“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.
“what is the difference between sex-reassignment surgery and a vasectomy or breast enhancement?”
Sex reassignment surgery is about attempts to change or fake which sex a person is. Vasectomy or breast enhancement usually arnt. The former contravenes the spirit of Deuteronomy 22:5, whereas the latter, don’t.
Tom, the unanimous conviction of the Reformers, the historic consensus of the Church, and the global consensus of Christians today hold that the various forms of birth controls used in Christian marriage (when the life of the mother is not threatened by pregnancy or menstruation) are a rejection of the fullness of God’s gift of one’s sex, a rejection of God’s design for biological sex, and sin. I agree with you that hormonal and surgical transition are not permissible for trans Christians, but the motivations for contraception/birth control (in most cases) are not meaningfully different.
I would posit that there are clear, articulable differences between the comparisons you draw here, and placing them on an equal pedestal as the article does leaves room for misinterpretation where clarity is important.
Contraception (condoms/the pill) is different to hormonal therapy in that the former does not fundamentally change a body’s permanent function. Which is to say, if you are using condoms or taking the pill, you can stop at any time and your body is back to how it was before. This is not the case with hormonal therapy, which (to my knowledge) causes certain parts of the body to grow or not grow, and can lead to permanent irreversible infertility. If you are talking about a coil as contraception, that has other medical purposes that it is primarily used for – often, regulating the female period and preventing health issues that stem from irregular periods. However the coil also does not permanently affect the female body – it can (again, to my knowledge) be removed and after a time the body will return to its previous state. Which, as far as I’m aware, hormonal therapy does not do.
As for the second comparison, regarding physical surgery, the difference is again clear as night and day. And the examples you’ve used also don’t support your point. Vasectomies primarily serve a medical purpose (that is, they are a way of treating breast cancer, but can also be used to treat spinal issues in women with larger breasts), whereas breast implants are done purely for aesthetic purposes. Which of these are you trying to equate to the permanent, physical, irreversible surgery that trans people can undergo?
I get the ultimate point you’re trying to make in this article, but I’m afraid it really doesn’t hold up under scrutiny. We can and should still love trans people like we do all others, but that doesn’t mean implying that God’s intended design of male and female is anything less than clear. If we want to ensure people are following His word, we must do so with good solid arguments – and the ones put forward in this article are, I’m afraid, anything but.