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A model of courage in Scotland

J.K. Rowling challenges an unjust gender law, and we must challenge its roots in the sexual revolution

J.K. Rowling attends the world premiere of the film "Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald" in Paris on Nov. 8, 2018. Associated Press/Photo by Christophe Ena

A model of courage in Scotland
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The old adage that the pen is mightier than the sword is more reliable when the pen is wielded by someone who has made herself fabulously rich and famous with it.

With a few tweets, Harry Potter authoress J.K. Rowling may have defeated (in her case, at least) the Scottish government’s new hate crime law. The law is vague enough that it was (and still is) unclear whether it is a crime in Scotland to call a man who pretends to be a woman a man. Appropriately, this law went into effect on April 1. Rowling responded to the law with a series of posts highlighting the crimes and misdeeds of various trans-identified individuals, sarcastically writing, for example, that “Lovely Scottish lass and convicted double rapist Isla Bryson found her true authentic female self shortly before she was due to be sentenced.” Rowling concluded with a declaration that “Freedom of speech and belief are at an end in Scotland if the accurate description of biological sex is deemed criminal” Finally, “If what I've written here qualifies as an offence under the terms of the new act, I look forward to being arrested.”

The government quickly folded. Police announced that Rowling had not violated the law. They know that putting her in the criminal dock would also put gender ideology and the government’s legitimacy on trial before the whole world. They would prefer weaker, poorer, less famous prey, and so Rowling has promised that, “If they go after any woman for simply calling a man a man, I'll repeat that woman’s words and they can charge us both at once.” Good. Rowling’s courageous stand may pull the teeth of this law.

If the Scottish government really believed in the dogmas of transgenderism and the justice of this law, its minions would have seized this opportunity to vindicate them in front of a worldwide audience. Instead, they have retreated, thereby providing further evidence that though the church of trans has many congregants singing loudly from its hymnal, it has few true believers. Gender ideology relies on bullying—it has to, because its whole point is to induce people to live by lies.

Regimes that rely on fear to maintain obedience can crumble quickly. Not only can gender ideology be defeated, it is already being beaten back. About half of the states in the United States have passed laws protecting children from the chemical and surgical harms inflicted by “gender-affirming care,” and an expanding list of European nations, including Britain, have restricted these procedures. Additionally, many liberals who initially went along with the transgender movement are now having second thoughts as they see its radicalism.

Gender ideology can only gain power in a civilization that is collapsing—spiritually, morally, and culturally.

But rejecting the lie that a man can become—or in some metaphysical sense, already is—a woman does not teach us what it means to be men and women, or how we should live. Men and women are real and different: now what?

People need guidance in how to relate to each other and flourish as male and female, and this requires more than just returning to how things were before the transgender movement really got going. After all, gender ideology can only gain power in a civilization that is collapsing—spiritually, morally, and culturally.

This is why the fight against gender ideology also offers Christians an opportunity to proclaim to a confused culture the truth about what it is to be human, including that men and women were made for each other. This gives us an opening to challenge the sexual revolution, which paved the way for the gender revolution and is itself increasingly and obviously a source of immiseration. Not knowing how men and women should relate to each other ended with not even knowing who men and women are.

And though challenging our cultural order in this way will be difficult, it is not only necessary but timely. When arch-atheist Richard Dawkins is mourning the decline of cultural Christianity, it is a sign that we should be bold. Christianity is not foremost about comfort in this world—far from it. But it nonetheless has a great deal of wisdom for us in this life, because sin is destructive of both self and society. We should not shy away from proclaiming this, including when it comes to sex. It may be unpopular to say that sexual sin destroys genuine social justice, but it is true.

A Christian critique of gender ideology must address its roots in sexual liberation. Yes, we should thank God for J.K. Rowling and her courage, and for every other ally—including all of the liberals, lesbians, and feminists—we have in opposing gender ideology. But we must go beyond joining them in calling out the lies of the transgender movement. We must proclaim Biblical truths about why and how men and women are meant to live and love in accord with God’s good purposes for our lives.

Nathanael Blake

Nathanael Blake is a postdoctoral fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

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