On Tuesday, 13 June, two e-petitions were discussed in a single debate. The first petition (receiving 109,463 signatures) sought to update the Equality Act to make clear that the characteristic ‘sex’ is biological sex, and the other petition (receiving 138,886 signatures) urged the government not to amend the Equality Act. Evangelicals must be willing to offer a biblical perspective to the cultural and political debate – one that cuts through the political noise and brings clarity to laws that protect women and children.

The cultural debate on sex, gender and identity is evolving at a pace quicker than the law can keep up with.

A decade ago, the question what is a woman?’ would have elicited reference to biology and scientific fact in response. Today, to answer in a way that states biological fact and differences is viewed by some as transphobic. This question ties politicians and celebrities alike in knots and continues to provoke strong reactions among progressively-minded individuals as well as social conservatives.

Matt Walsh, an American author, political commentator and self-professed conservative, produced a documentary entitled What is a Woman?’ last year, and recently made the 90-minute film available to watch on Twitter for 24 hours. At the last count, the video had been viewed over 177 million times, sparking outrage from trans activists and campaign groups that the film is transphobic and promoting harm to transgender people.


For Christians, Genesis 1 is our foundation and starting point in articulating what a woman is. All human beings are made in God’s image. The male and female of Genesis 1 become the man and woman of Genesis 2. So, a woman is created in the image of God and distinct from a man in nature and purpose in reflecting the glory of God. In this way, scripture reveals a divine and biological reality, but the Bible has much more to say on who and what a woman is.

Proverbs 31 personifies wisdom as a woman and describes her as courageous, as someone who cares for her family and is respected by the community. The book of Revelation depicts the church as a bride (Revelation 18 – 22) and the remnant coming from the seed of a woman (Revelation 12). 

Sadly, the cultural and political debate on what is a woman?’ often relies solely on biology or ignores it all together. A woman is more than her biology or her ability to have children, but she is not less than that. She is made in the image of God, worthy of value, honour, love, and protection. As evangelicals we must be willing to offer this perspective to the cultural debate.

How does the law define ‘sex’?

I am supporting the first petition, which is about restoring clarity to the law by specifying that the terms sex”, male”, female”, man” and woman” in the Equality Act refer to biological sex and not sex as modified by a gender recognition certificate.” Joanna Cherry, Scottish National Party MP for Edinburgh South West

The Equality Act 2010 legally protects people from discrimination from work and wider society. It sets out nine protected characteristics, of which sex, gender reassignment and sexual orientation were the three hotly discussed in yesterday’s debate.

The Gender Recognition Act 2004 makes it possible for over-18s diagnosed with gender dysphoria to legally change their gender. Such adults can apply to what is called a Gender Recognition Panel’ to change their birth certificate (and receive what is known as a gender recognition certificate, or GRC) from male to female or vice versa. The Evangelical Alliance was involved in the debates at the time and warned of many of the issues that are now arising.

Prior to the Westminster Hall debate, there have been mixed messages from the government on whether they will reform or amend the Equality Act. Prime minister Rishi Sunak, in a media appearance on Sunday, 10 June, said, when it comes to sex, woman’s space, woman’s prisons, biological sex really matters”, whereas the cabinet office in its lengthy written response to both petitions said that, changes to the Equality Act are not necessary”.

During the Westminster Hall debate, several women from the Labour, Conservative and Scottish National Party spoke out in favour of clarifying the Equality Act to mean biological sex and its importance for single-sex spaces, sport and education.

The Equality Act and the Gender Recognition Act currently work imperfectly together and are failing to resolve tensions in the community. It is our view that the protected characteristic of sex should be clarified to mean biological sex, which will better protect women and girls in law and in practice. Transgender people will still be protected under the Equality Act because gender reassignment is a protected characteristic, preventing harassment, discrimination and victimisation in the workplace and society.

If you talk to ordinary people — elected politicians do so most days — they will tell you that women as a group need protection in law, and trans women also need protection, but these are not the same groups. That was recognised in the Equality Act when it was passed.” – Rosie Duffield, Labour MP for Canterbury

Three ways evangelicals can engage well in the cultural conversations and legislative change:

  1. Compassion – These are difficult and contested conversations so it is important to find the right tone and to choose words wisely.
  2. Integrity – Be willing to speak the truth with courage. While there are complex aspects to the conversation, at its heart there are simple truths about protecting women and girls.
  3. Redemption – Be wary of being drawn into a culture war and instead look for ways to have redemptive conversations. This is a real missional moment as many in our culture are recognising that erasure of biological sex is a step too far.

We recommend church leaders, parents and youth leaders read our biblical and pastoral resource Transformed to better understand transgender issues in a changing culture. We will be publishing an updated version later this year.

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