Gender is unavoidably binary

There’s been another story in the news about gender and transgenderism.  A girls school have now announced that the title  “Head Girl” will be replaced with “Head of School”. Let’s not dwell on three issues for the time being. First of all, that the title chosen is used across the country now to describe a Head Teacher, particularly in Multiple Academy Trusts. Then there is the elephant in the room that the school remains a girl’s school, however it chooses to define girls. Thirdly, whilst headlines suggest that the decision has come in response to requests from students, the story is slightly different. The agenda has been driven by a deputy head teacher and the request came from the school’s “senior students” whoever they might be.[1]

Rather I want to focus on the claim made that:

“Young people are finding amazing ways to self-identify. At the last count, we stopped counting at 150 gender identities that people are self-identifying [as]. We did a little quiz in terms of what the 150 are – I know about 30, in terms of what the definitions are.”[2]

I want to suggest that the clue that we are into the territory of made up nonsense is in the peculiarly high, precise and rounded number of identities suggested which the advocate cannot even list themselves. In fact, I have struggled to find a full list of 150 genders. When I do find lists of about 50-60, it becomes clear that after about the third or fourth definition that we are just dealing with different language to say the same thing.[3]

Furthermore, you will notice that all of these labels and definition have one thing in common. They are all attempts to define a person’s identification in relation to the two foundational genders “male and “female”.  It may be that some people wish to reidentify as something different to their birth gender and it may even be that this identification is on a spectrum so that some people identify a little or occasionally with their original gender. However, it all come back to the question of whether or not you relate as male or as female.

There’s a reason for that. Or in fact two reasons. There’s the underlying reason which we know from Special revelation in Scripture which is that God made us “male and female” there was a purpose for this that we  would complement each other, so that we would not be alone and so that we would be fruitful, multiply, and fill and subdue the earth. 

The second reason is observable from General Revelation, it’s the one that biologists get. We are physically, observably male and female. So, what we are dealing with is not so much the desire to create new genders as the struggle that some people have with identifying with who they are physically. I have commented before that underlying this is a form of modern Gnosticism. It’s the belief that physical nature is at best deficient and limiting, that out true inner identity may be disconnected from our physicality and therefore that we can choose to take off and replace the outer shell.  But even if that was correct, then at best it would mean that gender is abolished altogether not that we have added new genders to the list.

I recognise that for a number of people the struggle to make sense of their identity and how their physical nature joins up with how they think and feel, and with their desires.  We need great compassion for those wrestling with such issues. Furthermore, we need to be alert to where the confusion has not been helped by over restrictive cultural specifications and expectations for the two genders. However the best way to provide that understanding and compassion is from truth not from things made up that go against what God’s Word tells us and what we  know about the world around us. 


[1] I would suggest that the concept of senior children is itself a nonsense, liable to promote cliques, bullying and elitist, entitled bullying.

[2] Emma Cusdon, Global Butterflies CEO, quoted in the Daily Telegraph. St Paul’s Girls’ School to rename role of ‘head girl’ because of its ‘binary connotations’ (telegraph.co.uk)

[3] See Here’s a List of 58 Gender Options for Facebook Users – ABC News (go.com) and http://thepbhscloset.weebly.com/a-list-of-genders–sexualities-and-their-definitions.html

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