The Transgender Moment

Evangelicals hope to respond with both moral authority and biblical compassion to gender identity disorder.

source: http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2008/february/25.54.html?start=3

"We have to recognize the Bible in terms of the history and culture in which it was written," Creech says. "Scripture doesn't address the issues of transgender experience."

Whether mentioned in Scripture or not, the transgender movement clashes with traditional Christian theology that teaches the only God-given expression of human sexuality is between a man and woman who are married. "Transgender impulses are strong, but they don't match up with the Christian sexual ethic," says Warren Throckmorton, associate professor of psychology at Grove City College in Pennsylvania. "Desires must be brought into alignment with biblical teachings, but it will be inconvenient and distressful."

Throckmorton, past president of the American Mental Health Counselors Association, says he has advised transgendered people who are in absolute agony over their state. Typically, such individuals are desperately in search of hope and acceptance, he says. It may be uncomfortable to tell transgendered individuals that their desires don't align with the Bible, Throckmorton says, but pastors must do so. "Even if science does determine differentiation in the brain at birth," Throckmorton says, "even if there are prenatal influences, we can't set aside teachings of the Bible because of research findings."

So far, the church's response to transgender rights has been focused more on specific cases before denominational bodies or the civil courts, and less on the campaign for transgendered persons' rights. Those opposing the transgender movement are reluctant to call themselves experts because much about the condition remains a mystery and public debate is so new.

Individual evangelical congregations across the land are trying to figure out how to welcome lonely, hurting, seeking visitors who exhibit GID without offending long-term members.

As with homosexuality, it can be a delicate balance—accepting the person into the church without affirming that switching sexual identities is God's will for their lives.

A few years back, Calvary Assembly of God in Orlando, Florida, accepted a man who had complete sex reassignment surgery, and even allowed the person to do volunteer maintenance work at the church, according to administrator Bill Gray. The individual agreed to use a gender-neutral restroom in the office rather than upset females in the women's restroom.

One day, the individual appeared in Gray's office, weeping and confused. The person told Gray that after extensive counsel, he eventually realized that God didn't make creative mistakes and he resumed a male identity.

Pushing the Envelope

In Congress, legislators during 2007 considered three bills addressing GLBT issues: The Matthew Shepard Act places sexual orientation and gender identity as new categories covered under the federal hate crimes law; the Employment Non-Discrimination Act provides employment protection for GLBT workers; and the Military Enhancement Readiness Act repeals the ban on GLBT participation in the military.

But in the short term, none of the bills, caught up in Washington politics, are expected to pass.

In Washington, vocal conservative organizations don't see transgender rights as a matter of civil liberties. "The transgender lobby is following the example of the homosexual lobby in that they are co-opting the language of the civil rights movement in order to push their own radical and wacky agenda," says Matt Barber, policy director for cultural issues for Concerned Women for America (CWA).