’t enough just to tell, you need to explain.

But don’t worry. Like almost everything else covered in Part Three of Critical Conversations, this explanation is easy. There’s more than one approach you can take, and I’ll share more tomorrow. First let’s take a look at how impossible the whole idea is to begin with.

Consider this dialogue:

A. I say it’s wrong to discriminate against people based on their gender identity. The law should let transgendered people use whatever bathroom or changing room they think fits who they are.

B. I’m not transgendered. Should the law let me use whichever facility I want?

A. Why would you want to do that?

B. I don’t. I’m just asking what the law should let someone do, if they wanted to do it.

A. That doesn’t sound right. Then the law would just let men use women’s rooms, even if they didn’t identify as women. That’s not what these equal access laws are for. It could get creepy. 

B. So whether someone has the right to use the other facilities depends on  their gender identity, right?

A. Right.

B. But I thought you said that was wrong.

A. Wrong? What do you mean, wrong?

B. It’s giving people a right or taking it away depending on their gender identity. That’s discriminating on the basis of gender identity. You said that was wrong. 

Now person A is in a pickle, and there’s no way out of it. If we write a law to prevent discrimination on the basis of gender identity, that law automatically discriminates on the basis of gender identity. It causes exactly the same thing it was intended to prevent! There’s no way around it. The only answer is to admit there’s something seriously wrong  with the whole idea to start with.

Discrimination isn’t always wrong, after all. (There’s a topic explaining that in Part Three of the book.) When it comes to bathrooms and locker rooms, you can’t avoid it. Consider the options:

  1. You set the rules according to biological sex.
  2. You set the rules according to gender identity.
  3. You eliminate all the rules.
  4. You build one-person bathrooms for everyone everywhere.

The first one discriminates based on biology. The second one discriminates according to gender identity, as we just saw. The third one discriminates against everyone who wants bathrooms and locker rooms to be places for modesty and privacy. The fourth one discriminates against everyone who wants to avoid spending money and messing with property so foolishly!

So when people set laws and policies, they have to choose as wisely as they can, but they’re never going to be able do it without discriminating one way or another. It’s just a fact of life.

Tips for Talking With Your Teen (or Preteen)

Your child may never have faced a pickle like this dialogue before, where the problem has no answer. They might think you’re pulling a logical trick, and that it’s up to them to work it out. Their friends might think the same thing when your kids try to explain it to them.

An analogy from school might help them understand what’s going on:

Suppose your PE teacher said you had to shoot twenty baskets in thirty tries to get a good grade — but you had to do it with a ball so big it couldn’t go through the hoop. Could you do it? No one could, not even the best player in the world. Or suppose your math teacher said that in order to pass, you had to prove that 2 times 2 equals 22. Could you do it? No one could, not even the world’s best math expert. Why not? Because the rules were set up to be impossible from the beginning.

The solution isn’t to try harder at making the shots or running the math problem. It’s recognizing there’s something wrong with the rules. They’re impossible.  If anyone has any sense they’ll toss them out.

In the same way, if you start with the rule, “Don’t discriminate based on gender identity,” you’ll always end up with an answer that discriminates based on gender identity. You can’t avoid it. So you do the same thing: you recognize the rule is an impossible one. There’s something wrong with the rule. If you have good sense, you’ll toss it out.

Once they’ve become comfortable with that idea, you could role-play the dialogue with your child for practice, letting him or her be person A the first time, and then switching so you’re person A after that.


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