At Hands Across the Aisle, we are a politically diverse group of women who are choosing to stand together to reclaim the definition of sex as a binary concept that refers to one’s biological status as male or female. We believe that equating sex with gender is harmful to women in particular, as it reduces women to stereotypes, erases women in the law and eliminates women-only spaces. We recognize and have compassion for individuals who suffer from gender dysphoria, and we believe that they should be treated with respect and dignity, but we reject that their suffering is being used to justify a movement that reduces women to nothing more than body parts.
Here we offer two perspectives on gender — one from a radical feminist perspective and the other from a Christian perspective — to explain why we believe that womanhood has to do with who we are, not what we do.
From a Radical Feminist perspective:
Gender is what feminism has critiqued for decades, so the recent concept of gender identity as something to be chosen and celebrated is a strange one for feminists. The categories of non-binary, genderfluid, agender and a myriad of other identities seem to be expressions of dissatisfaction with “being a woman” or “being a man” in this society. Quite right too! Nobody wants to be limited by their biology, by what society imposes on us based on our biology, by socially-constructed gender roles. But to deny reality by trying to identify out of being male or female, not only won’t work, as sexism does not care how we might “identify”, but also unwittingly reinforces those gender roles. It’s like holding our hands up and saying “You win, a woman can’t be powerful in this society, a man can’t be gentle and caring, and as I want to be those things I’m clearly not a woman/man.” No, no, no! Let’s not swallow patriarchy’s lies, let’s keep asserting that the objective definition of us as a female or a male based on biological reality will never define our personality, our attitudes, our abilities, our desires, our behaviour, our place in the world.
It is also very dangerous to deny our biology. Humans can’t actually change sex. We can take hormones, and embark on surgical alterations to our bodies. These can change our appearance, voice, body hair, breasts, genitals, but we will always be biologically what we were born as, and have health needs based on that e.g. only men get prostate cancer, symptoms of heart disease are different for women.
Women’s oppression has its historical roots and its ostensible justification in female biology and the exploitation of female reproductive labour. Altering the definition of the word “female” so that it now means “any person who believes themselves to be female” is not only conceptually incoherent . . . it also removes the possibility of analysing the structural oppression of female persons as a class, by eradicating the terminology we use to describe the material conditions of their existence. . . . If we do not recognise the material reality of biological sex and its significance as an axis of oppression, women’s experience of oppression becomes literally unspeakable. We lose the terminology and tools of analysis – tools carefully developed by generations of feminists working before us—to make sense of female experience, and of the reality of negotiating a male-dominated world in a female body.
From a Christian perspective:
God made men and women different (Gen. 1:27). Contrary to mistaken interpretations, sexual difference does not exist on a continuum where some men are more like women or vice versa. Men and women are different at the deepest levels of their being. Our chromosomes are different. Our brains are different. Our voices are different. Our body shapes are different. Our body strengths are different. Our reproductive systems are different. The design for what our bodies are structured and destined for are different, and these designs bear witness to differences that reflect God’s creative will for humanity. Because men and women are different, it’s philosophically impossible for a man to become a physical woman or a physical woman to become a man. Those who say otherwise are trafficking in fiction about human nature. In fact, there is no scientific proof to verify the claim that one is trapped inside the wrong body.
If God made men and women fundamentally and comprehensively different, then the idea that a man could ever become a woman (or vice versa) is simply impossible. The differences between men and women can’t be overcome simply because one person feels they’re a member of the opposite sex. Your psychology (feelings) cannot change your ontology (being).
Though it may bring new conversations and experiences many of us will not understand, ministry to those with gender dysphoria means walking with each precious soul through what could be years of psychological valleys (Gal. 6:2). We need Christians who will walk alongside these individuals in every season, in victory and in defeat, encouraging each toward greater faith in the Lord Jesus (Rom. 12:12; Jam. 1:12).
Only Christians humble enough to recognize their own brokenness will be capable of walking with people through struggles that seem very different from their own.
Sexual identity is not a social construction but is an objective fact rooted in our nature as either female or male persons. The most obvious fact about us is that we are either male or female.
Of course there is an important distinction to make in this regard between sexual identity and gender. Sexual identity refers to the property of being male or female. It refers to the specific sex of the human person. Being male (or female) is an essential property of who we are as persons. For example, a man simply cannot as a male, bear or gestate children. Men do not have such a potency, but women do. Thus, being male (or female) is essential to what we are. Gender, on the other hand, refers to certain emotional dispositions or traits characteristic of femininity or masculinity. ‘Femininity’ and ‘masculinity’ are gender terms and refer to specific traits or dispositions. A male can have feminine-like characteristics; in fact, male psycho-therapists have many feminine characteristics such as listening, nurturing and so forth, but remain sexually male. Female police officers or military personnel have many masculine-like characteristics but remain sexually female. So, while there is nothing intrinsically wrong with trying to acquire certain characteristics or traits available to any human person, it is wrong to mutilate one’s body as one’s sexual identity cannot be changed. Seeking such an operation manifests a dislike and disrespect for who one is fundamentally.
Women’s dignity has often been unacknowledged and their prerogatives misrepresented; they have often been relegated to the margins of society and even reduced to servitude. This has prevented women from truly being themselves, and it has resulted in a spiritual impoverishment of humanity… When it comes to setting women free from every kind of exploitation and domination, the Gospel contains an ever relevant message which goes back to the attitude of Jesus Christ himself. Transcending the established norms of his own culture, Jesus treated women with openness, respect, acceptance and tenderness. In this way he honored the dignity which women have always possessed according to God’s plan and in his love.