The Church & Transgenderism
Great question. Before we can really delve into this though, I think it would be a good idea to do two things. First, we need to define what transgenderism is and second we need to see of Scripture has anything to say about it. I generally believe that breaking an issue down to its foundational elements helps in assessing the proper course of action, especially when dealing with how theology and the Bible applies to everyday real life.
Transgenderism once called Gender Identity Disorder (GID) and most recently renamed Gender Dysphoria is defined as a person with, “…a strong desire to be the opposite sex.”(Young, 1999). Its initial name GID was given by the American Psychological Association (APA) because at that time it was considered a mental disorder. Through gender studies over the last decade it has been found that a correlation between hormone differences and brain structures between men and trans men and women and trans women. While no longer considered a mental disorder most medical experts still refer to Gender Dysphoria as a “medical condition” considering it is a physiological/psychosocial abnormality. In children, this can be especially dangerous, generally leading to deep depression and attempts of suicide in adolescents if that adolescent has little to no support structure. Adults generally take extreme measures both personally and publicly to be viewed as the opposite sex which generally manifests itself in dressing like the desired sex and having a sex change.
What does the Bible say?
Scripture seems to deal with this in two ways by way of prescriptive command and descriptive identity. In the prescriptive command column is the command of God to Israel in Deuteronomy 22:5, “A woman shall not wear a man’s garment, nor shall a man put on a woman’s cloak, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord your God.” Now some mock this…discredit it and try to make it appear that it is archaic Jewish law that doesn’t prescribe modern behavior…which is nonsense. To this people generally will use Galatians 3:28 which says, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” To them the part that garners attention is “there is no male or female” and then they go on to make a defense for a transgender person. This is a misreading…a depressingly deplorable one. Paul is referencing how we (as in those who have the identities above, meaning that they do in fact exist) are one in Christ Jesus. He is not making Deuteronomy 22:5 obsolete or going against God’s clear created order.
Where scripture is descriptive is in Genesis 1:27, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him, male and female he created them.” God created two distinct genders each with clear roles and functions within His created order, if God created a person to be male than he intended for them to be male. If this is true, then why do people with Gender Dysphoria exist? The only answer I can give is this one…sin. From birth, we are predisposed to doing evil. This is not a question of “choosing” to be transgender…it is a question of being exposed to the brokenness of this world and being infected by sin and death. From birth, we become helpless slaves of these cruel masters and because they generally lead to immediate gratification…we follow them willingly, not knowing anything else than to make ourselves happy. Whether you believe Gender Dysphoria a choice or a genetic disposition the conclusion is the same. God made you as He made you…changing that not only hurts you…but it defiles a creation of God and worst yet…a bearer of His image.
So What Do We Do?
We offer grace…we extend a hand and we accept them where they are. A transgender person will not stop being transgender overnight and in all likelihood will never not be transgender…but over time…that will matter less and less to them. In America, we want as much gratification with life as humanly possible. We are obsessed with ourselves, our rights, our talents, and our stuff. The acceptance of homosexuality within some branches of the church proves this point true. Instead of standing next to the revelation of God, they side with human conceptions of fairness and happiness. They reject God’s view of whom and what we are in favor of one that puffs humanity up beyond our station. The church that rejects homosexuality is no better however. Instead of working with homosexual/transgender persons and loving them despite their imperfections there is an immediate call to ceasing sin. Now…I get this…I really do…and if a person isn’t even trying than discipline is certainly required…however…a transgender person coming to accept themselves as God made them will take time. Can it disappear immediately and a person be delivered from it…certainly…but that is not the road most of us travel. For most people, dealing with sin is a dirty, nasty fight; an exercise in self-control, self-sacrifice, humility, and dying to ourselves. It is about as far from easy as one can get. We must learn how to love people at their lowest, where they can come to us and we can love them, disciple them, and encourage them to live the life that Christ has for them. Anyone willing to condemn such people, people trying to correct behavior, are no better than Pharisees whom Jesus called sons of hell. They are individuals willing to tie a millstone around someone’s neck and leave them to lift their heavy burden alone. To such people Christ will say, “I never knew you!” So be careful…heaping weight upon people already barely carrying their load is cruel, wicked, and an action showing themselves worthy of rebuke. Whether you believe Gender Dysphoria a choice or a genetic disposition the conclusion is the same. God made you as He made you…changing that not only hurts you…but it desecrates a creation of God and worst yet…a bearer of His image.
With all of this said we must remember why we resist sin. We must remember what it means to be “in Christ.” Being in Jesus is not about self-actualization…it is not about your self-esteem or your happiness. It is about slowly being made more and more like the person of Jesus. It is about coming to recognize that we do this not because we “want to go to heaven” but because of the one who made heaven possible. We must decide that we love Jesus more than ourselves…and in so doing reject sin…no matter how difficult or gratifying it may seem. So Caroline to answer your question pointedly…love them. Explain to them what God’s desire for them is and that sometimes that includes not doing what we feel is right. Show them that our perception of right and wrong is warped in comparison to God’s and that His desire for them is that they live free in Jesus Christ. Free from bondage, free from societal expectations, and free from a world that leads to death. Nothing will show a child more readily the love of Jesus than your love of them and patience with them. God bless and again thank you for reading.
With Love In Christ
Justin (AKA The Nerdy Theologian)
Young, P. D. (1999). Gender Identity Disorder. In D. G. Benner, & P. C. Hill (Eds.) Baker Encyclopedia of Psychology & Counseling (pp. 491-492). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.