A Biblical Perspective on Transgenderism

There has been much controversy over a bill, specifically, “the bathroom bill”, which would allow people to enter the bathroom of their gender identity. If a man identifies as a woman, or a woman identifies as a man, both can enter the bathroom of their choice legally without constraint. Without getting into the specific details, it’s not hard to say that this bill has caused much discussion regarding the social issue that is – transgenderism.

For Christians, being informed on social issues is especially important. It’s vital that we engage what’s happening in our culture in a loving, God fearing, and biblically sound way. If we don’t, our witness (not to men, but to the truth) drastically decreases.  We must take a stand for whatever is noble, whatever is pure, whatever is just, whatever is of good report, and meditate on such things. (Philippians 4:8)

But why must we take a stand for these things? This isn’t a theocracy after all.

While that is true, it doesn’t diminish the fact that God calls us (Christians) to be lights to the world. (Matthew 5:14) This includes standing up for the biblical principles, which illustrate holy and pure standards. What is the opposite of standing up for what is right and good? It’s bowing a knee to the culture, i.e. darkness, the ways of this world, unbiblical ideals. We can’t dictate how people live their lives, but we can stand up for the truth. This includes being a light in such places as the public square, where public policy directly affects the culture. We of all people must be the ones who influence things for the better, after all, we are the salt of the earth. If we lose our flavor what good is that salt but to be trampled under the foot of men? (Matthew 5:13)

Now with that said, I find it extremely important that we as Christians understand how to maintain a Biblical position on the current social issues of the day. This knowledge is needed, if we are to be lights to the world, and to be a light, we must follow the truth. So, what is the biblical truth, more specifically, regarding the social issue of transgenderism?

Transgenderism is a cultural trend. With trends many questions are posed. In regard to this one, people may inquire, “is gender based on a person’s identity?”, “are the different genders social constructs?”, “is transgenderism sinful?”.

There are many questions raised by this subject, and as Christians we must answer them biblically. It is not my goal to write a ground breaking article on this matter, but rather to provide a Biblical perspective (a perspective based on scripture) in addressing the various issues surrounding transgenderism.

So how should we biblically view, and address, the whole transgender matter? First we must define transgenderism.

What is Transgenderism?

What is transgenderism? According to the American Psychological Association (APA), transgender

 is an umbrella term for persons whose gender identity, gender expression or behavior does not conform to that typically associated with the sex to which they were assigned at birth. 1

Another definition:

“[people] who do not identify with the gender that they are accorded by virtue of their external characteristics observed at birth, and who feel closely aligned to and identify as the opposite gender. These are folk who are known as transgender…” 2

Biblically Reasoning Through Transgenderism

What does the Bible have to say regarding this issue? Now I admit that there aren’t many verses directly addressing the phenomenon of transgenderism, I would assume it wasn’t a cultural problem in the time it was written. But what we do have is enough biblical evidence to conclusively say that transgenderism is against God’s original purpose in creation.3

In Genesis chapter 1, God created the human race. He created two distinct genders.

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

This verse makes a declarative statement about God’s creation of humanity. He created them “male and female.” This declaration doesn’t refer to the first human beings, instead it talks about all of mankind. He created humanity male and female. Now I’ve heard an argument that points out that this verse doesn’t say “male or female He created them” instead, the conjunction “and” is used. And so, this verse isn’t necessarily conclusive proof that men and women are born, well, men and women. However, this verse is followed by the next chapter (Gen 2) which describes the individual creation of man. After that, the creation of man is summarized again in Genesis 5: 1-2,

In the day that God created man, He made him in the likeness of God. He created them male and female, and blessed them and called them Mankind in the day they were created. 

It’s only obvious to point out here that the author is establishing the fact that humanity was created “man and female”. Genesis 1:27 and 5:1-2 are summaries of this creation, the actual creation (which they very well have in mind) is described in Genesis 2. So was the creation of two distinct genders in Genesis 2 actually objective, meaning, when Adam and Eve were created, were they created objectively male and objectively female? If they were objectively created a distinct sex, how could they be a different gender? They after all, were created that way, and if that’s correct, then Adam and Eve are truly male and female.

But then one might object and say that the passages in Genesis were only talking about the established order of the two sexes, it doesn’t necessary mean that each person today is objectively fixed in the right body/sex.

So what this really comes down to then is the question: does God still create man? If God created man, and still actively does, then we know for sure that His creations are “male and female” not because they choose to be so, but because He created them that way. However, if God just left human procreation to the doings of nature, if He merely ‘started the process’, then how can we be so sure nature got it right when we were created? In other words, what if it is a mistake that some people are male and female? What if some individuals were born in the wrong bodies? People who would maintain this position might also interject and say that if God directly ordained each man to be a man and each woman to be a woman, what follows is that He ordained the physical state of every human being; meaning, if someone was born with a disability that causes him/her to suffer immensely, God created that disability, and then in turn, God created suffering. This cannot be possible, since God is never the author of suffering. So we must therefore conclude that God does not actively create the state of each person’s individual gender.

However, this line of reasoning falls short for a few reasons.

1) It deduces the unique image of God to nothing more than a physical body. If we are just a body, then we are no different than the animals, however, this is not so. We have souls.4 Human beings are made up of more than bodies, in fact, that’s part of being made in the image of God. We have souls, personal souls. So does God still create man? Yes, He does. Every man possesses a soul, and since the soul cannot be created by nature, the most reasonable thing to say is “God did it.” For scripture says:

…the Lord lives, who made our souls… -Jeremiah 38:16

So if we can conclude that the soul is actively and purposely created by God, why can’t we say that each person’s biological gender is as well? To summarize the argument:

  • God actively creates the soul
  • The soul is part of the human being 5
  • Human beings are either male or female
  • Therefore, when God creates he purposely creates each human being to be either male or female.

2)  The Bible is clear that God creates each individual’s sex. In a psalm, King David said,

For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them. -Psalm 139:13-16

God created his inwards parts, fearfully and wonderfully, skillfully in the depths of the earth. These verses beautifully describe the handiwork of God in creating not just David himself, but also man. God intricately designs us according to His good will. So, does this not include gender? If God creates each individual, it would then follow that in His creating He had previously planned our sex, facial features, cells, etc. and from that plan purposely formed us according to His desire. By this passage there is simply no escaping from the reality that every one of us is purposely made – not through the process of nature, but through the marvelous work of God. It would be futile to argue that God only formed David and not everyone else. If we take that logic to its fullest extent, wouldn’t we have to take all the Psalms as only having relevance to the writers, and none to us? No, what God sovereignly worked in them He also works in us.  So it’s only reasonable to conclude that our biological sex is not a mistake, rather, it’s how God intended us to be.

Male and Female He Created Them…

So to summarize, each and every person is created either male or female, not because they chose to be so, but because God created them that way. It is evident in scripture that man is not merely a thing wrought by the randomness of nature, instead, we are purposely made by God. Therefore, it’s an objective fact that when one is born male, he is male, and when one is born female, she is female. It is also equally true that when one is born male, he is meant to be male, and vice versa.  Why? Because God purposely intended for that person to be who they are – meaning – when He created them male/female, He meant it.

Gender Roles

So now I’ve established it is indeed no mistake that when God creates, He creates purposely. There is no being born in the wrong body, for when God creates, He knows what He’s doing. But more questions arise: “what about gender roles?” “how should I think of myself in light of them?”

To begin answering these questions, we must first understand the terms used in this debate. APF, describes the difference between sex and gender:

“Sex is assigned at birth, refers to one’s biological status as either male or female, and is associated primarily with physical attributes such as chromosomes, hormone prevalence, and external and internal anatomy. Gender refers to the socially constructed roles, behaviors, activities, and attributes that a given society considers appropriate for boys and men or girls and women. These influence the ways that people act, interact, and feel about themselves.” 6

To summarize:

  • Sex is different than gender.
  • Sex is defined as the biological make-up of the individual, and gender is defined as the roles society considers to be fit for ‘males’ and ‘females’.
  • Gender identity is how one views him/herself to be in relation to the societal view (or a view) of gender.

The underlying premise that drives the idea of transgenderism is the idea that gender is social role. People who identify as women do things that women are socially identified to do, and people who identify as men do things that men are socially identified to do. Gender identity is based on the social roles society sees fit for each gender. A major thing to note here: in this view being a ‘girl’ or ‘boy’ isn’t dependent on your biological status, rather, it’s how you fit under the constructed social role of what a ‘boy’ or a ‘girl’ does. But this is circular reasoning. The terms ‘boy’ and ‘girl’ are based a priori on the biological status of the individual. Social/gender roles were created under the assumption that the objective sex of each individual is distinct. So what’s in question here isn’t whether a male or female is a ‘boy’ or a ‘girl’ once they’re born, but whether they fit into the gender role society or culture assigns’ to him/her at birth.

Gender is defined as a role society considers to be fit for males and females, so if a biological male doesn’t fit under the social construct of what is a ‘male’, he may begin to question his ‘gender identity’. However, in this situation you cannot put into question the objective reality that this male was born male. You cannot change sex. You may change how society views that sex in regard to what he/she does/is, but you cannot change the biology/DNA of that individual (I’ll touch on this point more later).

The problem then is not regarding basic human biology, rather, it’s about societal views of gender roles. People struggling with transgender feelings aren’t dealing with some sort of inner turmoil within their genetic make-up, instead, they are struggling with their identity regarding who they are as a distinct sex. This is the underlying issue.

How one is to view themselves in relation to the world should be based on who they are as a human being. If I am truly born a male (which I am), then there is no logical reason why I should think of myself as anything other than a male. My identity should be based on who I am as a person, and who I am is – a male. In other words, it’s not proper that I think of myself as anything other than a male since I am one. I should place my identity in reality, not in my subjective feelings based on a view of how I fit within societies’ description of what it means to be ‘male’, or even my own views. Socially, how society views each gender is based specifically in their differences. Gender is based on the objective reality that men and women are different, both physically and psychologically. How societies view these differences and apply them to gender roles differ. But let’s ask the question: does any particular society govern how we should view the gender roles of each sex? No. Do they even have the authority to govern what is the gender role of each sex? No. If one were to say yes, he would have to answer this: why should I accept as objective truth the collective view of a particular society, which in its entirety is subjective? There really is no real reason I should.

Now with that being, true gender roles cannot be created by man, or else they would be subjective to the opinions of society; instead, they must be based in the God given roles established by Him who is the creator of the sexes. Meaning, if gender is the role of each sex, then our greatest authority on gender roles should not be based on any societal view, rather, they should be based on God’s prerogative in the scripture.

It’s fundamental to point out: sex is inseparable from gender. God created the sexes, but in His creating He just didn’t make two different biological machines. Instead He created unique individuals with purposely designed gender roles. What is a role? It’s,

“the public image of being a particular gender that a person presents to others”7

And in the Biblical sense, it would be how men and women are to express themselves as human beings in relation to the world. Their God given roles would be what defines them as a unique sex.  It is clear in scripture that Biblical masculinity and femininity are two separate things. However, what those roles are, both masculine and feminine, is outside the scope of this essay.8 N1

The Root Issue: Identity

Earlier I made the point that one who is struggling with transgender feelings is struggling with their identity as who they are as a distinct sex. When someone is born male, he is intended to be that way by God, not only that, he is supposed to live as a male and take upon himself the God ordained role pertaining to manhood.

Now if that person ‘feels’ like he is the opposite sex, he’s not claiming to be biologically different, instead he’s identifying as a female. He would make the declaration “I was born a male in the wrong body”. This however is a baseless assertion founded on feeling. We know that God created him to be a man, so being born in the wrong body isn’t the problem. We know for certain that he’s not a woman and he should know by looking at himself. So what’s the issue? To start, lets dissect this statement: “I feel like I am the opposite sex.”

I feel” is an indication this assertion is false. For instance, I can feel like I’m worthless, I could feel like I’m a cow, I could feel like I’m a monkey with a tail, but all these things are false considering the reality I’m living in. I am not worthless, I am loved by God, I am not a cow nor any other animal, I am a human being. The same would be true for me if I felt as if I were a female – I am not.

“But feelings aren’t always wrong. I can feel like I am dying or can feel pain and it be very real.”

This is true, however there are two different types of feelings that need to be distinguished. Feelings stimulated by a physical reality and feelings created through my perception of reality.

An example of the first type would be if I jump off a bridge and land on the ground causing me to receive a bruise, or am pricked by a needle and experience pain. The second would be me getting hurt by something a person has said and experience feelings of sorrow, or look upon my performance regarding a particular area of my life and feel as if I’m a failure.

Now both types of feelings aren’t by necessarily false, however, they must be appropriately based in reality or they hold no ground. Feelings of pain may be true while feelings of being something I am not – like a cow- are false.

Transgender feelings are the latter type. These feelings are not (as I said before) based in some inner turmoil within a person’s genetic makeup. The transgender person is not feeling like he/she is the opposite sex because they are biologically the opposite sex, rather, they are feeling that way because they perceive themselves (and very strongly in most instances) to be that sex.

However, these feeling have no basis in reality and are therefore (even though the feelings be very strong) not founded in truth.

“…like I am the opposite sex” Now this is hard to understand. What does feeling like the opposite sex mean? For me, would it mean that I feel like I am biologically the opposite sex? Would it mean that I feel like a woman as in that I think of myself as a feminine person? Or does it mean I associate myself with what society deems to be the social role for women? Nonetheless, whatever it may be, it all comes down to this: identity

The bottom line is, if you are born a male, you are a man, and if you are born a female, you are a woman. Your real gender role is based on your sex. It’s important to point out that while sex and gender are two different things, they are not separable. People tend to view sex as how one was born, and gender as merely the gender role one fits himself into, regardless of which sex they are. Biblical gender demands that men are not women and women are not men. One, (gender), is strictly associated with the other, (sex). They cannot be separated without distortion. So by trying to separate gender from sex, real gender becomes confused.

If this is true, that sex and gender are not separable, then the root issue transgender people deal with is ultimately their identity as who they are as a person. I’m sure most know they were biologically born a certain way, but how they identify is a different story. Do they identify in accordance with who they are as a sex? If not, then they are confused in the area of gender identity. How should I think of myself as a man? What is the correct way to think of myself as a woman made by God? These questions can be answered.

The reason people have transgender feelings can be very complex. We mustn’t be so strict in our diagnosis of the problem. People can have different reasons for living a transgender lifestyle, whether it be out of brokenness, a lack of clear gender roles in family, etc. It’s obviously different for different people, so we can’t be so insistent as to make conclusions too hastily.

But what we do know is that transgender people struggle with their identity as a sex. Transgender men struggle with who they are as men. Transgender women struggle with who they are as women. These people are either disconnected with what it means to be a man/woman or are greatly out of touch. So how do we fix this problem?

A Solution That Doesn’t Work

The APA (American Physiological Association) in talking about how transsexuals can “transition genders” lists ways this is possible:

“[by] adopting the appearance of the desired sex through changes in clothing and grooming, adopting a new name, changing sex designation on identity documents (if possible), using hormone therapy treatment, and/or undergoing medical procedures that modify their body to conform with their gender identity.”9

Apparently, the goal is to transition from the social role of one gender, to another. This is accomplished through erasing any evidence that a person, say a man, was ever a man – by surgically removing body parts pertaining to males, taking female hormones, etc. The underlying assumption is that if you look like a female, act like a female, change your name to a female name, you somehow are a female. Now while this may change the man’s social identity, it still doesn’t change the fact that that man is still a male. Scientifically this is true,

“Gender reassignment surgery does not change a person’s sex, as sex is determined by X and Y chromosomes contained in every cell in the body. Male to female sex change surgery is a cosmetic change only.”10

Meaning, gender reassignment surgery only changes your outside appearance, it doesn’t change your biology.

Many factors can come into play regarding why this type of surgery doesn’t work. For one, suicide rates of people who have had these surgeries are higher than those who have not; and with people who have had these surgeries, many of them are in the same psychological distress they had prior to their surgery. 11, 12

People who receive these surgeries know for themselves that they are not the opposite sex, but yet are still under the impression that if they make themselves look different all their identity troubles will go away. However, we know for a fact that these feelings are not based in reality, and that it is indeed an identity issue. So gender reassignment surgery makes no sense, leading Paul McHugh to conclude:

“[Transgenderism] belongs in the family of similarly disordered assumptions about the body, such as anorexia nervosa and body dysmorphic disorder. Its treatment should not be directed at the body as with surgery and hormones any more than one treats obesity-fearing anorexic patients with liposuction.”13

In conclusion, gender reassignment surgery is not the solution to those struggling with transgender feelings.

The Biblical Response to the Transgender Phenomenon

What is the Biblical response to the transgender person?

I for one would ask them to answer these questions: do I identify myself in accordance to reality? Have I grasped what it means to be who I am as a sex? Are my feelings always right?

How transgender people view themselves, as I pointed out before, is not in congruence with reality. They are ultimately confused. How to help these people? We show them Christ. We lead them to their real identity in the who they are as a sex. We show them real biblical masculinity and femininity. We should treat them with love and respect, instead of demonizing them for their struggles.

I don’t claim to know all the answers in how to solve this, I am not a sociologist or psychiatrist. I have, however, tried my best to present a biblical perspective on many of the aspects of this issue. For the Christian, especially the one who is present in the medical fields which touch on this problem – it is crucial that you treat this topic first and foremost through a biblical lens. If you truly believe that God’s way is the right way, then you should in all reverence apply His truth to every aspect of your practice. It should both guide your motives and lead you in your search for a real solution. When it comes down to it transgender people are hurting – they do not know the truth of God’s word when it applies to their gender identity. So maybe that’s why they’re confused?

It’s our job as Christians to both stand up for the truth and apply that truth to our lives in love. This is part of conforming ourselves to Christ. This is biblical.

speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. -Ephesians 4:14-16

This is how we should act in response to the transgender phenomenon. Speaking the truth in love.

A Biblical Perspective on Transgenderism

As I’ve said before, the purpose of this essay was the lay biblical foundation, or groundwork, regarding the issue of transgenderism. What is that foundation?

First, we must ask ourselves this very fundamental question: does God purposely create us today like it says in Psalm 139? The answer is yes, so we know for certain that when one is born male, he is male, and when one is born female, she is female. There is therefore no “being born in the wrong body” because God when He created didn’t make any mistakes. He intended for each person to be the way they are. If this is true, then the feelings transgender people have are wrong.

But why do they have these feelings – strong feelings which to them vindicate that they were born in the wrong body, that makes them identify as the opposite sex?  The answer: because they’re confused. Why? Maybe due to the distorted views of masculinity and femininity prevalent in our culture? Maybe because they haven’t grasped who God made them to be as a distinct, unique sex? Maybe because something happened in their life that has caused them to resort to transgenderism? Regardless of what it is, however complex, these people are confused. They are in need of the Gospel and a biblical foundation for their gender identity. Then and only then, will they be truly healed.

All Christians must realize this truth and not bow down to the views of the culture. Views which are in straight contradiction to the Word of God. I exhort all reading this to stand for the truth and act it out in love. God is the one who can give us the strength to not only speak the truth, but also help us answer and counsel the people struggling with their gender identity; so trust in Him for all things.

Transgenderism is a very complicated social issue, one that is on the forefront of national debate. We cannot be silent.

So will you bow down to the whims of society and accept transgenderism as normal when it clearly is against God’s purpose in creation?

Or will you hold fast to the truth and by doing so glorify our God, the creator of the sexes?

That decision is yours.


Footnotes:

  1. http://www.apa.org/topics/lgbt/transgender.aspx
  2. http://creation.com/male-and-female-he-made-them
  3. What’s presented here isn’t extensive reasoning; I’ll leave that to the scholars. My goal is only to form a biblical platform on which to argue, so that others may be given the foundation they need to reason through this issue.
  4. Or spirit.
  5. The soul is undeniably inseparable with the man. Hence, body, spirit, mind – but one person.
  6. http://www.apa.org/topics/lgbt/transgender.aspx
  7. http://www.dictionary.com/browse/gender-role?s=t
  8. For a helpful resource on Biblical gender roles, I recommend the book “Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood” by Wayne Grudem and John Piper. http://www.desiringgod.org/books/recovering-biblical-manhood-and-womanhood
  9. http://www.apa.org/topics/lgbt/transgender.aspx
  10. http://creation.com/male-and-female-he-made-them
  11.  Ibid.
  12. http://www.wsj.com/articles/paul-mchugh-transgender-surgery-isnt-the-solution-1402615120
  13. McHugh, Paul. “Transgenderism: A Pathogenic Meme.” Thepublicdiscourse.com, June 10, 2015.

Other Notes:

  1. I realize that there are many short comings in this article. The most major one I have noticed is my lack of depth regarding Biblical “femininity” and “masculinity”, along with what I called “God given gender roles”. These topics were important to touch on in this article but too comprehensive to adequately address for the sake of space.
  • http://guitarwitharmsblog.weebly.com Guitar with Arms

    This is an exceptional article, Liam! It’s very well written and I can tell you put a lot of time and effort into it. Kudos and keep up the good work =)