International Women’s Day 2023. Happy?! … Or Confused?

Editor’s note:

12 March 2024. This column was published in order to recognize the unease of many about gender identity, and to initiate a conversation about transgender persons – against the backdrop of silence of the churches while “the world,” including the Olympics Council and some Muslim groups, made statements concerning them. The intention was to start a conversation about a taboo subject.  I encourage you, after you read this column, to read three responses:  (1) What do you think of transgender persons? Six theses. (2) Straight: The Surprisingly Short History of Heterosexuality (review of a book by Hanna Blank); and (3) Walking with the other. We do not claim to have all the answers. But we do claim that we seek them.

When I was growing up in Malaysia 50 odd years ago, life was simple and straightforward.  To me, one was either a Man or Woman, a male or female.  I could easily differentiate one from the other just by the way the toilet each one went to in school.

I learnt in school that men had XY chromosomes and women had XX chromosomes. Men married Women and they had babies with each other, and the lineage and ancestry of families can be traced through the bloodlines. 

But today, in the Cambridge dictionary, the definition of “woman” includes “an adult who lives and identifies as female though they may have been said to have a different sex at birth[1]. How is it that gender is now determined by feelings, personal perception, and preference?  Is this self-identification permanent or a transient state of mind? Is it fluctuating, evolving? Can it be undone?

Going to toilet is now a matter of debate and has become a political issue[2].  Transwomen want the liberty to use the ladies toilet. Their calls are opposed by women’s groups which maintain that ladies toilets should be restricted to women only. The boudoir has turned into a battlefield.  

In beauty pageants, Miss Greater Derry 2023 (under the Miss America organization) was won by Brian Nguyen[3]. Miss Universe rules have been changed to allow transwomen to compete. The transwomen are indeed beautiful. But has the quest for inclusivity become skewed?  Can it be said that a person who had/has a phallus, XY chromosomes,  who never had menses, never experienced the female hormonal cycles, can never have a baby – be the representation of an ideal (or idealised)  woman?

Transgender women have also participated in female sports and have broken records. From the outset, the reason why there are separate men’s and women’s events in sports is because men possess physical advantage over women. 

Is it fair for a person with the muscle strength and muscle memory of a man to be allowed to compete in a women’s category?[4] They say Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus. But Venus is now under siege.

Then there’s this story of Bennett Kaspar-Williams.  She was originally assigned female then turned lesbian, trans, once as a gay man, then Bennett had a child with Bennett’s husband[5]. There is a photo of a bearded man (Bennett) pregnant with baby.[6]

I can’t help but wonder – did Bennett come full circle to her original gender as a female? What are the long-term side effects of testosterone therapy for both adult and child? Can the baby suckle?

Closer to home, in a survey form completed by 12-year old’s in Malaysia, when asked what is his/her gender, one respondent offered “both” as response.

Can I truly be happy to celebrate International Women’s Day in the midst of this confusion?! Should it be renamed “Happy Non-Binary Day” instead?

Why all this confusion of the sexes? In Genesis 3:7, when Adam and Eve disobeyed God and ate the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, the Bible records:

Then the eyes of both of them were opened and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.”

It’s interesting to note that when they both ate of the fruit, they did not hide their faces in shame, but made coverings of their genitalia in shame.  The loins are the bodily parts involved in procreation. Perhaps the first blow of Sin went to the root of mankind’s original blessing and perverted mankind’s sexual identity and desires thereafter. 

Instead of throwing up my hands in despair, I clasp them in prayer for all girls and women today:

1.         That we will love our bodies and embrace our sexual identity as a gift of God.  The human body is an incredible machine, and is the temple of the Holy Spirit. Love it and live.

2.         That every girl, woman, and child will be loved and cherished; they will have self-confidence and know their self-worth.

3.         That every girl and woman will have access to good education and career, and the right and ability to determine their own choices;

4.         Above all else, that we will love God more than loving ourselves.  That like Mary, we will say to God “I am the Lord’s servant, May it be to me as you have said.” Luke 1:38

5.         That we will hear God’s approving voice saying “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.” Matt 25:23

For that I wish you dear sisters “Happy International Women’s Day!!  

[1] The Cambridge Dictionary recently updated its entries for “man” and “woman” to include transgender people – the latest dictionary to broaden its lexicon to reflect evolving language around gender. CNN 15.12.2022.

[2] Mujahid No permission for transgender people to use female toilet Aug 13, 2018 Malaysiakini. LGBT issue: Bung worried more men will access women restrooms. Aug 13, 2018 Malaysiakini

[3] The first transgender woman to have been crowned.

[4] A fair and inclusive solution for transgender women in sport by Donna Lapiano Forbes Aug 4, 2022

[5] What it’s like to be pregnant as a transmasculine person. Clue. Pregnant transgender man reveals he stopped his hormone therapy to conceive his husband’s baby and is now a “seahorse dad” expecting their 1st child. Mail Online 25.9.2020.

[6] Transgender man who gave birth to his son criticizes medical staff for calling him ‘mother’ and claims that it’s ‘important’ to STOP automatically linking pregnancy with being a woman. Jessica Summers, Mail Oline, 22 Dec 2021 (link).

2 thoughts on “International Women’s Day 2023. Happy?! … Or Confused?”

  1. Pingback: What do you think of transgender persons? Six theses. – Bangsar Lutheran Church

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *