In recent years, gender dysphoria and transgenderism have taken center stage in American public life. Yet, in spite of their prominence, many Christians and churches feel unprepared to respond to transgender ideology or minister to individuals with gender dysphoria.
In my interaction with pastors and churches over the past several years, I’ve found that there are certain questions that arise regularly, the answers to which are enormously helpful to Christians wishing to be effective witnesses in our transgender moment. Here are seven of those questions, along with brief answers.
What is gender dysphoria?
Gender dysphoria is the psychological stress that occurs when individuals experience a conflict between the gender they were assigned at birth and the gender with which they now identify. A gender dysphoric person was born a man but doesn’t feel like a man. Or, similarly, she was born a female but doesn’t feel like a woman.
It is important to note that a person who suffers from such conflicted feelings may not identify as transgender. Many gender dysphoric individuals experience inner conflict about their gender, but do not take the step of publicly switching their gender identity.
What is transgenderism as an ideology?
As an ideology and a political movement, transgenderism has three main tenets. The first is that gender is malleable; a “trans girl” is a girl and not just a boy who identifies as a girl. The second is that modern medicine—puberty blockers, hormone therapy, and gender reassignment surgeries—should be utilized to help gender dysphoric individuals change their gender identities. The third is that public policy should be reformed to reflect transgender preferences, including participation in sex-specific sports programs, access to public bathrooms of preference, and the criminalization of “misgendering” individuals.
What is gender reassignment surgery and why is it dangerous?
In gender reassignment surgery, modern medicine is used to help gender dysphoric persons realign their physical bodies with their gender preference. In male-to-female reassignment surgery, doctors transform the man’s genitals into the shape of a vagina, removing the testicles and inverting the penis. In female-to-male surgery, doctors remove the woman’s breasts, uterus, and ovaries, extending the urethra so that the woman can urinate while standing.
What does the Bible have to say about gender identity?
The Bible teaches that God created human beings to be either male or female (Genesis 1:27). God designed us so that our “gender” should align with our biological sex. When we attempt to nullify or suppress that design, we will meet with frustration and failure. Even though doctors might mutilate a person’s body to conform to that person’s preferences, our God-given gender identities are not pliable or interchangeable. We are designed beings; no matter how hard we try to suppress God’s design, we cannot.
How should Christians relate to individuals with gender dysphoria?
When Christians meet a person with gender dysphoria, our primary aim is to love them. As Christian ethicist Andrew Walker notes in his book, God and the Transgender Debate, loving a transgender person involves dignity, empathy, compassion, and patience.
We must recognize the God-given dignity of a transgender person who is created in God’s image, possesses great worth, and is deserving of honor and respect. We work hard to empathize with them, trying to see life from their perspective. We have compassion on them, befriending them and walking with them through their life experiences and struggles. And we have patience, entering into their lives to love them for the long-haul. Love is hard work, but we Christians should be known for it, particularly among those who disagree with us.
How should Christian parents relate to children who don’t fit typical gender norms?
Christian parents should affirm their children’s biological sex and help their children grow into the corresponding gender. When a child expresses gender dysphoria, we can love them and express empathy without supporting transgender identification or transitioning therapies. In fact, the best therapies are the ones that empathetically help a child’s gender understanding to conform with that child’s biological sex.
How should Christians respond to transgenderism as an ideology and a movement?
We should resist it. In the long run, this ideological movement and the power-brokers, professional agitators, lobbies, and corporations who promote it will harm not only society at large but also vulnerable individuals who are experiencing gender dysphoria.
As the great sociologist Philip Rieff argued, American society is in the midst of an unprecedented experiment in building society apart from religion. One of the primary ways we’ve done this is by overthrowing the Judeo-Christian view of sex and gender. By untethering sex from marriage, we have enabled the normalization of hard core pornography, extramarital affairs, explosive growth of STDs, death of 60 million babies in the womb, and a divorce epidemic. And by severing gender identity from God-given sex, we will likewise reap a psychological, social, cultural, and political whirlwind.