The growing support for transsexualism in the culture, plus the growing number of voices within the Church calling for us to not only to show respect and compassion to transsexuals (a very sound idea) but approval as well (wrong option) has prodded me to post, in a five-part series, an article I wrote on the subject six years ago for the Christian Research Journal.
(You can find the entire article it in its original form here)
In this series I’m discussing my conversation with Kim – not her real name – who came to me for counsel because although she was female, she’d lived most of her life as a man and was in a longstanding relationship with a woman. She had recently come to Christ at a Harvest Crusade, and now she wondered if God might be calling her to begin living again as a woman. For her, the decision was agonizing. If she lived as a man she would be living contrary to how God had created her; if she lived as a woman, she’d be living contrary to all her natural feelings.
In yesterday’s post I described our discussion of inborn conditions, posing the question: If something is inborn, does that mean God intended it? In today’s post, we’ll look at our gender identity in light of created intent.
Transsexualism in Light of Created Intent
“I’m a good person,” Kim argued, and I had no reason to disagree. She struck me as kind and good-natured, in many ways living responsibly and meaning no harm. She described her love for her partner of the past three years, and while we could have debated the nature of that love—godly versus ungodly, affectionate versus erotic—I wouldn’t deny its existence.
The ethical question of transsexualism, however, isn’t answered by how deeply a person loves, or by whatever good qualities a transsexual possesses; rather, it’s answered by examining transsexualism itself in the light of Created Intent.
The concept of Created Intent is, in essence, that we have a Creator whose will is revealed in an inspired document (2 Tim. 3:16). That document testifies to gender’s relevance by describing:
-The foreordained assignment of each person’s sex (Jer. 1:5; Psalms 139:13-14
-The interdependence between the sexes (Gen. 2:18, 21–24);
-Distinct gender roles, attributes, and responsibilities (Prov.14:1, 1Cor.11: 3–15, 1Tim.2: 9-15,5:8, Eph.5:22–33)
-Prohibitions against blurring gender identity (Deut. 22:5).
Common sense testifies to created intent as well. People are born male or female, a distinction marking the first words we use in references to newborns: “It’s a boy!” or “It’s a girl!” Saying that one feels like something else doesn’t make it so; reassignment surgery, likewise, changes the body but not the sex, constituting, as apologist Greg Bahnsen says, “a bizarre biological masquerade.”
Character and gender are indeed separate, but they are both critical. Our manhood or womanhood is not a suggestion to be accepted or discarded. It is an unalterable assignment, mandated by a Creator who both intended and designed it for the individual to whom He entrusted it. Oliver O’Donovan, professor of moral and pastoral theology at the University of Oxnard, emphasizes this when he asserts: “If I claim to have a ‘real sex’ which may be at war with the sex of my body and is at least in a rather uncertain relationship to it, I am shrinking from the glad acceptance of myself as a physical as well as a spiritual being, and seeking self-knowledge in a kind of Gnostic withdrawal from material creation.”
The Inevitability Argument
Our fifty-minute session stretched into two hours of arguing, listening, and, at times, weeping. Kim conceded some of my points, rejected others, and promised to consider all of them. “But,” she said, “I’ve had the surgery. What else could I have done? And what else can I do now but live with it?”
Kim was posing the inevitability argument, one I can sympathize with while disagreeing. It’s becoming common to assume that if you feel something you must go with your feelings. If you don’t, then your refusal to give in to them is the problem , not the feelings themselves.
For example, homosexuality used to be considered an unnatural tendency that was to be resisted, not expressed. Today, it’s widely viewed as something the homosexual should default to, lest he deny his true feelings and do himself damage. “Homophobia” is the word now applied to traditional disapproval, making the disapproval, not the sexual preference, the problem.
Transsexualism is in a similar metamorphosis. Barbara Walters, for example, in a televised special on the subject, commended the parents of young transsexuals for granting their children’s desire to live as the opposite sex, thus “sparing them a lifetime of misery.”
The new word for disapproval of transsexualism— “transphobia”—takes an obvious cue from the oft-used term “homophobia.” Defaulting to the conviction that one is trapped in the wrong body is touted as the answer to the conflicts inherent in transsexualism, but recent studies indicate that this may be a premature assumption. “There is no conclusive evidence that sex change operations improve the lives of transsexuals,” one such study reports, “with many people remaining severely distressed and even suicidal after the operation.” As for the growing belief in reassignment surgery’s efficacy, Chris Hyde, director of the University of Birmingham’s Aggressive Research Intelligence Facility (ARIF), found that “most of the medical research on gender reassignment was poorly designed, which skewed the results to suggest that sex change operations are beneficial.” An even blunter assessment appearing in the UK Daily Telegraph leaves one wondering what price a transsexual ultimately might pay for defaulting to her/his condition: “What many patients find is that they are left with a mutilated body, but the internal conflicts remain.”
In this light, Paul’s writings to Corinth regarding one’s calling seem both a commandment and a caution:
“But as God has distributed [in Greek, apportioned, dealt, or divided] to each one, as the Lord has called each one, so let him walk.
Let each one remain in the calling in which he was called” (1Cor.7:17,20)
Tomorrow we’ll conclude this series by looking at the end of my conversation with Kim, Kim’s decision, and some redemptive ways for churches
and believers to respond to transsexual people. I hope you’ll join us.