Christians overlook trans issues

The Christian must consider trans issues by staying informed and looking to Scripture.

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Illustration by Jessica Byrd/THE CHIMES

Jacqueline Lewis, Writer

Trans issues, or issues relating to a wide variety of gender identities, held the media’s spotlight when Vanity Fair ran “Caitlyn Jenner: The Full Story,” detailing Jenner’s journey “from Olympic icon to transgender woman.” Although many still debate whether this event acted as an accurate representation of the trans community, it undoubtedly highlighted its presence, sparking intense discussion.

In the Forefront

Not long after, Obama appointed the first openly transgender White House staff member, Raffi Freedman-Gurspan. Discussion still surrounds a California initiative aimed at barring people of the trans community from using the bathrooms in which they feel most secure. It seems as though trans issues will stay in the forefront of the American mind for some time.

Despite national uproar, the Christian response remains lackluster. Possibly the greatest problem among Christians in thinking about trans issues involves misinformation which frequently results in misunderstanding. For example, it surprised many people, Christian or not, when they discovered Jenner found women attractive post-transition. This surprise stems from the misconception that gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation are necessarily linked.

What is Gender Identity?

According to the American Psychological Association, gender identity refers to “one’s sense of oneself as male, female or transgender,” gender expression refers to the “way in which a person acts to communicate gender within a given culture” and sexual orientation refers to “the sex of those to whom one is sexually and romantically attracted.”

This means that cross-dressing does not imply the person wishes to identify as the opposite gender, although the two could coincide. It also means to whom one is attracted does not indicate the gender with which they most identify, and vice versa.

At the Core

Most would regard this confusion as innocent ignorance, but it becomes heart-breaking when this confusion leads to a dismissive attitude towards a deeply experienced pain at the core of one’s identity. Though many Christians and Christian leaders have thought about, discussed and debated the most loving and biblical response to cultural issues regarding homosexuality, there are others who have given much less thought to the most loving and biblical response to cultural issues regarding gender identity. For the latter, the extent of their understanding reads “God created man as man and woman as woman,” with little explanation or biblical reference.

A Discussion of Divine Calling

This absence of biblical discussion of gender identity and trans issues is particularly disgraceful in light of the fact that these topics raise such profoundly spiritual and philosophical questions. Pre-transition Jenner stated, “I have the soul of a female.” But the topic not only opens thought regarding the constitution of the soul, or the relationship between the soul and body. It also opens discussions of divine calling: what it means to live as a woman of Christ or live as a man of Christ, and what it means when God knitted you together in your mother’s womb.

For the sake of the tears of those who look in the mirror but cannot see themselves, and for the sake of those who cannot confide their pain in others in fear of ridicule or disgust, I implore Christians, Christian leaders and biblical scholars to dig into Scripture. They must seek a deeper understanding of who we are as humans, seek answers to a human hurt, and seek God’s loving response to the broken-hearted.

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