Transgender Identity: The Next Sexual Revolution

Jul 26th, 2014 | By | Category: Culture & Wordview, Featured Issues

According to a recent article in Time magazine, the next dimension of the postmodern sexual revolution, indeed the next civil rights movement, is the transgender one.  Kay Steinmetz, author of the Time article writes, ?Transgender people?those who identify with a gender other than the sex they were ?assigned at birth,? to use the preferred phrase among trans activists?are emerging from the margins to fight for an equal place in society.?  Steinmetz?s article is a valuable introduction to this aspect of the cultural revolution and is worthy of an adequate summary, which will comprise the first part of this Perspective.  Following the summary of Steinmetz?s article, I will attempt to place all of this in a biblical perspective.  This is one of the most difficult Issues in Perspective I have done in years.  I seek to treat the topic with dignity and accuracy, but also allow God?s Word to create the framework for analyzing this difficult and provocative subject.

First, a summary of the salient points from the Steinmetz article:

  • Trans people (the preferred reference for transgendered people) are significantly more likely to be impoverished, unemployed and suicidal than other Americans.  Indeed, a staggering 41% have attempted suicide, compared with 1.6% of the general population.
  • Modern psychiatry has struggled with how to view trans people.  For many years the term transvestite was used as a label of a disorder that could be treated by a psychiatrist.  A new label gradually was adopted?transsexualism.  Psychiatrists labeled it as gender identity disorder and in 2013 that diagnosis was superseded by gender dysphoria.  Jamison Green, president of the World Professional Association for Transgender Heath, describes this condition as ?discomfort with the gender a person is living in, a sensation that much of the population would never feel.?  Steinmetz adds this clarification:  ?Understanding why someone would feel that way requires viewing sex and gender as two separate concepts?sex is biological, determined by a baby?s anatomy; gender is cultural, a set of behaviors learned through human interaction.?
  • Trans people reject all labels, seeing gender as a spectrum rather than only two options?male and female.  Transgender is often an umbrella term for all rejections of the norm, from cross-dressers to transsexuals.  How this is impacting the broader culture is illustrated by Facebook, which recently broadened its options for gender beyond male and female with some 50 categories from which to choose.
  • Many trans people choose to use hormones and puberty blockers that can result in beards on biological females and breasts on biological males.  Some go so far as to get facial feminization surgery or speech therapy, training a tenor voice to sing alto.  Steinmetz summarizes one study which states that about two-thirds seek some form of medical treatment, while one-third seek surgery.
  • In a striking sentence, Steinmetz writes: ?No matter their anatomy, transgender people want to live?and be identified?according to how they feel:  to be able to dress and be treated like a woman or a man regardless of what their parents or delivering nurses may have assumed at birth.?
  • Male-to-female transitions are thought to be more common than female-to-male.
  • At women?s colleges, administrators are struggling with how to handle applications from trans women.  An even larger question looms over the military, where perhaps as many as 15,000 transgender troops await the day when they can be open about their identity.
  • American culture is now facing the significant challenge of changing official documents such as driver?s licenses, birth certificates and passports.

Given the above Steinmetz summary, how should we think biblically about this complicated issue?  Because the transgender issue focuses on real people who have real struggles, this is a sensitive and very personal issue.  However, I believe what follows accurately summarizes what the Bible teaches:

  1. Maleness and femaleness are God?s choice, determined at conception.  But growing into one?s masculinity or femininity and embracing it can be thwarted by cultural and family developments.  It seems reasonable to conclude that gender identity is a developmental issue.
  2. It is certainly true that God desires that every male grow to masculinity and every female to femininity.  When that does not occur, the culture has developed labels such as transgendered and transsexual.  Regardless of the labels, God sees each individual as of worth and value because they bear His image, but as broken individuals.  As with every human being, the salvation offered in Jesus Christ heals the brokenness.
  3. As with every individual human being, our fundamental identity is in Jesus Christ.  Much of the postmodern world has focused on sex or gender as the primary aspect of personal identity.  But the Bible calls on us to identity with Jesus?He is our core identity, regardless of whether we are male, female, transgender, etc.  Identity in Christ is a profound, transformative concept that results from placing our faith in Christ.
  4. It is certainly true that God intends for males to manifest masculine characteristics and females to manifest female characteristics.  The fact that some people are born with evidence of mutations in sex-determining genes does not impact their value and worth to God.  But the Bible is clear that men are to appear as men and women as women?see Deuteronomy 22:5.
  5. Focus on the Family has published a helpful position paper of the Transgender movement.  I quote several points from that paper:
  • We must remember that those who struggle with their gender identity have lived lives of great pain, confusion and rejection . . . We must humbly share [God?s] love embodied in the Gospel, to lift them up in prayer and to allow the Holy Spirit to bring about conviction, healing and transformation.
  • We affirm the Christian view that to be human is to be holistically united as body and spirit.  Often, transgender advocates hold to the pagan view that the body is a container that the spirit is poured into.  As such, they erroneously conclude that God has mistakenly put an opposite-gendered spirit into the wrong body or that the body is not the real person?that only the spirit is real.
  • We call upon parents to take a positive role in their children?s development by providing them with a strong, Christian example of what it means to be male and female.
  • We believe we are called to proclaim the truth and beauty of God?s design and the redemption from sexual brokenness in our lives and culture can only come through Jesus Christ.  Like everyone else, ?transgendered? individuals are desperately in need of God?s truth and deserve to know the love and compassion of Christ as shown through His people.

May God, in His grace, empower the church to see transgendered people as they are to see every human being:  a broken sinner desperately in need of the salvation that Jesus offers.  As with all human beings, only in Christ is there healing, wholeness and the promise of a resurrected body after which the struggle with brokenness and sin will end.  In eternity there will be no struggle with identity or life?s meaning.  Both will be fulfilled in Christ.

See Katy Steinmetz, ?America?s Transition,? Time (9 June 2014); Focus on the Family Position Paper on Transgenderism at; ?What is a Biblical View of Transgendered People? at www.probe.orgPRINT PDF

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4 Comments to “Transgender Identity: The Next Sexual Revolution”

  1. Charlene Ellis says:

    It is a very sad and tragic situation isn’t it. As a Christian who has acted as a counselor, using theophostic counseling which I have found to be invaluable, it is interesting where the lie is often planted in some of these situations. Sometimes it is something very innocent, sometimes an older person or family member has introduced the lie. There have been situations where a family was 4 girls and 1 boy who adopted feminine characteristics but was not homosexual which he feared.

    I appreciate your sensitive way of talking about this subject. Perhaps it is too simplistic to say it is the lie that person believes which has been introduced into their thoughts from various sources. But as Christians, somehow we must learn how to see value in all people without compromising God’s standards of creation and holiness. Most of us do not have the love or skills in achieving this, sad to say. And then on the other hand, accepting it and/or ignoring it is not the way to solve the problem either.

    One of my best friends has a daughter who is in her 40’s. The last 8 years or so she has been convinced she must be a lesbian. She is a music pastor in a church and recently married in that church. It has broken her mother’s heart and she refused to go to the wedding. All of her family did, including her husband. This has always been a well balanced, churched but not walking with the Lord, family, The marriage of the parents is good, and their service to others is outstanding.

    The enemy is alive and out to steal, destroy and kill. Maybe one of these times you can help us all by doing an article as to how we can be lights for Christ as well as kind to those who are in bondage without being judgmental, leading them to the Lord through His great love.

    Thanks so much

  2. “… next civil rights movement …” I doubt that it will come to that and for a very simple reason: Unlike a person who has a skin color that leads to discrimination or a man or woman who is not heterosexual, most transgender people really want to change their sexual identity and then LIVE with that identity “as if” they had been born as the opposite sex right at birth. Since this sex, male or female, is uncontroversial, I would prognosticate that these issues will come to a close when the problems of the transition phases have been worked out. However, those that want to live like the “other” sex but keep all the primary sexual characteristics will pose problems e.g. when it comes to choosing bathrooms etc.

  3. Doreen says:

    It is sad to see the proliferation of typical and outdated stereotypes .. Male/female, black/white, The world is full of wonderful shades of color, people. I attended Grace University for many years.. Many of you may even still remember me.. I was, however, BORN transgender… I was also born intersexed. I had both male and female hormones present, as well as body parts coinciding with both genders. Perhaps mine is a unique case, perhaps not.. I was ‘talked to’ by the staff there, they didn’t quite know what to do with my situation. Fortunately they did not expel me, as appears to be their typical fall-back.

    What I’m trying to say is this: Be very sure you are not lumping everyone that doesn’t fit your standards as following satans precepts. My parents are devoutly religious.. they told me they wish I had never been born, because of this. My perspective? Don’t be so cruel, and attempt to understand others viewpoints. Nature and all its wonderful splendor is more than what is imagined of by many people who only see in shades of black and white.

  4. Doreen says:

    The world is black and white, right and wrong, male and female, us vs them… right? Says an uneducated individual who isn’t aware of the wonderful variety and diversity in nature itself.. Lets explore the concept of gender first. Any urological surgeon can tell you should you bother to ask that children, though rare, are assigned gender at birth surgically.. these are inter sexed, or children born with ambiguous genitalia. Sometime this is even done without parental consent or knowledge. SO you say people are ‘born biological male’? Is that XY? Perhaps you might refer to XXY chromosomal structure, children born with Klinefelter syndrome who typically look male, but often develop.. abnormalities. Then you have XY ‘females’ who for all intents and purposes appear female, but simply didn’t develop male genitalia during the birthing process. Keep in mind everyone is actually born female.

    XX XY mosaic, XO, androgen insensitive disorder, need I go on? There are SO much more… so before you start judging transgender, understand that yes… indeed the brain is also part of the biological nature of human beings.. if the brain is telling you from the earliest of ages, despite society, parents, and everything else that you are female or male.. did you ever stop to consider perhaps God made them this way?

    Please educate yourself .. before passing judgement on information you have just barely scratched the surface of. IF you have to justify something biblically, perhaps Matthew 19:12 might assist you … For there are eunuchs who were born that way, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others–and there are those who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.”