Author’s note: I wish I could read this article to you. I feel hearing my voice as I discuss the topic of transgenderism would be a clearer and more precise representation of my heart for these people. Words on a page lack the strength of empathy. They have no intonation. Moreover, they come across a little distant and somewhat academic. You are, however, in your cubicle or at the kitchen table or in a coffee shop. Therefore, it is what it is, but please know, there is much heart behind these words and much for us to learn. What follows is an attempt to inform you about this growing type of people in the United States and how they are in desperate need of first, biblical love, and then, biblical evangelism.
A new civil rights movement is beginning to ripple into a public tidal wave according to TIME magazine’s latest cover story, “The Transgender Tipping Point.” The article highlights actor, transgender, and burgeoning advocate for the transgender movement, Laverne Cox. Cox stars in Netflix’s comedic drama, Orange Is the New Black. Cox is only one of a growing group of transgenders who are sharing publicly about their transgenderism and advocating cultural acceptance. In January, Fallon Fox shared with GQ about his current struggle to become an established fighter in MMA Fighting as a woman. Fox underwent physical, re-constructive surgery in 2006 to “become” a woman and takes estrogen supplements daily.
No longer are transgenders only portrayed on the silver screen in films like Boys Don’t Cryand the recent Oscar-winning Dallas Buyers Club. They are a growing segment of America’s population. They are faculty members at Christian universities. They are involved in shaping public policy. They are in kindergarten. And they are in the pews of evangelical churches. To the point, transgendered people have been empowered to come out and live in the open what, in the years past, they have hidden in their hearts.
In September 2013, at a Christian university in California, theology and philosophy chair Heather Clements informed Azusa Pacific University officials of her decision to become a transgendered man. As a result, the school dismissed her. In the same state, the state assembly passed a measure “to let transgender students participate in school programs and use school facilities, such as bathrooms and locker rooms, based on their gender identity instead of their biological sex,” according to the LA Times. In healthcare, transgender issues are being taken into consideration. The Affordable Care Act mandates insurance companies can no longer classify transgenderism as a pre-existing condition. Colleges are wrestling with whether or not their health plans should cover treatments connected to transgendered people. Treatments include hormone medication, breast augmentation or reduction, and genital surgeries.
Change is also happening at the high school-level. In Virginia, this year, the Virginia High School League has decided to allow transgender high school athletes to play on teams of their gender identity, not their God-given, biological sex. Also, at area-high schools in Oakland, California, teachers are being taught a “gender-neutral” vocabulary.
Transgendered students are also coming out at younger ages. The New York Timesreports “children as young as five who display predispositions to dress like the opposite sex are being supported by a growing number of young parents, educators and mental health professionals.” At Children’s Hospital in Boston, transgendered children, 10 to 13 usually, are being treated with puberty blockers. If upon suspension of the puberty blocking treatment, the teen elects to take supplemental hormones, in order to obtain the gender’s body one desires, dangerous consequences can follow. One such consequence is sterility.
One final example of the cultural spreading of transgenderism is Facebook. In February, the giant, social media site added the option in the profile section, which enables users to select from more than fifty sexual identity options. This is in addition to the traditional selections of ‘male’ and ‘female.’ Users can also select the set of pronouns they wish to use: he/his, she/her, or the gender-neutral they/their. Facebook said on its Diversity page, “We want you to feel comfortable being your true, authentic self.”
By now, as the reader, you might be thinking, “I get it. Just like homosexuality, transgendered people are taking over the media, our schools, our government. Why the endless examples? Are you just stirring up emotional bluster and fears about the unfamiliar?” No, not in the least. I wish not to create a fear mentality rather demonstrate to you these hurting people more than likely live in your region. They are not in specific geographical, socio-economic and cultural pockets around our country. In fact, on The Gospel Coalition website, in 2010, Bob Thune told his story of discipling a transgender in Omaha. My prayer is that knowledge of their existence and their struggles will be used by the Spirit to move more of us to be Bob Thunes.
In the US, there are nearly 700,000 transgendered people according to UCLA’s The Williams Institute. Transgender is an umbrella term for those who find their gender identity different from their biological sex. It includes transsexuals and crossdressers. Identifying as a transgender by an individual may or may not involve surgery or hormonal supplements.
Press reports relate how transgendered individuals feel adrift in their biological sex beginning at a young age, sensing something is “wrong.” They feel as if their internal, gender yearnings do not match the external marks of their biological gender. Some have married and had children. Only later have they come out as transgendered. Divorce may follow while some spouses accept the new gender identity. Nearly half of all transgendered people, however, continue to conceal their true identity according to the Rankin and Beemyn study. Also, 44% of transgender college students have experienced harassment. Derogatory remarks and pressure to be silent are the most common forms of harassment.
The psychological toll on almost half of transgenders has become too much. According to a National Transgender Discrimination Survey, 41% of transgendered people have attempted suicide. This is nearly nine times the national average. The study also shows nearly two-thirds of those who attempted suicide also had experienced domestic violence committed by a family member.
In an interview with Christianity Today, Grove City College psychology professor Warren Throckmorton commented that of the transgendered people he has advised they are “in absolute agony over their state . . . and desperately in search of hope and acceptance.”
Hope is exactly what all of mankind needs for all of mankind has the same Father. We are all created in His image and beautifully assigned to be either male or female. These precious people need the Great Physician and the “hope of glory,” Jesus Christ, (Col. 1:27) to remove the soul-rot destroying their lives and creating such debilitating hopelessness. I believe there is room for Christian psychologists to help transgendered individuals untie the mental tangle that is deceiving them into thinking they are not their biological sex. Ultimately though, the heart needs to be restored by faith in the redemptive work of Christ. They, along with the rest of humanity, need the gospel.
As Bob Thune explained, the act of being transgendered is fueled by core sins in the heart. In the instance of his transgendered friend, his friend was evidencing selfishness and control in the form of a transgenderism. Other people may exercise selfishness and control in the form of greed or self-pity. Some may not agree with this, but the most significant issue for the transgendered person as well as all other peoples is the need of a new heart. The mind may be broken to a certain degree, but it can be renewed (Romans 12:2). The heart is the place from which all of life flows (Prov. 4:23). It is the seat of our will, emotions, and desires. It must be changed by the gospel first and then the mind can be saved.
Recently, a friend of mine preached on Jesus’ command to be salt and light. As I listened to his sermon, I thought how apt these two metaphors are as they relate to evangelizing transgendered individuals. Their lives are decaying because of the violent rebellion they are exercising against their God-given nature. As salt, God can use us to preserve a life for His glory. Their minds are darkened with great deception. As light, we have the unbelievable privilege of radiating the love of the Savior into the darkness with “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ” (II Cor. 4:4). By His strength, may we do so.