Living in Love and Faith – Church of England’s confusion over sex, gender and gender identity

 ‘Living in Love and Faith: Christian teaching and learning about identity, sexuality, relationships and marriage.’


The introduction of gender identity ideology into mainstream institutions has been a key strategy for global trans activists and to do so where possible avoiding democratic debate either in government or with the public. Bypassing individual country’s parliamentary systems the global lobby has articulated their demands within the framework of human rights and as such targeted the global human rights organisations e.g. Yokokarta Principles. Framing trans rights as part of the human rights discourse makes it hard for people to oppose. It sounds reasonable until you understand exactly what these ‘rights’ are and how they may conflict with other social group’s rights – women’s rights.

In 2015 the UK’s successful LGB lobby group Stonewall added the T to LGB and few objected at the time. Most people knew what transsexuals were and there were not very many of them so it didn’t seem to be relevant to the majority of the population. However what was less known was that trans had been redefined. Out went transsexual as ‘too medical’ and in came transgender, an altogether different concept based more on expression of gender, although the term gender identity was used. The trans lobby claims that these expressions are what signify that the person really is ‘the other sex’ regardless of whether they want to transition medically. This has been legitimized to some degree by the proclamation that we all have a ‘gender identity’ and that for some people it does not match their biological sex but for most it does.

Gender identity was not well known to the public until a few years ago when institutions began to use the term instead of sex in surveys. Despite the word being used authoritatively I have yet to hear a definition that doesn’t rely on gender stereotypes. It is a wholly subjective concept, relying on an inner feeling and as such is highly unsuitable to be a legal category. This however has been a key aim of the movement – to disrupt biological sex and replace it with gender identity leading to the reconceptualisation of bodies via medical pathways. See my post below . There is some irony that transexual is considered ‘too medical a term’ and yet a lifetime of drugs and surgery is proposed for anyone uncomfortable in their own sexed bodies.

Once human rights organisations, like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch were persuaded of the necessity of including trans into the LGB rights movement it became much easier to introduce the concept as an already established human right and any opposition to trans demands looked regressive. Perhaps the fact that it is women and girls who are most affected by the implementation of this ideology has meant that the male dominated leadership of institutions found little of concern. The small number of transexuals combined with a lack of understanding about the condition added to many institutions and governments ‘turning a blind eye’ to potential consequences on women’s and girls’ rights and allowed demands to be met without any any debate or public consultation. The control of language and discourse and the influence over key institutions like law, governments and education has been key to the trans lobby’s success so far.

This is a rather long preamble to my critique of the Church of England’s new teaching resource Living in Love and Faith. I have chosen the C of E because it is a good example of how one of the nation’s key institutions has been persuaded by a small powerful group to not only change language but adopt concepts that arguably have no scientific basis and are deeply controversial – without debate. Although the Church has lost considerable social influence in society it still has over 4,700 schools under its wing and education has been another key area for the trans lobby to target.

Living in Love and Faith

When the Archbishops announced this project in 2017, they spoke in terms of a ‘large scale teaching document around the subject of human sexuality. However, ‘It soon became apparent that a biblical, theological and inter-disciplinary exploration of sexuality and marriage would necessarily involve questions of identity,’ explained someone on the project team.

This resulted in renaming the project as ‘Living in Love and Faith: Christian teaching and learning about identity, sexuality, relationships and marriage.’

It was published at the end of 2020 without much fanfare as the pandemic was taking centre stage in most people’s lives. The resources are currently being rolled out in parishes, including my own, as a five session course. Nervous as to how the C of E would discuss identity following a number of conversations I have had with them over the past couple of years I have now read the booklet and it is even worse than I feared.

Session 2 Identity

‘There can be many different aspects of identity including class, race and nationality. Our focus here is on sexual orientation and gender.’

We are off to a bad start. Sexual orientation is just that, an orientation, a sexuality, it is not an identity. The text goes on to say that there are disagreements in the church over these aspects of identity but doesn’t say what or why? The uncritical use of gender identity from the start is deeply worrying. It is this concept and its consequences about which there are indeed profound disagreements, with feminist opposing views being branded ‘transphobic’ and any debate being silenced.

  • Identity, sexual orientation and gender

The subtitle immediately signals that this section is going to be a confusion of terms and concepts, either ill-understood or deliberately obtuse. And it is. It is written in a style designed not to offend anyone, which results in a hesitant tone lacking in confidence. But as a Christian and a feminist it really offends me. I have spent the last three years writing to the Church about the error of walking down the Stonewall path and uncritically adopting all Stonewall definitions, without questioning any of it and then setting it out in a paper on bullying for Children in 2017 ( Valuing All God’s Children).  But to no avail. The addition of identity to the resources on Living in Love and Faith alerted me to the fact that another important Church resource was going to be preaching gender ideology. I continued my correspondence and warnings about adopting an uncritical approach. The language in Living in Love and Faith is careful not to preach instead using terms like ‘some people think’, but unfortunately concepts and language are used uncritically and the result is a couple of pages of absolute confusion.  Here I try to unpack it a bit.

The first sentence states that,

‘People are describing themselves as trans lesbian gay bisexual asexual intersex or even gender fluid.’  

This again confuses sexuality and identity. Lesbian, gay and bisexual are not identities they are sexualities, sexual orientations.

Trans is an identity for many, an ontological reality for others (transitioned transsexuals)

Intersex people are born with DSDs (disorders of sex development) – this is a medical condition – and they are fed up with being used to support ideologies like the gender ideologues’ ‘sex is on a spectrum’. They have a physical condition which makes it difficult to determine their sex at birth.  It is neither an identity nor necessarily how people describe themselves.

Gender fluidity has nothing to do with sexuality. I am not sure what it means and as it isn’t defined here I don’t think many people do know.  It may be that someone identifies as a man one day and a woman the next. However this refers to gender expression and if anything would fall into the category of identity.

The text continues with,

‘The word gender can be used to describe a person’s deeply rooted sense of themselves – that might itself have biological roots. This is typically called gender identity.’

There is no reference given or scientific justification for making this claim, nor are the two concepts, gender and gender identity, used interchangeably in popular discourse. The word gender refers to social and cultural norms and expectations of how men and women live, behave and look in any society at any given time and as such is dynamic. Gender was adopted by feminism as a way of avoiding essentialism. Not all of women’s characteristics were or are innate. Many are the product of socialization and can be changed. It has been co-opted by trans activists and deliberately confused with gender identity in order to gain acceptance of the latter. Seemingly they have been quite successful. Sex is biological and a fact. Gender identity is a contested belief with no scientific foundation.

To avoid perhaps the very type of criticism that I am making now, the next paragraph does state that ‘language in this area is controversial’. Yes, indeed, it is not just controversial it is highly contested and I really wonder why the Church has felt the need to walk into this minefield?

In the next paragraph the term ‘assigned at birth’ is used. This is language only used with regard to intersex people, people with a DSD, when as mentioned above it is not clear which sex the baby may be from looking at its genitalia, and again has been co opted by trans activists. Has anyone ever heard anyone say that a midwife or a doctor assigned a baby male? This is activist language being used by the Church of England. in fact only this weekend (March 27th) the BBC has been forced to changed its wording from ‘assigned female at birth’ to ‘women’ after a flood of complaints.

The text proceeds to refer to gender identity still without any definition of what it is and then states that those whose gender identity matches their sex may call themselves ‘cisgender’. ‘Cis’ is another example of activist language to which many women and men really object. What the label ‘cis’ does is make biological women a sub category of women and trans women are another sub category, so that we are all the same – women. This makes trans women feel better but 99.9% or more of the population have not been consulted. There is no consensus in adopting this language.  Again to cover all bases the text does say that some people might not accept this and that they may believe that biological sex cannot be separated from gender in this way. Again this is a confusing use of the words gender, gender identity and sex. It would have been better perhaps if the C of E had been very clear on its definitions at the beginning. As it is we are left with the impression that it doesn’t really understand the subject but feels that it ought to talk about it.

The next paragraph states that:

‘There are lots of words to describe different gender identities’.

We still have no definition of gender identity but the text proceeds with the assumption that the reader believes in gender identities. Are there different gender identities? Who says so? What on earth does this mean?  There are many ways of expressing ourselves and as men and women we can see how these differ throughout history. What does non-binary mean? Placing yourself on a continuum or not all is not an option for any animal or human being. We are all born male or female. Some may be gender non-conforming and express themselves in ways that do not match gender stereotypes. Feminism has always applauded that.  Instead of seeing a gender non-conforming girl as a tomboy, gender identity ideology adopted here by the Church of England would suggest that she might not be a girl at all, that she was either non binary or indeed a boy. In reality this is what is happening and why in the past seven years we have seen a huge increase in young girls being referred to gender clinics. Of the 5,500 children on the waiting list for GIDS ( its was 138 ten years ago,) over 70% are girls. Many of these girls are in fact lesbian, one third have autism and most have other mental health problems. Instead of being treated holistically their feelings are seen only through the funnel of transgenderism. It may be worth the Church looking at the interim report of the Cass Review which was published this week.   This affirmative approach to treating children is on its way out.

The Living in Love and Faith booklet goes on to say,

‘we don’t know all the scientific reasons behind trans and non-binary identities yet, but research is beginning to suggest that gender identity may be affected by levels of hormones in the womb during key stages of pregnancy’.  Again this is quite an extraordinary and extremely controversial statement for the Church to make without any references to the actual research. in fact there is no data that confirms this presumption, quite the opposite.

“Data on genetic and hormone independent influence on gender identity are presently divergent and do not provide convincing information about the underlying etiology.” (Cass Report)

The paragraph on dysphoria states that “responding to gender dysphoria among children is an especially complex area where there is much to learn”.  Yes there is, but sadly this is too late for many young people who have already been put on the road of medical transition. The interim Cass Report (refs above) as well as the government prohibition of  treating children under 16 with puberty blockers before that, are both  evidence that  the scandal of treating children medically is now being unearthed. GIDS itself is severely criticised in the report for taking an affirmative approach to children transitioning without addressing the other mental health and trauma issues that the majority of these kids have.

The booklet then defines sexual orientation as ‘a tendency to feel sexual attraction to people of particular sexes or genders.’  This is again confusing as it conflates sexualities and identities, saying people are ‘bisexual when attracted to both men and women and possibly other gender categories’. There are no other sex categories, apart from male or female with which sexual attraction may occur.

What is the goal of the church by including gender identity under the broader auspices of identity?

It may have been helpful to give some numbers of transgender people in the country. You can expect the lobby groups, like Stonewall to put out the highest possible numbers to strengthen their cause but even they have an upper figure of approx. 500,000 i.e. fewer than 1% of the population. Even to get to this number the definition of transgender is much broader that the small group of transsexuals (estimated at approx 5000 in 2004) with which most members of the public are most familiar. In Stonewall’s glossary of definitions (which the C of E used in Valuing God’s Children) it states that:

“Trans people may describe themselves using one or more of a wide variety of terms, including (but not limited to) transgender, transsexual, gender-queer (GQ), gender-fluid, non-binary, gender-variant, crossdresser, genderless, agender, nongender, third gender, bi-gender, trans man, trans woman,trans masculine, trans feminine and neutrois”…

Does the church really believe that there are lots of different gender identities rather than different ways of expressing ourselves? By not challenging some of this language and ideology, the Church is accepting and condoning it. There is no fence to sit on in this debate. The text refers to some people not using the language but it isn’t just language. It is the ideology of gender identity, a belief system that priorities gender identity over biological sex with all the consequences that has for women and girls’lives.

The project team and advisors included some of the great minds of Church leadership and and so it is extraordinary that this important teaching resource not only trots out concepts that belong to a questionable ideology but does so in a wholly incomprehensible way.