How Do We Respond to Transgender People?
This article is about the spiritual implications, problems, and solutions to the trans movement, which is growing in public attention and debate. This article is not about the politics of trans, or cultural implications. Here I want to touch on spiritual truths around trans people and how Christians should respond to trans people relationally. If you’re looking for a political, social, or education discussion, you may find those elsewhere.
In the last few months the issues of transgender and transexual people have become a matter of discussion in government, the media, and social media. Men identifying as trans have entered women’s sports destroying women’s competition. President Biden appointed a transgender person as Assistant Secretary of Health. The more time goes by, the more we see it in the news.
Many people have a natural revulsion to the transgendered or transsexual person. This is actually a normal response to something that is so abnormal on its surface. However, this abnormality is also destructive to the person embracing the trans lifestyle. It is not only harmful to the victim, but to those around the trans person who loves him or her.
As Christians, how are we to respond to the trans person? While there are responses we should make on the public policy level, I am more concerned, in this treatment, of our relational response to the individual trans person.
We must first ask the question, what is the source of trans identity or feelings? There are, in fact, multiple potential sources for this behavior and we should briefly consider them all. What best describes the source of trans behavior? There are at least four potential areas where the trans lifestyle may originate or may have contributed to a person choosing a trans lifestyle. Trans may be a matter of:
- Mental illness
- Biological influences
- Relational abuse
The American Medical Association used to classify certain behaviors, like trans behaviors as a product or symptom of mental illness. But as American culture has shifted leftward, the AMA has also shifted and now defines trans as a matter of preference. This may be a political decision and not a medical one. Some people classify trans as a mental illness because being trans, especially transsexual, denies not only cultural norms, but biological norms as well. Regardless of where you stand on the issue of mental illness, many agree that trans behavior is outside the norms for sexual identity.
Could trans feelings and lifestyle be biological in nature? Yes. We already know from medical research that there are numerous biological problems that contribute to non-social behaviors. People can be biologically predisposed to fits of rage and violence. But, even though that may be true, we don’t absolve that person of their responsibility because they are biologically influenced. Biology is not morally determinative. There does seem to be some evidence that homosexuality is biologically influenced (not determined, but influenced). Does this apply to a trans person? I would argue yes. But, as noted, that doesn’t absolve them of responsibility.
There is evidence that many people who adopted a trans lifestyle were previously abused in one way or another. Abuse does terrible things to people and often skews a person’s thinking and emotions to adopt behaviors outside the norm. In such cases, the effects of the abuse have to be dealt with to help a trans person recover.
Lastly, there is the issue of sin. As already noted, the Bible speaks of the overarching issues being a matter of sin. Though a person’s trans lifestyle may be influenced by mental illness, biological influences, or even relational abuses, sin is still a factor. Many of these same arguments were forwarded decades ago about homosexuality. If homosexuality is biologically influenced does that mean a person is off the hook for that sin? Not at all. The Bible doesn’t treat the issue in that way. There is still the matter of choice and sin to be addressed.
In scripture, you will not find a specific passage that deals with the modern problem of trans people. But there are passages that broadly cover sexual issues that can be applied to the trans person. Now, it should be noted that these passages pull no punches. They are not what you might consider, friendly. However, that does not diminish or dismiss the passages’ truth claims. The Bible says it straight up, trans is sin. Scripture condemns it. But scripture also gives guidelines for how we are to respond relationally to the trans person. Scripture is both directly truthful and compassionate. Let’s look at some passages.
“God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen” (Romans 1:24-25).
“And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper” (Romans 1:28).
“Although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them” (Romans 1:32).
“For I know that good does not dwell in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want” (Romans 7:18-19).
“For the desire of the flesh is against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, in order to keep you from doing whatever you want” (Galatians 5:17).
“For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (Romans 8:6-8).
It is clear from Paul’s letters that he resolutely condemned sexual sin and its variants. This would include transgenderism and transsexualism under the broader context. And, Paul not only condemned this behavior, he stated plainly that such people will not go to heaven (I Corinthians 6:9).
Some people are angry with Christians who may use Paul’s language. These moderns condemn anyone who uses such “unloving” language. But they forget that Paul used identical language to condemn “Slave traders, liars, perjurers” (I Timothy 1:10). When was the last time you condemned a slave trader? Is it unloving to tell a slaver trader he is going to hell? How about you? When was the last time you lied? In fact, Paul went further, using the same kind of language to condemn, “adulterers…thieves, the greedy, the habitually drunk, verbal abusers, and swindlers” (I Corinthians 6:9-10). Habitually drunk? Aren’t we told in our modern day that alcoholism is a disease and not a sin? But Paul doesn’t make that distinction. Paul might be criticized for being a “verbal abuser” to say such things. But, only from the faulty understanding of a modern. Yet, no one complains about the language Paul uses to condemn these other categories. Paul’s language here is not “unloving,” it is simply a declaration of facts where eternal life is concerned.
- If transgender and transsexual is only a matter of choice, then those choices should be lovingly discouraged.
- If transgender and transsexual comes from a history of abuse, then be merciful and kind, and carefully and patiently shepherd that person in the right direction with gentleness.
- If transgender and transsexual is a mental illness or biological, then realize that the victim is trapped in a way that a simple choice cannot solve. Such a person needs more mercy and help, not less. The same would be true of a person given to anger or philandering where those conditions might contain a biological component.
The sin nature is not limited to the spirit of a person. The sin nature also encompasses the flesh and the mind. We know there are biological influences for anger and violence. There are biological influences for sex addiction. There are biological influences for deviant behavior. If these things are so (and they are), then who is to say that these gender confusion issues are not also biologically influenced (not determined, rather, influenced)? Do you realize what this means? It means that such a person is trapped by their own biology and cannot escape their condition on their own. They need compassion and merciful help.
In other words, to make the point, no matter what the cause or influence may be of becoming transgender or transsexual, the victim still needs a solution cultivated through a loving, listening, merciful approach that is plain about the truth while being non-endorsing in support.
Now, should we fight to keep gender confused persons and teachings out of teaching roles in schools and places of public responsibility? I believe we should. That must be how we respond as a matter of public policy and education policy. We must protect our children and vulnerable peers from the destructiveness and harm of trans behaviors. But when it comes to how we respond relationally to such people, we must first be guided by love and mercy. So let me touch on three areas of our relational response to trans people.
Grief—What is your first feeling when you see a trans person? I believe grief needs to be at the top of our list of emotional responses. The person who becomes transsexual, in this example, is mutilating their body for the sake of a feeling. This is a true tragedy. We need to grieve for them.
Compassion—There but for the grace of God go I. Remember that any one of us could have become a victim of our own sin in the extreme. Be compassionate. The trans person must experience your compassion. Remember, there is no compassion without passion.
Truth Telling—When it comes to the progress of your relationship, there must come a time when you share with the trans person what the Bible says about their condition and your desire to lovingly help them.
Non-Endorsing Support—Treat the trans person with kindness and honor. Look for the image in God in such a person and encourage him or her in that direction. Trans people need help to abandon their condition. Provide it, but always being careful not to verbalize what could be taken as support for their sin problem.
Do not condemn, make fun of, ridicule, or express disgust at the trans person. Gender confusion is extreme. None of these things will bring the redemptive love of Christ to bear on their situation.
Counseling—when dealing with a sin or condition that completely takes over someone’s life, it is doubtful they can escape it alone, with help or support from no one. Counseling may be in order, along with other treatment and behavioral efforts.
Repentance—At some point in the trans person’s life they will need to express repentance for embracing a lifestyle which the Lord condemns. There is no question that scripture condemns a trans lifestyle. Therefore, at some point repentance must take place. Be with the trans person when they come to that point. Just as you likely didn’t come to Christ all by yourself (you had the help of another), do so with the trans person.
Support Group—If there are support groups in your area for helping a trans person transition back to normality, help him or her avail themselves of it.
As on who deals often with the mentally ill , I can testify that the right medication can do a world of good for a person who cannot control, or has great difficulty controlling their own thoughts. It is doubtful that a trans person became a victim of their condition in a vacuum. Medical help may be needed to transition back to normality.
The bottom line is simple. Is trans sin? Yes. Is a trans person unredeemable? No. Should we embrace trans people with love? Yes. Should we seek to help the trans person transition out of their condition? Yes. Just as with any sin or condition, the response of the Christian must be loving, gentle, and yet firm in truth. By doing these things you may radically change a person’s life and help bring them back into normality.