Friday, December 11, 2015

Manly Chest-Thumping Manliness

On October 5th, the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors hosted a conference entitled "Transgender Confusion and Transformational Christianity" at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. The conference approached gender diversity as "chaos" and "confusion", insisting that God assigns immutable gender to his creations.
"Our culture is flooded with transgender confusion. The Christian Gospel speaks into this confusion with revolutionary clarity. God sovereignly assigns a gender to people created in his image. The powerful grace of Jesus Christ redeems and restores to sanity our thinking corrupted by sin. The church must speak with biblical conviction into this chaos with the clarity and love of Christ."
Event speakers had little patience for any deviation from stereotypical gender roles, much less transgender identities. For example, during a panel discussion with four other men, biblical theology professor Jim Hamilton ridiculed a group of "effeminate" men he addressed at a speaking engagement.
"Last fall, I had the privilege of speaking to a college group that was not from my alma mater. It was another rival SCC school, and the whole time that I was with these guys, no offense to anybody, the whole time I was with these guys, I was thinking to myself, 'This would be driving my wife crazy', because she has this very sensitive radar to any manifestation of what she'll sometimes call as 'floppiness' or effeminacy among men. And I have never been around a more effeminate group of guys. And the whole time, I'm thinking to myself, 'These guys need to be told to man up!' These guys need to be told to stop doing that, to stop looking like girls in the way they walk, in the way they talk, in the way they wear their hats. I mean, it was all just--it was gross. And so I think that it's our responsibility to say to the younger generation, 'You need to knock that off, and you need to start acting like a man.'"
This is the most pressing problem keeping these men awake at night? This is what they think is wrong with the world? A group of young men being themselves?

Jim, let me explain a few things. First, gender is a spectrum, not a pair of binary categories. There are plenty of healthy ways to express gender, not just two ways. Second, gender diversity is not a sin or a pathology. I know many fine people who defy gender stereotypes. We should judge the moral character of people based on their fairness, honesty, compassion, and respectfulness, not on whether or not they shoehorn themselves into binary gender stereotypes.

If Hamilton sees "effeminate" mannerisms as offensive, one must wonder what he thinks of women (both cisgender and transgender). Under patriarchy, men deem women inferior, and anything assigned to females is branded as inferior, weak, and silly. If we are to transcend patriarchy, we must jettison the belief that certain behaviors are compulsory for men and women, as well as the assumption that things labeled "effeminate" are inferior.

Besides, I'd rather hang out with "effeminate" guys with good hearts than chest-thumping macho dude-bros any day.

(Hat tip to Transjoandarc.)


  1. Having had the benefit of a real counselor during difficult times, I get a sick feeling at the phrase "Certified Biblical Counselors". How many avoidable suicides have happened because people in a desperate state fell into the hands of these people and their ignorant judgments, when proper counseling could have saved them? Luckily it seems that their "training" is mostly for pastors (I looked at the site), but they will still do a lot of harm to people who turn to them for help.

    Jim, let me explain a few things.

    Unfortunately the problem with taking an ancient holy book as the source of absolute truth (of which this is an example) is that your understanding of the world becomes frozen at whatever level human knowledge had reached at the time the holy book was written. Anything that wasn't known 2,000 years ago -- evolution, cosmology, modern concepts of gender identity or sexuality -- is likely to be rejected because it contradicts what the ancient scribes wrote out of ignorance.

    1. Infidel -- If this "Biblical counseling" organization and its supporters have THIS much hostility toward LGBTQs and people who chafe under gender stereotypes, I worry for their clients. What could a client take away from this type of counseling except anxiety and self-loathing?

      Even if most of their followers are pastors, plenty of people still seek solace by talking to their pastors. In some congregations, professional mental health services are rejected as "unbiblical", leaving pastors as one of the few "biblical" options for counseling. Plenty of people could be harmed by this.

  2. I too am offended by men who don't wear their hats in a manly way. They all need to belch loudly and fart more often in public. Because the alternative is just gross.


    1. Agi Tater -- I would have loved to see the panelists do that!

  3. As someone who suspects that they probably would've regarded him as that most feared of things in fundamentalist Christian child-rearing circles - the dreaded "prehomosexual" boy - when he was growing up, I've long had a morbid (perhaps even masochistic) fascination with folks like these, particularly those who, like the ones you mentioned in your post, seem to have no tolerance at all for any kind of "effeminacy" in boys and men*. Admittedly, I've come across other fundamentalist-types who claim not to have a problem with people who don't conform to gender stereotypes per se, just those who take it to "extremes" by being gay or transsexual, though I'm never sure how many of them are sincere about this, and how many are just saying it to make their message more palatable to a non-fundamentalist audience (for example, while I've heard some of those who push the whole sham of reparative therapy claim that they don't have an automatic problem with males who behave in a more stereotypically feminine manner, I recall once seeing a video on YouTube by a young gay man who claimed that when his parents sent him off to a reparative therapy camp, the people running it regarded his love of art as something very disturbing that he needed to be "cured" of).

    As someone who was brought up Catholic (but no longer considers himself such), I've long been interested in my old church's attitude towards transgendered folk, as well as those who simply don't exhibit the stereotypical traits and behaviours of their birth sex. While they don't seem to have much tolerance for the former (indeed, their attitudes towards transgendered individuals often seem as Medieval as their attitudes towards gays), they seem a little more accommodating towards the latter, though I can't help feeling that they view them with a considerable amount of suspicion at the same time. In any case, it just makes me glad I no longer feel bound by their opinions on this (or any other) issue.

    *Ironically, when checking out the website you provided some links to, I noticed that all of the speakers at the conference you mentioned were clean-shaven, which is something that's been considered a sign of effeminacy in many cultures, past and present!

    1. Zosimus -- Ha ha! Yeah, people like that fail to realize that gender norms vary depending on culture and era. Something considered masculine in one culture might be considered feminine in another.

      These rigid gender stereotypes cause so much harm, especially for LGBTQ people. It's time to ditch these harmful ideas.


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