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The Obama administration on May 13 directed public schools to allow students to use the bathroom of their choice. Withholding of federal funds could be the prod for schools that don’t fall in line. How might Christians think through the transgender issue?
A generation ago some conservatives sneered at “welfare queens” and some liberals made them all heroines. Both generalizations were wrong. A similar problem is evident today in discussion of the much smaller minority known as “transgendered.” To some conservatives they are perverts, and that’s the end of the discussion. To some liberals they are nature’s nobility. A Christian perspective is different from both.
Genesis 1:27 states, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” In the next chapter Adam looks at Eve and says, “Bone of my bones, flesh of my flesh.” Chapter 2 ends, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.” That’s it. Everything’s great. That’s the end of the Bible, right?
Not exactly. Chapter 3 describes the Fall and its terrible consequences: “Cursed is the ground … pain … sweat … you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Physical disease. Psychological disease. Things aren’t right. In looking at anyone, including ourselves, we need to keep in mind both Genesis 1-2 and Genesis 3: We are all made in God’s image. We are all sinners. For a small number of humans, one aftereffect of Genesis 3 is gender dysphoria, a profound state of depression about one’s God-given sex, either male or female.
To grasp that particular effect of original sin, visit the “asktransgender” subreddit of Reddit, which with 83 billion page views last year is one of the most visited U.S. websites. One afternoon’s comments included this one: “I’ve been crying all morning. A friend posted a candid picture of me and all I see is the horrible man I can’t escape. … This is never ever going away even after years and years of hormones. I want to die … why can’t I just disappear?”
And this comment: “I feel absolutely like I am a woman stuck in a man’s body, and I spend a lot of time thinking and reading about transitioning. I occasionally have these insidious doubts. … I’ve had anxiety since childhood and struggled with depression through my teen years … What if these thoughts of being trans are just me trying to escape from these problems? ... Maybe I just want a fresh start, and this is the most extreme way of getting that?”
And this comment: “I want to look like a girl. I never could. My body’s an inverted triangle shape. … My feet are size 12. … People say ‘suicide is never the answer,’ but I need to know WHY it’s not the answer. Because as far as I can see, it is. That, or I get some bolt of inspiration from God. … I pray every night. I don’t even know who to or what for. Because I need something to change.”
Should the rest of us who aren’t mixed up in this particular way (we’re all mixed up in some way) be trans-despising or trans-phobic? No: The joys God designed in making us male and female, and letting us unite in marriage, are so great that we should be sad regarding anyone who doesn’t have them. Our battle is not with depressed transgenders but with those who make them “mascots”—to use Thomas Sowell’s expression about liberal use of poor people—and put them on display. (Sowell: “The problem with being a mascot is that you are a symbol of someone else’s significance or virtue. The actual well-being of a mascot is not the point.”)
Here’s one comment I ran across on Reddit last year: “I’m transgender. … Countless trans people tell me and others … the only reason we feel badly about ourselves is because of how cis [non-transgender] people judge us. I knew my body was screwed up before I even knew what the term cis meant. … Whenever I go to support groups or LGBT events I’m always lumped in with people who hate non-trans people, want to break down all of the oppressive systems around them, and frankly just want to be seen. The thing is, I don’t want to be seen. I don’t want to be a femme genderqueer trans boi. I just wanna be a normal guy.”
Since it’s now a legal requirement in New York City to address a person with the pronoun and title the person wants, here are two more relevant Reddit comments: “I’m trans … and I have never met anyone who says … ‘fight the cistem’ or insists upon flavour of the month makey-upey pronouns, or tells anyone else the only reason we feel bad about our bodies is cis people.” And, “I knew a genderqueer couple that required you use rotating pronouns for them. (xe, she, he, xis, his, her) I just said ‘they’ or didn’t talk to them. … Most trans people just want to live … and not turn everything into a battle.”
When Christians enter into bathroom-use debates, we should distinguish between those building careers as transgender activists by deliberately rebelling against God’s order, and those who resent mascot treatment and merely want to find a way to minimize their soul-tearing misery. Strugglers should be shown the love of Christ. Agitators for whom “equality” is not an end-state but an industry—and, sadly, perhaps even a religion—also need compassion, in the form of truth delivered in love.
All of them, like all of us, need God, and we reduce the possibility of their finding Him if we react to the “We win, you lose” demands of media-designated spokespeople merely by shouting back, “No—we win, you lose.”
Wise policymakers will look for ways to make bathrooms safe for children and adults. We’ll report on their efforts.