In the last post, several questions were raised regarding Christianity and gender issues. In this post, I will answer some of those questions.
What does the Bible say about transgender issues?
The Bible does not deal specifically with transgender issues. It does deal with birth and the human soul. Psalm 139:13 states, “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.” This verse has been used to discuss the value of human life from before birth. I think that is exactly what the verse does. But it also suggests that God is the one who creates us as we are intended to be. With that being said, the question arises about whether God would allow someone to be born in the wrong body. Can a person who is meant to be a female be born as a male? Can a person who is meant to be a male be born as a female? If so, does that suggest that God made a mistake in the womb?
As Christians, we believe that God does not make mistakes, but we also believe that we live into a fallen world tainted by sin. Going one step further, the Bible teaches that humans are born in sin. As such we are born separated from God. The image of God in a person is broken from the moment a person is born. Because things are not as they should be, we must ask if God potentially allows people to be born in the wrong bodies as a consequence of living in a fallen, broken, world. If so, this does not suggest that God has made a mistake, but rather it suggests that in the developmental process, sin corrupted what was meant to be for someone. If not, it suggests that everyone is born according to the proper gender, and that the inclination towards another gender happens after birth.
I personally believe that for some people, there are life experiences that cause them to desire to identify as a different gender. For others, it seems to be from the onset in life. I think the same can be said for homosexual tendencies. For some, life experience draws them to same sex attraction. For others, it seems to be there from the onset. My hesitation with saying that no one is born in the wrong gender stems from the fact that some people are born with some male and female organs. There are documented cased of males being born with ovaries in their bodies despite having other male organs. This suggests that the issue is not as cut and dry as some would like it to be. For those who make these decisions based on life experiences, perhaps it is at least in part the result of some kind of mental disorder. That is not necessarily the case in all circumstances.
Romans 1 also teaches that humans have corrupt minds and that they are inclined to trade the natural order of things for an unnatural one. This is stated in reference to sexuality. The text says that God gave the people over to their sinful desires. This passage seems to indicate that people may have very real desires to have relationships with those of the same gender, and while it is not as God intended, the feelings are no less real. I have argued before that I believe that those who deal with same sex attraction and who also profess to be Christians should remain celibate. Concerning transgender issues, I would argue the same. Even if being born in the wrong body is a result of living in a broken world where things do not always happen as they should. I would advise against gender re-assignment surgery, and suggest that those who believe they are born with the wrong organs remains celibate. I am not sure how many of those who believe they are in the wrong body have felt that way since birth as compared to those who begin to believe they are in the wrong body based on life experience (even if they are not consciously aware of such experience). More study and research needs to be done to give us a better understanding of this. The Genomics project finally concluded that there is no “Gay Gene.” In other words, nothing in our DNA suggests that one can know whether a person will be gay or not based on the genetic code. It seems likely that the same would be true regarding gender identity. In other words, this is not something that comes down to science alone.
I believe that all people are inclined towards things that are “unnatural.” For example, someone who is a pathological liar (who is inclined towards the sin of lying) will likely continue to struggle with lying even after becoming a Christian. It is a soul issue. Something intrinsic in that person compels him to lie. I think the same can be said regarding homosexuality. A person who is inclined towards same sex attraction will likely continue feeling those feelings after becoming a Christian. With that being the case, if someone who identifies with the opposite gender becomes a Christian, it is likely that these identity issues will not go away.
Is it sinful for someone to identify as the opposite gender?
If God allows people to be born in the wrong bodies as a result of the fall, then it is hard to claim that it is sinful to identify as the opposite gender. If one wishes to identify as the opposite gender as a rebellious act towards the creator, that is a different story. Any time we act in rebellion against God, it is sin. This is true for any moral, civil, or personal issue.
But for many, I wonder how much they really wish to identify as the opposite gender. I wonder if they are consciously or even unconsciously attempting to rebel against God. It seems that many are not attempting to be rebellious. This leads to the next question.
Can transgendered people love God?
I think in short, the answer is “Yes!!” Why, because all of us are sinners, and all who love God are sinners. Homosexuals can love God. Liars can love God. Murderers can love God too!!! But once a sinner finds redemption, God no longer expects the person to live in ways that are contrary to his Word. Thus, Christians submit to the authority of Christ and to the principles found in the Bible. The reason a cheater no longer cheats people when he becomes a Christian is because he is now called to live according to a new way. If a person inclined towards homosexuality becomes a Christian, he is no longer to act on those feelings. If a person who identifies as another gender becomes a Christian, he or she is to live according to a new standard.
But what is that standard? Transgender issues are not apples to apples with other moral issues in Scripture…because these issues are not openly discussed in the Bible.
Thus, I would argue that those who identify as a different gender should live according to their physical make-up. If they cannot do that in relationships, then they should practice celibacy. Again, I am speaking about people who identify as Christians. If a person who identifies as a transgender individual has already had gender reassignment surgery, then I do not think the person should have the surgery reversed. I think that person should live as he or she now is, and again, practice celibacy.
When someone comes to love God, no matter what sin the person deals with, the person is called to put away that sin. We all continue to sin (and regularly), but when we do, we should at least recognize that our actions were out of line with God’s will, and we should not be indifferent to the situation. In other words, when I lose my temper or get jealous of someone else, I should not be indifferent to my actions. I should recognize that I was wrong, confess my wrong to God, and to anyone I wronged by my action. Then I should strive to not make the same choice again.
If someone identifies as another gender, the person should search his heart to see if he or she is acting in rebellion against God or if the situation is a result of being born in a world where things are not as they should be. Then the person needs to seek what God would have him or her do as a result of what God impresses upon the person’s heart.
One reader asked, how I thought society should deal with issues such as public bathrooms and transgender individuals. I think I would answer that public bathrooms need to begin making greater efforts to preserve privacy. I think people should go to the restrooms that match their anatomy, but think it would be easier to do so for everyone (especially in men’s bathrooms) if there was more privacy.
In the next post, I will continue discussing this issue with regards to how churches should deal with transgender issues and with what implications the answers to these questions have on issues regarding ethnic identity, and polygamy (both issues that I think will become bigger in our culture in the next several years).
What are your thoughts so far? What challenged do you have for my line of thinking? What additional questions do you have now?