People Have Sex, Words Have Gender

I’m writing this days after Bruce Jenner decided to become Caitlyn Jenner and the question of Transgenderism is hotter than it’s ever been.


To those who support Jenner’s decision, I ask a single question of you:

If Jenner changes back, will you be equally supportive?

I’ve been thinking it through for days to be sure I don’t say something about this that I’ll regret.

There are so many angles from which to look at this. There’s the Jon Stewart angle, which unknowingly exposes the inconsistency of supporting both feminism and trans-genderism. There’s the Walt Heyer angle, which traces the gruesome history of the Trans-gender movement. (A fantastic read, by the way.) There’s the Matt Walsh angle, which I found fairly comprehensive, but could be perceived as “unfeeling.” (I disagree with this perception. I thought he was very balanced and measured toward Jenner.) There’s the general media angle, which praises Jenner unceasingly for a courageous act, and simultaneously objectifies Jenner’s new body. There’s the “hero” angle, which either lauds or criticizes Jenner’s reception of the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage.

So what angle will I come from? What will be my approach? Do I rail against Jenner or do I praise a “courageous act?”

To be completely honest, I had wanted to keep silent. I wanted not to comment on the issue, but that want was a sinful one.

Yes. I sinned because I attempted to keep silent on an issue that requires speech.

This post is evidence of my repentance. Praise God that he would love a sinner like me and commit to turning me into a saint, sealing that commitment with his indwelling Holy Spirit.

My Angle

The angle I will take will be a historical linguistic one. Basically, I’m going to talk about words and how we use them. I will comment very little on Jenner for the rest of this post. I want to speak to the larger issue, not to the specific event.

The following sentence sums up my main point nicely.

“People Have Sex, Words Have Gender.”

History Lesson

First, a quick etymology lesson. The word “gender” comes from French and Latin root words in the 12th century for “kind, sort, class, order, or family.” To “engender” came about later as a synonym of “beget” or “produce a like being.” (side note: This is why the Son, Jesus, was ‘begotten not made’ in the creeds. He is a like being with God.)

Gender was only applied to a person’s biological make-up as a synonym for the noun “sex” in the 15th century. Until then, “gender” had nothing to do with sex.

It wasn’t until the late 20th century that “gender” started replacing “sex” as the primary word to speak of a person’s reproductive qualities. I.e. to say if a person was male or female. I.e. To say if a person had a penis or a vulva. (I apologize if you find that vulgar, but those are the technical terms. I want to make it clear that gender had nothing to do with sex until relatively recently, and it wasn’t until VERY recently [the 1980’s] that it stopped being linked with the physical body.)

Shortly after that, “gender” was used colloquially and comically to speak of a person’s “sexuality” as distinct from his “sex.” Some older readers might remember using the phrase “gender-bender.”

Today, the humor has gone and the word has progressed through a series of new meanings in a surprisingly short time from “a person’s biological make-up,” to “a person’s sexual preference,” to “a person’s ‘inner sexual identification’, completely independent of the physical body.”

When you realize that the word “gender” had nothing to do with sex in the first place, its current definition is almost comical.

The Unchanged Sense of “Gender”

There is another sense of the word “gender” which has remained largely unchanged. In relation to grammar the word “gender” has a different meaning.

In other languages, not English, words are masculine, feminine, or neuter. This is a word’s “gender.”

Words cannot have sexual relations with other words. If they could, they would have a “sex” instead of a “gender.”

“Gender” is, in its purest sense, an asexual word. It refers to either a thing’s given, objective type or to a word’s given, objective grammatical construction.

Sex, on the other hand, always relates to a person’s biological make-up.

Do you have male parts or female parts? Are you a boy or a girl?

There are two of them, and you are one of them, and it’s given to you at birth. (Let’s not raise the hermaphrodite question. I can deal with it another time if you like… but this post is already getting too long. Just add “By and large” to the beginning of this paragraph if you’re hung up on it.)

Pretty much everyone agrees with this definition for “sex.” We all know it. There’s an undeniable link. We can’t get around the fact that people have sex. (It’s a noun in that last sentence, fyi.)

“Gender,” on the other hand has no such stigma. Gender has already changed meanings once, so why not again?

By applying “gender” exclusively to the inner self, certain parties have been having their cake and eating it too.

The newest definitions of gender are all about the inner person. These parties appeal to the fact that, “gender has nothing to do with a person’s sex.”

They are right!

But then, they insist that a person has a “gender” that is expressly defined in sexual terms. The “inner self,” the “true self,” they claim, can be a boy or a girl.  No one notices that boy and girl are sexes, not genders.

The truly frightening thing about all of this is that the “true self” is the subjective one that the individual says is the true self. The “false” self is the outer one that is objectively determined and independent of human opinion.

What a scary reversal this is! The “true” self is the one you have no evidence for, the one without a physical form, and the “false” self is the one you and I can both see, feel, taste, touch, examine?

Lieutenant Dan had more legs to stand on!

What This New View Shows Us

And yet, it is merely another manifestation of the same original sin: wanting to be God.

 We want to be able to control our own reality, not live in the reality that God controls.

The truth is, you can have a “new self,” but you won’t get it through surgery, or wishing, or adjusted self-image. You’ll get it through faith in Jesus Christ’s atoning work on the cross, and that new self won’t be a different sex than the one you were born with.

The simple fact is this: people do have a gender, and that gender is “people.” Here, “people” is used in a purely technical sense to differentiate us from hippos, maple trees, or rocks. We have a “type,” we have a “sort” we have a “gender” but in this sense it is still an independent reality, not a subjective opinion.

But, to paraphrase C.S. Lewis in a new context, “if anyone wants to use the word (gender) it in its old, (objective, clear,) sense, he cannot do so without explanations. It has been spoiled for that purpose.”

Since the word has been spoiled, my solution to the problem is this: use gender as a grammatical term only.

I repeat my main point.

People have sex, words have gender.

Stop using the word “gender” when you mean the word “sex.” Stop using the word gender in reference to people, unless it’s in the sense explained above.


Christians, in your argumentation with an LGBT advocate, do four things:

First of all, love them. Really, truly, wholeheartedly, love them. “Love is a commitment of the will to the true good of another.”[1] Humble yourself and realize that they are merely lost sinners, as you once were, and love them like crazy. Do not look down on them, reach down to them. Do whatever it takes to show them the love of God. Do not pretend you do not have the moral high-ground. You do! But invite them to that higher ground. Show them the better way. Accept any curse they throw at you and give benediction in return.

Second of all, don’t let them get away with misusing the word gender. Clear up the context for them. Show them the objective, undeniable history of the word. (This is a loving thing to do.)

Third of all, recognize that argumentation will not change their minds or hearts. God must do that. That doesn’t mean “don’t argue,” it means “don’t argue too much.” The most you can hope for with argumentation is to start up in your opponent a search for God, a search for the truth.

Fourth of all, pray without ceasing that God will exercise His perfect will in the lives of those with whom you argue. Also, pray without ceasing that you will remember to do, and actually do, the first three things. (The first one most of all.)

How do I deal with the situation at hand? How do I respond when I’m asked questions about Jenner?

I merely pray for Jenner’s soul.

Any sin can be forgiven except the sin of rejecting Jesus as the Son of the one true God, our savior from our sins. I am a sinner, in the sense that I still sin. I’ve said so in this very post. I am no longer a sinner, in the sense that I have been given a new nature. I have been declared righteous without practically being so.

How very applicable are the Apostle Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 4,

“We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”

Satan wants to “blind the minds of the unbelievers.” I pray, we do our part to thwart him if we can.

[1] J. Budziszewski.

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