In 2013, PFC Bradley Manning was convicted as a national traitor for leaking classified military information. He faces 35 years in prison. Or does “he”?
It seems Private Manning has declared himself to be Chelsea Manning, his long-time inner and true identity. After his arrest he released this statement:
“As I transition into this next phase of my life, I want everyone to know the real me. I am Chelsea Manning. I am a female. Given the way that I feel, and have felt since childhood, I want to begin hormone therapy as soon as possible.”
Per the statement, Manning’s declaration was effective immediately and insisted the feminine pronoun be used from that point forward.
Bruce Jenner shocked the world when he assumed his alter ego, Caitlyn. The Who’s Who of mainstream pop culture called his transition “courageous.” In fact, Jenner received the Arthur Ashe Courage award at the ESPY’s. For his “accomplishment” Jenner held stage with past winners such as Jim Valvano (1993), the Flight 93 passengers (2002), Pat Tillman (2003), and the Kabul girls soccer team (2006). Having awarded Michael Sam for his “courage” in 2014, ESPN clearly considers publicizing one’s homosexuality and undergoing a sex change on par with cancer fundraising, dying to take down a hijacked plane, fighting terrorists and women’s suffrage.
Last year we learned a woman, who is as European as they come, has been passing herself off as black. She even leads her local NAACP chapter. Her parents “outed” her, causing no small controversy. But should it? We should fault her for lying to be sure, but for wanting to be black?
And now, Charlotte, NC wants to flush discrimination by liberating the potty. City officials want to open the bathroom door to anyone regardless of gender. How could we force a transgendered man to use a urinal when his inner woman compels him to sit? With the “freedom” to use the ladies’ room, Charlotte’s transgendered male population will skyrocket.
First things first. Whoever PFC Manning, Mr. Jenner, Ms. Dolezal or Charlotte’s J. Doe think themselves to be, they remain human beings. They should be afforded the respect and dignity due all those bearing the imago Dei. They are not dogs or mutants so we shouldn’t rant against them like one. They don’t need to be strung up or even isolated. They don’t need to snap out of it or have a one-night stand. They need the truthful compassion of the gospel. Who they feel like is nothing compared to who God already made them to be. Mr. Manning hopes “Chelsea” will fill, supply or correct something badly damaged in Bradley. Bruce hopes Caitlyn will do what Wheaties couldn’t. That’s what we fallen people do. We seek salvation or redemption for something we know is terribly wrong (Is 55.2).
Further, let’s not assume the onslaught of “transgender” (or transracial) issues are anything new. They are expressions of the perversion we all inherited from Adam in Genesis 3. We may not all come out as liberated “transgendered” folks, but we do self-identify as wrank sinners all the same. A man who abuses women is no less offensive than a man wanting to become one of them. On one hand, Manning, Jenner and Dolezal should be pitied. On the other, they should be warned. We should be warned.
There was explicit instruction against cross-dressing in the Torah (Dt 22.5). There is warning to the “effeminate” in the New Testament (1 Cor 6.9). Therefore, this is not a 21st-century novelty that offends the “good ol’ days.” While technology has provided instant global access to these stories, we really shouldn’t be surprised there are stories. The news hasn’t discovered something new. It is able now to uncover what has always been. We’ve always confused good and evil good outside of Eden (Is 5.20).
That said, these rather uncomfortable stories have provided another theater in which to discuss what it means to be “real” human. Is it simply a matter of becoming the person who makes you feel more, well, person? Can we become someone new by personal fiat? If we can demand everyone treat us as any person we want then why stop at gender? Why not introduce a transracial identity like Ms. Dolezal? Why not a transvertical or transannual identity? If something as obvious as anatomical identifiers can be dismissed and ignored, then why not skin color or height or age? This would open a whole new world for stumpy old guys like me.
Therefore, I want everyone to know the real me: I am Jamaal Sigvaldi Falco. I am Jamaal because I’ve always felt like I wanted to be a tall, black man (think Denzel Washington). I am Sigvaldi because who wouldn’t want to be a Norse warrior? I am Falco because Italians are cool and “falcon” speaks for itself.
From now on airlines must give me the roomiest seat because the “real me” is 6’4″. The government must now afford me minority status. I will demand my share of any reparations due Viking families. And, while in Rome I will assume all rights and privileges due Italians, especially the coffee and wine. Lastly, I am Jamaal Sigvaldi Falco who is now perpetually 35-years-old. What you call a slippery slope is the pathway to personal liberation, the unfettered self.
Any reader would consider this ridiculously satirical. But should it be? PFC Manning and the California legislature insist we take this far more seriously. And the ground swells even more. Without a robust biblical worldview, why stop at gender? Why not ethnicity, height or age? If Bradley Manning and Bruce Jenner can declare themselves female, or white Ms. Doleval can declare herself black, or a man trapped in a menstrual cycle can use the men’s room, then I can declare myself 35-year-old Jamaal: a black Viking romantic. Who or what is to stop me? Why would you want to?
Since the Fall, every human has rebelled against God’s created order. Even the created order itself does so (Rom 8.22). We are born shaking our fist at God, charging him with treason against a sovereign us as though he got it wrong. We think liberation is finally breaking off the shackles of our true self to become who we’ve always wanted to be. We give little consideration to the notion our “wanter” may be corrupt.
With Manning, Jenner and Doleval, we are guilty of a far greater treason. We are not alter egos trapped in gender-confined bodies. We are fallen creatures enslaved in sin. We are not transgendered, but transgressors. Despite the color of our skin, we share the same color of our sin. Salvation is not becoming who’ve we always wanted to be. It’s becoming truly human: God’s Christ-besotted image bearer.
Neither PFC Manning nor Jenner nor Doleval is liberating their true self. They simply redecorate their prison cell. We all do. Some may think they’ve all gone too far. The gospel says they’ve not gone far enough. Gender, height, age, ethnicity (heritage, education, poverty, etc. etc. etc.) are not our problems. Sin is. We don’t need a new gender or ethnicity, but a new heart. Regeneration, not reassignment. And God has declared by divine fiat that all those in Christ are restored to their true selves and the person we’ve always wanted to be.