Several months ago I read about a woman who had never had a period and despite being married and sexually active for several years she had been unable to get pregnant. She was finally sent to a specialist who ran genetic tests and turns out she had a rare condition where two pieces of genetic code had switched places and technically, genetically, she was male. They tested several women in her family who had the same experience and sure enough, because it’s a genetic condition, they had it also. They appeared to be biologically female but they were genetically male.
I was praying about how to approach this Article from the Nashville Statement when I read this that was written by a friend of mine earlier today. What a miraculous experience and yet I cannot imagine what it must be for her to go through this. I cannot imagine what it must be to walk the journey with this person and want to have the right words to say and the right encouragement to offer. This is not something that we have experience to learn from and use the next time we encounter it.
All of these individuals are made in the image of God!
How we treat them reveals how much we really love God.
Think about that for a minute.
I know there is a desire some people have to put everyone into boxes. Penis = boy. Vagina = girl. Turns out these biological organs are less definitive and more “evidence of what usually happens.” When genetics and biology and gender all work together in the way we expect it makes life a lot easier. I get it. The problem is how frequently genetics and biology and gender don’t work together in the way we expect and when that happens it is very real people who have to navigate their lives whether it makes anyone else uncomfortable or not.
This Article speaks of “self-conception” regarding gender identity in the same way that homosexuality is called a “choice” by those who would align with it. As though someone woke up one day and just decided to be gay — as though those who hold this view chose to be straight. Somehow they feel safer to imagine that people decide to be transgender. Maybe on Tuesdays they “feel” disconnected from their genitalia.
The reality is we know so much about the human body and mind, hormones and chemicals, and yet we know so very very little. Scripture does not specifically address every variation that exists within creation or weigh in on every scientific discovery.
There are, beyond science, a few “social” issues that need to be addressed in this discussion.
One of the problems with rigidly defining “male” and “female” not just by visible biology but by societal expectations is that those who do not fit the definition are left to question their gender. If you define “female” as looking, speaking, feeling, acting and preferring only certain things and someone who is biologically female does not fit the definition presented to her in any real way they are left to wonder if they really are female. Someone who is biologically male but does not fit any other aspect of the stereotype presented to him for being male is going to wrestle with the question of whether or not they really are male. To honor the many people who are wrestling with this issue the church needs to own the responsibility for creating and promoting gender roles that are so constricting that those who do not fit in them are left to question their gender rather than feeling safe to function outside of culturally expected gender roles.
It is time to throw out gender stereotypes that only serve to allow those who hold to them to imagine they are some control over their world.
Another issue I’ve heard brought into this discussion, and it is hinted at in this Article, is the suggestion that those who identify as a gender that is not reflected in their biological genitalia are suffering from mental health issues that result in a body dysmorphia. I am not a psychiatrist or psychologist and am not trained to psychoanalyze or diagnose. At the same time if there were mental health issues that resulted in someone identifying as trans this does not qualify everyone in their life to take on the role of their therapist. It is abusive to be hateful and invalidating to someone because you disagree with their self conception in the area of gender even, or maybe especially, if you think it’s because they are mentally ill.
Agreement is not a pre-requisite for being loving.
At the end of the day the question needing to be asked is not what you affirm or deny about the theory of gender identity. The question God would ask is how you treat those who hold to a gender identity that makes you uncomfortable. The way you treat trans people reveals how much you love God. The way you treat them is the way you are treating Jesus.
I affirm we are called to love.
I deny the argument that God is okay with us deciding not to love just because we’re uncomfortable with someone.