A longtime close friend told me recently that they are transgender and transitioning.
All of a sudden a lot of questions that had seemed distant and theoretical became close-up and personal for me.
This isn’t just a casual friend. This is one of a small number of friends whom I had known to be Christians before I became a Christian. I was watching them. I recognized that they had something (a closer relationship with God) that I desperately wanted, and I watched them for a long time trying to figure out how they came to have that relationship with Him.
At least I now know to start with the Bible when faced with something totally beyond me.
Obviously the place to start is in the beginning, i.e., Genesis, and there’s Genesis 1:27:
[…] God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.Genesis 1:27
This says God created people male and female. Or does it? Others have pointed out that in the first book of Genesis the word “and” isn’t used exclusively. It’s used to indicate a range.
There are lots of opposite pairs in what God was creating in the first book of Genesis. Land and sea. Darkness and light. Etc. But that doesn’t mean that everything was either one or the other of the things in the pair. It outlined a range. Darkness and light, yes but there was also dawn, twilight, stars, light of the moon and light of the sun. There are birds that fly and fish that swim, but there is also the bald eagle (a strong swimmer that can pluck fish from deep under water) and penguins (birds that don’t fly but they do swim), and over 40 species of flying fish. God didn’t confine Himself to strictly this or that, and nothing else when He created the universe. So I’m not at all sure that we can use Genesis 1:27 to prove that God created every human to be only either this or that and nothing else. One thing I see in Genesis is that not only is God the Creator, but also that God is infinitely creative. He seems to delight in complexity, not simplicity. Also God created much that is not explicitly named in Genesis, which is not intended to be a complete catalog inventorying all that God created, but rather a book inviting us to be in awe of His power and glory.
Another thought that came to me was a thought about eunuchs. Eunuchs aren’t exactly Transgender people the way we think of them today, but maybe eunuchs were the transgender people of the time? Jesus talks about eunuchs in Matthew 19:12
“For there are eunuchs who were born that way, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others—and there are those who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.”Matthew 19:12
I don’t know what Jesus meant by eunuchs “who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven,” but there’s something in me that wonders whether that includes being honest with God about one’s innermost secrets.
Being totally honest here, there’s a big part of (worldly) me who really doesn’t like the idea of transgender stuff. To me what I see is an error of rigid stereotyping. I’ve half-joked (but only half…) that I’m glad I never heard of transgender when I was a teenager because I hated the fact that I was female. I didn’t want to be a woman. I felt like I should have been born a man. I’m glad that nobody took me up on that in those days.
What opened my eyes was feminism. When I hated women I saw women as shallow and manipulative and opposed to rationality, and I didn’t want to grow up to be that! It was only when feminism taught me that women could be strong and nerdy and serious and competent as women, without having to impersonate a man in order to be those things, that I came to embrace being female. So there’s a (worldly, not Biblical) part of me that thinks, hey, maybe if you just relax and be whoever you are you don’t need to change your body to be that person.
But that (worldly) thought isn’t Biblical. It’s also judgmental. So I may just need to get over it.
There’s also the fact that my transgender friend is married and does not plan on getting a divorce. So once the transgender transition has happened there will be 2 people of the same sex married to each other. My own local church doesn’t approve of same-sex marriage. But I could walk down the street and find my way into another Evangelical Christian church that does. Not that I intend to do that … but it made me think about all the hundreds or thousands of local churches, each of which believes something slightly different from the others.
Does God really intend, out of all those churches, to pick just one, and say, “Yup, you got it right, you win!” with fire and brimstone awaiting everyone else?
I can’t believe that is who God is. I think God delights in the diversity of His people. I think He created His Word in a way that allows us to understand it differently from one another without disrespecting Him. I think He delights in seeing us struggling with His Word, challenging one another with, “Why do you think that?” and seeking Him through better understanding of what He has revealed to us. I think if He had wanted to make His Word a simple handbook that all His people understood exactly the same way, He could have, and would have done that.
So – today anyway – my thought about my transgender friend is that I need to extend God’s love to them without judging.