Wrestling with gender chaos

Transgender Mack Beggs wrestles Chelsea Sanchez in the final round of the 6A girls Texas state high school tournament in Cypress, Texas.
Transgender Mack Beggs wrestles Chelsea Sanchez in the final round of the 6A girls Texas state high school tournament in Cypress, Texas.

In North American culture, high school athletics have been a profound and unifying public good. I spent my entire life before high school dreaming of one day wearing a Lee High School baseball uniform. I vividly remember the first time I put on that cap with a cursive “L” emblazoned on it. It was an honor and, in my mind, I would be playing for my whole community.

Lee High School in Montgomery, Ala., was racially diverse, with students coming from all walks of life. Each one of us had a common goal that bound us together; we wanted Lee to win. I fear that coming generations will not have such experiences. Unless the current trend to legalize gender chaos changes direction, public high school athletics could become a thing of the past.

Title IX, a portion of the United States Education Amendments of 1972, is designed to ensure equal opportunities in programs and activities for females. The amendment is best known for its impact on high school and college athletics.

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Title IX reads: “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”

Of course, when Title IX was adopted, sex was defined as whether a person was biologically male or female. Nevertheless, in January 2016, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, while acknowledging that the original intent referred to biological sex, still concluded that the term sex in the regulations is ambiguous and “is susceptible to more than one plausible reading” in reference to transgender students. In other words, the court allows for sex to be solely determined by the student’s self-identification and not by biological reality.

The logical question, then, is: If sex amounts to nothing more than a non-verifiable gender identity, what is the purpose of Title IX? How can you have an anti-discrimination law in place to protect women if there is no verifiable way to identify who is male and female? An attempt to enforce the regulation would be nonsensical. Can a person self-identify their race as well? If not, why? If so, what purpose would the Civil Rights Act serve?

Now, back to high school athletics: How will high schools be able to run athletics programs in this nonsensical environment where gender is an entirely unverifiable concept? Bathrooms, locker rooms, hotels, safety, all of these represent minefields for principals, athletic directors and coaches when high school students are treated like pawns in a grand social experiment.

In Alaska, an 18-year-old male who identifies as a female competed in the state high school track and field championships last year as a female. He finished third and fifth in two races but would have been far from qualifying if competing in the men’s events. One female opponent said, “I don’t know what’s politically correct to say, but in my opinion, your gender is what you’re born with. It’s the DNA. Genetically, a guy has more muscle mass than a girl, and if he’s racing against a girl, he may have an advantage.”

Recently in Texas, a 17-year-old female student who is transitioning to male and undergoing testosterone treatments won the girl’s state championship in wrestling.

Performance-enhancing drugs are banned in most sports competition but not if allowing them accommodates the current gender chaos. What will happen when a male who identifies as a female seriously injures a female that he is wrestling?

There’s no way high schools are going to be able to manage all of the potential legal landmines that come when gender is made of utmost legal importance but is completely unverifiable at the same time. In 2015, one South Dakota lawmaker made the absurd suggestion that there be “visual inspections” of high school athletes to determine gender. Of course, it is equally absurd to suggest one’s gender is whatever a person decides it is.

This gender chaos is a war on reality and an entire generation of children. My heart breaks at all I fear will be lost in our culture if we continue on this path. High school athletics, I believe, will become untenable to manage. The alternative will be club sports, where the unifying community aspect of school athletics is completely eradicated, and all of the social barriers will be reinforced. Who would have ever thought that Friday night lights could be dimmed by an assault on biological science?

While high school athletics is something I cherish, there are far more grave things at stake. The encouragement of gender chaos is one of the cruelest things we are doing to our children and grandchildren. Make no mistake, telling children that gender is merely a matter of self-identification causes real harm that will adversely affect their understanding of the most fundamental categories of life—God, personhood, identity, family, marriage and relationships.

As Christians, we must vigilantly speak the truth about our gender as God’s image bearers to our children and in the public square. We are divinely designed gendered image bearers and we must celebrate our gender to faithfully portray God in the world. God makes clear in His Word that our gender distinctiveness shows us something important about His nature. Thus, any Biblically healthy sexuality begins at the very beginning with celebrating and embracing God’s creative design in our gendered identity.

I hope Friday night lights are not dimmed. But my bigger concern is that the light of the Gospel can shine brightly in our culture.  ©2017 David Prince

David E. Prince is pastor of preaching and vision at Ashland Avenue Baptist Church in Lexington, Ky; and assistant professor of Christian preaching at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is the author of In the Arena and Church with Jesus as the Hero. He blogs at Prince on Preaching and frequently writes for The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, for the Church, and Preaching Today.