“You will be expelled from the [places of worship], and … those who kill you will think that by doing this they are serving God.”
–Jesus to his disciples (John 16:2)
Today is Transgender Day of Remembrance, an annual observance that honors the memory of transgender persons whose lives were lost in acts of anti-transgender violence.
Some churches and religious groups seek to reduce and eliminate such situations by preaching love for and acceptance of transgender persons, vocally urging people to seek to know, understand, and love them, and affirming their existence as an image of God, just as anyone else. Hundreds filled Cathedral Church of St. Paul in Boston
Unfortunately, some other religious leaders (preachers, teachers, writers, etc.), including many in the evangelical world, fuel the abandonment, isolation, and stereotyping of transgender persons.
Abandonment and isolation of transgender persons by their family and communities — including their faith communities, their church — is a major contributor to anti-transgender violence. Such treatment often puts transgender persons in difficult living situations and can result in them being homeless, cuts them off from support networks, makes it necessary for them to turn to risky situations just to live, makes them vulnerable to predators and drug use, creates desperation, fuels depression and anxiety, and exposes them to unbalanced and violent people.
Teaching Christians to Cut-Off Contact With Transgender Persons?
Ways religious leaders fuel the abandonment, isolation, and stereotyping of transgender persons include teaching that transgender identity and expression are sins and that Christians should withdraw from transgender persons.
In other words, they teach that the very state of choosing to identify as transgender or engage in transgender expressions without “fighting it” is a sin.
And that Christians should cut-off contact with transgender persons.
The Chapel Hill Church of Christ, for example, posted a July 2019 class titled “Homosexuality and Transgenderism” teaching that its members should withdraw from transgender persons. “If they choose to remain in that life of sin, then we have an obligation to withdraw from them,” the teacher explained. “… The purpose of us withdrawing from them is to help them to understand that the sin that they are involved in is putting their immortal soul in jeopardy. It’s also to prevent that sin from being accepted by the church and then propagated amongst the members of the church because a little leaven leavens the whole lump, but it’s to help them to understand you need to get out of this sin …. [Y]our whole family is having to basically cut you off ….” (Starting at 40:45 (Citing 1 Corinthians 5:1-5; 2 Corinthians 2:5-11))
Some will teach that Christians should cut off contact with a transgender person only if the transgender person claims to be a Christian but not if the person is not a Christian, citing a misinterpretation of 1 Corinthians 5:9-13 in an out-of-context manner.
It is the Christian standard to cut-off contact with the person who used to sit right beside you in the pew because they are a transgender person? Didn’t Jesus serve the needs of outcasts that some called sinners, accept criticism for being their friend, and sacrifice for them, including dying for them? (e.g., John 13:1-17; Matthew 9:10-13; Luke 7:34; Luke 23:26-43)
The Bible does not say it is a sin to have transgender thoughts or behaviors, though. Listen to a sermon or article from a person claiming it is a sin and you will find superficial scriptural analysis, fear-mongering, culture-war descriptions, and discussions of homosexuality.
Nor does the Bible command Christians to cut-off people who we consider sinners (other Christians or not). Thinking the Bible commands such a thing is a serious misreading of scripture. Indeed, the Bible asks that we do the opposite. Jesus even dined with Judas and washed Judas’s feet. (John 13)
A lot of us would be pretty lonely if other Christians cut us off for doing things they think are sins but we do not—and so we are not going to repent for them or stop doing them. That would be some game the Bible gave to us.
Driving Wedges Between Transgender Persons and Their Families, Friends, and Church?
Many times, religious leaders fuel the abandonment, isolation, and stereotyping of transgender persons by teaching things like transgender identity and expression are sins, that “God doesn’t make mistakes,” that transgender persons are not Christians, and transgender persons are rejecting Jesus.
Many go even further and urge Christians to take positions that essentially seek to erode or erase parts of the transgender person’s identity, gaslight what the transgender person is feeling and thinking, remove even the language needed to discuss their situation, and contradict researched and experienced medical advice with man-made doctrine that those religious leaders claim is the word of God.
Doing so, drives wedges between a transgender person and their Christian families and friends by convincing such families and friends that it is God’s view that the transgender person is living contrary to God’s wishes.
Focus Press, the publisher of Think magazine, a magazine distributed to many churches, for example, asserts that “Ultimately, transgender individuals are rejecting Jesus.”
Teachings about transgender persons like “God doesn’t make mistakes” are often seen, as well.
Andrew Walker, professor of Christian Ethics at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and one of the leading anti-transgender voices in the religious world, says that Christians should avoid using the word “transgender,” teaching that “to exist as “transgender” is, itself, a social construct offered up by revisionists.”
These are not isolated incidents.
These are common happenings in evangelical Christianity.
Such concepts can have a very real, very negative impact on transgender persons, helping to create an environment that can put them in serious physical, mental, and spiritual danger.
Some voices in evangelical Christianity vocally object to anti-transgender teachings and to cutting off transgender persons and explain that such things are contrary to the Bible and contrary to what Christ taught.
But the anti-transgender view is prevalent and there are too few voices speaking up for transgender persons and too few voices speaking up in opposition to teachings and actions that can lead to harm for transgender persons.
“You will be expelled from the [places of worship], and … those who kill you will think that by doing this they are serving God.”
–Jesus to his disciples (John 16:2)
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
–Jesus to his disciples (John 13:34-35)
Sources and Notes
See generally, and for a more in-depth discussion relative to scripture, the Churches of Christ and other evangelical discussions see: Steve Gardner, “Churches of Christ, Southern Baptist, and Others on Transgender Persons: A Scriptural Dissent From Their Response,” AuthenticTheology.com (September 19, 2018).
Picture is by Harut Movsisyan from Pixabay.
See generally these five articles and the sources cited therein:
Steve Gardner, “Transgender in the Christian Conversation: Mental Disorders and Gender Dysphoria,” AuthenticTheology.com (February 8, 2018).
Steve Gardner, “U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Should Withdraw Harmful & Offensive Letter on Transgender Persons,” AuthenticTheology.com (January 19, 2018)
Steve Gardner, “Sex, Gender, Transgender, and Transsexual: Definitions Explained Briefly and Clearly,” AuthenticTheology.com (January 17, 2018)
Steve Gardner, “The Nashville Statement on Transgender People & Their Friends: Initial Scripture Review,” AuthenticTheology.com (November 10, 2017)
Steve Gardner, “The Nashville Statement on Transgender Persons and Their Friends: A Call for Signers to Withdraw Their Signatures,” AuthenticTheology.com (September 22, 2017).
Lise Eliott, “Neurosexism: the myth that men and women have different brains,” Nature (February 27, 2019), https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-00677-x
Romans 13:10: “Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.”
If one girl decides she doesn’t want to compete with an opposing team with a girl on it who has or had this particular medical condition, then it’s the girl who has or had the medical condition that you insist can’t play? How is that fair and equitable?
Gender incongruence and gender dysphoria are well-recognized by medical doctors as medical conditions and are in the DSM, with such incongruence being a medical state and such dysphoria being a disorder.
You want to ban your friend’s trans daughter and all trans daughters from girls sports because some trans girls were born with genes that give greater strength? Why is that? Do you also want to ban the daughters of a marriage between an NFL player and a WNBA player, as that daughter will likely have genes that give her greater strength, too?
You want to bar your neighbor’s transgender daughter from playing girls sports because some trans girls are likely born with genes that might make them stronger than most girls?
Like your neighbor’s transgender daughter, the daughter of the NFL-WNBA couple is also likely born with genes that might make her stronger than most girls.
You insist that your neighbor’s daughter must go play with the boys, whether she is physically stronger or not, and even though she has a medical condition that can threaten her life?! But the NFL-WNBA daughter can play with the girls. Why is that?
Why is that not simply discrimination against a little girl for being transgender and for having a medical condition?
Why don’t we insist she play only with the boys, you asked. Lots of reasons. One is treating her like we would want her to treat us. Treating trans girls like boys skyrockets their suicide rate, for example. Another is that your neighbors’ daughter ought to be able to play without discrimination and fear, just like you want for your daughter. There’s lots more.
Yes, your neighbors have transgender daughters, my neighbors have transgender daughters, …. The people with transgender daughters are all our neighbors, and should be treated that way. Do you insist to your neighbor that your daughter can play girls sports but you ban their daughter from girls sports because she was born with genes that might or might not make her stronger than the average girl & why?
More on why not insist a transgender girl only play with the boys: me insisting my neighbor’s daughter can’t play in the girls group because of her genes at birth (“biology”), when genes aren’t a person and when it harms my neighbor’s daughter, brings depression and anxiety to her, discriminates against her, puts her at higher risk for suicide, doesn’t allow her to thrive like the other girls, removes her from her friend set, etc., is not the way I would want my daughter treated. So I’m not going to treat my neighbor’s daughter that way.
If you had a trans daughter, is that the way you want your daughter treated?
God created male and female and intersex and …. And God created some of them transgender and some not transgender and …. Do you not recognize that God created all of them?
God created us all, transgender and not. Transgender persons are made in the image of God, too, and are deserving of being treated that way.
You probably do know people who have a transgender child but you just don’t know it. Whether you know them or not does not mean that people with a transgender child are not your neighbors.
God made all humans and all are created in God’s image? Gen 1:27; James 3:9. I don’t remember the Garden of Eden, either. Before my time. There’s much more we don’t know about it than we do. Whether an intersex person, a person with a disability, a person w what is now called a birth defect, a person w a serious physical or mental medical issue, or person w other traits we know exist today was present pre-Fall in the Garden does not, I think, have anything to do with whether God created them or whether they are made in God’s image. You don’t think intersex persons are created by God?
You asked at what point or letter do we stop? It’s not our role to stop. I think it’s our role to treat others as we would want to be treated and as we would want our family to be treated, to serve, and to follow Christ’s example and teaching of love, compassion, kindness, action to aid the injured, etc.
Saying little girls ought not be discriminated against and that people ought not ban other people’s daughters from girls sports is hardly identity politics.
Establishing a range of skill level is done in lots of sports. It would be different by sport. About 2/3 of states already allow this. They have for a while. NC high school athletics allow it. They wrestle, for example, and it isn’t, in your language, a man hitting a woman. My recollection is that I was barred from a football league in elementary school because I weighed too much.
It isn’t contrary to science. Biology and anatomy aren’t the only sciences. Medicine, neuroscience, psychology, and psychiatry are sciences. Hormones, brain structure, etc., also fall within the biology category.
When a transgender girl asks to be treated as a girl, she is not asking you to accept anything about her anatomical composition. She is not asking you to say or think she has a vagina or that she has XX chromosomes or that her biological sex is something in particular. Think or don’t think anything you want about that.
She is asking instead that you not discriminate against her due to her medical state, and she is asking that you treat her in line with her psychological state because doing otherwise needlessly injures and impairs her.
As long as the transgender girl isn’t meaningfully out of range relative to strength or the like — e.g., she is stronger than the (wide) range of strength of girls such that there is a meaningful danger of injury to others as a result — it seems wrong and unloving to exclude her.
We certainly don’t have to base matters on statistics or averages.
We can and should consider the individual transgender person. And the sport under consideration.
The transgender population is quite small, less than 1%. This has been going on for quite some time. About 2/3 of states already allow it, and girls sports lives and thrives.
Basically, we ought not discriminate against these girls due to their medical condition. They are deserving, just like everyone else.
Asking you not to prohibit your neighbor’s little girl who has gender incongruence from playing sports with other girls is not asking you accept any delusion. Gender incongruence is a real condition.
Asking you to accept that the little girl has that is not asking you to accept any delusion or lie.
It is asking you not to discriminate against her due to her medical state.
Of course there are differentiations between the human species. They are all made in God’s image, though. Transgender persons are made in God’s image.
Gender incongruence is not an illness, btw. It is a medical state, just like non-incongruence is. Incongruence can turn into a very serious illness called gender dysphoria, though, when people do stuff like discriminate against the person with incongruence, as that can cause severe impairment and distress to that girl with incongruence.
What does it mean that God created them “male” and “female?” It most likely is a reference to biological sex, meaning that God created Adam and Eve as what I think you are referring to as a biological male and a biological female. There are some that argue that the reference to “male and female” refers to a single person, hadam, which then became two separate people, who we call Adam and Eve. I doubt that, but there’s much more we don’t know than we do.
Saying Adam and Eve were created a biological male and biological female doesn’t say anything about the transgender person. Generally they recognize that they were created a biological male or female, btw, as it is the incongruence that presents the challenge. As far as we know, too, pre-Fall there were no people born with birth defects, no intersex persons, no persons with their heart outside their body, no person born without their legs, no … etc. But yet they exist, and they are not delusional to think they have such conditions.
My take is that if we prefer not to be discriminated against for medical conditions we have, then we ought not discriminate against little girls for medical conditions they have. And if we don’t want our neighbor to bar our children from a sports team due to their genes, then we ought not bar our neighbor’s children from a sports team due to their genes.
Referring to a possible increase in transgender persons as a reason to discriminate against girls with medical conditions now seems like a fear-based rationale to discriminate. And your neighbors with transgender daughters deserve to be treated like we would want to be treated. I think we would not want our children barred for having a medical condition without even considering their particular situation or sport.
If I understand such questions, then I think prohibiting him would be OK in many instances (lots of assumptions there), and discrimination against him would not be discrimination against him due to a medical condition or due to his genes, but due to viewing whim, without more, as insufficient.
Doing such is directly contradictory to what MDs and medical research says. Gender dysphoria is a very serious mental disorder and rejecting a transgender child’s gender identification significantly increases the risk of suicide, clinical depression, debilitating distress, etc.
As far as I can see, discrimination advocates are not addressing anyone’s particular situation, but are instead declaring because some transgender girls might be stronger than the average cisgender girl that all transgender girls should be prohibited from girls sports. That is, plainly, discrimination against all transgender girls due to their medical condition or genes. It is hardly a fringe situation to consider a transgender girl who is not stronger than the average cisgender girl. Many transgender girls take hormones that make them not so strong, by the way.
Consider assertions: God must be non-binary as women and men are in God’s image; God is described with feminine traits in the Bible; Holy Spirit relative to feminine description; Non-conforming: Mary and Martha story; Deborah; Mary Magdalene; Anna; Jonathan/ David; Eunuchs; Jesus’s chromosomal make-up; Huldah.
I understand the main thrust of the Equality Act is amendment of existing federal statutes to prohibit discrimination, in areas like employment and public accommodations, based on sexual orientation and gender identity, just like the current law prohibits such discrimination based on race, religion, etc. It also expands prohibitions on discrimination in public accommodations (like hotels, gas stations, etc.) and public facilities (like owned by government entities) to sex and to online retailers.
Basically, these are added to the list protected against such discrimination in such settings, just like race, religion, etc.
It also establishes that the test for determining its constitutionality is the test under the 1st Amendment, which may or may not be strict scrutiny at this point, rather than the mandated strict-scrutiny test of RFRA.
The agenda of LGBTQ folks not being discriminated against merely for who they are will take a big step forward. My opinion is that is a very good idea.
As far as I can tell, most arguments offered against the Equality Act are the same arguments made against the Civil Rights Act relative to black people and Jewish people—- it interferes with people’s ability to discriminate against black people and Jewish people in many settings and to use their belief that God wants black people and Jewish people discriminated against to do so, etc.
NY has had prohibitions against discrimination based on sex in public accommodations for a long time, btw, and, look, such religious services continue. Applying statutes to ban such services wouldn’t pass muster under the 1st Amendment anyway.
See, e.g., https://fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R46534.pdf
FWIW, I’m not aware of a Religious Exemption Act. Part of the Equality Act that says ‘‘The Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 … shall not provide” a claim or defense under the amended statutes. RFRA was enacted to mandate a higher level of scrutiny for 1st Amendment religious claims than the Supreme Court applied in what was essentially a 5-4 decision in ’97, Smith v OR (a decision written by Justice Scalia). Basically, Congress, appearing to react more to the outcome in that specific case than what the legal standards would mean, passed a law, RFRA, that included an even stricter standard than Scalia applied. Most everybody, including the ACLU, supported it then, and it passed 97-3 in the Senate. Since then, many have realized it was a poorly written and insufficiently considered act, having a broader impact than realized then. Part of RFRA has been found unconstitutional already. The part of the Equality Act quoted above is essentially a reset on that law and means that the US Supreme Court can decide whether the 1st Amendment requires a heightened strict-scrutiny test for the amended statute or not, rather than having Congress mandate that it does. It doesn’t remove religious exemptions, but it does mean that asserted religious exemptions for such civil rights violations are evaluated under Constitutional standards, like they have been all along except for the last 20 years (and even during that 20 years, part of the change was found unconstitutional).
There are a few transgender-affirming Churches of Christ. My understanding is that the following are, though I have not independently verified this: Brookline, Stamford Church of Christ, Open Table Oak Cliff (Dallas), Dayspring (Edmond OK).
Theology on pronoun use: https://outreach.faith/2023/04/a-catholic-case-for-choosing-your-own-pronouns/
On reduction in suicide rate after affirming treatment: