One of the most significant social issues impacting our current culture landscape is the issue of transgenderism. This is a heated and controversial topic for the Christian church with much fear and anxiety about court rulings and state laws that are being written regarding bathroom access, school policies, and employment nondiscriminatory practices. Many children and families are inundated with information in our media about the evolving view of best practices for providing care and counsel to individuals that do not feel that their biological sex matches with their gender. Gender fluidity, a rejection of stereotypical gender norms, has also become a popular social trend for many young children and adolescents. For example, young men have started fandoms that allow them to embrace traditionally feminine interests (e.g. Bronies = Men/Boys who love the television program My Little Pony, a show originally geared towards young girls). And perhaps most notably, Bruce “Caitlyn” Jenner and North Carolina bathrooms have become instant buzz phrases that break the internet as everyone has an opinion on the issue.
How the church communicates with and reaches out to the secular culture regarding the issue of gender conformity during these times is very important. But before we begin, it needs to be stated that the medical community is not consistent in regards to the research about the causes, treatment, or outcomes for transgender care. There is much ambiguity and inconsistent results in regards to the best practices, but needless to say this has not stopped the social and political machine of postmodern tolerance from promoting a particular agenda of affirming transgenderism and medical interventions. I hope to provide some initial reflections on how to speak truth with grace and compassion on this issue.
First, it can be fairly easy to jump on the bandwagon that suggests the Christian church has already conclusively determined everything that there is to say in regards to gender, sex, and natural law. There are numerous oft-quoted Scriptures which do give some clear indication of Biblical support of the male-female created order: “He created them male and female and blessed them” (Genesis 5:2) or when Jesus reiterated this original design when he stated, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female” (Matthew 19:4). These Scriptures are important to consider and they obviously should be part of the dialogue in this issue. I would, however, encourage that we do not use these verses as a bludgeoning weapon whereby we do not allow a conversation to occur. I also believe that we need to be mindful of how sin has changed humanity from the original creation of being perfectly made in God’s image.
The fall into sin has corrupted all of our existence, and the impacts are far-reaching as this has distorted everything about our human sexuality, which includes our thoughts, behaviors, and even our genetics and physical bodies. These biological variations can very much impact one’s personality and how one experiences their own gender. Some may characterize me as being unnaturally feminine because I, as a counselor, am more willing to express emotions and be nurturing. Men should be tough and show no emotion, right? Or there are many examples of young girls who love to play football and reject the idea of wearing a dress and playing with dolls. So the question must then be posed: If we have discovered genetic and chromosomal abnormalities within someone’s sexual anatomy or gender expression, does that suggest that the original created order of male and female in Genesis does not exist today? I will claim that we can make those statements about a progressive sinful deterioration without affirming the belief that this gives credence to the idea that there are souls born in the wrong sexual anatomy. We know that God’s original created design only included distinctly male and female. We also know that due to our fallen sinful state, our sexuality is veiled from its original creation in God’s image. However, when all humans, including transgendered individuals, were “knit together in the mother’s womb,” this was a definitive imprint that God made to assign them within their vocation as male or female. And I would also add that even though personality traits with their corresponding gender variations exist, this does not suggest that we should encourage a more drastic procedure of changing one’s sexual anatomy through sex change surgery or hormone replacement.
As was stated earlier, the research regarding transgender development and care is in its infancy. We are very wise to hesitate with making drastic recommendations for children and adolescents during early, developmentally crucial times, especially as there is research that suggests that gender nonconformity is a “phase of life” and that intervening with invasive procedures can have long-term damaging impacts. With the conversation and debate about the medical field aside, I do hope that a bottom line can be made. We should understand that transgenderism is not just a social issue. These are human souls, beautifully designed by God and redeemed by the blood of His Son. We cannot afford to view them simply as a deviant social issue or a debate in our political culture.
We must be able to engage and create a safe place for confused and disoriented individuals to understand God’s plan for their bodies. There is a vocation within gender and our human sexuality, and we can speak with grace and compassion to these individuals and to the unbelieving world.
Psy.D Joshua Mears
Young Branches, Editor
Heritage Lutheran Church
Apple Valley, MN