A recent controversy over a woman being banned from Planet Fitness has yet again thrust the subject of gender identity into the media. A woman reported that a man had been invading the women’s locker rooms and refused to leave, claiming that he identified as a woman. After several consecutive complaints, the woman was banned from the location. As it turns out, Planet Fitness’ judgment-free-zone slogan was not limited to workouts, but applies in a larger context. Your first reaction might be to think that this is ridiculous—and your reaction might be justified. But given the ambiguity over gender identity in the last several decades, you probably shouldn’t be too surprised.
Psychology makes a distinction between sex (physical traits) and gender (psychological identification.) That being said, a person can be born with male reproductive organs, but identify as a woman. Whether or not we agree with this is irrelevant; this is psychology speaking. Sooner or later this issue begins to boil over and demand some sort of answer as to how this should play out in the public sphere. Does sex trump gender in terms of public privileges? If I am physically born a male, but psychologically identify as a woman, what determines my right to enter into a woman’s bathroom? To make matters slightly more complicated, what happens if I am a man who identifies as a woman, and is attracted to other men? Which bathroom is he/she allowed to enter? And the confusion goes on.
Now to some people, this issue is a no-brainer. If you are born with male anatomy, you are a male! You may be outraged that we even need to discuss this. However, we need not let our fairly comfortable disposition in a so-called Christian nation keep us from being blind to the inevitable. The question must eventually rise:
What does it mean to be a man? What does it mean to be a woman?
My evangelical friends will say that those who love the God of the Bible will have an answer to this question. But who does the culture love? Certainly not God; therefore we shouldn’t expect it to ground it’s morality in God. You could say that the culture loves human rights above all; not realizing that the term human rights is not synonymous with absolute human privilege. All humans should have rights, but not all humans will have equal privileges (hence, men entering into women’s locker rooms). As a more extreme example, some humans, when given certain freedoms, will use them to enslave over humans. Hence the need for cultural guidelines. Somewhere along the line we restrain people from excising freedoms. We have laws and law enforcers for the purpose of keeping abusers from abusing. That’s all fine until we really begin to probe for answers about what is truly right and wrong. Why shouldn’t a man who thinks himself to be a woman be allowed into a women’s locker room? Because it isn’t ethical! You might say. But ethical according to who? The man? The woman who notified the staff? Psychology? The problem is, who sets the ultimate guidelines? When culture embraces relativism, it removes the original guidelines. It seeks to give each person a section of guardrail and then sets them free to place it where they wish. We should then not be surprised when the designs that we have created do not suit our flourishing—we cannot even agree on which edges we should be guarded from.
To conclude, we really shouldn’t be surprised by this incident at Planet Fitness. You can disagree with it (as I do), but the man who invaded the women’s locker room was simply excising the privileges that the culture-of-psychology permitted him to exercise. When we’ve made a mess out of what it means to be man or woman you can expect these sorts of things to follow naturally. Hence, the need for God. Humans are what God has created them to be. Take God out of the picture, and you’re left with confusion about what humans truly are, and what humans are allowed to be.