I don’t claim to have any authority on the subject of transgender and what the Bible says or doesn’t say. I am only writing to share my experience and the things I’ve learned in the process of trying to figure out what I believe to be true. I’m certain that God planned for me to love MJ and to help her navigate the world with what she’s been dealt. After all of my reading and listening, one of the only other things I am certain of is that all Christians will not be able to come to an agreement that the Bible is clear about what God planned for transgender people, at least not anytime soon. I’m sharing from a place of authentic love for both my child and for Jesus. I offer up my opinion here, knowing that a lot of people, including many of the people that I consider to be my sisters-in-Christ, disagree. But my goal is to help you process your thoughts on the issue. I hope and pray that God will give us wisdom and discernment and open our hearts to what he wants us to hear.
Early on in my research I listened to a fascinating and important podcast from The Liturgists on LGBTQ, where Donald Miller and J.J. Peterson; Matthew Vines; Melissa Greene, Stan Mitchell, and Tabitha from GracePointe; Preston Sprinkle; and Ed Gungor join Science Mike and Michael Gungor to share their stories and perspectives on LGBTQ persons and the Church. I thought it was a thorough, unbiased discussion and a good place to start if you have the time to listen.
Just recently I read in Dr. Preston Sprinkle’s blog where he discusses Dr. Megan DeFranza’s book Sex Difference in Christian Theology. She “offers a compelling argument that challenges the binary model of human sexuality. Some people are neither male nor female, Megan argues. And she views the “naturally born eunuch” (Matthew 19) as the biblical basis for exploring the category of a third (or other gender).” Jesus told us that some people are born eunuchs, from their mother’s womb. They didn’t choose to be eunuchs, they were born that way. In my experience there are people who you could just tell were different from the time they were very young. So, I believe that this is true, they were born that way. And you might argue that it can’t be because the Bible says that God created male and female. I don’t think that means He didn’t create anything in-between. The presence of transgender identities doesn’t mean that we need to discard the “goodness of femaleness and maleness.” I believe the binary interpretation is a human interpretation of the Bible and doesn’t reflect what we find to be present in God’s creation. There is a lot of scientific research supporting gender variants. Research shows that transgender people tend to have differing neurological development. There are years of medical research behind every mainstream medical and mental health professional organizations having issued position statements endorsing affirming care for transgender individuals.
MJ was not one of those kids that you would have suspected of being gender variant when she was very young. So, sometimes I think that there is a possibility that MJ’s neurodiverse brain could be the vulnerability Satan needs to trick her into thinking she is not who God created her to be. But maybe not. Maybe she is exactly the way God intended. He knit her together. She is wonderfully and fearfully made.
I am open to the possibility that LGBTQ people exist because of “the fall”. Quoting from a blog post comment I read, “Jesus teaches that God looks not upon the outer person, but the upon the heart. People are designed to be loving regardless of how our bodies are configured at birth, we are made so that God’s works, whatever they may be, may be manifest in us.” God also has the ability, and demonstrates regularly, bringing about good from illness and disability. I can agree that, if I look at gender dysphoria as something MJ might be healed from, that God can make that happen. He is a sovereign God, able to do exceedingly, abundantly, more that I could ask for. He might choose to do that. And I pray for that, just as I pray for her to be healed from Asperger’s Syndrome. However, I believe the research that has proven “conversion therapy” to be harmful and ineffective. Former proponents of conversion therapy have come forward and are now opposed to it.
To be clear, even though I pray for her to be healed so that she might have an easier life, I celebrate MJ’s neurodiversity. Many of the great thinkers and inventors throughout history are either confirmed or suspected to be on the autism spectrum. I believe God uses the people that have an ability to think and view the world differently to bring about change and invent things that no neurotypical person can. I believe it’s probable that God deliberately created both neurodiverse and gender diverse people. He created billions of species of animals and plants. One look at the abundance of life you find in the ocean and it’s evident how much fun He had in designing each and every creature. I do find that amazing and something to be celebrated.
In this follow up article to the article The Transgender Phenomenon, discussed in my previous post, therapist Lisa Maurel says “Family rejection is the strongest indicator of poor health outcomes for LGBTQ youth, therefore, it is essential that we find ways to engage in dialogue that helps families understand and support their gender diverse children in a culturally competent way. Simply by acknowledging the reality of gender diversity in our dialogues, we can make the evangelical community a safer place for gender diverse people. Before we can have a healthy dialogue about gender diversity, we must be prepared to examine our own biases, blind spots, and fears.” She argues, convincingly in my opinion, that “The Diversity lens, however, offers the most comprehensive and psychologically healthy outcome for transgender and gender nonconforming people through a Both/And perspective. When applied in the theological context, this model offers an inclusive way of being with gender diversity that could pave the way for improved mental health outcomes for all gender diverse people within evangelical communities.”
I heard it said in my own church that the reason the rate of suicide is so high in transgender people is because they will never feel whole until they come to and follow Jesus. That statement mistakenly assumes that the transgender person hasn’t already come to Jesus. (MJ chose to be baptized by the way). One of the first things I read was this book, Transparently: Behind the Scenes of a Good Life, by Lisa Salazar. She writes about her struggles with gender dysphoria and reconciling her experience with her Christian beliefs. It was helpful for me to hear her first-hand account of how she wrestled with God. Excerpted from this blog post, Alise looks at “Why the Church Needs to Look Deeper at Transgender Suicide.” She writes…
“The Church can’t speak death over and over and over to the transgender community and then expect them to choose life. The Church can’t exile and isolate transgender children and their families and then blame them for the loneliness they experience. The Church can’t walk on the other side of the road, ignoring the broken and bleeding, and still claim to be the hope of the world.
It’s time for the Church to look past the studies that alter reality by comparing transgender people to the general population but at least affirm what long-held beliefs, and instead look at the studies that show that show that when people are accepted by parents, they are 57% less likely to commit suicide. That when they are able to change their bodies to match their minds, the less likely they were to kill themselves. When they experience low-levels of trans-based hatred, the suicide rate drops by 66%.
Instead of asking parents of transgender children to leave the Church, it’s time for the Church to support those parents so they are able to support their children better. Instead of reacting with fear toward the transgender community, it’s time to start acting with love. It’s time for the Church to accept the role they have played in transgender suicide and begin to look for ways to breathe life into the trans community.”
My church hasn’t asked us to leave, and I’m pretty sure they never would. Though we haven’t been out to most of them yet anyway. However, God did orchestrate things so that another mom of a transgender child and I would be connected there. Praise God for that! And, I do have some friends that I confide in, including the dear sweet friend who connected us so discreetly. But one of the most loving and supportive communities I belong to is a private Facebook group of Christian moms of LGBTQ people who love and support each of their kids immensely. We encourage and pray for each other and share stories and info. It’s a very safe and special place and I’m grateful to be a part of it. Lori Duron, author of “Raising My Rainbow,” was honored by PFLAG for her advocacy work. During her acceptance speech she said, “PFLAG is the most supportive support group I’ve ever seen; it’s good for my soul; it’s what church should feel like.” Yes, I agree that church needs to change. In my next post I’ll give you more of my thoughts about that.
I think it takes a lot of faith to live with uncertainty. I can’t know the truth about what God had in mind but embracing MJ’s neurodiversity and gender diversity is proving to be the most fruitful and healthy path for MJ. And I think that is what God wants of me. I know this much…I trust Him. That is what gives me peace. My experience and answers to prayers tell me that I am on the right track by loving and affirming MJ. She is still struggling in many areas with regard to her dysphoria and executive functioning. But we are enjoying each other again, able to crack jokes, and enjoy the fullness of life. She is working on her portfolio and it’s exciting to see her many talents represented. And we are finally scheduled to meet for MJ’s planning meeting next week. As always, I pray that our plans align with God’s plans.
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.