Ethics & Christian living

Listening to the ‘others’ we talk about

This is a response to Martin Kuhrt’s article Dividing body, soul & spirit: Gnostic heresies live on

Hi Martin, 

We don’t know each other but I subscribe to Grace + Truth and I read your recent article. I also do the same job as you in a different part of the country.

I found your article thought provoking. I agreed with some, but not all, of what you said. I agree that the Thatcher and Kwarteng comments were completely unacceptable, and Hoddle’s perspective is a terrible way of viewing disability. I’m agnostic as to whether they have their roots in Gnosticism, to me they were just sexist, racist and de-humanising.

However, I do see another link between all three incidents. All the comments were made about a person or people group who were distant and being cast as ‘the other’.  Those being commented on were not ‘in the room’.


You probably know the early history of the black consciousness and gay rights movements. They both started with the powerless attempting to address their situation and regain the power that they lost through their skin pigmentation or sexual preference.

Sadly, as these movements began, they were all met with resistance from those in power. Over time, culture has shifted and we have seen general mainstream acceptance of both these movements. Both still have goals to achieve, but they have secured and witnessed significant cultural change. 


This powerlessness that people of colour and LGBTQ+ individuals endured manifested itself in many ways. These included social exclusion, generational poverty, limited job prospects.

These issues (plus many more) in turn led to these powerless groups to experiencing multiple mental health and wellbeing issues, thus perpetuating the power/powerless imbalance and maintaining the hegemony. 


Both these movements formed some kind of ideology that articulated their powerlessness and they initiated practical action. These human conceived ideologies were not perfect but they fuelled action that led to positive social change. They were nascent ideologies driven by the powerless that those in power, without any lived experience, frequently sneered at.

All ideologies can and must be critiqued, that helps them improve, but those that critique this must do so with some kind of lived experience or at least dialogue with the other. The ‘other’ has to be in the metaphorical room. 

Deeper reason

The deeper reason for my response to your article is that I live with a trans person, my 9-year-old child.

From a very early age (3 or 4 years old), much to my frustration, they refused to wear clothes that matched their gender. For weeks getting dressed every morning was a nightmare. Eventually we gave up and decided that they can wear what they want and from then on, they have worn clothes that are in contrast to their assigned gender. I don’t know what the future holds for my child but the situation we have now is much better. 

A different danger

I find it interesting that you use the word ‘dangerous’ to describe the trans ideology. For me there is a very different danger, just google “trans suicide rates.” This is the first sentence of the top hit, ‘Data indicate that 82% of transgender individuals have considered killing themselves and 40% have attempted suicide, with suicidality highest among transgender youth.’

Martin, I wake up with that danger every morning. Furthermore, trans individuals also experience higher rates of domestic and sexual violence, and “trans and non-binary people are often the targets of transphobic hate crimes and state violence.”


Presently, those who identify as trans are suffering multiple mental health and wellbeing issues, and through the binary-gendered world that they encounter, regularly experience powerlessness and are trying to form an ideology and take action to address this. Sound familiar?

The early successes of the justice movements I briefly outlined above is the growing awareness that we do not live in a typical world. By this I mean, not everyone is born white, western, straight and gender normative. For unknown reasons, some people are born ‘atypical’ and the world is a better place for it. We need our ideologies to continue to emerge and change according to these new realities.


My final question to you is are you trans or have you been in dialogue with someone who is trans in writing your article? If the answer is yes, I’d love to hear more how your idea of ‘trans ideology’ compares with lived trans experience. Either way, those in power must take action so that trans individuals stop feeling the need to kill themselves and that they experience the equality and empowerment that they deserve.

If you have not consulted any trans individuals in writing your article, then I am afraid you have made the same error of those who you highlighted: your friend, Huq and Hoddle. Making comments about the other without the other being in room. I believe that this is the dangerous place to be.

Rather than speaking against the voiceless we need to speak out on behalf of the voiceless, and for the rights of all who are vulnerable.



7 thoughts on “Listening to the ‘others’ we talk about”

  1. Dear Tim,
    Thank you for your article in response to mine and for your interesting points and challenges. Regarding the question as to whether I am in dialogue with any trans people, I am indeed. I currently know three people in my own church and parish context who have transitioned, are transitioning, or are considering it. As with others who identity as LGBTQ+, I recognise that we are talking about matters that affect real people, whose stories (and those around them) are often heartbreakingly sad, difficult and painful.

    I recognise, for instance, the tremendous challenges of raising a child who experiences gender dysphoria and how painful and difficult this might be for all concerned. I have known people who have committed suicide and know the effect on those close to them. I understand that fear of one’s child committing suicide is a dreadful fear, and a child’s suicide is something that as parents we might be willing to do anything, or almost anything, to try to prevent.

    This is all obviously very personal for you and I understand how in your experience things became easier for you and your child when you allowed them to take on the gender identity they felt more comfortable with. I guess though that you will have concerns about what will happen when your child starts to go through puberty.
    I’m assuming that your child is trans rather than intersex, because of your use of trans terminology. In other words, your child is definitely of the male or female sex biologically but strongly identifies as the opposite sex to this. While having great sympathy for this very difficult situation, my worry is the development of an ideology that emerges in response, which then brings its own problems.

    I suppose this is similar to the issues you raise over racism. One way of reacting to historic racial grievances and their continuing fallout, for instance, is for victims and their ‘allies’ to develop ideas such as ‘critical race theory’ or hatred for the descendants of past oppressors. But responding to sin in a sinful way is just another sin, and makes its own contribution to the misery of this world.

    In relation to the trans issue, there is definitely an ideology that has emerged in reaction to the bullying, nastiness and pain experienced by those who are not ‘gender normative’. This is where gnostic ideas can come in and promise a solution. If there is a mismatch between our bodies and our deeply held feelings, then gnostic-influenced trans ideology says that it must be the body that is always out of line. The body, being merely a prison for the soul, can and should be altered. However, one’s feelings are sacrosanct because they reflect ‘who we truly are in our innermost being’.

    I do worry about the phrase ‘gender assigned at birth’. On the rare occasions where there is genital deformity and doctors and parents must make their best guess as to the child’s gender, the phrase is entirely appropriate. Where however, there is no biological doubt as to what sex the child is, is it not more appropriate to say that their gender was recognised rather than assigned, even if that child later shows symptoms of gender dysphoria?

    I also worry that, while puberty blockers, hormone treatment and surgery can seem to alleviate gender dysphoria in some people for a period of time, there are aspects of biological reality that cannot be changed, and that ‘body correction’ is not the solution many hope for in terms of wholeness and wellbeing. I spent time recently with someone who had ‘gender reassignment surgery’ 5 years ago, having lived as a transgender person for several years before that. They have, since surgery, made several suicide attempts and developed agoraphobia and become alcoholic. This is on top of painful measures necessary to stop their surgically removed body parts growing back.

    Another person I know has started to transition at work, but has told me that it is largely to do with poor body image and a feeling that their additional needs will be met with a more sympathetic response if they identity as the opposite sex. A third person, quite young, has many other issues they are wresting with. In all three cases exposure to trans ideology has influenced these particularly vulnerable people in their thinking about the solution to their problems. Therefore confronting false ideologies is, I believe, part of protecting the vulnerable and the voiceless from harm.

    I accept that in your case your child showed symptoms of gender dysphoria before they were ever consciously exposed to ‘an ideology’ but ideology may influence what is perceived to be the best solution to people in a very difficult situation.

    One of our children is adopted. The received wisdom used to be that an adopted child should not be told about their biological origins until they were grown up. Nowadays psychologists and social workers advise adopters to tell the child about their birth story in an age-appropriate way as soon as they can begin to understand. We have followed this advice, but to be honest, I can see why in days gone by it was done differently. I think we would have perhaps found it easier bringing our child up if they thought we were their ‘birth parents’. Knowing that their birth mother and father could not or would not look after them can leave a very painful feeling of sadness, anger, abandonment and self-rejection and can produce all sorts of behaviour difficulties on top of the ones that naturally occur subconsciously following trauma in the early years.

    But what happened in previous times was that when the child eventually found out they were adopted, there was such a sense of dislocation and anger (at being effectively lied to) that severe distress and severe mental health problems ensued that were overwhelming and often led to destructive behaviour, sometimes fatal. Although it is harder to tell the child the truth from the beginning (and may result in years of more stressful parenting than otherwise), telling them a ‘well-intentioned lie’, which is effectively what used to happen, led to terrible problems later on.

    This leads me to be wary of the idea that avoiding difficult truths can ever truly help people. Some trans ideology does I think say to people whose biological sex is scientifically proven, ‘you may appear to be male, but inside you are really female’ or vice versa. This, I believe, is contrary to the truth in Christ that we are a unity of body, soul and spirit.

    Gender dysphoria is, I believe, a sad and painful symptom of a fallen, broken world, like every other symptom – depression and suicidal feelings included, and I would not want to judge any parents for doing what they feel is best for their children given their obvious distress and a terribly difficult situation.

    However, I do think it is important we identify and reject false ideas which, like cruel behaviour, can also result in a lot of harm to people. One such false idea is the gnostic one, which, in a trans context, I believe, sacrifices truth in a desire to help people. Holding to both grace and truth together in this area may mean accepting and supporting a child’s coping mechanism for their dysphoria (over and above of course guarding them from bullying and nastiness), while still recognising biological facts and that ultimately, wholeness cannot be found in denying the integrity of body, soul and spirit.

    May you receive all God’s wisdom and strength in your care for your child.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I wonder if part of the gender confusion experienced by so many young people nowadays (apart from what they’ve been told by the media), comes from a shifting, polarised cultural view of what constitutes being a ‘boy’ or a ‘girl'(Girls wearing pink, etc.) In the 1970s, I remember feeling that all boys (like myself) who didn’t enjoy sport but did love reading and writing, were somehow less masculine than everyone else. It’s good to challenge that, we don’t all have to be the same, and young people do experiment with different ways of being themselves. The danger lies in pigeon-holing oneself (or doing it to children) far too early.


    1. Yes, I think for some children and young people there is a conscious or maybe even subconscious ‘protest’ going on against the cultural assumptions that go along with their gender. In my reply to Tim’s article I was assuming that his child was wanting to do more than just wear clothes normally associated with the other sex but take on the whole gender identity of the opposite sex. Many girls like to wear what are considered to be boys clothes. My 9 year old daughter wears trousers as her school uniform and nearly all of her clothes could equally be worn by a boy. She doesn’t like dresses or anything that looks ‘girly’. She likes football and skateboarding and generally gets on better with boys, but that is probably more to do with having three older brothers than anything else. If someone told her she might be a transgender boy, however, it might seriously mess with her head.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, I think it’s a real danger and a matter for concern. There have always been people who don’t fit the gender stereotypes. Such girls used to be called ‘tomboys’. Some are lesbians, others not. Princess Anne springs to mind. Never looks more comfortable than striding across a muddy field in boots and trousers with her horses and dogs. The remedy is to emphasise the very real breadth of ways of being a woman.


  3. I appreciate the tone of the response and its thoughtfulness.
    I have some concern about the section on the very real and painful mental health issues and suicide and assault rates experienced by trans people. This is often cited in discussion. While this is terrible, and of course antipathy must play a part in it, I haven’t seen the studies that investigate the causes of the mental health issues. I have seen some studies that indicated that there is a higher than average rate of ADHD among trans people, but that’s all. I’d like to see studies that unpacked the cause and effect of eg suicide rates. Lacking those, I’m concerned that the harm suffered by trans individuals is seen as entirely the product of society in general, which is then urged to be especially affirming to them, lest they suicide or suffer trauma. All this suggests that there is some intrinsic weakness. Can this be the case?
    And I guess that like black, white, gay and straight people, trans people are all different, not one homogenous group.


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