Editorial: Writing and Worldviews -- By: Denny Burk
JBMW 16:1 (Spring 2011) p. 2
Writing and Worldviews
Associate Professor of Biblical Studies
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
A recent news report caught my attention—not so much because it was particularly surprising or unheard of (it wasn’t), but because it was an unhappy sign of the times. It contains another subtle marker of how much the public’s thinking about gender issues has changed in a relatively short time. But the shift is not in the substance of the story itself (tragic as it is) but in how the story is told. From the opening paragraphs of the report:
Woman charged in transgender beating at McDonald’s
ROSEDALE, Md. — An 18-year-old woman has been charged in an attack on a transgender woman over using a McDonald’s restroom in a Baltimore suburb—an incident captured on video by a McDonald’s employee…
A video of the April 18 fight posted online shows two young women kicking and punching 22-year-old Chrissy Lee Polis in the head until she appears to have a seizure.
Polis told The Baltimore Sun that before she was attacked she heard a teen say she was a man using the women’s restroom.1
The substance of this report is at once troubling and sad and ought to evoke the outrage of every decent person that reads it. Nevertheless, the events in the report aren’t what I want to focus on.
Instead, I want to highlight a subtlety in how the story is written that may have gone unnoticed by many readers. Notice that the male victim is designated as a transgender “woman,” and the report goes on to refer to him four times with the feminine pronoun “she.” What is going on here? Perhaps a bit of explanation would help.
A transgender person is someone who identifies psychologically with a gender that is opposite of his biological gender. The whole category of transgender assumes that gender is a social construct. This view treats gender not as something that you are born with (vis-à-vis biology) but as a set of stereotypes and preferences that one learns from culture. On the nature-vs-nurture spectrum, this view holds gender to be all nurture and no nature. Gender is something that you learn, not something that you are.
Thus in contemporary gender theory, one’s
JBMW 16:1 (Spring 2011) p. 3
gender is not biologically determined. I...
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