A Most Helpful Article on Obama’s Transgender Policy

“Explainer: Federal Government Issues Letter on Transgender Policy to America’s Public Schools”

What just happened?

On Friday, May 13, the Obama administration sent a letter to all public schools in America notifying teachers and administrators of the regulations they must comply with in regards to their students’ “gender identity.”

The letter states that, to comply with Federal law, policies concerning students must be based on their gender identity and not on their biological sex.

By what authority is the Obama administration issuing this directive?

Although Congress is responsible for creating laws, they have ceded much of their authority to define what laws mean to the other two branches of government.

We often think the judiciary is the branch of government responsible for interpreting the law. But in reality most interpretation is done by the executive branch, whose departments act as regulatory agencies. Regulatory agencies handle administrative law, primarily by codifying and enforcing rules and regulations. When Congress passes a new law it usually goes to a regulatory agency to determine how the law will be put in place.

This specific letter is a “significant guidance” document, a policy instrument that provides “initial interpretations of statutory and regulatory requirements and changes in interpretation or policy.” These type of directives are often used to “Raise novel legal or policy issues arising out of legal mandates, the President’s priorities, or the principles…” This letter provides guidance on how the U.S. Department of Education (ED) and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) will “evaluate a school’s compliance” with interpretation of laws regarding transgender students.

What law is being changed or interpreted by this letter?

This letter provides guidance on the Obama administration’s interpretation of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, a law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in education programs receiving Federal financial assistance. The administration has reinterpreted Title IX to make “gender identity” synonymous with “sex.”

The key sentence in the letter is “The Departments [ED and DOJ] treat a student’s gender identity as the student’s sex for purposes of Title IX and its implementing regulations.” In other words, if a biologically male or biologically female student “identifies” as the opposite sex, then for almost all purposes public schools and colleges much treat them as such.

What are the potential penalties for refusing to follow this directive?

School districts who do not comply would be considered by the Obama administration to be in violation of Title IX, and could lose Federal funds for their school(s).

What exactly does “transgender” mean?

The letter says that, “Transgender describes those individuals whose gender identity is different from the sex they were assigned at birth.”

More broadly, transgenderism is an umbrella term for the state or condition of identifying or expressing a gender identity that does not match a person’s physical/genetic sex. A person can be transgender and “identify” as male, female, “third sex”, “genderfluid” (flexible about their gender identity and fluctuating between genders), “genderqueer” (not exclusively masculine or feminine‍), or dozens of variations.

Transgender is independent of sexual orientation, and those who self-identify as transgender may consider themselves to be heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, pansexual, polysexual, or asexual.

What is “gender identity”?

As the letter defines the term, “Gender identity refers to an individual’s internal sense of gender. A person’s gender identity may be different from or the same as the person’s sex assigned at birth.”

The LGBTQ community and their allies (including the Obama administration) consider gender to be a trait that exists along a continuum and is not inherently rooted in biology or physical expressions.

How does a student prove they are transgender?

They don’t have to prove anything; all that is required is for the student or student’s parent to notify the school. As the letter states, “Under Title IX, there is no medical diagnosis or treatment requirement that students must meet as a prerequisite to being treated consistent with their gender identity.”

But couldn’t a “genderqueer” or “genderfluid” student claim to be both male and female at the same time?

Yes they could. If they claimed to be both male and female they’d be allowed to use either male or female facilities or switch back and for the whenever they choose.

What if students or parents object to sharing a locker room with someone of the opposite biological sex?

The letter makes it clear such concerns do not matter, and that schools much provide “equal access to educational programs and activities even in circumstances in which other students, parents, or community members raise objections or concerns.” Choosing one’s gender identity is not considered a protected civil right by the Obama administration. As the notes, that means, “ As is consistently recognized in civil rights cases, the desire to accommodate others’ discomfort cannot justify a policy that singles out and disadvantages a particular class of students.”

Must schools now call male students “she” and female students “he”?

Yes. School staff and contractors must use pronouns and names consistent with a transgender student’s gender identity.

How does this directive affect restrooms and locker rooms?

Schools must allow students to use the facilities that align with their gender identity. They cannot require them to use facilities based on their biological sex or use individual-user facilities when other students are not required to do so.

How does this directive affect athletics?

The regulation is vague on this point. In general, if a biologically male transgender student wants to play the girl’s team they must be allowed to do so. However, the letter also says, “Title IX does not prohibit age-appropriate, tailored requirements based on sound, current, and research-based medical knowledge about the impact of the students’ participation on the competitive fairness or physical safety of the sport.”

How does this directive affect single-sex classes?

When offering single-sex classes and activities, a school must allow transgender students to participate consistent with their gender identity.

How does this directive affect single-sex schools?

Title IX does not apply to the admissions policies of certain educational institutions, including nonvocational elementary and secondary schools, and private undergraduate colleges. Those schools are therefore permitted under Title IX to set their own sex-based admissions policies.

How does this directive affect fraternities and sororities?

Title IX does not apply to the membership practices of social fraternities and sororities. Those organizations are therefore permitted under Title IX to set their own policies regarding the sex, including gender identity, of their members

How does this directive affect housing and overnight accommodations?

Schools must allow students to stay in accommodations that align with their gender identity. For example, if on an overnight field trip, a biologically male transgender student could sleep in the same room with female students.

What if a biological male wants to wear a dress to prom?

According to the letter, a school “may not discipline students or exclude them from participating in activities for appearing or behaving in a manner that is consistent with their gender identity or that does not conform to stereotypical notions of masculinity or femininity (e.g., in yearbook photographs, at school dances, or at graduation ceremonies).”

When does this regulation take effect?

Immediately. The Obama administration consider this letter to merely be guidance that “does not add requirements to applicable law, but provides information and examples to inform recipients about how the Departments evaluate whether covered entities are complying with their legal obligations.”

See also: 

Russell Moore, “What the Transgender Bathroom Debate Means For You

Andrew T. Walker, “Obama administration issues sweeping transgender decree: What now?

Jon Bloom helps me to think like a Christian should on Bruce Jenner

How Should We Respond to Caitlyn Jenner?

June 4, 2015

How Should We Respond to Caitlyn Jenner?

Former Olympic champion, and current pop celebrity, Bruce Jenner, revealed in a recent interview his lifelong struggle with gender confusion. This week he announced that he is changing his public identity from male to female, his given name from Bruce to Caitlyn, and celebrating his gender transition by being featured in a photo shoot and cover article for the July edition ofVanity Fair.

Jenner has suddenly become the most well-known transgender person in the world and has brought transgender issues into the headlines and cultural conversation.

So how should we, as Christians, respond to Jenner’s transition?

With Compassion

In 1976, Bruce Jenner won the Olympic gold medal in the decathlon. Instantly, he became a global mega-star. But when making public appearances afterwards, no one knew that sometimes under his suit, this handsome, muscular, charismatic epitome of masculine virility and success was wearing a bra and pantyhose.

Jenner was nine years old when he first secretly tried on his sister’s dress because he felt like he wanted to be a girl. He didn’t understand his strange desires and had never heard of anyone else who felt this way. He had no one to talk to. He was a little boy carrying a secret shame that made him feel isolated from everyone else. He always felt like a fake — like he was constantly pretending to be a boy, even though he was one.

A gifted athlete, Jenner excelled in every sport he played throughout his teens, eventually becoming world-class in track and field in his twenties. But no one knew that part of what fueled his fierce competitive drive was a desperate effort to prove he really was a man. Always present in his consciousness, sometimes screaming at him, sometimes whispering to him from the shadows, was an inner voice telling him that he was female.

Adding to his confusion, his gender and sexual-orientation voices were dissonant: He had a heterosexual attraction to women. The inner conflict of his disordered desires, though not the sole cause, contributed significantly to the break up of three marriages.

None of this means that Jenner’s decision to self-identify as a female is okay. There are important reasons why it’s not okay (see the links below). Compassion does not mean compromisingbiblical truth. But sexual identity must be for us more than an abstract social issue. Real souls have endured real anguish over it. We must seek to understand their painful stories before we speak into their struggles. The more we know, the more compassionate will be our truthful response.

“Sexual identity must be for us more than an abstract social issue. Real souls have endured real anguish over it.”

Christians are equipped to respond with real compassion for such struggles. We all understand from experience the distressing disorder of the inner man that occurs because of indwelling sin and the brokenness of the fall:

I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. . . . I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? (Romans 7:15, 21–24)

With Prayer

Bruce Jenner, and every person who deals with gender or sexual-orientation disorders, bears the image of God and has a priceless soul. The first compassionate impulse we should have is to pray for them. Jenner professes to be a Christian. Whatever that means, he at least may have potential openness to biblical truth. Let us pray that the truth of the gospel will set him free (John 8:32), knowing how much Jesus loves to redeem and restore sin-broken people.

With Greater Understanding

Growing in our understanding of the nature of transgender and sexual-orientation disorders is necessary so that we don’t hold ignorant assumptions and say erroneous and insensitive things to people. And it would be wise for us to anticipate the possibility of discovering someday that our child, grandchild, cousin, nephew, niece, friend, co-worker, or possibly a parent is enduring such a struggle. If that should happen, we want to be safe people for them to talk to.

“Jenner, and every person who deals with gender disorder, bears the image of God and has a priceless soul.”

Beyond that, gender issues are only going to grow in prominence in our society. The nations of the West have fully legitimized many of them and are working them into the legal codes. The past cultural restraints are gone. We will increasingly be called upon to explain and defend the biblical position. We need to know what the Bible actually says about transgender and sexual orientation and why the church throughout history has held its positions. Greater understanding will make us both more compassionate and more articulate. (I’ve prepared a list of places to begin at the end of this article.)

With Truthful Love

If we are compassionate, prayerful people who reasonably understand transgender and sexual-orientation issues and what the Bible says about them, we are in a good position to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). Speaking truth is itself a form of love, even if a person doesn’t receive it as such initially. But “in love” also means speaking with great respect, empathy, and appropriate humility. And it means a willingness to love strugglers with deeds (such as hospitality), not just words (1 John 3:18).

Regarding Jenner’s transition, it probably means being slow to speak, especially on social media. And if you do speak something truthful, seek to be an unusually respectful, gracious voice. Jenner is not likely to read your remarks, but maybe someone you know who is guarding a tender, shameful secret will. Speak as you would to a friend.

But pray for Jenner, that God will send to him one or two who will speak the truth of the gospel with Christ-like love and that he will have ears to hear. Jenner’s hope is that “as soon as the Vanity Fair cover comes out, I’m free.” But we know he will not be free. After some period of euphoric relief, he will find that he is still a “wretched man” who needs to be delivered from his body of death (Romans 7:24).

That is precisely why Jesus came: to deliver people like Bruce Jenner and us from our domains of sinful darkness (Colossians 1:13) and our failing, disordered bodies, and give us glorious, powerful, disorder-free resurrection bodies (1 Corinthians 15:42–44). “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord,” there is a greater hope than gender identity can provide (Romans 7:25).

It is Jesus’s truth that sets all of us free (John 8:32).


Related Resources

Full author jon bloomJon Bloom is president of Desiring God and author of Not by Sight(2013) and Things Not Seen (July 2015). He lives in the Twin Cities with his wife, Pam, their five children, and one naughty dog.