Playing Pretend in the AFLW

Over the last couple of years, our culture has been playing a game of pretend.  We have become used to seeing men ‘becoming’ women, or women ‘becoming’ men, by taking hormones or undergoing surgery.  High profile cases, like Bruce/Caitlin Jenner in the US,  and Malcolm/Cate McGregor, in Australia (among quite a number of others) has led to an overwhelming acceptance and refusal to question the issue within the media.  We have made a huge game of pretend with sex and gender, like children watching Play School being encouraged to pretend a box is a space ship.

A driving force behind this public game of pretend is the idea that questioning and upsetting a person’s deeply held beliefs about themselves is not only bad manners, but is also somehow damaging and immoral.  But also lurking behind the scenes is the idea in a lot of people’s minds that it doesn’t really hurt anyone.  If a man wants to pretend to be a woman (or vice versa) and is willing to put themselves though that process, then it doesn’t hurt anyone else, so we can all go ahead with it.

But in the case of Callum/Hannah Mouncey, the AFL decided that it couldn’t play pretend any more.  Not when a current olympic decided that he was really a woman and wanted to play a high impact contact sport against women.  This wasn’t a case of a small-framed man wanting to wear and dress and high heels and be photographed for a magazine shoot.  This was a case of a physically imposing and heavily muscled man only a year of two out of olympic form, wanting to compete against women.  And the AFL blinked.  Despite their embrace of every social fad around sex and gender, they could no longer maintain that their game of pretend wasn’t going to hurt someone.

Their consequent ruling was quite confusing.  Callum/Hannah couldn’t enter the national competition draft, but could play in a local league.  Callum/Hannah met the olympic requirements for testosterone levels to pretend that he was a woman, but that wasn’t sufficient.  Yet the door is open for next year – should the women in the league become more like large men, or Callum/Hannah becomes more like a woman in physique and muscle mass.  And commentators and reporters are coming down on both sides of the argument, all the while trying to avoid the obvious.

That we are playing pretend instead of being honest.

We aren’t honest when we don’t say say that Bruce, Malcolm, Callum and others are struggling with some sort of identity issue where their self image doesn’t match their body.  That they need help and support in working through their issues and getting the medical and psychological assistance they need.

Instead, our society has decided to pretend that they really are women (or men, as the case may be), despite reality, and politely avoid saying anything that might hurt their feelings.

Ultimately, our society is choosing to deny what is fundamentally real and true, and create some sort of imaginary world where we can pretend that there is no problem we can’t solve, and everyone can live happily ever after.

The issue of transgender athletes is not actually the problem, it is merely a symptom of the real problem – that without God our culture has no firm foundation, and there are no rules for anything.  And while our level of technology can help us play a pretty sophisticated game of pretend, we are going to hurt each other because we are denying reality.

Why link this with God?  Because God created us.  God created the world and everything in it, people have rebelled and rejected God, and only God can provide the solutions to our problems.  Our identity and happiness is not to be found on a surgeon’s table, or a chemist’s laboratory (or in a bank account, a house, a family, a marriage or a career, for that matter).  It is to be found when we discover that we were made in God’s image, and that despite our sin, God loves us and sent His Son, Jesus, to die in our place so we could be reconciled to Him.  This doesn’t make life perfect or without difficulty, in the same way that Callum/Hannah is undoubtedly finding that ‘becoming’ a woman hasn’t made his life perfect or without difficulty.  But God has the benefit of being real, not pretend, as was proved in Jesus’ resurrection.

I hope that Callum/Hannah has found a level of relief from his/her problems through the processes that he has undergone.  Sadly, he’s going to find that in the long run, he hasn’t.  And I pray that when he discovers that, he will have the humility to turn to God for the real acceptance and peace that he is so obviously craving.