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The False Condemnation of Transgender People
A new ethical and moral dilemma has been hitting our news, internet, churches and even daily lives. Transgender people are individuals whose gender identity or expression does not fit into conventional expectations of male/female and they may experience a disjuncture between their gender identity and their assigned birth sex. People who are transgender are just starting to get a voice and have begun fighting for human rights. Transwomen such as Orange Is The New Black star Laverne Cox, or more recently, Olympic Gold Medal-Winning Decathlete Caitlyn Jenner, have brought public voice and awareness about the issues of abuse, murder, and harassment that so many transgender men, women, and children experience in church, public, or even school. People who are against physical transition are often misguided or misinformed about the differences between sex and gender. Sex refers to our biology, such as genitals and secondary sex characteristics, while gender is our social and mental characteristics which encompass behaviour, feelings, and attitudes. Most people see these two things as the same, which can cause misguided assumptions that transgender people change their gender, when in fact, they might change their bodies to match their gender.
In the Bible, there are no verses that directly condemn transgender people, but there are are three verses, that can be used to condemn them. The first verse, is in the creation story;
“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:27 ESV)
The context of this verse is that God creates land and sea, night and day, and at the end of the six day, He creates male and female. When we look at this story in context, we can sense a duality in the types of creation. It is true that God created male and female, just as much as He created land and sea, but we forget that in our world, we have swamps, that are a neither land or sea. We also have dawn and dusk, which are neither day nor night. Today, we have people who are transgender, whose gender and sex do not match, and people who are intersex, who have a combination of male and female genitalia. Genesis is not a scientific text, It is a story of our Creation. In context it represents the beginning of the universe, but not necessarily the full diversity of the world. It talks about the “rules”, but doesn't speak for the “exceptions”. There is also some historical limitations of Genesis. It only contains major categories; earth, water, plants, animals, but it doesn't include things that were unknown at the time, such as bacteria. Just because it wasn't included in the creation story, doesn't mean it wasn't created by God or doesn't exist at all. We can then agree that this view is encompassing of intersex and transgender people, who were not included in the creation story, but still exist as “exceptions” to the “rules”. In chapter two of Genesis, we have the second account of the creation story. This is where God creates āḏām, or the first human;
“then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.” (Genesis 2:7 ESV)
This we can interpret that Adam was non-binary, neither male nor female, or androgynous, a mixture of both. The word āḏām has three different meanings in Hebrew: Humanity, Man/Male, or Adam, a proper noun, referring to a specific person of that name. This we can interpret that the author of Genesis was using the word āḏām as just a name, or as humanity (male/female) in general. It wasn't until Eve was created that the sexes were defined and Adam was then a man in hebrew. This we can see that if Adam wasn't male or female, God still loved him. God wanted Adam to be happy and subdue the earth. Moreover, we can also see the flip side and say Adam was the first Man, and than this interpretation is invalid. If it is interpreted that Adam was the first man we still see that gender doesn't matter in the eyes of God. In the New Testament Paul writes;
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise. (Galatians 3:28-29 ESV)
Transgender people, who are not “stereotypically” male or female, like Adam, are also given that promise. For God, gender doesn't matter because we are all one in Christ.
The second verse that can potentially condemn people who are transgender is in the book of Deuteronomy, one of the five books in the Torah, it states;
“A woman shall not wear a man's garment, nor shall a man put on a woman's cloak, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord your God.” (Deuteronomy 22:5 ESV)
The prohibitions against wearing the garments of the opposite sex were to stop the mixing of one category with another. This is clear because a few verses later it was also prohibited to wear a garment made from several different fabrics and also prohibited to not mix two different types of seeds. Nowadays, we mix certain things that were stated not to be mixed in the Torah because we as Christians are under no obligation to keep the Jewish law;
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (Matthew 5:17 ESV).
Jesus came and fulfilled the law by His death and resurrection. This fulfillment of the law makes us no longer obligated to follow it because these laws were created by God to make His people holy, or set apart. When Jesus came to earth, He fulfilled these laws by making us set apart and holy through Him. In this regard, the law of wearing opposite sex clothing is no longer applicable. This mixing can also be seen through Jesus Christ Himself. Jesus was a mixture of being fully man, and fully God.
The last verse that could potentially condemn transgender folk is also in Deuteronomy;
“No one whose testicles are crushed or whose male organ is cut off shall enter the assembly of the Lord.” (Deuteronomy 23:1 ESV)”
This verse condemns people who are eunuchs. They are usually men who may have been castrated, typically early enough in his life for this change to have major hormonal consequences. Eunuchs are not synonymous with transgender people but they do represent a diversity in biblical culture that stands against the traditional gender identities of masculine and feminine. Due to the fact that many transgender people get some type of sexual reassignment surgery, this verse can be used to condemn the action of changing one's body in that way. If we look at the bible as a whole, we can see that people who are eunuchs were later allowed to enter the Lord's house. This is proclaimed by the Lord to the Prophet Isaiah;
‘For thus says the Lord: To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose the things that please me and hold fast my covenant, I will give in my house and within my walls a monument and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off.” (Isaiah 56:4-5 ESV)
We also see in the book of Acts, the apostle Philip baptizes a eunuch. This shows that if transgender people were considered eunuchs due to this verse, we would still need to include them in the church.
The main teachings of the Bible are about love. In Matthew we see Jesus tested by the question of what is the greatest commandment, Jesus replies;
“And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbour as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40 ESV)
This verse shows that the we need to do two things, love God, and love others. People often say that they are loving transgender people by helping them not indulge in sinful acts of changing their genders. With the interpretations and facts about the differences between sex and gender, it isn't an act of love to keep people from transitioning, if that is the plan God has called them to, but instead an act of fear. People often use the excuse that God wants transgender people to stay the gender they were assigned at birth and that He will heal them of their sinful desires. Moreover, the expectation that God will reorder that which is perceived to be disordered is an erroneous belief that God must and will always correct what is believed to be inconsistent with his original creation. This idea is not usually imposed of those living with Down syndrome or cystic fibrosis. Christians seem to accept certain conditions, but not others. If people have no biblical support to condemn transgender people, we should be loving them instead of hating them. Another passage talks about judgement and causing believers to stumble. In Romans, Paul says;
“Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; for it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.” So then each of us will give an account of himself to God. Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died. So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. (Romans 14:10-17 ESV)
This verse shows that we should never judge, because we are not God. Every person is accountable to God and in being accountable, they receive grace and peace. Christians should be showing grace and love and helping people who are transgender on the journey they are called to do. Paul calls us not to put stumbling blocks in the way of a brother or sister. We as Christians need to help hold up everyone and show them the love and grace of God, instead of hating, judging and causing them to lose faith.
When we take the word of God and twist it in order to condemn, hate, or judge people of any kind, we are doing the exact opposite of what Jesus calls us to do. We need to look into the context of the verse we are using, the literary form, and even more importantly look at the verse through the lens of Jesus’ love. From the three Bible verses stated above, we can conclude that without context they can be seen as God condemning people who are transgender. After looking into the context, literary form, and history of these texts to the best of my ability, I have come to the conclusion that the Bible does not condemn transgender people of any kind. As Christians, we need to love God and love others, we shall not judge one another for it is not our place to do so. Every transgender person has their own personal journey with God. In that journey, they might transition or might not. It is not up to us to force them to do anything, it is the Holy Spirit that guides. I am a devoted Jesus loving Christian that just happens to be a transgender man. I should not have to choose to be myself (which God has given me peace to be) or to be a Christian. I can live in sweet harmony of being me, and loving the God that has created the world. I will continue to follow the Holy Spirit in my transition journey, and to show other Christians that we should be showing love and grace to everyone, including Christians who oppose people like me. We need to be lifting each other up and building up our faith, instead of tearing it down due to fear and ignorance.
- Ephilei. "Objections to Transgenderism - Transgender Christians." Objections to Transgenderism - Transgender Christians. Web. 20 Apr. 2016. <http://www.transchristians.org/book/book-objections>.
- Ephilei. Androgyne Adam. Transgender Christians. Web. 21 Apr. 2016. <http://www.transchristians.org/book/hijra-to-christ/adam>.
- Lionheart, Austen. "Transgender and Christian: Reimagining Genesis 1." YouTube, 2015. Web. 21 Apr. 2016. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B_lO6ZlMUOk>.
- Magdalena, Anna. "Male & Female He Created Them: A Deeper Look At Genesis." Catholic Trans. 18 Nov. 2013. Web. 20 Apr. 2016. <https://catholictrans.wordpress.com/2013/11/18/male-female-he-created-them-a-deeper-look-at-genesis/>.
- Merriam-Webster. Eunuch. Web. 21 Apr. 2016. <http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/eunuch>.
- TransACTION: Institute for Welcoming Resources. LEADER VERSION A Transgender Curriculum for Churches and Religious Institutions. Minneapolis, MN. PDF Workbook
© 2016 Shylo Rosborough