Six years ago I wrote an article on transsexualism – a person’s identification with the opposite sex (“I’m a woman in a man’s body”) or the act of surgically or cosmetically living as if you were a member of the opposite sex. At the time I was concerned about the challenges it poses to the modern Church, so the Christian Research Journal, a publication for which I’m blessed to be a contributing writer, commissioned an article from me on the topic.
At that time (2008) I felt this issue would soon become more prominent, calling for a specific and widespread Christian response. As I suspected, quite a bit has happened since then as the subject has gained more national attention, causing me to consider re-printing the article on my blog.
Last week the question of posting it here was settled when I noticed that Rachel Held Evans, a very well-known and well-read blogger who identifies herself as a Christian author and speaker, posted an article in support of approving transsexualism, and minimizing the importance of gender in light of the Gospel. When the world goes a certain direction we shouldn’t be surprised. But when voices within the Church call us to follow where the culture is drifting, that’s cause for real concern.
In response, then, I’d like to offer this article, The Transsexual Dilemma, in five parts, Monday through Friday of this week, with some minor updates. It first appeared in the Christian Research Journal and can be found here in its original form. And to subscribe to The Journal, which I highly recommend as a means of keeping current on the many theological and social issues facing the
Church, click here.
I hope you’ll enjoy this five-part series.
An Unexpected Encounter
Kim was the most handsome client ever to step into my office. As a pastoral counselor, I work with men wanting to overcome sexual sins, many whom happen to be male model types, so an attractive man asking for help wasn’t unusual. But tall, muscular, and square jawed Kim immediately stood apart.
“Since this is your first appointment,” I said, while Kim completed an intake form, “let’s talk about the problem that brought you here.”
My new client signed the form, fixed a steady gaze on me and dropped the bomb. “The problem is my chromosomes. I was born female.”
I was astonished, and after more than two decades of counseling porn addicts, homosexuals, prostitutes, and an occasional sex offender, I don’t shock easily.
“I’ve lived most of my life as a man,” she continued, “and it’s worked! I finally had sex change surgery three years ago, and I’ve been living with a woman since then. But two weeks ago I got saved at a Harvest Crusade. I’m a new Christian, so…”
My heart sank, because now I knew what Kim had come to ask and that, ultimately, my answer would hurt deeply.
“…so now what? Did I sin when I had the surgery? If I did, it can’t be undone, so how can I repent of it? Can’t I just go on living as a Christian man? If God wants me living as a woman, I don’t know how I’ll pull it off. Everyone at work knows me as a guy, so what do I do? Suddenly show up in high heels? And what about my girlfriend? Does God reject us because He considers us lesbians? What am I supposed to do?”
An Unexpected Conversation
Kim’s questions caught me unprepared, and I fear “unprepared” describes many believers who may find themselves in the position of explaining and defending the biblical position on transsexualism. It’s a subject as unavoidable as homosexuality, as transsexual advocates follow the course mapped out by their gay predecessors.
From the 1970s onward, the gay rights movement advanced itself through films, television characters, sympathetic journalists, the American Psychiatric Association, anti-discrimination laws, and the educational system.
The national debate shifted accordingly, the question eventually morphing from “Is homosexuality normal?” to “Are objections to homosexuality normal?” Those who hold such objections now find themselves (and their churches) subject to intense pressure and scorn. (For a more detailed account of the gay right’s movement’s success in America, see my book The Gay Gospel)
The gay rights movement’s success is emulated by its transsexual cousin, undoubtedly the next wave of sexual revolution. Consider the following:
- Popular films such as the Oscar-winning Boys Don’t Cry, The Crying Game, and Normal (starring Jessica Lange as a wife who comes to terms with her husband’s need to live as a woman) portray transsexuals not as unnatural, but as victims of prejudice and circumstance.
- Television characters such as the transsexual in the highly popular Ugly Betty use the likeability factor to educate the public on the inherent “normality” of transsexualism and the ignorance of those who disapprove of it.
- Sympathetic journalism doesn’t get any better than Barbara Walters 20/20 piece, first aired in the spring of 2007, titled “My Secret Self” in which Ms. Walters invited viewers to “open [their] hearts and minds” to “courageous and loving parents” who allowed their transsexual children to live as the opposite sex, promising, “most of you will be moved” by their stories.
- As gay activists did in 1973, transsexual advocates are pressuring the American Psychiatric Association to revise its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual to eliminate transsexualism (or gender identity disorder) as a classifiable disorder.
- Olympic Gold Medalist Bruce Jenner is, by several accounts and according to numerous sources, in “transition” to living as a woman, having undergone numerous cosmetic procedures and having been photographed in
- Anti-discrimination laws and educational reforms that cite transsexuals as a protected class have swept through high school and college campuses, as well as corporations and small businesses.
- New ordinances, often referred to as “bathroom laws” are making their way around the country, even in public schools, allowing people to choose which public bathroom they use based not on the sex they are, but on the sex they identify with.
The predictable outcome—increased acceptance of transsexualism and increased pressure on those who dissent—forces us to articulate a biblical response. This article will attempt to do so by answering three of the most commonly used pro-transsexual arguments:
-The innateness argument: “Transsexualism is inborn and unchangeable
-The irrelevance argument: “One’s biological sex is secondary, so changing it is acceptable”
-The inevitability argument: “A transsexuals’ only viable option is to default to his/her feelings.”
Terms and Concepts
Before discussing these arguments, some preliminary clarifications are necessary.
The transsexual should be distinguished from the transvestite, who enjoys wearing clothing of the opposite sex without a wish to become the opposite sex. Female impersonators (commonly called “drag queens”) likewise rarely qualify as transsexuals, since they live as men, assuming their female persona episodically, not permanently. And since most homosexuals have no desire to change their sex, they, too, are distinct from transsexuals.
Complicating matters further is the trend towards lumping transsexuals, transvestites, and drag queens together under the all-inclusive
Although the transsexual population is hard to quantify, its visibility grows as it becomes more closely aligned with the goals and strategies of the gay rights movement, most noticeably through its inclusion in the movement’s oft used title The Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgendered Community (GLBT), and through the similarities between common pro-transsexual and gay rights arguments.
Tomorrow in Part Two we’ll begin looking at more of my discussion with Kim (not her real name) who graciously gave me permission to include our
dialogue in this article. We’ll also look at arguments often raised when this subject comes up, and how to respond to them.
I hope you’ll join us.