“Where you draw the lines, that’s where the battle will be.” This was the wise advice given to his staff by a school principal that I once worked for. Of course, he was talking about school rules, and the enforcement of them, but his advice can also be taken on board when we consider where the battle-lines are settling, in today’s culture wars.
People are increasingly taking a stand when it comes to various forms of human rights, and the latest area of conflict is that of trans rights. Supporters are standing for the rights of those who identify as trans women, who want to be accepted as women, and to have the same access to facilities, competitions, and opportunities as natural-born (cis gendered) women. Because some trans people identify as women, then they should be treated as women, - or so the argument goes.
On the other side of the conflict, people are arguing that women (and not trans women) should be safe in their own spaces (changing rooms, toilets etc) and not have their privacy or safety impinged upon by those who were born male. Similarly, it is argued that women should not have to compete against those born male, even if they now identify as female, because such people do have a considerable physiological advantage which can make a big difference in some sports.
(Some women’s sporting codes are now only accepting athletes or players who did not go through puberty as males, and are seeking to define who can compete according to physiological standards, rather than accepting anyone who identifies as female.)
Because there has been a gradual take-over of education, the corporate world, and government departments in NZ, by a gender ideology that seeks to adopt the stance that trans people should be affirmed in whatever gender they adopt, there is now an increasing push-back from those who could be described as just ordinary people. There are many people who don’t accept the current gender ideology, and are taking a stand, particularly for women’s rights. A movement recently initiated to speak up for women, has now launched a petition asking the government to adopt in all its policies and legislation the term, ‘adult human female’ whenever a woman is mentioned.
In this increasingly polarised situation, a lot of heat is also emerging – as indicated by the protest against the British activist, Posie Parker, when she tried to speak publicly about women’s rights in Auckland earlier this year. Some tweets also from activist Shaneel Lal have been frighteningly abusive of anyone who has tried to present a counter view to what ‘they’ say are trans rights.
Responding to the cultural wars
How then, do we respond to these cultural wars? I suggest, with integrity, keeping these three things in mind:
1. There are genuine people on both sides. Trans supporters want to provide rights for trans people; they want them to thrive as human beings, and for the high suicide rights of trans people to be lowered. Women’s rights have been hard won through the years, and people who care about women don’t want to see these lost or compromised.
2. Trans people need support. Many have mental health issues, and have abusive, disadvantaged and traumatic backgrounds. Similarly, women who have been abused by men, also have issues, and need to be able to be safe and to grow.
3. Gender ideology does not have to be accepted as if it is the last word on the matter. There are many experts who question it, and who query the adoption of an affirmation model for young people particularly; as if, because such people identify as a people gender, then that’s how they should be affirmed. Remember, most young people with gender dysphoria have settled their identity by adulthood.
By seeking to understand, and by not pigeon-holing anyone, but by seeing them as people, when we come up against these issues, is important. When we find ourselves on the battle-lines, we don’t respond with abuse, or by putting someone down, eg by describing Shaneel Lal as ‘that creature’ as someone did in a Facebook post.
Jesus’s words in this situation remain as true as they always have: “Do to others, what you would want them to do to you.” And of course, he encouraged us to pray for our ‘enemies,’ which is surely what is required during a culture war, whatever side we are on.
Liz Hay is appalled by the amount of vitriol that is now being slung at any Christian who dares to comment on an issue raised in the media. Christianity is not only seen as an aberration, but is being increasingly regarded by some as a scourge to be removed from society. With the growing malevolence being expressed towards the church, it is no wonder that even going on to church property can be a daunting experience.
The balm of the natural world, and friendship with genuine and real people, that Liz experiences in her small village in the mountains is a wonderful antidote to anti-Christian comments.