“Understanding Gender Incongruence & Caring for Trans* People” is a 4-session course that (1) helps Christian leaders and parents think empathetically and theologically about gender incongruence and (2) equips Christian leaders and parents to offer God’s love and wisdom to trans* people. Learn more and get access at equipyourcommunity.org/gendercourse.
Over the past ten years, a consensus of compassionate orthodoxy on same-sex attractions has coalesced. We at Equip are 95% confident that our theological convictions related to sexual minorities reflect God’s wisdom.
Unfortunately, a consensus of compassionate orthodoxy on gender incongruence has not yet crystallized. That lack of consensus has kept many churches from ministering to trans* people in any meaningful way, afraid to misspeak. While that hesitation is better than transphobia, the silence of churches has left trans* people to suffer alone. For the sake of trans* people, we must find answers. We must labor toward a consensus. We must do better.
In part, that’s why we developed Equip’s Gender Incongruence Course, hoping to contribute to that consensus-building project. We could have contributed by providing vague but high-confidence answers to the questions parents and pastors are asking. But as we gathered the difficult and pointed questions of parents and pastors during development, we concluded that we would better serve the Church by offering specific, detailed answers, even as our confidence in our answers is much less than 100%.
As a result, we hold our conclusions about gender ethics less tightly than our convictions about sexual ethics. We are certain that we’ve gotten at least a few things wrong. We are open to correction. Churches that hope to partner with Equip do not need to fully align with our convictions on gender ethics in order to work with us. Yet, that is how the Church arrives at better answers–by workshopping first attempts and then trying again.
For the sake of trans* people, we must.
Some will review Equip’s Gender Incongruence Course and agree with our conclusions about gender ethics. Others will urge Equip to arrive at even more culturally conservative convictions. Before either of those groups begin employing Equip’s resources to care for people navigating gender incongruence in their community, can I challenge both groups to examine whether they are holding their convictions consistently?
If your conclusions about gender ethics are based on the assertions that (1) our biological sex and reproductive capacities are a gifts from God and (2) when those gifts are whole and functioning properly, it is a rejection of God’s gift (and therefore a sin) to hormonally or surgically alter them; then, what’s the difference between cross-gender hormones and contraception? If you would accuse someone considering hormonal or surgical transition (whose biological sex and reproductive capacities are, for the most part, as God intended) of telling God, “I actually know better how my body should be. I am going to use the tools available to me to make my body the way I think it should be,” then what is the difference between sex-reassignment surgery and a vasectomy or breast enhancement?
To be clear, we are not suggesting, for example, that various forms of contraception or birth control are in any way sinful when a woman’s life is threatened by pregnancy or menstruation. Nor are we trying to make a case narrowly against contraception in some circumstances. Instead, the point of this article is to remind believers to strive for consistency.
Fellow Christians, before you challenge a trans* Christian in your life to steward their gender incongruence according to a biblical gender ethic, could I invite you to carefully examine whether you are applying biblical principles consistently?
What might it look like for a Christian marriage between two straight, cisgender people to fully embody the foundational theological principles that support a biblical gender ethic?
On the other hand, if some churches choose to hold different people to different standards, we should not be surprised when that inconsistency is labeled as hate (instead of concern for truth) and God’s wisdom is easily dismissed.