There are Christians who agree that transgender people do not choose to be transgender, and that those who experience gender dysphoria are suffering; but some Christians may believe that gender dysphoria is the cross that transgender Christians are meant to bear, and that transitioning to relieve that suffering is a sin.
Each of us does have our cross to bear. However, there is no biblical basis to claim that these crosses have to be permanent, or that it would be a sin to be set free from them. When a Christian suffers from cancer, most Christians would not criticise them for seeking medical treatment, or tell them they should instead bear their cross and suffer as part of God’s will.
Our God is a God who heals. Some of the most powerful miracles in Jesus’ ministry involved healing. When Jesus saw a blind man, a lame man or a leper, he did not encourage them to stay strong and continue bearing their crosses. Instead, Jesus was moved to compassion and healed them. This healing was not just physical but spiritual. It was a healing that sent them rejoicing and praising God to everyone who would listen.
We have no reason to believe that Jesus would have acted any differently had he encountered a person suffering from gender dysphoria. The heart of God is to see each of us restored to wholeness.
Apart from that, the idea that gender dysphoria is a transgender Christian’s cross to bear ignores the reality that being transgender in today’s world will inevitably involve hardship. Much of that will increase when a person transitions, becoming visibly trans and newly vulnerable to discrimination, harassment, assault and murder.
Instead, it is more likely that transphobia is the cross that transgender Christians are to bear. We trust God to give us the strength to carry it each day. Some of that strength comes from the love and support of those around us: our friends, family, and church community. That strength also comes in the form of the relief and joy we find in transitioning and growing into the person that God created us to become.
13 For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.[a]
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
Each individual is created unique and different, and we have our paths to walk in life. Even as we acknowledge that today’s medical options are far from perfect, these medical interventions have brought healing and restoration to many of God’s transgender children, and given them a chance at life. It allows transgender individuals to move from being trapped within a body with foreign parts divorced from their sense of self, to reconcile with their bodies and free to live life. Others may not have found that healing from transition, or be convicted that transition is not God’s will for their lives. Their stories too are valuable and part of our greater story.
When the Apostle Paul is posed with the question of eating food that has been offered to idols, he affirms that everything is under the sovereignty of God and there is no sin in eating such food, but as Christians we should be aware of how our actions may cause others to stumble and fall into sin. (1 Cor 8). In these situations, we are asked to take the path edifying for our common faith. We know of transgender Christians who have chosen not to transition out of respect for their loved ones’ wishes. This is also an authentic way of living out their life and faith. However, this is not God’s commandment when choosing so leads to personal harm, such as depression and suicide. We pray that God will give you peace as you seek wisdom to discern God’s plans for your life, plans that will give you hope and a future.
There is no absolute right or wrong for how, or whether, you choose to transition. What is harmful is how many Christians judge an individual to be worthy or not worthy to be part of a Christian community by their transition choices, and treating transition choices as “sin”.
While transgender Christians are reconciled and brought to wholeness with themselves through transition, it is often accompanied by a high cost of losing relationships and facing society’s transphobia. This has resulted in the loss of access to education, or being fired from jobs, which has negative ripple effects on that individual’s family. When we look at Jesus’ life, he did not allow Christians to sit on the fence when there were people ostracised for who they were. In his ministry, he healed and reunited the “unclean” with the broader community. We appeal to our cisgender Christian siblings to likewise speak out for your transgender siblings when witnessing acts of discrimination or injustice.
As transgender Christians who have received healing and found wholeness through transitioning, our lives continue to bear witness to God’s inclusive love. Our presence on the margins of society has taught us to see the social injustices and inequalities that break God’s heart. Our experiences across the gender divide give us perspectives into the lives and struggles of all genders. Our awareness of our atypical, non-perfect bodies enables us to be more sensitive to the needs of others. The difficulties and discriminations we face in the world lead us to depend all the more on God to see us through, entrusting our lives into God’s hands. Being transgender is how God made us to be.
This article is largely written from the perspectives of trans women, trans men and bigender Christians. We are happy to hear broader transgender Christian perspectives so as to edify a broader transgender Christian community.
Useful Resource list: http://austenhartke.com/trans-faith-resources