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Why some Christians think transgender is gnostic—and why they’re wrong

This past summer the well-known New Testament scholar, N. T. Wright, made headlines for his letter to the London Times in which he claimed that “the confusion about gender identity is a modern and now internet-fuelled, form of the ancient philosophy of Gnosticism. The Gnostic, one who ‘knows’, has discovered the secret of ‘who I really am’, behind the deceptive outward appearance. . . . This involves denying the goodness, or even the ultimate reality, of the natural world.”

The claim that trans* identity is a form of gnosticism has a long legacy. Oliver O’Donovan may have been the first to connect them in his 1982 pamphlet Transsexualism and Christian Marriage, where he says the “claim to have a ‘real sex’, which may be at war with the sex of my body . . . [is] a kind of Gnostic withdrawal from material creation.”

The 2003 House of Bishops report, Some Issues in Human Sexuality: A Guide to the Debate, quotes O’Donovan directly to provide expert support for the view that “transsexualis…

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