How should Christians respond to the transgender issue?
Last month, Bruce Jenner revealed on 20/20 that he has struggled with gender identity and now, for all intents and purposes, sees himself as a woman. The interview, viewed by over 20 million people, brought an already trending social issue into the national spotlight.
Recognizing that the Bible does not speak directly to transgender issues, how might we think ‘Christianly’ about this topic? I don’t claim to speak for all Christians, but I do have some thoughts which I’ll share below.
Before I share those thoughts, though, I need to confess that I need more education on this topic (though I would also insist that we be careful about who we let do the educating here). I have neither book smarts (I have not read much on this) nor street smarts (I haven’t interacted with anyone openly struggling with their gender identity) in this area. Keep this confession in mind as you continue.
First, I recognize that there are sometimes physical explanations behind someone’s struggle with transgender issues. It is rare, but some babies cannot easily be identified as either male or female. Hormonal imbalances also exist. Clearly some people, by birth, are more likely to question their gender identity than others.
Second, there are environmental factors to consider. There are innumerable reasons why a child, teen, or even adult could start to question their gender identity in our culture. We live in an age of questioning everything… an age of confusion about sexuality… an age of abuse… an age where an artsy young man or an athletic young woman may have their sexuality and self-identity questioned routinely.
Third, since both nature and/or nurture potentially factor so heavily on someone’s struggle in this area, Christians need to respond with, as always, love and grace. We are called, just like Jesus, to meet people where they are… even if (or especially) where they are is in a very confused and vulnerable state.
Fourth, part of loving someone well is leading them to Jesus and helping them to follow Him. In cases like this, it seems to me, this will include helping people who are struggling with gender identity to realize that the solution to their struggle will not be found in transforming their gender, but in being transformed by the Spirit of God.
If we think our gender-identity and/or sexuality is the most important thing about us, we’ve already lost. Nothing is more important than the fact that we have been made in the Image of God and are to find our identity in Jesus Christ. If we can help people, on a case by case basis, to realize those truths, we’ll have responded well to the transgender issue.
What will help look like in individual cases? Each case is certainly different. For those who are born with some degree of gender-ambiguity, I think we need more grace and love as they navigate what to do. But those cases are quite rare.
For those who are born with a clear-cut gender and then desire to circumvent nature we need to, in the context of a loving relationship, determine why they have such flawed thinking. It could be that they are struggling because of lies that the culture has told them, in which case we need to tell them the truth. Or it could be that they are in flat out rebellion against God, in which case we need to tell them Who's the King and warn them of the fate of rebels.