Gender Dysphoria is “The experience of distress associated with the incongruence wherein one’s psychological and emotional gender identity does not match one’s biological sex” (20, cited below). Mark Yarhouse’s latest book, Understanding Gender Dysphoria, seeks to explore this complex topic from a Christian perspective.
Yarhouse does a phenomenal job of introducing readers to just how complex the issue is, while also providing key terms and basic level knowledge for coming to understand gender dysphoria more than they may have before. The book starts with a look at defining terms and looking at ways to offer reasoned response to gender dysphoria. He writes, “Unfortunately, one way people respond to transgender issues is to devalue the person who is gender variant and simultaneously turn to rigid stereotypes of gender” (24). The focus throughout on remembering our calling to spread the Kingdom of God and remain aware of the needs, hopes, and fears of people experiencing gender dysphoria is something of which all readers should take note.
Another very helpful aspect of the book is Yarhouse’s evaluation of responses to various issues through three primary frameworks of understanding. These are the integrity framework, which focuses on staying true to one’s biological gender; the disability framework, which sees transgender issues as a nonmoral reality that is the result of a fallen world; and the diversity framework, which focuses on celebrating and honoring persons with gender dysphoria. Through these three lenses, Yarhouse evaluates various topics like hormone therapy, sex-change operations, and the like. In doing so, he emphasizes the need to balance these three frameworks such that no one is emphasized over the others.
There is quite a bit of data packed into this relatively short book. Many studies are cited, and Yarhouse helps readers navigate through the dizzying array of results in order to try to draw some conclusions, while continuing to note the complexities involved in the topic.
Perhaps the main critique one might offer the book is that Yarhouse does leave much of the “what’s next?” up to readers. That is, although he does offer several insights into how Christians might more effectively respond to gender dysphoria, he largely provides the tools to tackle the tough problems rather than offering the solutions themselves. This is both a weakness and a strength. It’s a weakness in that I’m sure some readers will wish they had an easy solution to some of the difficult problems they may face. It’s always simpler to just use a response someone has given to us rather than coming up with our own responses. It’s a strength in that Yarhouse does provide so many tools to readers that they can go into their faith communities and communicate on the issue in an informed fashion.
Understanding Gender Dysphoria is a valuable work for those wishing to engage with transgender issues. It doesn’t answer every question that might come up, but it does give readers the tools to come up with their own answers while doing so in a loving and Christian way.
+Solid information and insights into the nature of gender dysphoria
+Excellent tone and focus on message
+Plenty of practical insights and examples
+Focus on facts
+Focus on worldview-level questions
-Only a bare sketch of what to do next
Disclaimer: I was provided with a review copy of the book from the publisher. I was not asked to give any specific kind of feedback whatsoever.
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Mark Yarhouse, Understanding Gender Dysphoria (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2015).
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