Being a Christian is hard. Being transgendered is probably harder. But being a transgendered Christian is insanely difficult. Sarah (http://community.livejournal.com/transchristian/profile)
The literature all authors write is the literature they yearn to read but is not yet written. I write this book because this is the book I so dearly needed to read when I first began. I needed to know the world was not a rigid male-female binary. I needed to know there was structure to the mystery within me. I needed to know there was constructive outlet. Most of all, I needed to know I wasn't the first to wonder such things. I also write because I cannot know its entire contents until someone writes it and I yearn to hear it all. I too cannot wait to see how the story ends!
The purpose of this book is to explore the morality of a transgender person acting on their perceived gender.
To make a conclusion, I will explore all the major ways through which we can gain knowledge of transgenderism and its morality: psychological, anthropological, social, and religious. I'm using a number of fields because gender is formed and impacted by these fields: our culture, family and friends, religion, psychology and biology. Gender, lying near the foundation of our existence, also has numerous, similar outlets which can help us understand the effect of atypical gender behavior. I am using the sciences as sources of information to show what things are possible, and not possible, what are healthy based on past cases. Based on Science and basic Reason, I will use Scripture and a variety of ethical models to ascertain what things, if any, are moral.
A variety of different witnesses will greatly help. Since there is only one Truth, every path towards truth, whether a kind of science or the interpretation of revelation, must reveal that same truth. If it doesn't then one of our paths is misguided. If a psychologist, neurosurgeon, and chemist all tried to answer the same question about the brain and came up with different answers, then at least two of the answers are wrong and none would satisfied until all three fields could confirm a single solution.
It's no secret that Christians have interpreted their faith in contradiction with transgenderism. I think this is due to misunderstanding of both transgenderism and Scripture. Understand there is no direct tube feeding Scripture into our brains. Everything we think about Scripture (or life, for that matter) is an interpretation and every interpretation comes through a personal lens of experience, culture, belief, values, joys, and fears. I believe that, among other things,culture, fears, and misplaced values which have led so many people to believe that feeling transgender and any actions on those feelings are sinful or unhealthy. Scripture, I'll show, says no such thing. And to confirm it, I'll show that ethics and reason in general agree it is not sin and science demonstrates nothing unhealthy about it.
That asks the question, "what does it mean for an act to be moral or good or not sin?" We'll dive into ethics later. Until then, suffice it to say there are a few basic requirements for any action: It is possible. It is loving to others, directly and/or indirectly. It is healthy to your body, heart, and mind. It reflects the lifestyle and message of Jesus which includes by is not limited to: God loves everyone. There is forgiveness for sinners. Love your enemies. Jesus loves the outcasts. Jesus fulfills and is greater than the Torah (Law). Don't be a hypocrite. Follow Jesus at any cost. Following Jesus requires self-sacrifice and disrupts the status quo. You don't have to understand everything.* (See The Secret Message of Jesus by Brian McClaren.) Nothing is to great for God. Life conquers death.
Our answer to this dilemma will be multifaceted. There are many more options than Right and Wrong. A trans person has a number of different choices of actions and those choices will depend on the type of gender identity they have and their circumstance. Opponents of gender advocacy often stereotype us as promoting a laisze-faire, do-whatever-you-feel morality. Like most stereotypes, that only represents a minority fringe similar to the opposite fringe prohibiting females from wearing denim pants or who damn people with transgender desires even if they don't act on them.
I am assuming the readership already believes God loves transgender people and that simply feeling trans itself is not Hell damning. Salvation comes from responding in faith to Jesus and anyone, regardless of perceived sex, can do that.
et's acknowledge the ways a transgender person may or may not choose to act.
The first is to simply believe whether or not their gender identity (which I'll define precislely later) is something to be ashamed of, proud of, or as something that merely exists without value. Is it possible to change this and if so, should they? What if change is not possible?
Next, should the person express their gender identity in private? In their own mind, is it healthy and moral to think of themselves as the gender they identify as? Can they bear this out alone using their voice, another name, dress, and mannerisms?
Should they present as their gender identity in the same way in public as well as private? Should they legally change their name and gender marker?
Should they alter their body to match their gender identity? IHormone replacement therapy? Sexual reassignment surgery?
We also need to evaluate, for whom are these options suitable? No one? Everyone? Some but not others? How does person know? It is possible, in the most complex case, that each category is appropriate for some people and not for others. I.e. for some people, no change is good but for others every change is good.
While journeying through my gender and writing this body, I am disappointed to find no published works that condemn transgenderism in any form. Unfortunately, we trans people are delegated to an occasional mention in a book, article, or sermon condemning homosexuality. No wonder Christian often consider us some kind of gays in disguise! I have wondered why this might be. Perhaps we are not loud or numerous enough to warrant attention to ourselves. Jerry Falwell said in private conversation that speaking against homosexuality was a good way to raise donation funds.* (Falwell homo funds Reported by Mel White. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mDRpTsdKQS4&eurl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww%2Esoulforce%2Eorg%2Farticle%2F1263) Perhaps we need to scare conservatives more! Perhaps the missing attention is more benign, simply a lack of priority, lack of knowledge, or just a lack of time to write all the books the could be written. Nevertheless, transgendered Christians are harmed by a lack of concern and lack of effort from the Church to create a body of literature. I have heard the stories of transgendered people anxious about their unfamiliar feelings who cry to their pastor for help. Where a responsible pastor (assuming she has little to no knowledge or experience on the matter) would go research the matter in order to give some educated advice on a life changing crisis, all stories I've heard feature the pastor condemning the unfamiliar without even a pause of consideration.
I cannot in good
conscience create the first piece of literature systematically
condemning transgenderism! However, I believe I can give provide good
information where it exists. In or Western tradition at least! there is
reason to condemn transgenderism. For thousands of years we have denied
that transgender exists (or the other side might say, transgendered
people did not exist for much of our history) and there must be a
strong reason besides simple bigotry. Most of all, I'm am committed to
my family, friends, and Christian sisters and brothers who sincerely
and lovingly disagree with me. I want to give something to them they
can have pride in. If I inspire angst within my relationship and the
Church, perhaps my work is better left unread.
However, I cannot pretend that I am giving a bipartisan report. I am not. I find the opposing view points insufficient and the positive-transgender viewpoints overwhelming. Yet like a good scientist or a good theologian, I yearn to truly understand both sides in order to understand the entire subject matter. In psychological experiment papers, the most interesting section to me is the author's own criticism of the experiment and conclusion. It is a great sign of humility to report the inefficiencies in your own thinking, especially when no one would have discovered the inefficiencies otherwise. If a scientist or theologian can see both sides, I feel I can trust her. If a person cannot give any credit to opposing thoughts, I feel no obligation to to credit her thoughts either. If I am truly in the right, I will neither need to exert my abounding confidence nor hide any secrets. All things true are true, so I invite all things true to the Table, even while not particularly liking them.
keeps me humble. I remind myself the issue is not clear; there are good
reasons why people disagree with me. I have been wrong before and I'll
be wrong again. You will too.
In American Christianity there is a organization, Exodus
International, which deals with the issue of responding to lesbian and
gay Christians. Exodus does not normally identify transgender issues as
in their scope and at one point, Exodus specifically excluded
transgender issues but that is no longer the case and they have not
explained why. Nevertheless, Exodus is quick to offer statements in
their own and third party publications about transgenderism and their
president Alan Chambers is labeled an expert by those third parties.
More importantly, the ideology of Exodus regarding homosexuality
and Jerry Leach regarding transgenderism is extremely similar. Because
Leach is so ambiguous about females, let's just consider those born
male. The root of both is a problem with gender identity. Their
identity is caused by an overbearing mother, distant or absent father,
a lack of respect for their father, often childhood sexual abuse and
shame for being a man/male. They do not choose their identity
originally but they will choose to reject or embrace that identity. The
cause is entirely environmental and does not depend on biology at all.
Anyone can change their identity if they perform a number of actions
including buying books and therapy from the organizations. Both involve
rejecting normal (i.e. stereotypical) mens' hobbies and mannerisms so
that they seem more feminine. Change therapy is mainly learning the
root of their problem, forgiving their parents and re-establishing a
positive relationship, embracing their masculinity, and then
controlling urges. Urges for same sex and transgender behavior are life
long, but are greatly lessened. Leach even says plainly, "Transsexualism is in truth an extreme form of unconscious, repressed
(A Matter of Surival) and "[Ther confusion of one's gender role
[transgenderism] isa step further down the road from the one taken by
the average person with homosexual tendencies." (Flight p51) and lists
twenty-five common traits between gays and trans people. Both
organizations consider having same sex attractions and being
transgender are two branches of the same tree.
Many readers will be offended. I make no apologies about this. Ideas are simply wandering neurons in our brain - they affect us powerfully. When our ideas are threatened, injured, and die, we suffer with them. The more importantly we have held the idea, the more we suffer. Few ideas are more intimate to us than gender. The intimacy gender has in our lives is only matched by the degree that we do not talk openly about it. For both these reasons, your ideas about gender may second only to your ideas about God. For some, gender is an idol made superior to God's importance. I don't desire the hurt of anyone, but I recognize it is inevitable as the only way for dialogue which is the only way for growth.
When I read offensive material, I have eventually come to become aware of exactly what happens: There's a sign of warning as I recognize an approaching topic that frequently offends me such as Jesus, Islam, or gender. As it starts, there's a quick build up of tension in my stomach and shoulders. I strain my eyes unnecessarily. My pace of reading picks up quickly until eventually my eyes out run my ability to comprehend. I talk in my head all the reasons why what I'm reading is wrong and what I already think is right. There are several outcomes from here: I get so upset I stop altogether; I trudge through the material but don't take it seriously; I recognize what's happening and consciously work to not be offended.
The problem with being offended is that you stop listening your offender. Being offended is a defense mechanism of your brain to stop listening to avoid pain or confusion the offending material might bring. In academia, we are tempted to lose our self in the intellectual and forget that thinking and feeling are two sides of the same neurons. There's some justification for being offended, but it doesn't apply for the material I'm writing here. Not listening prevents intellectual discourse, learning, and relationship. If you value any of these with me, it should be your goal to work through the hard feelings. Personally, I find it helpful to calm myself immediately. Stop reading, stop thinking, stop shaking, stop talking, stretch my tensed muscles, and remind myself why I'm reading at all: to think, to learn, and to relate.
I do not think there's merit in debating over who has the burden of proof. As if the standard operating procedure is to permit everything until its proven immoral or unhealthy. Or, using the same premise but a different conclusion, that the gender binary is the norm and any exception to the norm requires proof. It would be silly to deny someone a healthy life because of an overly philosophical/rhetorical dispute. My simple thought is, "the more ideas the better." Invite every idea to the table. There is no such thing as too much communication.
What I do object to is having people come to the table who have already made up their mind. They are like a person who comes to dinner full and then complains there's nothing worth eating. Being close minded is the mental and emotional state of being unwilling to change their mind. In order to preserve one's opinion, any new information or ideas that could threaten their previous opinion must be avoided or immediately disregarded before they can sink in far enough to influence.
Some people call this faith. I call it stubbornness. It's also hypocritical. The close minded person insists they have nothing new to learn but the person they converse with must be open to learning.
When I started thinking of writing, I could not decide whether this information would be better in paper format or online. I have decided to do both. In a sense, this book is a linear and formalized version of the website; in another sense, the website is a detailed version of the book. I have tried to make this book brief to save costs and attention spans, having only core ideas. The website avoid those problems and contains much more background information and I continually update it. The entire book, and future revisions, can be downloaded for free from www.transchristians.org.
We agree too that not everyone should follow their immediate instincts and transition into the opposite gender. There are some people for whom transitioning full time will not make them as happy as they anticipate. This is a matter of dispute within the trans and psychological communities. Classically, they have recognized that not every person who identifies as transexual will be helped by living full time as the other sex; some have no change in happiness and one percent of those going through surgery report being less happy. In literature, they are sometimes identified with various words including "cross dresser," "autogynephile," and "secondary transexual." The communities are creating solutions, one of which is the emergence of genderqueer as an identity. I think some people who are best identified as genderqueer feel pressured by the gender binary to believe since they do not relate fully with their gender assigned at birth, they will relate fully with the opposite gender. Had I fallen into that thinking, I would also be no happier living as a woman than a man.