Many years ago, Starbucks attributed their success to them being able to create ‘a third space’, as in we have our home ( place #1) and we have our office ( place #2). Starbucks wanted to be the third space when we wanted a home away from home or an office away from office. “A place the church should be” as Leonard Sweet pointed out. So, they created this comfortable and undemanding environment where you can work, have a meeting, meet with friends or just relax with a coffee and free wi-fi (by the way you cannot ask for a coffee at Starbucks – they created their own vocabulary as well, it’s a skinny latte or a tall cappuccino). Fantastic concept and product placement, they don’t sell coffee; they sell an experience.
Unfortunately, for many in the workplace today the ‘third space’ has taken on a much more challenging meaning. I work in the hospitality industry and about a fortnight back there was an article in the newspaper of a chef who identifies as trans, talking about how the industry here needs to be more facilitating of trans people and create separate toilets and locker rooms for them. Suddenly what had seemed to be a western problem and many miles away from me and India came uncomfortably close and became something we will need to deal with in the very near future.
While there are no easy answers, perhaps understanding the issues and genesis of the ideas behind this social movement might help frame an appropriate response.
Firstly, among the plethora of alphabets within the LGBTQ+, who are the T or Trans ’, and how has this grouping come about? To answer the first question, it is actually a strange and fundamentally incoherent association because the LGBTQ are divided on the very basis of their sexual identity which ostensibly binds them together. The L which stands for lesbians and G which stands for gays are women and men who are attracted to their own sex. In other words, they identify the biological difference of the sexes as fundamental to their sexual orientation: Women are attracted to women and men to men. The ‘B’ or ‘Bi’ though attracted to both sexes also clearly accept the difference between the two sexes as fundamental to their choice of partners and relationships. The Trans, on the other hand, deny the difference between the sexes, claiming that the individual can choose his or her gender, and the biology we are born with is irrelevant.
Simply put, for the Trans the sex that was put on their and our birth certificate by the doctor or our parents is only a place holder till they or we decide who or what we want to be, and it is fluid, changing from time to time as the person wishes. If the person cannot figure out where he or she fits on the spectrum then the Q – Queer or some other alphabet can apply. Facebook has, I believe, 72 options!
Understandably this has created a lot of practical challenges for organisations in terms of logistics. Also, questions for society itself as to where personal identification crosses the line for the person concerned happiness in being accepted as they identify themselves, or verges on insanity. Additionally, for those of us who believe that God made man, male and female we need to know how to respond biblically.
As an employer do I allow a man who identifies as a woman to use the ladies’ locker-room? Would the women employees feel comfortable with a six-foot tall ‘man’ entering their space? If not, then what? Since he identifies as a woman forcing ‘him’ to use the men’s locker-room can be interpreted as discrimination. That’s just the tip of the iceberg! And what about the person who identifies as a cat ( true story!) do we need to give them a litter box? Scenarios that Stanley Kramer never envisaged when he titled his 1963 movie ‘It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World’.
How did we get here? The origins go back to before the French Revolution, through the Enlightenment and on down to Marx and Freud. Marx believed that the great moral problem of society could be reduced to the institutions of authority within society. He held that because authority by its very nature is oppressive all authoritative structures should be destroyed. Only then would the world be rid of evil and experience utopia. He despised what we call the ‘creation order’; he hated the world God had made, and wanted to wipe out every trace of the divine from the earth.1Jeffrey Johnson – What every Christian should know about social justice
Over the years the Marxist grid which spectacularly failed when applied on the economic front has been applied more broadly to anthropology. Here everyone is either an oppressor or an oppressed person. This plays out in the woke movement, critical race theory and to our subject on the Trans movement which also claims to be a historically oppressed class.
Limiting their sexual identity to what they are born with, is society oppressing their freedom of identity to be all they want? And since post-Freud, human happiness is equated with sexual happiness, any institution of social construct that impinges on their happiness is oppressive. ‘True emancipation begins with the emancipation of thought itself’2Scruton – Fools, Frauds and Firebrands no matter how absurd. Voddie Baucham Jr. says that ‘such thinking, including Critical Race Theory, derived from this system is Gnosticism’.3Voddie Baucham Jr – Ethnic Gnosticism
I often wonder what would happen if I applied this logic to nationality and I landed up at US immigration and identified myself as a Texan. To deport me then, would be denying my identity!
For those of us in the marketplace who accept the authority of scripture, I would submit that we need to move away from scouring the scriptures for proof texts on immorality and instead recapture a fresh vision of the grand and glorious plan of God when he made us in his image, male and female. The ‘profound mystery’ of our sexuality as Paul writes to the Ephesians, because we too like the world can sometimes get the divine story wrong. Christopher West writes “unwittingly we give the evil far more weight than it deserves as if the devil had created his own ‘evil world’ to battle God’s ‘good world’. But the devil is a creature, not a creator. This means he does not have his own clay. All he can do is take God’s clay (which is always very good) and twist it, distort it”.4Christopher West – Our bodies tell God’s story He goes on to quote Pope John Paul II “if we want to know what is most sacred in this world, all we need to do is look at what is most profaned”.
As Jesus told the Pharisees when they asked him about divorce, we need to go back to the beginning; the chaos of today is not normal. This is not how God created it to be. There in the Garden there was one place, where Adam and Eve lived, worked and fellowshipped with God. The fall expelled them from the Garden and the realms were not only separated but became conflicted.
Today we stand on the other side of the cross where Christ is renewing all things and we confidently look forward to a new world where we will live, work and worship joyfully and harmoniously. Till then, we need to understand those around us, those seeking their own identity in their sexuality as ones who are actually seeking the Imago Dei which was lost, and create that third space, not the washroom they are fighting over, but a place where they find their creator and feel at home in his presence.