“Genitalia Are Not Destiny” — But Are They Design?

“Genitalia Are Not Destiny” — But Are They Design?

Riding in the wake of the cultural speedboat of the destigmatization of same-sex intercourse is the mainstreaming of “gender non-conformists.” Witness the June 9 issue of Time. Laverne Cox, born a boy, is on the front page, in his chosen female identity.

Cox, the star of the Netflix drama Orange Is the New Black, gives a lengthy and illuminating online interview with Time reporter Katy Steinmetz. It is a sad story of a very painful childhood, an absent father, an emotionally disconnected mother, an attempted suicide, and a marginally significant church.

Up until the third grade, Cox says, “I just thought that I was a girl and that there was no difference between girls and boys. I think in my imagination I thought that I would hit puberty and I would start turning into a girl.” He had one twin brother. No sisters.

The supreme treasure Cox longed for was fame. “I wanted to be famous, I wanted to perform. Those things I really, really wanted more than anything else.”

“My mother just had an inability to fully emotionally connect. . . . I never knew my father. He was never married to my mother, he was never a part of my life.”

Today Cox is “touring the country giving a stump speech titled ‘Ain’t I a Woman?’ When Cox says it, that refrain is not a question.” Cox claims, “I’m happy that I am myself and I couldn’t imagine my life if I were still in denial or lying, pretending to be a boy. That seems ridiculous to me. That seems crazy at this point. . . . It’s nice to be done with transitioning.”

Are Genitalia Destiny?

The subtitle of the interview reads: “On politics, happiness, and why genitalia isn’t destiny.” That’s the question I want to deal with.

Is gender set by a preference of the individual, or a providence of God? Or to put it another way: Is my sex determined by my decision in my mind, or by God’s design in my nature?

To find God’s instruction about this, we turn to Romans 1:19–28.

In a stunning way, the apostle Paul draws a parallel between the way nature teaches about God and the way nature teaches about male and female sexuality. And the point is this: Nature is one of God’s methods of revealing what we should prefer, even if we don’t.

In other words, Paul shows that preference is to be guided by God’s design in nature. It’s not independent, as though you can simply choose your essence.

But Laverne Cox maintains the exact opposite:

Folks want to believe that genitals and biology are like destiny! All these designations are based on a penis, . . . and then a vagina. And that’s supposed to say all these different things about who people are. When you think about it, it’s kind of ridiculous. People need to be willing to let go of what they think they know about what it means to be a man and what it means to be a woman. Because that doesn’t necessarily mean anything inherently.

Without God, this reasoning is compelling. If there is no God telling me what is wise and good, then my own preference will assume that role. It will seem “ridiculous” to say “biology is destiny.” The modern man thinks otherwise, as William Ernest Henley says, “I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.”

But in Paul’s mind, the issue is not what nature says “inherently,” but what it says as God’s revelation of his design for male and female. God, the wise, loving, purposeful creator and designer of human life is the one who connects biological nature and sexual identity.

Let’s watch him do it.

Nature Revealing the Will of God

Romans 1:19–20 says that “what can be known about God is plain, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, . . . in the things that have been made.”

In other words, God’s divine nature is revealed in the physical, material universe. So much so that verse 20 says, “So they are without excuse” when they “exchange the glory of God for the glory of the creature” (verse 23), or when they “exchange the truth about God for a lie and worship and serve the creature rather than the Creator” (verse 25).

Paul is saying that the material, physical universe reveals God’s true nature, and his design for humans to worship him.

Then Paul draws the parallel with human sexuality. Just as physical nature reveals the truth about God, so physical nature reveals truth about sexual identity. Whom we should worship is not left to our preferences, and who we are sexually is not left to our preferences. Both are dictated by God’s revelation in nature.

Thus in Romans 1:26–27 Paul says, “Their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men.”

The parallel Paul is making is this: On the one hand, cosmology is designed by God to reveal truth about God’s identity (as powerful and divine); on the other hand, biology (anatomy) is designed by God to reveal truth about our identity (as male and female). This truth is so plain, Paul says, that we are “without excuse” if we don’t see it and agree with it.

So if a human looks at the world and chooses to worship a creature rather than the Creator, he is without excuse. And if a man looks at his own body and chooses to play the part of a woman, or a woman looks at her own body and chooses to play the part of a man, they are without excuse.

Because in both cases (in divine worship and in human sexuality) God has given nature (cosmological and biological) as a revelation of his will: Humans should worship God, males should act like men, females should act like women.

God has not left us without guidance in these matters. His declaration in Romans 1 and his design in nature intersect to make clear: A biological male who gives himself over to his passion to act like a female is acting against God’s revealed will (Romans 1:27). The passion does not make it natural. The biology makes the passion unnatural.

God Knows Best

Now we can see why the subtitle of the Cox interview — “Genitalia isn’t destiny” — is misleading. That is true: Laverne Cox has created another destiny contrary to his genitalia. But it is not the whole truth. Here is a greater truth: “Genitalia is a revelation of God’s design.”

God knows what is best for humanity. He also knows the painful disordering of our sexual desires that came with the fall. We are all disordered in some measure in different ways. He promises to help us with our disordered loves so that we can enjoy measures of contentment in the midst of our necessary self-denial (for example, Hebrews 13:5–6).

He also sent his Son to die for our sins, so that, even if we have spent the last twenty years of our lives trying to be a man when God gave us the body of a woman, or trying to be a woman when God gave us the body of a man, God will forgive us if we turn to Christ for mercy and embrace him in repentance as our supreme treasure.

It will not be easy — certainly not for Laverne Cox — but it is possible. For all things are possible with God (Matthew 19:26).

John Piper (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is author of more than 50 books.