Transgender or Pretendgender?

I have fond memories of growing up in my neighborhood.  I was raised in a little country town with one stop light. My friends and I played cops and robbers and the only girl in the neighborhood was as tough as any of us! We would run through the woods with our toy guns yelling, “Bang, bang!” and the better guns would make their own laser-like sounds.  But sounds or no sounds you could always hear someone angrily shouting, “I got you! Now play dead! Sometimes the one who was supposed to be the corpse would argue his case usually while running away and at other times he would just fall down and play dead for the time we had allotted for a player to be dead, which was usually a sixty seconds. Most of us could only last ten seconds before pulling out death’s stinger and getting back into the action.

Of course, we were pretending.  We were engaged in the childhood practice of make believe.  Were acting as if what was not real was real.  We weren’t really cops or robbers. Our guns weren’t real. There were no bullets. No one was really dead.  It was all pretend. Now, you didn’t need me to explain the obvious. In fact, you might be thinking that I am treating you, my reader, inappropriately.  You might think I am condescending and insulting your intelligence.  But why not take me seriously?  The answer is simple. It is common sense. You know that we were pretending.

So, why isn’t all of this nonsensical talk about transgender just as obvious? Think for a minute about the basic etymology of the word.  The prefix trans- is from the Latin meaning across, over or beyond. We have all sorts of words using this prefix: transatlantic, transportation, transfer, transport, transition, translate, transparent, transcend etc. If you are going on a transatlantic flight then you are going across the Atlantic Ocean. If I transport something I carry it from point A to point B. Or if something is transcendent it means to climb across.  The point is rather simple. I can either take a transatlantic flight or I can pretend to do so. The first actually crosses the Atlantic while the other only pretends to do so.

Just in case I have been less than clear let me restate my point.  No person born a biological male trans-cends his maleness in order to become a female. The crossover is impossible. To talk as if one is able to transcend one’s biological gender is simply pretend, which is why Christians should stop using the term transgender and start using the more accurate designation, “pretendgender.”  It is descriptive and more importantly it is truthful.

It is this same nonsense that has given rise to the language of “pregnant people” rather than the obvious “pregnant women.”  Now, the political left would be quick to challenge us. They would say that transgender people who do not identify as women can get pregnant and therefore, they say, we are quite wrong.  There are, in fact, pregnant people.  But doesn’t that prove my point? Let me put this in clear terms. The woman who pretends to be a man can get pregnant. But isn’t the reason why the woman who pretends to be a man can get pregnant is because she is still a woman pretending to be a man?

Christians are called to face reality and the reality is that God created people male and female (Genesis 1:26-28; 2:20-25). There is no Biblical (or common sense!) category to support a non-binary view of gender. Biological males cannot become females and females cannot become males. There may be drugs to suppress hormones or drugs to introduce hormones but it will be contrary to the body’s desires.  The body knows its own gender even if the mind suppresses the truth in sin (Romans 1:18ff).  The sad truth is that the person who pretends to be a different gender will always be at odds with self. However, this adversity with self is rooted in a person’s war with God.

The only answer for the man or woman who is at war with self is to make peace with God through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. It is only in Christ that sin destroying feelings are dealt with. It is only in Christ that a person struggling with issues of sexuality and gender will find a place to rest. Peace cannot be found in self-mutilation. Peace can only be found in Christ. This does not minimize the personal struggle some are engaged in. This is not to say that the person will cease to struggle with these issues once coming to faith. They may continue to struggle for a time. Sin doesn’t let go so easily. But in Christ there is true contentment with God which is the only foundation for contentment with self. And by the way, the little girl that was as tough as any of us boys, she grew up to be a godly wife and mother.

[If you are interested in exploring these issues further you will want to consult Carl Trueman’s The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self and Strange New World: How Thinkers and Activists Redefined Identity and Sparked the Sexual Revolution. Also, you may want to check out Rosaria Butterfield’s Openess Unhindered.]

Jeffrey A Stivason (Ph.D. Westminster Theological Seminary) is pastor of Grace Reformed Presbyterian Church in Gibsonia, PA.  He is also Professor of New Testament Studies at the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Pittsburgh, PA. Jeff is also an online instructor for Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia, PA. He is the author of From Inscrutability to Concursus (P&R), he has contributed to The Jonathan Edwards Encyclopedia (Eerdmans) and has published academic articles and book reviews in various journals. Jeff is the Senior Editor of Place for Truth ( an online magazine for the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. 


Jeffrey Stivason