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‘Fast and Furious’ Movies Prove That Fantasy Can Become Propaganda

“We’re family,” the famous street-racer claims of his friends, but this idea actually subverts the biblical beauty of God-given adoption.
on Apr 11, 2022 · 18 comments

Welcome to the reconditioning.

In George Orwell’s classic dystopian novel 1984, the protagonist, Winston, finds himself secretly incredulous at the double-mindedness people need to live under Big Brother’s tyrannical rule. Slavish obedience defines his world, where no person can even think freely. He makes his meager living working in the so-called Ministry of Truth, where he rewrites history to fit the Party’s current, capricious narratives.

A dedicated team sweeps the streets, confiscating out-of-date editions of books, magazines, etc. that have been changed with no acknowledgement of the swap.

Largely through the power of manipulated language, called Newspeak, Party members are required to believe contradictory and manifestly false ideas. Winston’s country has supposedly always warred with East Asia and allied with Eurasia—until the alliances shift, and the people are told that they have always been bitter enemies with Eurasia and always aligned with East Asia. And the people accept this, partly out of fear of consequences, but mostly through persistent, incremental conditioning.

Orwell shows us this concept in society ad absurdum, particularly in a telling passage when Winston gets the news:

“It appeared that there had even been demonstrations to thank Big Brother for raising the chocolate ration to twenty grammes a week. And only yesterday, he reflected, it had been announced that the ration was to be reduced to twenty grammes a week. Was it possible that they could swallow that, after only twenty-four hours? Yes, they swallowed it.”

—George Orwell, 1984

1984, George OrwellThe rule of law in Clown World

Many readers hail Orwell as a sort of prophet, foreseeing much of the surveillance technology and propaganda methods we take for granted today. How did Orwell so clearly foresee the future manipulations of truth? How did he predict a population with decreasing attention spans paired with increasingly rapid news cycles?

It is because the Soviets of Orwell’s time didn’t invent lying. The devil himself seems to have done that, before the dawn of man. But don’t worry—we’re quick learners.

So here we are in 2022, when we need courage to call a confused woman who thinks she is a man, “ma’am,” and when pundits earnestly tell us that men can give birth (and isn’t that wonderful?). We could also explore the idea-conditioning behind climate change and even pandemic lockdowns. But amidst these and many other seeming absurdities, gender-conditioning is the real headscratcher. How can something so blithely obvious, so truly self-evident and scientifically verifiable as the immutability of the sexes, be so thoroughly defenestrated?1

Here’s one plot twist: The Fast and the Furious did it. (In a moment, I’ll share what I mean.) So did countless other books, songs, films, and video games over the past twenty years. This campaign was impressive—possibly the most masterful propaganda con I’ve ever seen. It’s important to examine what happened, not only to step outside of the spell, but also to discern the principles of this wicked art of deception that often appear in the fantasy we love.

Principle 1: The best lies are mostly true

How does one persuade large swaths of a population (who have endless access to information) to believe such glorious falsehoods as, “Tommy feels like a woman, so he is one. And if you question that, you must be thrown into the outer darkness”?

Gradually, then suddenly, to appropriate Hemmingway’s famous epigram. But before we even get to the rollout, you must understand rule 1 of persuasive lying: The best lies are made of up mostly truth. If this were a recipe, it would start with, “Stir one part lie with twelve parts truth, and let simmer.”

Furious 7 (2015): "I don't have friends. I got family."Earlier, I mentioned The Fast and the Furious, and for good reason: What is the memed-into-legend phrase uttered repeatedly by a very serious Vin Diesel?

“We’re family.”

But here’s the thing: They aren’t. They’re a bunch of thugs and street-racers who like to hang out, until they turn on each other for a while, and then they’re not family, or something. But they’re family! … Yet no, not actually related.

At this point, thoughtful Christians might say: Not all families are biologically related. What about the biblical virtue of adoption? This is the vital key to explain why supposedly Christian societies fell for gay marriage, then the trans nonsense, and soon, the normalization of “minor-attracted persons.” It’s because people took this mostly-true idea of adoption, then added just enough untruth to poison the recipe.

You see, we Christians have a soft spot for adoption: the idea that someone born apart from a family can become part of that family, because spiritually, Christ has done this for us. We call fellow church members “brother” or “sister,” and we mean it. Christians share deep and abiding love for the lost, a desire to see them reconcile with their heavenly Father. This warms a place in our hearts, and rightly so.

And yet we forget that adoption is the exception, and not the rule.

Principle 2: Emphasize exceptions until they become preeminent

Every rule has exceptions, does it not? It rains in the desert, plenty of people can say “Swiss” without a smile, and one California woman died from drinking too much water.

And water is supposed to be good for you.

So while we find adoption endearing, we forget that it is an exception to the natural order. We do not, generally speaking, get to choose our families. It is determined from on high, and that’s part of the beauty of life: God ordains your father and mother and siblings, and they are your father and mother and siblings whether you like it or not. Adoption is a joyous outlier, but it remains the outside, extreme case, the exemption to the state of things.

But the Fast and Furious franchise beats us over head with this exception—and please notice it’s not quiiiiite adoption anyway. Instead, the movies portray friends who declare themselves to be family. This theme isn’t just found in this action franchise. Often, I find it in children’s books (“Families come in all different kinds! There is no right kind of family.”), novels, movies, video games, and TV shows. If you’re paying close attention, you’ll notice increased emphasis of this theme within the last twenty years. Writers don’t need to hit this idea quite so hard now, because we’ve already been conditioned. But the next step is crucial:

After you’ve normalized the exception, create a new exception to that.

In this light, is the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges decision really so surprising? Culture redefined “family,” and the broader Christian community didn’t notice. Sure, many of us suspected something was fishy about this whole marriage thing, but we missed the larger deception. So, we neither prevented gay marriage (or gay “mirage” as Douglas Wilson renders it) nor foresaw widespread acceptance of transgenderism. Why not? Because if family is malleable and without definition, then we can do more than simply add members. We can shift roles. And if we can shift roles, marriage is malleable. And if marriage is malleable, gender is malleable.

Now, we’re being asked to believe that self-chosen families can be formed with a dog and cat, three street racers, or six goats, two teeny-boppers, an eighty-year-old ‘Nam vet, and a shower curtain.

All of this sneaked into our world inch by inch, by repeated exposure to a concept that we mostly agree with. And yet the truth was subverted, because we forgot that we could not have been adopted as God’s children without first being created in his image.  The adoption we receive is reinstitution, the Father seeing us from afar and running to us. We have forgotten the meaning of imago Dei. It sounds sweet to say, “There is no difference between an adopted child and a natural-born one,” but it’s just untrue. Ask anyone who’s been adopted. This is a beautiful accommodation for our broken and sinful world, but even in the best cases, this is not the same as a created family.

Our acceptance and promulgation of inarticulate platitudes like, “There’s no right kind of family; we choose our family,” played very nicely into the propaganda.

Principle 3: Train people to self-censor

We live in a world where Twitter mobs chase down anyone with a cancelling vengeance if they dare speak against the sexual revolution’s holy writ. People are regularly fired, doxed, bullied, threatened, and physically assaulted. It isn’t surprising that people feel hesitant to point out obvious truths these days. Silenced people, however, eventually begin to discover others who think like they do. Then, in a process one economist called a “preference cascade,” they are emboldened by each other’s speech and resistance, and more people start to speak out. That’s why big tech and a lapdog media are so quick to censor, stepping in with a disclaimer to say, “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.”

But now we’ve arrived back at 1984. The chocolate ration has been increased, and Oceania was always at war with Eurasia.

  1. Sure, we find other rampant falsehoods and chicaneries circulating today. Global Cooling became Global Warming, which became first Climate Change, then Climate Crisis, and now, Climate Catastrophe. And when moderate conditions prevail, it is just weather, but when storms hit, it is Climate Catastrophe.

    Or, to take a more recent example, we went from counting deaths, to counting hospitalizations, to counting cases of COVID, as justification for first slowing the spread, then flattening the curve, then enduring until a vaccine was developed, then getting everyone vaccinated, then shutting down the virus, then… I’m not sure where we are on this one now, actually. I haven’t checked Twitter in the last twenty minutes, so my information is likely to be out of date.

W. A. Fulkerson is the author of ten books, including Writing With Purpose: A Step-By-Step Guide to Producing Your Best Book. He works in film as a screenwriter, having written the award-winning documentary Save My Seoul with Jubilee Media. He teaches regularly at San Diego Writers, Ink in Point Loma, Cal. Fulkerson is a voracious reader across genres, but particularly favors J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, Isaac Asimov, Michael Crichton, T. H. White, Pablo Neruda, and John Donne. In his free time, he enjoys coaching wrestling, training in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and studying languages. He lives in San Diego with his wife and son.
Website ·
  1. Jenelle says:

    Wow. Hadn’t thought of any of this from this particular angle before, but you make some excellent points. Thanks for the insight!

  2. celandine4 says:

    Most of this article makes excellent points, but I have a big problem with the last paragraph. Four people very dear to me have died from covid and I know of many others. They were not vaccinated. You started out well, but at the end you sound like you’re anti-science in a way that will lead to needless premature deaths Long covid is also a serious issue that very few people are paying enough attention to.

    • W.A.F. says:

      Hey, Celandine4, I’m sorry to hear about your friends. I have a friend who died of Covid as well, and a relative with long Covid. Losing someone is the worst, and I’m sorry for your loss.

      The portion of the article you’re referencing isn’t part of the article itself, but a footnote from an earlier portion, relating another example of shifting goalposts in a narrative. I didn’t say anything about how people ought to treat or not treat Covid, I was merely pointing out how the media continually changed the metrics. I think we can all agree there has been some strangeness about how things have been communicated to the public. In keeping with the theme of the article, that was the point there – another example of drift in how we talk about a given topic.

  3. BE says:

    The main problem with an overabundance of ‘found family’ stories is that they can undervalue friendship. Everyone is family or lovers, no one is friends.
    However, the Church is prone to idealizing nuclear families. They are too frequently presented as the antidote to cultural problems, and families that aren’t ideal (as well as singles) get ignored. Despite plenty of Biblical examples of the former, and support for the latter. As C. S. Lewis phrased it “too many oppose to ‘the World’ not the Kingdom of Heaven but the home.”

  4. dissident says:

    First, I’ll admit I skimmed this because I’m not wasting my time on this and what I did read got my hackles firmly up. There’s reaching and then there’s whatever this dumpster fire of an “article” is. Unless Fulkerson is adopted (does not appear so) or is close with an adoptee (also does not appear so), he maybe just shouldn’t talk about adoption. Disclaimer that I’m not adopted, either, but hammering on “it’s different” and “it’s an exception” seems SO other-ing and dismissive and crass. And did he really just go “Fast & Furious (a franchise literally no one holds up as a good example of storytelling or cinema) (or found family in general, which like almost any trope, can be done well or poorly) is the reason people allow sinful behaviors or believe false news or…get vaccinated”?? Wow. This article is a hot mess from start to finish, is wildly dismissive of people in abusive or just unhealthy biological families or people who are pulled into sinful or unlawful behavior by biological family and hugely cruel to people who have no family or were shunned by their family who found a new family elsewhere. Also ignores Biblical examples such as David & Jonathan. Not to mention it just doesn’t make sense marriage is LITERALLY about making non-biological family your family – again, even see Ruth and Naomi. Aside, I’d also argue found family doesn’t undervalue friendship but emphasizes the importance and closeness of deep friendship. What undervalues friendship is “my spouse is my best friend” and too much of the friends-to-lovers trope, but that implies that friendship that gets deeper leads to romance and relationships culminate in sex. I’ll admit I’ve always thought Lorehaven too conservative and aggressive and holier-than-thou for me, but this article just proved that.

    • I agree that the article could have handled and explained its point way better, and with the way it presents things I think it will do more harm than good. That said, my Dad is adopted, I’ve had plenty of other relatives on both sides of my family that have been in the foster care system, I have a friend whose little sister is adopted, and some of my favorite tropes to read and write are orphaned characters, adoption, mentorship, and found family.

      I don’t love these tropes because I know people that are adopted — I mainly love these tropes because they are fascinating, make good stories, and I do believe that adoption is a wonderful thing, especially as a Christian. After contemplating these issues my whole life, both from what I’ve seen in real life and what I’ve figured out based on the circumstances and information at play, it’s obvious that these issues are complicated. Way more complicated than what you mentioned in your post, and way more complicated than what Fulkerson said in his article.

      When someone says that something is ‘different’, we have to see what they mean. Different in what way? Do they mean ‘inferior’? If so, what do they mean by ‘inferior’? Do they mean everyone in that situation is inferior? Or do they just mean that there is something in how that situation comes about that could be harmful to someone involved?

      Adoption is NOT inferior to raising one’s biological child. But we have to think about what causes someone to be adopted or orphaned in the first place. The parents die, or are abusive or abandon a child. Or the children are kidnapped or taken away. So on and so forth. Even if the children are taken away for a good reason, it can be very traumatic for the child.

      Children are sometimes abused in the foster care system and end up being worse off than if they had been allowed to stay with their biological parents. Obviously there ARE instances where a child needs to be taken away from an abusive situation, but unfortunately more people are starting to have the attitude that they should be able to take children away if the parents just so happen to have the ‘wrong’ beliefs or ideology. That’s creepy as well as devastating. My Dad was TORN from his biological family, and some of the reasons are murky. But regardless of why he was taken, it was very hard on him, and I saw lingering effects from it even in his forties and fifties. I believe very strongly in overcoming hardship, and in a way my Dad might be a better person after what he’s overcome. But it’s had bad side effects too, and not nearly everyone handles them as well as my Dad.

      Someone adopted from birth is going to have a different experience than someone adopted when they are old enough to know what is happening. But even people adopted from birth don’t always have it easy. Yet, there are other people in both situations that have a wonderful experience. It just depends. But coming back to how people become orphans in the first place, it would be better to mend and heal the problems in the world so that people don’t become orphans. We have to be careful with that, because sometimes when people try to fix things they only make things worse. But if losing one’s birth parents comes from devastating and traumatic circumstances, isn’t it better to look at our own lives and see if there’s something we can do to keep such painful cycles from continuing? My Mom and Dad dedicated themselves to building the best family they could. It didn’t turn out perfect, but I can definitely say I benefited from it, and when I was a kid the idea of being taken from my parents scared me.

      Acknowledging and helping people with broken, abusive households is one thing. But sometimes we egg on this so much that we almost act like nuclear families are evil, or can’t work, or like anyone that cares about the nuclear family is evil. People and families should NOT be treated as inherently bad or inferior just because they are formed through adoption. And we shouldn’t automatically assume that an adopted person is traumatized or wants to go back to their birth family. But we also shouldn’t act like adoption is always simple and nice. It’s a very nuanced topic, and everyone has their own experience with it.

      Looking further into the article, it isn’t necessarily saying that adoption is bad. It isn’t saying that we can’t put found family tropes in stories. It’s addressing some of the complex things happening in our society now. Unfortunately, all of these familial and societal issues are so complicated that it is difficult to describe and cure them in any one article or internet comment. I understand what he’s saying and where he’s coming from because I’ve taken a calm, detailed look at many discussions on the same topics, instead of making assumptions, denouncing and moving on. But not everyone’s seen the same information, so to many people the article will just look crazy or bad in some way.

      I have a lot of nitpicks about the article, but Fulkerson wasn’t saying that adoption was bad or unbiblical (in fact, he said adoption is good, just not what we should see as the default setting for family), and he probably wasn’t even trying to say that Fast and the Furious was the reason for all our societal woes. But he did hint that our culture’s approach to found family might be skewed from what God might have intended.

      My post is already long, so I’m not going to go on much more, but as much as Fulkerson’s article might have sounded like a crazy right winger’s rant to some people, there are actually some real societal issues at play that affect biological families in a bad way. I wish all sides of social issues would approach things in a more constructive and nuanced way, rather than succumbing to their anger and assumptions. If we don’t get a hold of ourselves, we’re going to keep tearing at each other until there’s nothing left.

      • Aras says:

        I’m not the person you’re replying to, but I thank you for sharing all these words. They give a lot of insight in an area I can not speak to, since I have personally not dealt with it. I am thankful to come away with new insights in a difficult topic.

      • When I said the reasons why my Dad was taken away from his birth family are murky, I meant that they aren’t entirely clear. He doesn’t know all the details, but it sounds complex, and either way being taken from them really hurt him a lot.

  5. Aras says:

    I’ll be honest, I am a bit horrified by this article. I’ll be blunt: this article is a part of the problem, not the solution. These type of articles generalize true issues that are plaguing our world. While I don’t doubt there isn’t truth to the article, however, this does nothing to actually help. Worse, it could actually hurt others, those we want to reach. We need articles that which address the core issues that plague our world, such as our views on identity, and the real fears that our current events bring up. I prefer thoughtful discussion, not articles that could be found elsewhere, places that I avoid.

  6. While I understand and even agree with many points that this article makes, I think the arguments are undercut by conflating propaganda with lazy storytelling. “Propaganda” implies intentional use of media to enforce a message. Some fantastical stories certainly do fall into that category. But the “found family” trope is not part of some vast plan to lay propagandic cultural foundations! In fact, I would argue that it is inherently one of the best tropey tropes out there – though it’s lazy overuse in such things as the Fast and Furious franchise might indeed be symptomatic of a cultural tendency to find connection wherever we want, neglecting the God-given connections of true family.
    But that is merely a connection, not some evil plot.
    Overall, I’m afraid I find this article quite troubling because of this fear-based reasoning – despite the genuine concerns it raises.

  7. Hallo everyone! Stephen here, Lorehaven publisher. ‘Tis great to see some provocative discussion about this piece, constructive criticism and all. We’ve been seeing much of the same over at the Lorehaven page on Facebook. Some liked the article. Some disliked it, but saw and respected the intent. Others did not like the article at all, and had some good-faith criticism, some bad-faith criticism, and some criticism that’s a mix of both. That requires some discernment, but rest assured that as the publisher I’m taking lots of notes. Frankly, I’m pleasantly surprised we haven’t gained this kind of pushback thus far, despite messing with, say, sensual scenes in fiction, or even masks-and-vaccinations on the Fantastical Truth podcast (at least using that topic as a metaphor for fiction discernment!).

    Speaking of that Facebook discussion, for the sake of time, I will e-cycle some of my replies here:

    Okay, I finally I get a chance to sit down and share some thoughts! (Right now my day job keeps me busy on Mondays through Wednesdays, leaving more Lorehaven creation time on Thursdays through Saturdays. Otherwise I would have engaged sooner.)

    I feel like the response to this article has reflected in micro the recent situation with a marketing stunt for “The Chosen” TV show that backfired and left many fans feeling betrayed. Like that show’s creator, Dallas Jenkins, who responded during a livestream last night, I want to be very open about the response, share a little backstory, but also empathize with the heart of the best criticisms, so far as I can see them. On this I’ll probably have more to say when time permits.

    But in short: this article has fetched plenty of negative feedback, including from readers otherwise sympathetic to the premise. Their constructive criticism means a lot to me going forward. At the same time, I’m reading some possible bad-faith engagement in response. For all his strident tone, I didn’t read W. S. Fulkerson saying some things that some readers have believed he was saying.

    Big question: Did this piece mean to oppose adoption or suppose adoptive families aren’t as good as other families? I want to guard against that sort of nonsense, not just because evil forces are trying to weaken families, but because Christians must stay open to God-honoring foster/adoption-based family arrangements, which can be very complicated, in order to help show Christ’s love in a groaning world. Speaking a little more personally here, my wife and I have been active in foster care and I’m quite aware of old/bad anti-gospel tropes about adoption and found-family. In fact, I shared the basic summary of this article and the response to a young lady still living with us, who happens to be a huge Fast and Furious franchise fan. She said it made sense that people were bothered by the article, because the franchise and the trope are so popular. I think this instinctively negative response makes even more sense, because we’ve all been touched by natural family divisions and various idols that people have formed because of those divisions.

    For the record, foster families and adoptive families are true families. And every foster and adoption situation is beautiful yet also comes with real complexity, especially when you’re trying to recover from bad family situations. Yet these new-forged families show a beautiful image of Christ’s redemption from bad situations, caused by human sin nature and sinful choices that corrupt His design for families under Him. (I would want to see any phrase in the article that seems to say otherwise.) To be sure, I’ve heard of many weird oppositions to this gift, such as a rather nasty myth spread among Bill Gothard types that children adopted from other culture might basically carry demons with them, or some-such paganism as that. When my wife and I first started the foster-care training, they said we might get some weird looks and ideas from other people. Thanks be to God, I’ve not once to my memory encountered any of this stuff from the Christians we know, and our own families have been nothing but curious and supportive. At the same time, I’m also personally aware that many people confront these nasty notions even in their churches, which should be the very places that people most understand the wonder of Christ’s adoption and “found family.”

    I can’t speak directly for W. S. Fulkerson, but this article was admittedly not so much about those personal struggles (like I might have written it) or about the trope’s positive origins. Instead, he chose to emphasize its potential for misuse in our broader popular culture to excuse some very anti-biblical ideas about all types of families. I read him as emphasizing the risks of turning the “anybody can become family” truth into idolatry. We already know this kind of idolatry absolutely happens with natural-born families, including abusive parents and all manner of nasty situations that require biblical wisdom and often firm boundaries as well as years of grief and healing. I could cite a pretty example myself. And just recently I was listening to a Christianity Today podcast about their own bad workplace issues in which the speakers identified the hazards of referring to a ministry-type environment as being “just like family.” That is simply not true, especially when families of any sort should have more equal relationships (especially between the husband and wife), when a workplace can be very different, with power imbalances.

    But! For many Lorehaven readers, at least the ones replying, this “idolatry of the found-family trope” doesn’t seem personally as risky as other idolatries. That’s the way I see this, by the way: not just “good ideas versus bad ideas” but “God’s good gifts versus human misuse for idolatry.” From the old to new testaments, we see this routine play out: God gives people an amazing gift, like the family of mothers and fathers and children, and people find ways to corrupt this gift for their own ends. In fact, I see God’s gift of families and culture-making (including fiction and art!) as the very same gift: the Cultural Mandate of Gen. 1:28. Alas, 1.5 chapters later, Adam and Eve rebelled, and God cursed both the ground (where thorns would hurt them when they try to build culture) and their childbearing (where labor pains would hurt women when a couple tries to be fruitful and multiply). Then in Gen. 4, you see Cain attack Abel, corrupting God’s good gift of family and culture-making, for his idolatry. Only by exclusive faith in Jesus Christ can we as estranged children be restored to our Father, and find any hints of restoration for this ideal of family, whether it’s reconciliation (now or eternally) with natural relatives, or else adoption to make new families, or some combination of both.

    Apart from good-faith criticisms of tone and emphasis in this article, I think our Church needs to be big-tent enough to include both folks who issue firmer challenges of possible secular propaganda, as well as readers here who push back with constructive criticism about how best to communicate these challenges, if we do. After all, you may be glad to recall that each Lorehaven article or review or podcast is not the final word on any topic. This is a conversation—which also includes you!

  8. Might I respectfully recommend that the author sit down with some families who have trans family members? And listen with Christlike love, instead of spouting angry aphorisms? A trans man is hardly “a confused woman who thinks she is a man.” If the author had done his research, he would know that gender is not, indeed, “something so blithely obvious, so truly self-evident and scientifically verifiable.” We might be surprised to discover there’s more to it than we thought—and that God is infinitely more creative than we ever suspected.

    • For those who are interested, here is a more scientific explanation from an MD:

      In four years of medical school, three years of residency training, and nearly 30 years in practice as a family physician I have never been asked “what is the definition of a woman?”

      Seems obvious that one could just look at the genitalia. You’re either a boy or a girl, right? Well, not always. Although it’s rare, many people are born with ambiguous genitalia. The OB/GYN and the pediatrician are simply unable to determine the sex. Historically, in consultation with the family, a sex would be assigned. Turns out that often as not the child would ultimately identify with the sex they were not assigned.

      So it must be the chromosomes. The 23rd pair in humans is designated XX in females and XY in males. The Y chromosome determines male characteristics, so you are either a boy or a girl, right? Well, not always.

      In embryology the default setting is female. The Y chromosome normally triggers male development. Ever heard of testicular feminization syndrome, now more properly referred to as androgen insensitivity syndrome? A normal XY baby is born with essentially normal female external genitalia. The body simply does not respond to androgens associated with the Y chromosome. As the child grows and enters puberty there will be normal female breast development and other feminine characteristics. Unless genetic testing has been done at some point, the abnormality is not discovered until the teenage daughter presents to the doctor with concerns that menstruation has not started. Examination will reveal that the vagina ends in a blind pouch, no uterus, and undescended testes. They are often very feminine – cheerleaders, beauty pageant contestants, etc.

      Nearly everybody is a normal XX or XY, has anatomy to match, and is perfectly at peace with themselves. But not everybody. Several studies have identified how the sexual diversity between men and women does not exclusively involve the genitals, but also the development of different brain areas. And just as genitals can be ambiguous, or not match what XY would predict,so can the brain in some instances develop in a different direction than the genitals. Animal studies suggest this is likely due to atypical levels of sex hormones in the womb.

      Studies in the human brain have involved an area of the limbic system known as the nucleus of the terminal stria. The volume of this area appears to be influenced by the stimulation of sex hormones during brain development, and in men the volume of this area is greater than in women. Scans of this area in transgender women (genetic/anatomic men who identify as females) resemble that of non transgender females. In this matter gender identity develops from the complex interactions between sex hormones and brain during its development; moreover, this appears to be genetically predetermined and is not influenced by hormonal stimuli during the adult phase.

      Gender dysphoria often begins in childhood and can lead to severe distress, depression, and suicide. Treatment includes thorough psychological and medical evaluation and psychotherapy. Hormonal treatments in children are designed to delay puberty until decisions about appropriate gender characteristics can be made. The treatments are not permanent and are REVERSIBLE. Sex change (gender reassignment) operations are not done on children. (Rare exception might be in the case of ambiguous genitalia where surgery may be done to make genital appearance more consistent with the genetic sex).

      Unfortunately there are many people who cannot or will not understand that someone different from themselves might really be different for a real reason. I recently watched a video of a Fox News personality guffawing, in an arrogant and grotesque display of not knowing what one does not know, about how “woke liberals” were looking into the science of what makes someone a man or a woman. I hope the information provided here explains why that question is not quite as simple as it sounds.
      It is also unfortunate in Texas that people with political power seem to think that trans people just want to get on the girls’ track team to win a lot of medals or get in the girls’ rest room to watch them pee. Governor Abbott, Lt Gov Patrick, and AG Paxton have shown profound ignorance and cruelty in decreeing treatment for these kids to be child abuse. Even right wing columnist Mona Charen called Abbott’s behavior “malice masquerading as policy making”. It is really no different than lunchroom bullies knocking the food tray out of the little autistic kid’s hand and having a big laugh over it. And the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Family Physicians, AMA, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the Endocrine Society have expressed outrage.

      I would hope that someone will share this with a conservative friend. For most of us it seems ridiculous that a guy would think he is a woman, or a woman to think she is a man. The human brain and human body are complex and wondrous and get it right almost every time, but sometimes they get it different. And different should not be wrong, and different people and their families should not be attacked by their own government.

      Joe McCreight, MD

      • I agree that gender and sex have a lot more complexity than what some people are willing to discuss, and Fulkerson could have handled the issue better in this post. But the topics surrounding trans and other LGBT+ issues are no longer a simple matter of “conservative bigots vs people that just want to live their lives”. People think it’s that simple because of clips they see on the news, or some of the conversations they see online, but it’s so much more than that, because in many ways LGBT issues are being handled differently than they were even when I was a child.

        When I was young, a lot of LGBT advocacy was centered more around the idea of ‘you don’t have to agree with us, just let us live our lives and don’t bully us’. It was also centered more around the idea of people discovering who they are on their own. It’s not nearly like that anymore. There are far more outside pressures that could make someone believe they are LGBT when they are not, or feel pressured to say they are LGBT when they are not(and I am saying this based on the words of people who have actually been through this). I believe consenting adults should be able to make their own choice when it comes to gender, sexuality, etc, so I’m NOT saying this to look down on LGBT people or bar adults from making their own choices. But the mindset around LGBT issues has changed so much that some people with gender dysphoria are not getting what they need.

        That has led to a lot of people regretting their transitions because they realized it wasn’t what they actually needed. There are multiple ways to handle gender dysphoria, and medical transitions into the opposite gender are just one option. Sometimes people do better with other options, and those options are not always presented to them. But people do not listen to the stories of detransitioners with the same level of understanding that they try to give the rest of the LGBT community. Not nearly every LGBT person looks at social issues the same way, and a lot of LGBT people are ostracized within their own community because they happen to disagree with the popular narratives surrounding LGBT issues.

        So I agree that we should understand LGBT issues with more complexity, and although I don’t think anyone is obligated to agree with one side or the other, both sides should have a certain level of decency and respect for each another. That said, this topic is far more complex than what it looks like on the surface. A lot of people assume that everyone discussing detransitioners or LGBT curriculum in schools is a bigoted conservative trying to hurt people they don’t understand, and that isn’t true at all. There are LGBT people that are starting to speak out against the current social narratives because they disagree with it or have experienced harm from it. We need to listen to those conversations with the same compassion and understanding that we do mainstream LGBT conversations.

    • Hallo there, Lisa, and thanks for stopping by. In retrospect, this article may mark a rare and more strident exception to Lorehaven’s prime directive: to explore fantastical stories for God’s glory, and apply their meanings in the real world Jesus calls us to serve. In this case, the article focused more on the real world. And while I may differ with the approach, Lorehaven’s staff creators agree that our calling is to serve the real world according to God’s glory as revealed in the Bible.

      “Trans” ideology includes but is not limited to imitations of the opposite sex, fabrication of imaginary identities that are “not male or female,” or even actual surgeries that amputate/mutilate healthy organs in an attempt to resemble the opposite sex. All of these are an attack against God’s created order. No serious Christian can support this ideology without severely calling into question his or her commitment to Christ. The gospel is not just about “helping people” according to their own definitions, or according to the definitions we receive from political leaders, ideological activists, popular cultural imagination, or folks sitting around making up stuff on Tumblr. The gospel is solely about the exaltation of Christ as Savior and Lord, a fact that demands people repent and love him more than sin, obey His loving authority, and allow Him to change us from the inside out.

      I can’t speak for this article’s author. But from my own vantage, this article attempted to focus on the larger sociopolitical trends, and less about specific, complex, and tragic family scenarios such as the ones you mentioned. About those, everyone is going to engage them on the level of imagination and religion (as you have done here), perhaps projecting their own experiences atop the issue.

      But the issue is bigger than our own limited experiences. For example, you’ve made several generalizations here, perhaps in overreaction to the article’s original strident tone. But it’s simply not true that any “trans man” is “hardly ‘a confused woman who thinks she is a man.'” Why make such a simplistic statement? How many exceptions would render this overgeneralization useless to the discussion? One exception? A dozen? A few hundred? But indeed, we have seen hundreds of people already coming forth to speak about how these ideas of “I could actually be a man” did not simply and naturally occur to them. They got these ideas from Tumblr, from popular culture, and from any other “memes,” from political rhetoric to fanfiction. All these feigned to reveal the Secret Reason behind their disgust about their bodies, their gender expressions, or their puberty process.

      As an observer of popular culture and imagination, I think we must recognize the truth: These ideas are not arising in a vacuum. We are not dealing here only with a Secret Basic Human Condition that has been suppressed all along. Perhaps this is true in some deserted-island kinds of cases, where someone decides, “I was called a boy but I’m actually a girl” apart from any external influences he has received from TV or memes or trending victim groups in our culture. But we are also dealing with what some observers have called a “social contagion,” particularly among teenage girls. I view this almost like a feminist. We Live In A Society of long-held prejudices against women as women, a world where blasphemous, abusive, or merely foolish men generally provoke girls into hating themselves, their own bodies, and trying to become someone they are not. Read Abigail Shrier’s book Irreversible Damage (which also rebukes the absolute lie that puberty blockers and other mad-science is simply reversible). Most teen girls are not opting for this ideology because they feel this impulse naturally within themselves. They are doing this because of social pressure, shared imagination, their despair over failure to compare with filtered images from Instagram models, and frankly some ideological if not sexual grooming from adults who should know better.

      That’s all secular reasoning. But for the Christian, we don’t have the option of stopping at secular reasoning, or even of sharing an (uncredited, un-sourced) hagiography of “trans treatments” as you’ve done in this discussion. Serious Christians do not start with Science, whether it is medical, social, or mad. We start with the Scripture. And the Scripture is clear: God created humans as male and female, and He said absolutely nothing about people naturally feeling trapped in the “wrong body.” Yes, sin has broken our very humanity, because of our own death in sin (Ephesians 1–2) and estrangement from God, and because we live in a groaning world (Romans 8) in which the very universe reflects sin’s consequences back onto us. But we must see this as a consequence of sin, not merely Diversity of human nature—of a kind never once seriously contemplated before the last few decades. Christians of good faith may debate about how one should address difficult cases, such as the rare cases of physiological intersex characteristics, or a young person afflicted with actual gender dysphoria. The fact remains: yes, you can observe the problem, but the Christian explains this as a spiritual condition radiating out into the physical world. This condition requires complex solutions. We cannot retreat from this harsh reality into comforting and sentimentalist lies that we need only try “reversible” hormones or ideologies, as recommended by ideologically driven and often sexually perverted political leaders and even mad scientists.

      Of course, that’s all beside the point of this article, which attempts mainly to refer to the potential propaganda use of the “found family” trope. Fulkerson made the reference to “trans” issues in passing. But the serious Christian cannot afford to handle this dominating social issue in passing, either in our rhetoric, by simply blasting this as evil at the big-picture level without regard for real people who are struggling with their identity—or in our soft-soap sentimentalism as if simply loving people more, or accepting these “identities,” or giving approval to mad-science solutions such as actual amputation and genital mutilation and emotional manipulation, will “simply” fix the problem.

What say you?