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Putting "redemption" before integrity

Regent University in Virginia used to be seen as so conservative that its law school was thought of as part of the vast right-wing conspiracy. (See here, for example.)

Regent has come a long way since those days, in the dubious sense that now they house the Institute for the Study of Sexual Identity run by Prof. Mark Yarhouse, who has told us his views on the issue of transsexuality in this recent article in Christianity Today. (I have the whole article. Some readers may find that part of it is behind a paywall.)

Prof. Yarhouse takes a lot of verbiage (talking about different "lenses" through which to see the phenomenon) to give advice that can be boiled down into much shorter compass. What it amounts to is that Yarhouse tries to advise people with "gender dysphoria" to make themselves more comfortable in the "least invasive way possible," but this weasely phrase doesn't mean that he's clearly opposed to their having major genital mutilation surgery or taking drugs to make themselves look like the opposite gender.

Moreover, he's actually pretty supportive of less "invasive" ways of presenting oneself as the opposite gender, if that is necessary to "manage discomfort," and he thinks churches should play along. Herewith a few quotes:

When it comes to support, many evangelical communities may be tempted to respond to transgender persons by shouting “Integrity!” The integrity lens is important, but simply urging persons with gender dysphoria to act in accordance with their biological sex and ignore their extreme discomfort won’t constitute pastoral care or a meaningful cultural witness.

So to give pastoral care, you have to play along with people's pretense to be the opposite sex.

In other church settings, it might be us as laypeople who are called into a redemptive relationship with the transgender person. After all, Christians are to facilitate communities in which we are all challenged to grow as disciples of Christ. We can be sensitive, though, not to treat as synonymous management of gender dysphoria and faithfulness. Some may live a gender identity that reflects their biological sex, depending on their discomfort. Others may benefit from space to find ways to identify with aspects of the opposite sex, as a way to manage extreme discomfort.

"Space to find ways to identify with aspects of the opposite sex, as a way to manage extreme discomfort," aka pretending to be the opposite sex.

Bert...[is] a biological male who for years has engaged in cross-gender behavior from time to time to “manage” his gender dysphoria. He wears feminine undergarments that no one apart from his wife knows about. He has grown his hair out and may wear light makeup, and this has been enough to manage his dysphoria.

So that's just hunky dory, right? Not perverse or wrong or anything. It's just a way to "manage" his feelings of discomfort.

Let’s say Sara walks into your church. She looks like a man dressed as a woman. [LM: That's because "Sara" actually is a man dressed as a woman.] One question she will be asking is, “Am I welcome here?” In the spirit of a redemptive witness, I hope to communicate to her through my actions: “Yes, you are in the right place. We want you here.” [LM: Meaning, we will go along with pretending that you are a woman in order to make you feel welcome.]


If Sara shares her name with me, as a clinician and Christian, I use it. I do not use this moment to shout “Integrity!” by using her male name or pronoun, which clearly goes against that person’s wishes. It is an act of respect, even if we disagree, to let the person determine what they want to be called. If we can’t grant them that, it’s going to be next to impossible to establish any sort of relationship with them.

Got that? If you don't play along with "Sara's" pretense to be a woman, you are just being mean and disrespectful and can't develop a "redemptive" relationship with him.

Yarhouse doesn't say whether we also have to address someone as "Your Majesty" who claims to be a king, in order to be a "redemptive witness."

Certainly we can extend to a transgender person the grace and mercy we so readily count on in our own lives. We can remind ourselves that the book of redemption in a person's life has many chapters. You may be witness to an early chapter of this person's life or a later chapter. But Christians believe that God holds that person and each and every chapter in his hands, until that person arrives at their true end—when gender and soul are made well in the presence of God.

Implication: Since people with this serious mental problem won't have their twisted feelings all go away until they get to heaven, it would be mean not to play along here on earth with their pretense to be members of the opposite sex.

At no point in the article does Yarhouse deal with serious practical questions that immediately come to mind: If "Sara" insists on using the women's bathroom at your church, do you tell "her" not to do so? Wouldn't that be "unwelcoming," especially since you are calling "Sara" a female? If "Sara" uses the women's bathroom and women complain about their and their children's privacy, is the pastoral staff supposed to chide them for being insufficiently loving, welcoming, and "redemptive"? How far is this carried? If "Sara" wants to go on a women's retreat for which women will share dormitory facilities, do you go along with this and tell your church women to cooperate? Do you send "Sara" with a group of your girls to act as their live-in cabin counselor at camp? Should Christian colleges house "Sara" in a women's dormitory, assigning "her" to be the roommate of a woman?

I gather that some Christians are advocating that everybody install single-user, locking bathrooms to accommodate transsexuals. Are churches and church schools now morally required to do that, despite the fact that many church budgets are strained already? In any event, even if money were no object, such a "solution" merely gives rise to the question whether or not Christians have to be "redemptive" in accommodating transsexuals in other ways. Single-user, locking shower rooms aren't a "thing" yet at my local YMCA, much less at cash-strapped church camps. And into what cabin do you put the boy-who-thinks-he's-a-girl?

The bottom line is that Yarhouse shows with every word he utters that he simply doesn't much care about the rest of the church members--about their privacy, about the normalcy of the church social environment, or anything of the sort. And here's a thought: How "redemptive" are you being to the tough, unchurched, no-nonsense electrician who visits your church and finds that a man in drag is sharing the bathroom with his daughter and that everybody at church refers to the man as "Sara" and tries as hard as possible to stifle their revulsion and make "Sara" feel welcomed as a woman? Like most liberals, Yarhouse seems concerned with saving (and accommodating and placating as a means to their salvation) only the designated victims of the left. His focus on the mascots is so zoomed-in that he can't even see the normal people who need Jesus but who will be understandably disgusted and driven away by the recommended accommodations.

And that is aside from the questionable premise that it is merely a matter of morally neutral "discomfort management" for a man to be encouraged by his therapist to wear women's undergarments or "in some respects" to present himself externally as a woman. No doubt Yarhouse, being a clinician, thinks he is an expert and can speak to whether such perversions and fantasy role playing are, in fact, helpful to patients in the most important senses of "helpful." Laymen who think that encouraging a man to pretend to be a woman isn't actually helping the man are merely "shouting 'Integrity'" and being unredemptive. And besides, they aren't psychological experts, so what do they know?

My questions about practical issues in churches and their affiliated organizations are not mere snark. For many decades, churches have been deliberately building a sub-culture, with much prayer, toil, and financial sacrifice. This sub-culture includes church camps, colleges, Christian K-12 schools, Sunday School activities divided by gender, women's retreats and other women's ministries, two-week worldview camps for high school and college students, and more. Every single one of these requires a firm notion of gender. At the most minimal, gender-segregated classes often discuss sexual and other gender-specific issues in ways tailored to the single gender's desire for a measure of privacy from the other gender. At the most extreme end, people are actually living in roommate situations, sharing shower facilities and sleeping and changing rooms. You cannot accommodate men pretending to be women and vice versa in these situations without seriously compromising the sanity of your organization and forfeiting the trust of your constituency.

I never thought that a time would come when I would have to wonder whether an evangelical college, perhaps even a college thought of as relatively conservative, would assign a man pretending to be a woman to be the roommate of a woman, but we are approaching the time (if it hasn't already come) when that is a serious question.

If a professor at an evangelical college can't be bothered to address such questions, much less address them firmly and sanely, in an article intended to tell churches how to cope with transgenderism, we have a major problem.

Let me also add: For years we were told that homosexuality was something we could minister to in a kind and loving way because of the distinction between act and orientation. We were lectured endlessly by more progressive Christians (and even some less progressive Christians) on how it isn't a sin to have homosexual feelings but only to act on them. This itself left unaddressed a whole host of questions such as whether a man with same-sex attraction should be sharing shower facilities with other men. The idea that the act-orientation distinction was a cure-all for the practical problems was always foolish, especially when combined with the notion that Christians "shouldn't discriminate" on the basis of mere orientation.

The pragmatic insufficiency of the act-orientation distinction is greatly exacerbated in the case of "transgenders," since by definition someone who "is transgender" is someone who acts in certain ways. Yarhouse suggests that some of these might be secret behaviors, but he also endorses Christians' accommodating overt pretense of being the opposite gender. This has nothing whatsoever to do with the act-orientation distinction. It is a straight-out demand that churches cooperate with particular acts and patterns of acts. Yet even here, even as he demands that we accept the behaviors of transgenders, Yarhouse is still trying to leverage the act-orientation distinction for his own purposes:

Yet we should reject the teaching that gender identity conflicts are the result of willful disobedience or sinful choice. The church can be sensitive as questions arise about how best to manage gender dysphoria in light of the integrity lens.

The "integrity lens" is otherwise known as common sense. Yarhouse, throughout his article, relegates it to the position of just one "lens" through which to see these issues. Note that here, the emphasis is on a) not saying that transgender people are engaging in sinful choices and b) sensitivity. Yarhouse slides quickly from implying that feelings of conflict are not sinful choices to strongly implying that transgender behaviors, such as presenting oneself as the opposite gender, are also not sinful choices but rather neutral coping mechanisms. Nor does he deal (a notable omission in a clinician) with the obvious feedback mechanism whereby continuing to affirm one's "gender identity" as the opposite sex and to present oneself in that way almost certainly creates more and more feelings of conflict with one's biologically given sex.

I am continually confounded by the speed with which Christians are rushing to accommodate the craziest innovations of our time. It cannot be said too often: You cannot allow the fear of being thought mean to drive your policies, or you are a sitting duck for the manipulation of the left. When this gets to the point of lecturing churches, in the name of "being respectful" and "redemptive," that they should refer to a biological male as a woman, there really is no reductio left. If you can't see that as a reductio of the "niceness as policy principle" method of church governance, there isn't much you can see anymore.

And yes, this may mean that a pastor has to approach a man in drag and ask him not to use the women's restroom at the church. Even if the man calls himself "Sara." That, at a minimum.

May I suggest to readers, especially those who go to medium-sized-to-large churches, that they sound out their church leadership on these issues and come up with a plan for the day that "Sara" walks through the door. This is all the more important given that one state civil rights commission (in Iowa, of all places) has stated that a church service open to the public might not have a "bona fide religious purpose" that would allow the church to escape the reach of public accommodations law. Yes, you got that right: The Iowa Civil Rights Commission thinks you can't discriminate on the basis of gender identity in your church services if they are seen as "open to the public." Naturally, churches want to "bring them in" and use at least some of their services as opportunities for evangelism. Equally naturally, churches should not want this to mean that they have to let men use their women's bathrooms and generally play along with the pretenses of gender-confused individuals. Some legal advice on how to work out this issue is needed quickly and may vary, for the moment, by state.

This is definitely a case of "use your freedoms or lose them." The more quickly churches and religious ministries start rushing to accommodate the transgender agenda, the harder it will be to hold any line at any later point, and the more likely it is that churches, camps, colleges, etc., who don't bend will be crushed. So start resisting now.

Comments (14)

I am continually confounded by the speed with which Christians are rushing to accommodate the craziest innovations of our time. It cannot be said too often: You cannot allow the fear of being thought mean to drive your policies, or you are a sitting duck for the manipulation of the left.

I don't know if you heard about it, but there's a meme started by Rush Limbaugh and that expanded big time online that has a lot of quasi-conservatives outraged. It's the "cuckolded conservative" or "cuckservative" pejorative. It was first used to describe the people getting the vapors that Donald Trump was showing to the nuances and strategies of the professional right all of the respect that the Taliban showed to Afghanistan's pre-Islamic culture and expanded to a general pejorative that means "conservative who get excited at watching the left screw their country and its culture." It can also mean and is used often to mean, those conservatives so lacking in testicular fortitude that they lose their manhood at even the first round of name-calling.

But Christians believe that God holds that person and each and every chapter in his hands, until that person arrives at their true end—when gender and soul are made well in the presence of God.

Whoa. I would say his whole argument actually starts from this premise, in which case, nothing we do here matters; and so, for instance, I can be as mean as I want to Sara, because my meanness will be made well in the presence of God.

In fact, by that logic bullies who push gender-confused folks to suicide are doing them a favor because it's just expediting the process of them being "made well in the presence of God."

Mike T.

Oy Vey! Must you pollute every one of Lydia's posts with your hobby horse of the day, that has only the most tenuous link to the topic! I'm probably one of your biggest fans here at W4, but please -- give it a rest! And yes, I'm well aware of the meme (I troll the neo-reactionary websites daily) and for those who really want to learn more, this is the place to get caught up:


[I find "Outside in" a generally good place for 'mainstream' neo-reactionary thinking...you don't know where I go for the 150% proof stuff!)


What struck me so forcefully when I read Yarhouse's comments was how strangely divorced from the Gospel he was -- I don't see a single Biblical quote or even a concern with the Truth (with a capital "T".) I was just reading Veritatis Splendor today and note how it starts -- the focus is on Christ and the moral framework provided by God:

"Teacher, what good must I do to have eternal life?" (Mt 19:16)
8. The question which the rich young man puts to Jesus of Nazareth is one which rises from the depths of his heart. It is an essential and unavoidable question for the life of every man, for it is about the moral good which must be done, and about eternal life. The young man senses that there is a connection between moral good and the fulfilment of his own destiny. He is a devout Israelite, raised as it were in the shadow of the Law of the Lord. If he asks Jesus this question, we can presume that it is not because he is ignorant of the answer contained in the Law. It is more likely that the attractiveness of the person of Jesus had prompted within him new questions about moral good. He feels the need to draw near to the One who had begun his preaching with this new and decisive proclamation: "The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the Gospel" (Mk 1:15).
People today need to turn to Christ once again in order to receive from him the answer to their questions about what is good and what is evil. Christ is the Teacher, the Risen One who has life in himself and who is always present in his Church and in the world. It is he who opens up to the faithful the book of the Scriptures and, by fully revealing the Father's will, teaches the truth about moral action. At the source and summit of the economy of salvation, as the Alpha and the Omega of human history (cf. Rev 1:8; 21:6; 22:13), Christ sheds light on man's condition and his integral vocation. Consequently, "the man who wishes to understand himself thoroughly — and not just in accordance with immediate, partial, often superficial, and even illusory standards and measures of his being — must with his unrest, uncertainty and even his weakness and sinfulness, with his life and death, draw near to Christ. He must, so to speak, enter him with all his own self; he must 'appropriate' and assimilate the whole of the reality of the Incarnation and Redemption in order to find himself. If this profound process takes place within him, he then bears fruit not only of adoration of God but also of deeper wonder at himself".16
If we therefore wish to go to the heart of the Gospel's moral teaching and grasp its profound and unchanging content, we must carefully inquire into the meaning of the question asked by the rich young man in the Gospel and, even more, the meaning of Jesus' reply, allowing ourselves to be guided by him. Jesus, as a patient and sensitive teacher, answers the young man by taking him, as it were, by the hand, and leading him step by step to the full truth.
"There is only one who is good" (Mt 19:17)
9. Jesus says: "Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments" (Mt 19:17). In the versions of the Evangelists Mark and Luke the question is phrased in this way: "Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone" (Mk 10:18; cf. Lk 18:19).
Before answering the question, Jesus wishes the young man to have a clear idea of why he asked his question. The "Good Teacher" points out to him — and to all of us — that the answer to the question, "What good must I do to have eternal life?" can only be found by turning one's mind and heart to the "One" who is good: "No one is good but God alone" (Mk 10:18; cf. Lk 18:19). Only God can answer the question about what is good, because he is the Good itself.
To ask about the good, in fact, ultimately means to turn towards God, the fullness of goodness. Jesus shows that the young man's question is really a religious question, and that the goodness that attracts and at the same time obliges man has its source in God, and indeed is God himself. God alone is worthy of being loved "with all one's heart, and with all one's soul, and with all one's mind" (Mt 22:37). He is the source of man's happiness. Jesus brings the question about morally good action back to its religious foundations, to the acknowledgment of God, who alone is goodness, fullness of life, the final end of human activity, and perfect happiness.
10. The Church, instructed by the Teacher's words, believes that man, made in the image of the Creator, redeemed by the Blood of Christ and made holy by the presence of the Holy Spirit, has as the ultimate purpose of his life to live "for the praise of God's glory" (cf. Eph 1:12), striving to make each of his actions reflect the splendour of that glory. "Know, then, O beautiful soul, that you are the image of God", writes Saint Ambrose. "Know that you are the glory of God (1 Cor 11:7). Hear how you are his glory. The Prophet says: Your knowledge has become too wonderful for me (cf. Ps. 138:6, Vulg.). That is to say, in my work your majesty has become more wonderful; in the counsels of men your wisdom is exalted. When I consider myself, such as I am known to you in my secret thoughts and deepest emotions, the mysteries of your knowledge are disclosed to me. Know then, O man, your greatness, and be vigilant".17
What man is and what he must do becomes clear as soon as God reveals himself. The Decalogue is based on these words: "I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage" (Ex 20:2-3). In the "ten words" of the Covenant with Israel, and in the whole Law, God makes himself known and acknowledged as the One who "alone is good"; the One who despite man's sin remains the "model" for moral action, in accordance with his command, "You shall be holy; for I the Lord your God am holy" (Lev 19:2); as the One who, faithful to his love for man, gives him his Law (cf. Ex 19:9-24 and 20:18-21) in order to restore man's original and peaceful harmony with the Creator and with all creation, and, what is more, to draw him into his divine love: "I will walk among you, and will be your God, and you shall be my people" (Lev 26:12).
The moral life presents itself as the response due to the many gratuitous initiatives taken by God out of love for man. It is a response of love, according to the statement made in Deuteronomy about the fundamental commandment: "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. And these words which I command you this day shall be upon your heart; and you shall teach them diligently to your children" (Dt 6:4-7). Thus the moral life, caught up in the gratuitousness of God's love, is called to reflect his glory: "For the one who loves God it is enough to be pleasing to the One whom he loves: for no greater reward should be sought than that love itself; charity in fact is of God in such a way that God himself is charity".18
11. The statement that "There is only one who is good" thus brings us back to the "first tablet" of the commandments, which calls us to acknowledge God as the one Lord of all and to worship him alone for his infinite holiness (cf. Ex 20:2-11). The good is belonging to God, obeying him, walking humbly with him in doing justice and in loving kindness (cf.Mic 6:8). Acknowledging the Lord as God is the very core, the heart of the Law, from which the particular precepts flow and towards which they are ordered. In the morality of the commandments the fact that the people of Israel belongs to the Lord is made evident, because God alone is the One who is good. Such is the witness of Sacred Scripture, imbued in every one of its pages with a lively perception of God's absolute holiness: "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts" (Is 6:3).
But if God alone is the Good, no human effort, not even the most rigorous observance of the commandments, succeeds in "fulfilling" the Law, that is, acknowledging the Lord as God and rendering him the worship due to him alone (cf. Mt 4:10). This "fulfilment" can come only from a gift of God: the offer of a share in the divine Goodness revealed and communicated in Jesus, the one whom the rich young man addresses with the words "Good Teacher" (Mk 10:17; Lk 18:18). What the young man now perhaps only dimly perceives will in the end be fully revealed by Jesus himself in the invitation: "Come, follow me" (Mt 19:21).

Lots of italics are missing from that quote. Hopefully you see what I mean -- where does Yarhouse mention God as the source of our moral life and truth? (I.e. not someone's subjective feelings!) Where does he talk about turning to Christ for guidance to "manage our discomfort" (over whatever problem we might have -- does Yarhouse think sexually confused people are the only ones out there with problems?!) I read his words and wonder at how anyone who takes Christianity serious could take him seriously for advice.

Let's see: I am a kleptomaniac-Christian. As such, I am only truly "comfortable" when I am in the process of stealing things. Your role, as a welcoming and inviting Christian, is to give me room to express my kleptomania on occasion, as the mood strikes me, so that I can be comfortable with myself. When you see me taking gold from the altar, don't ruffle my feathers. When you assign me to room with somebody at camp, don't tell them to put all their valuables under lock and key - think how uncomfortable that would make me! When I enter your classes, you should be willing to let me be a kleptomaniac, and reject the teaching that my interior "ownership" conflicts are the result of willful disobedience or sinful choice.


I fail to see how that has anything to do with my "hobby horse." Especially since it was started by Rush Limbaugh to attack the sort of people who Lydia is talking about.

to make themselves look like the opposite gender.
The word you want is 'sex'.

How does one expect to *oppose* leftism when one allows the leftists to colonize one's mind?

Where does he talk about turning to Christ for guidance to "manage our discomfort" (over whatever problem we might have -- does Yarhouse think sexually confused people are the only ones out there with problems?!) I read his words and wonder at how anyone who takes Christianity serious could take him seriously for advice.

You touch here upon an interesting meta-point, Jeff, and one that gets debated in Christian circles: In what way should Christianity make a difference to our ideas about mental healthcare?

Yarhouse, I'm going to guess, would put your questions in the basket with the opinions of people who think that the Bible or Christianity is sufficient for providing mental health care and that it is wrong to use professional psychiatric insights not drawn from Scripture. Of course that is not what you are saying. There are some people who fit that stereotype. I'm sure that clinicians like Yarhouse only confirm their suspicions of the entire field of psychiatry.

Increasingly in our own day with homosexuality and the transgender phenomenon, the psychiatric profession is giving itself precisely the bad name of having faux "professional" ideas that are contrary to both reason and revelation. I think Yarhouse is an example of exactly that in his approach to "managing discomfort" by presenting as the opposite sex.

How does one expect to *oppose* leftism when one allows the leftists to colonize one's mind?

Does this mean there is still hope when no one (Left or Right) calls it SGA: Same-gender attraction?

Mike, I'm going to second Jeff on this. I guess it was only a matter of time before you treated us with a foul-minded hashtag, but knock it off with the Twitter-chatter, huh?

This admonition springs to mind after hearing of Yarhouse:

"Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose, because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. For the time already past is sufficient for you to have carried out the desire of the Gentiles, having pursued a course of sensuality, lusts, drunkenness, carousing, drinking parties and abominable idolatries. In all this, they are surprised that you do not run with them into the same excesses of dissipation, and they malign you; but they will give account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.”

Lydia--no patter here--your incisive reasoning skills, applied with equal dexterity to matters of both morality and Biblical exegesis, strike me as a pure marvel. Keep up the fine work!

I heard Mark Yarhouse on the Dennis Prager show, where he said pretty much the same thing as in the article, and was very disappointed. I spent most of my high school and early collage years confused as to why God had made me a girl when I felt like a boy inside. I knew that if I were a man I would have gone to seminary and become a pastor and I felt like God had somehow made a mistake. Yet, even then I knew it would be dishonoring to God to “manage” my gender dysphoria by cutting my hair and calling myself Rob (or wearing men’s underwear). I also suffered in silence because I felt like I could never tell my non-Christian leftist mom about my dysphoria because I suspected she would encourage me to ‘transition’. I also couldn’t tell my legalistic Christian dad became I knew he’d be angry at me for feeling this way. I finally tearfully confessed to my awesome grandfather, a great man of God. But even he couldn’t tell me about the goodness of God designed male and female natures. I had to find this for myself though my own study. I no longer suffer from gender dysphoria (to quote Monty Python: “I got better.”). I still occasionally experience same-sex attraction but hope that, by God’s grace, it will one day fade as did the dysphoria.

Thanks for the comment, Rachael. I think (though speaking as a non-specialist) that it is probably especially common for feelings of gender dysphoria to be increased rather than decreased by role-playing the opposite sex. It seems a matter of plain common sense that the more you tell yourself, "I am really a man" and act the role accordingly, the more you will feel that your body is "wrong" if it is not the body of a man. Hence, from the clinical point of view itself, Yarhouse's notion of "symptom management" seems precisely wrong, *even from a secular perspective*, yet the smooth way in which he talks about it says quite clearly to me that this is the way things are talked about in the profession.

This leads to the problem of how parents can find counsel for troubled children that is even _reasonable_ and _sane_, much less godly. It seems that the psychiatric profession has only destructive advice to offer.

Does this mean there is still hope when no one (Left or Right) calls it SGA: Same-gender attraction?
The phrase 'same-sex attraction' is a fossil leftover from before the leftists managed to supplant 'sex' with 'gender' in nearly everyone's vocabulary. You might have noticed that Bruce Jenner is being hailed as a "hero" for 'transgender' "rights".

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