Open Mic: The Question of Transgenderism (pt.i)

UPDATE: This series is finished. Part 2 can be found here and Part 3 is here

A couple of days ago, a friend of mine shot me a facebook message asking me for a Christian perspective on, of all things, transgenderism. For many reasons that will be explained later, this will be a topic of increasing pertinence that the Church will have to give a theologically-informed account for at some point. We need to have answers for questions like: “Did God make them that way?”, “Are they just confused?”, “Should we support many people’s desire for surgical alterations?”,”What hope for ‘healing’ can we expect in this life?”,”Is it something that needs to be ‘healed’ in the first place?”, “Is it a sin?”, “What does a Christian with transgender issues look like?”, “Is that even possible?”, among others.

To be honest, I don’t feel like I have a rock solid answer to any of these questions. Every time I feel like I do, I talk to someone and they show me a new dimension I hadn’t seen before. So, I’m very open to ideas, which is why I’m writing this on the blog. I would love everyone’s feedback and opinion as to how one should answer these questions.

But first, what are we talking about? Transgenderism is different from transexuality. A person is considered transgendered when their personal gender identity does not match the physical sex that was assigned to them at birth–that’s it. A person is considered a “transexual” when they actually seek to change their physical sex through surgery or hormone therapy. Individuals can be transgendered based on genetics (genetically they’re one gender; physically they’re another) or psychology (their gender identity does not match the gender role assigned to them by culture and society based on their physical gender; they don’t “feel” like the sex they physically are). I’m not sure if my friend was asking about both these issues or if they were in fact, drawing a distinction, but many of the same issues are involved in both.

By the time I was done writing out my whole response to these questions, the essay was about six pages long. It’s done, mind you, I just don’t want to throw all of that at all of you at once. So I’m going to spread it over the next three days in three separate posts. But please respond to this post and this series. I would love all of your thoughts. Below you’ll find the schedule and topics to be addressed. Look at what I’ll be talking about in the next couple of days and see if your comment or question might be more appropriate in the days to come.

  • Today: The Questions of Transgenderism
    • some questions, definitions, and all of your thoughts
  • Tuesday: A Prolegomena of Transgenderism
    • how others have approached this and what we need to remember (but often forget) when trying to address this
  • Wednesday: A Theology of Transgenderism?
    • a brief theology/history of gender and sexuality and how do we deal with this theologically and practically in the Church?

Your Turn

So, what are your thoughts on this? If you’re not a Christian, how do you think Christians should approach this issue? How have they not done a good job in the past? How do you approach it? If you are a Christian, what’s your immediate gut reaction to this issue? Is it reasonable? Does it follow the other aspects of the Gospel that you know? How do you think Jesus would approach this? How were you raised to approach this topic?


20 thoughts on “Open Mic: The Question of Transgenderism (pt.i)

  1. Christian guy here. My first, gut response is that we aren’t supposed to judge and that a person plumbing (and relationship to their plumbing) is something between them and God.

    Secondly, I think WWJD. And I remember that he hung out with all the people society had decided where awful. God’s heart is for the ostracised, and Trans people of any stripe suffer lots. So I think that the Church(es) should open their doors and their hearts.

    Thirdly, I think of Galatians 3:28.

    “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

    Which implies to me that we should be focusing on the humanity of people rather than the boxes they tick.


  2. -Q: If God is the almighty personal Creator is it possible at all for someone to be born with their immaterial gender not aligned with their physical gender?

    A: As a result of the Fall, God places everyone in particular Fallen (out of synch with the created order) circumstances in order for His glory and our ultimate good. I believe that transgender falls into the category of life circumstances out of synch with the created order; so yes I do believe one can be born with an out of synch gender.

    -Q: What is the appropriate response to being transgendered if you are a Christian?

    A: There are two responses. The first is to deny the immaterial gender and embrace your physical gender even if you don’t feel like it. This is embracing the Christian’s call to a sacrificial and humble life. This would most likely be a life of sexual sacrifice and a hard road to take even in the best of circumstances, but with the Grace of Christ it seems doable.

    The second is to embrace the immaterial gender and embrace the Christian’s call to subdue the Fallen world as to redeem it. This response would seek surgery and hormone treatments in order to change the physical gender to match the immaterial one. It is also a bit at odds with mainstream Christian ideas on the subject.

    Personally I would probably council the majority of people to seek the former but I can see a good argument for the later. Just my thoughts, thanks for opening up the discussion. -Jacob


  3. I think if you look at this as an issue of biology and reject the “gender” paradigm things become a lot more clear. Transsexual is not part of transgender per se; that was a political appropriation undertaken to absorb and eventually erase the true transsexual condition.

    One is born transsexual, one does not choose to have this condition at some point later in life. People with non-transsexual issues have blurred the lines purposefully to give themselves cover for their behavior whether it be crossdressing/transvestitism or avoiding the stigma of simply being gay. This does a grave disservice to people who actually are transsexual by birth.

    There is also the equivocation of “transgender” as a chosen state of being versus “transgender” as a political outlook. The two are often used interchangeably, but that clouds the issue. One can act “transgender” by behavior without belonging to the “transgender” political set in the same way one can live conservatively without being a Republican.

    The political coercion and silencing of those who dissent against the politics of the Transgender lobby is done to replace the voices of that dissent with the false appearance of unity.

    In fact, the 30 or 40 thousand (or more) actual post-corrected transsexual people in the United States remain almost entirely silent on these issues because they are manifestly NOT transgender. This silence has been exploited by political opportunists who are pushing an agenda that urges fluidity in “gender”, whatever “gender” means in this instance.

    Being born with a condition does not dictate that you are a member of a particular political party, and that is the reason I comment here and elsewhere. People should be getting good information so they can be free to choose how they deal with this issue, rather than the propaganda which I see laid thick across the internet and society.

    Please be aware that most of what you have probably read about “transgender” includes large portions of political speech, and has very little to do with “transsexual” issues except to use them for legitimacy.


  4. No doubt this will be a complex path. The way ahead is a political minefield and it is not for me to confuse the issues any more than you will, already, find them.

    I may help just a little though by offering a little hard-won wisdom.

    Firstly learn to understand the sex – gender distinction. They are not the same things and the transsexual experience is encompassed by transgenderism only through socio-political fiat: not because they are the same experiences.

    The Journal of Applied Physiology has an objective discussion on the sex – gender distinction titled “Sex and gender: what is the difference?” (J Appl Physiol 99: 785-787, 2005)

    Professor Milton Diamond, of the John A Burns School of Medicine in Hawaii, discusses the issues in a paper headed “Sex and Gender: Same or Different?”

    In 1969 Swedish Psychiatrist, Professor Jan Wålinder gave one of the most accurate descriptions of classical transsexualism ever written.

    1. A sense of belonging to the opposite sex, of having been born into the wrong sex, of being one of nature’s extant errors.

    2. A sense of estrangement with one s own body; all indications of sex differentiation are considered as afflictions and repugnant.

    3. A strong desire to resemble physically the opposite sex via therapy including surgery.

    4. A desire to be accepted in the community as belonging to the opposite sex.

    Over 40 years on point 4, “A desire to be accepted in the community as belonging to the opposite sex” is about all that is left of Dr. Wålinder’s definition.

    There a several reasons for that – too many to go into with this comment. But the most important of these was the “John-Joan”, or David Reimer case. For those who do not know about the Reimer case, here are some online papers.

    The first, “Sex Reassignment at Birth: A Long Term Review and Clinical Implications”, is the paper that exposed the duplicity of one psychologist, John Money.

    The Second, “The True Story of Joan-Joan” appeared in the Rolling Stone in December 1997.
    I leave you with these to be going on with.

    I will not attempt to persuade you you in any particular direction. Others no doubt will. Finally I hope the URL’s post successfully.

    Good luck!


  5. Dear Paul,

    I am actually very happy that you have raised this seemingly thorny topic. Before I offer you my perspective let me tell you from whence I speak.

    I was born and reared in a very conservative Spanish/Catholic household. From my earliest consciousness, I was surrounded by the icons, rituals and culture of the Catholic Church. It all seemed quite normal and natural since I had not anything else to compare it with. The idea of a Holy Family, a Holy Ghost and an all knowing, all loving, omni present God made perfect sense because that was simply the way it was.

    Now into this perfect world comes the utter, massive undeniable realization that I am different from all the other little girls around me. I HAVE A PENIS! and that made me a boy!

    Now this “problem” was a bit much for a child of three or four to handle and so my first reaction after I figured out that this was waaaay beyond the scope of my immediate family, was to take the matter up with God and my good friend Jesus and His Mom, Mary.

    I prayed. And prayed. And prayed some more. In fact, that was probably all I did when I wasn’t doing my best to try and pretend to be a boy and hope that God would answer my prayers.

    When I started kindegarden, the whole issue came to a head when I was told…forced, to stand with the boys. In retrospect, I am not sure if it was the trauma of that horrible, hopelessness that I felt then, that triggered what came next or if it was, simply, what I sincerely believe it to be….. quite simply, a miracle.

    That night I was “visited” by the Holy Family. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, together with a child’s vision of a Guardian Angel came to me while I slept and imparted to me the understanding, in no uncertain terms, that “everything would be just fine”. I was loved and cherished and “They” would take care of everything.

    It was that simple and it was REAL. I ran in and woke my mother to tell her what had just transpired and she was genuinely happy and supportive and tucked me back into bed. From that day forward my Faith has only grown stronger. I have no fear, for they ALL are with me.

    Many years later, decades after I had grown to become the woman that I was always supposed to have been, I got into a very serious life threatening situation when I was caught in a freak downdraft, while flying my hang glider. I was an experienced pilot and had been flying for many years. I was below an approaching treeline with no options other than a 1% chance of survival attempt at a narrow opening in a scrap yard or a “tree landing” which statistically resulted in severe, possiblly life threatening injuries from the uncontrolled fall out of the tree.
    I cried out to God, to Jesus and Mary for just a tiny, life saving breath of air. All I needed was about 30 feet to clear the trees. I was close enough that I was calculating which branches I would try to grab on to, where I would attempt to snag and entangle my sail, when my cry for help was answered. I got about 50′ which got me over the trees and into a school yard which was the designated emergency LZ.

    So yes. I definately believe in miracles. I won’t bore you with the others. Suffice it to say that God’s will is manifest in mysterious ways. No doubt there will be some who will read this and discount it as the delusional ravings of a psycho-religeous nut. I will pray for them, that they too may be blessed with the gift of Faith. For Faith is a gift. It is not offered to everyone. or perhaps it is, but it is up to the indeividual to accept.

    Hence the concept of free will.


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  7. “A person is considered “transgendered” when their personal gender identity does not match the gender that was assigned to them at birth–that’s it. A person is considered a “transexual” when they actually seek to change their physical gender through surgery or hormone therapy.”

    WRONG!!!! They are BOTH the definition of Transgender individuals! Being in the Gay and Lesbian community myself, I am VERY familiar with the definitions of both words and a ‘Transsexual’ is any individual who DRESSES as the opposite sex! They do NOT seek to BE the opposite sex. ‘Transsexuals’ are also called ‘Drag Queens’ or ‘Drag Kings.’
    I know and am close to both types of individuals and feel I must defend the improper use of definitions. ‘Transgendered’ individuals feel as though they have been born into the wrong body and therefore dress and act as the opposite until they can make the physical changes through hormones and surgery. Most Psychologists will tell you that these individuals who express a desire to have the surgeries must first live their lives in the ‘guise’ of what they want for a period of time so they may be given authority to have the surgeries by their therapists. This is NOT a decision that is looked upon lightly by either the individual, or the doctors involved in their sexual reassignments.


  8. Hey Heather, this is Paul, author of the post. That definition is one that I pulled form the Wikipedia page on Transgender. Here’s the link:

    I was trying to to use the technical, medical definition, although I’m sure in casual usage among the different communities, those terms can take on different meanings over time. I just wanted to let you know that I really was trying my best to address the issue as accurately as possible. Sorry if I missed something. Thanks for letting me know.


  9. I think the comments are moving away from the intent of the post in so much as it was looking it from a Christian perspective though Aria, roseanne and P.J. all brought up good information.

    Heather, through her comment, brought up one of the main problems with the labels floating freely around though I disagree strongly that transsexual is the same as transgender.

    I like Benyamin’s first comment in asking WWJD? Do we live by the Old Testament points of view as in Deuteronomy 22:5 among others or look at what Jesus spoke of on the New testament?

    Those who argue from the position that God created us as we were made and we just need to accept it – would you say it to a person who was born with a cleft pallet or any other abnormality that can be corrected with modern Western medicine? I highly doubt it.

    Another position can be taken that God did not make a mistake however, has given those of us with a transsexual condition, trials to overcome to become more authentic humans.

    To have have the condition of transsexualism is not a choice nor is it some walk in the park – it is a very difficult and painful path to walk that God presented to us for a reason that He alone knows. As my grandmother has said: “God does not give us anything more than He knows we can handle.”

    Many God-fearing Christians who suffer from this condition struggle deeply with it and how they can face God.

    Can a mere human (compared to an All-knowing God) really know what God’s intent is? How can us mere humans judge who is a fit Christian or not?

    I feel those who stand on the Christian soap box , proclaim themselves Christian and yet dismiss in a bigoted fashion another human who is trying their best to live in accordance to Christ’s actual teachings (and who happens to be transsexual) really misses the mark of what Jesus’ intention really was. After all, why did Jesus associate and help those in whom the Jewish society of the time deemed unfit and unworthy?

    Are transsexuals unworthy of Christ’s teachings? Are transsexuals unworthy of the Kingdom of God? If you say no – then I ask, how can you, a mere mortal speak for God?


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  12. As a pastor for many years who in the last couple has taken to befriending homosexual Christians, I offer a couple of observations (as I am poised to read Parts 2 and 3):

    1) Homosexuality was removed from DSM IV years ago and thus homosexuals understandably argue that since their gender-attraction is no longer considered a diagnosable mental health malady, that they should not be treated as people with a ‘condition.’
    2) Transgenderism, from what I understand, is still listed in DSM IV (not sure, but the upcoming DSM V will probably still include it) as a diagnosable mental health condition that has treatment protocols. So transgendered people understandably argue that they should be compassionately embraced as people with a difficult but treatable condition, not discriminated against.


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