Scripture is and should be our ultimate authority. One of the more predominant excuses used to defend sexual identity, i.e., transgenderism or same-sex attraction, is that individuals are born transgender. I believe this argument of defense is of no crucial importance when we relate one's sexual identity against what scripture has to say. However, because of its use as a defense of sexual identity, its relevance and importance is critical. This argument of defense is a wrong interpretation of reality. Unbelievers and many Christian believers are following false teaching from pop culture that has wormed their way into Christian society and has damaged our understanding of biblical truth. The truth of God's word should be our ultimate authority, but for many, it is not. In this paper, I will begin by briefly exploring the rise in the awareness of sexual identity by looking briefly at the phenomenon of Renee Richards and the explosion of transgender awareness after Caitlyn Jenner's outing. I will also analyze the argument many hold to affirm their belief or lifestyle choice that individuals are born that way. Within scriptural truth, I will discuss that statement's theological aspects and why it holds no water. I will end by looking at what our Christian community should be doing and how we should engage with that community. We need to gain a strong awareness of how we can dialogue with liberal believers who affirm that lifestyle and non-Christians who are living that lifestyle. Dialoging as well with non-Christians who believe that you should do whatever feels good. I shall try to limit the scope of this paper to what the Bible teaches, not my option, regarding sexual identity and transgenderism.
I want to start by looking at the early 20th-century phenomenon of transgenderism and the recent developments that have brought mass awareness to this small and unique community. How this small minority of people has come to the attention of every home, courtroom, and government official across the country. I agree with Ryan Anderson, who, in his book "When Hary Became Sally," believes that Western culture has come into what he calls a "transgender moment." This moment is a progression from how people thought in the seventies to now as having reached its apex of development. Anderson believes that "the most recent turning point in the transgender moment arrived June 1, 2015, when Bruce Jenner came out to the public as a woman, changing his name to Caitlyn." This was a significant boost to the movement for the transgender community in getting the public to accept and acknowledge one's sexual deviation as normal moral behavior. I believe Jenner, who is undoubtedly a pop culture icon because of his television show, catapulted the transgender community into a new public mindset, solidifying transgenderism as the new moral normal that till then had yet been achieved. In a Vanity Fair magazine article, Anderson says that mainstream Hollywood culture immediately embraced this move. He said, " The article featured his struggles and reasons for coming out; it pictured Jenner in a dress, full glamour makeup, and named him Woman of the Year." The solidification in the public mindset of the new moral normal was achieved. A direct result of Jenner's coming out launched a tsunami of transgender-related headlines flooding social media. One example, in early 2016, just after Jenner came out, emerged the controversy surrounding a transgender person's use of men's and women's restrooms. Several professional sports organizations invited people to use the restroom of their gender choice rather than their birth sex. However, on September 12, 2016, a New York Times article said, "The state of North Carolina resisted, and the NCAA responded by removing national basketball tournament games from the state." The result of news articles like this only solidifies transgender awareness in society's mindset. Any news is good when trying to be noticed and move from a minority to a majority player. Those opposing are now seen as hateful and bigoted, going against the new accepted normal. They are viewed as discriminating against gay rights and, in some cases, would be breaking the law. Another example of the same controversy that year came from the Obama administration. The Department of Justice and Education teamed up, encouraging schools to allow transgender students to use their preferred restrooms and locker rooms. The US Department of Justice's Office of public affairs released joint guidelines that now "helps provide educators the information they need to ensure that all students, including transgender students, can attend school in an environment free from discrimination based on sex.” As a result, this forced some schools to install gender-neutral bathrooms and locker rooms. Unfortunately, this seems like a new phenomenon but it has been a slow progression. This movement's sensational attention and quick adoption across all levels of society because of the support of public figures such as Jenner has not been quick; it just feels that way.
Jenner, of course, was hardly the first public figure to come out as transgender. Renee Richard's, who competed as a professional tennis player in the 1970s, became widely known following his/her male-to-female reassignment surgery when he/she fought to compete as a woman in the 1976 US Open. Jenner, you could argue, was perhaps the more famous American yet to do so. However, Jenner, as opposed to Richard’s accomplishments on the tennis court as a transwoman, had less of an impact on the mind of society. Society saw Renee Richards as more of a sideshow anomaly than a groundbreaking activist. Jenner, at the time, was more of a celebrity for winning the 1976 Olympic Decathlon in record-breaking style. Most of society had no idea that what looked like a freak anomaly would 40 years later turn into an excepted groundbreaking movement. Like Richards, Jenner later decided to identify as a woman, and Richards is now vaguely remembered by just a few. This movement is now seen in fields and sports arenas; transgender athletes have begun dominating men's and women's sports. An article from the Dallas Morning News featured teen athlete "Mack Beggs, [who] won the state wrestling title while taking male hormones, to the applause of some and the outrage of others in 2020." Lastly, to further illustrate the movement coming to its apex, in a landmark ruling by the United States Supreme Court, they applied the 1964 Civil Rights Act to include transgender individuals. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act had already banned employment discrimination based on one's national origin, religion, race, and sex. However, now the Supreme Court ruled that regarding "sex," this protection now applies to LGBTQ individuals.
As I see it, this slow but steady progression from Richards to Jenner has become an apex of development. It has reached its goal of complete solidification in society and government. Now the movement is down to just filling in the small gaps that are occupied by tiny minorities still resisting this change in mindset. This movement began with Richards and culminated at its apex with Jenner. It expanded because of Christian believers' biblical illiteracy. In the case of non-believers, it took root because they believed that whatever feels good must be good for you. Jenner said, “I’m so happy after such a long struggle to live my true self.” This ignorance when it comes to the knowledge of the truth of God is devastating. As Jesus said in the unleavened bread parable, just the tiniest bit of leaven introduced to the dough will corrupt the entire pot. In the 1970s with Richards, that was the pinch of leaven, and Jenner is the result of that leaven corrupting the entire batch of dough. With this way of thinking, you can easily understand why people would believe that it should be okay to live this way if you were born this way.
In the movement, many arguments arise in defense of transgenderism. One such argument that many hold to as affirmation of their belief and or their lifestyle choice is that individuals are born that way. What are some theological aspects and responses to such a statement, and why does this argument hold no water, given scriptural truth? Gender non-conformist Christian Austen Hartke is a graduate of Luther Seminary's Master of Arts in Old Testament Hebrew Studies and winner of the 2010 John Milton Prize in Old Testament writing. He identifies as a transgender person of faith. In his article, “God's Unclassified World,” he says, "This is nothing new; for as long as societies existed, there have been people who fall outside the typical male and female understanding of the creation story found in scripture." The understanding that one can be born transgender is a valid argument. However, Hartke is taking scripture out of its context; he believes that If God created me, then it would logically follow that He also created my feelings of gender ambivalence. Suppose I am created physically male, with an x and y chromosome; however, I am more emotionally relatable to the opposite sex. If God created me that way, I should live that way. He essentially says that if God created us the way we are, we would be going against God if we were to live any other way than He created us. Genesis one says, "God created mankind in His own image, in the image of God He created them: male and female He created them." (Genesis 1:27) How can we effectively reach out to those struggling with their gender identity when it is supported by liberal scholars taking the scripture out of context and not using proper hermeneutics? This ramped biblical distortion is everywhere in all academic circles, including theological and scholarly research. "The time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their passions and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths." (2 Timothy 4:3,4) Hartke argues that not all people are born male or female. He says, "if we try to enforce that binary, we put ourselves in the position of claiming to know better than God and better than the individual themself.” His interpretation supports the common argument that one is born that way. He takes his interpretation a step further, arguing that If "Genesis chapter one was meant to describe the world as it is, the biblical authors would have needed a scroll hundreds of feet long." Hartke believes that Genesis chapter one describes humanity as it is now. Genesis chapter one describes the creation of man in God's image and the reason for our creation. What Hartke purposely misunderstands to fit his interpretation is that God not only makes people in His image, but He has also distinctly created each of us as male and female; there is no non-binary in-between. Genesis 1:26-27 does not affirm the world as it is now, nor does it look at all the in-betweens of the non-binary. It is not affirming that our sexuality was created for us to choose or that it is a mistake of nature, nor is it a non-binary biological phenomenon. Instead, our sexual identity as either male or female has a purpose for our lives; it is part of God's will for His creation. After God had created man, God said it was not good for man to live alone (Genesis 2:18), so God created a companion for him. It should be noted that God created woman not to cure man’s loneliness. He created woman out of man, two separate and distinct sexes to complement each other and to produce offspring to populate the world. When God brought the woman to Adam, Adam said, "This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called woman, for she was taken out of man." Scripture states, “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh” (Genesis 2:23–24). God creating humankind separate and distinct and eventually united to become one flesh establishes the order of sexuality by which our race is to develop. It is to evolve psychologically in that the relationship is sound. Physically, in that the relationship is natural. Sociologically it establishes the foundation for humanity. The biblical design for human sexual identity and expression is through an intimate physical relationship to be shared exclusively within a lifelong marriage covenant. It is a heterosexual and monogamous relationship, not a non-binary middle ground of confusion and perversion. It is a difficult obstacle to overcome when Christians purposefully misinterpret scripture to fit their ideologies. They are under a powerful delusion, believing they are making the right choices. They, in turn, are just promoting their self-interests and supporting their LGBTQ cause. Hartke further argues that “when we attempt to box God’s creation in by looking at Genesis 1:27 expecting every person to fall in line, we are asking the text the wrong question. . . Instead of asking the text to define and label all that is, we can ask God to speak into the space between the words.” The argument that I was born that way cannot be established biblically by Hartke. He does not consider man's deception by Satan and his subsequent falling away from God and, in turn, the reason for Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. What Hartke sees as the space in-between God's words is all the corruption accumulated as a result of the failing of humanity. God created us in His image to rule over all He created, and the space between His words, through Jesus’ sacrifice, is filled with His truth. God’s truth is that He created us perfectly, male and female, so we can be fruitful and increase in number to subdue the earth and rule over it. Adam and Eve failed in their purpose, so sin entered the world and distorted the truth. Jesus' sacrifice on the cross brings humankind back into the right standing and relationship with God the Father. Essentially restoring us to before the fall, but even better now that we have His Spirit. The Spirit He gives to those who believe to help us understand God's truth and see the enemy's distortion. Hartke is taking this text out of context to justify his sexual perversion. Transgenderism is a form of sexual perversion. What Hartke and others fail to understand is that since the fall of man, every new generation has been born into a sinful condition. The defense of transgenderism by saying I was born that way is no defense. It does not matter if you were born that or not. We are all born in a sinful condition because of Adam and Eves's failure in the garden. However, even though the image of God remains in us, we are sinful, nonetheless. Vaughan Roberts writes in His book “Transgender” that "the Bible’s insight that we are all both created and broken is vital for understanding not just the transgender phenomenon but every kind of human affliction, physical and or psychological. We have all been profoundly affected by the fall.”
We are not born perfect as Adam and Eve were before sin entered and distorted God's perfect creation. Being born feeling that you are in the wrong body; having same-sex attractions; being born with the propensity to consume alcohol or use mind-altering substances; being born with the propensity to lie, steal, and cheat; the easy way manipulation comes to many of us. All of us are born with varying degrees of narcissistic behaviors. When we see a child caught with part of a broken glass in their hands and scattered pieces of glass on the floor, we ask that child, "Who broke the glass?" The child, without any hesitation, quietly looks up at us and straight away says, "I do not know who broke the glass." Sin is there; we are born in this condition. God wants us back to the condition before the fall; that is why he sent Jesus to pay for man's sins so we can have a chance to enter His kingdom. Being wrong is easy because we are already born corrupt. Being good is something that we are taught. We all have the capacity to love and hate, but we never have to remember how to hate; however, we always have to remember how to love, especially those we hate. For us who have accepted Christ and have been saved and understand God's truth, it is easy to tell our experience of God’s love and truth to others. It is difficult to lead those under the heavy chains of delusion to believe the truth that will set them free.
So, the question remains, what should our Christian community be doing, and how should we be dialoguing and engaging within the transgender community? It was tough and frightening when we first learned to ride a bicycle. We wobbled about, but our mother or father eventually let go of the back seat. We could eventually balance ourselves and ride with ease. Some people got so good at riding bicycles that they could do daring theatrical feats that baffled the mind. For many of us who know Jesus and have a relationship with Him, it is easy to present the truth. It is challenging to lead those under the crippling heavy chains of delusion to believe the truth that will set them free. However, with experience comes balance. When faced with the truth of scripture, all their arguments are logically and thoughtfully refuted; however, the transgender community still holds to their beliefs. There are like a child holding the broken end of the glass and looking up at their mother, in all sincerity saying, I don't know who broke the glass. Jesus had the same problem when speaking with the Pharisees. He said, "Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say . . . yet because I tell you the truth, you do not believe me." (John 8:43,45) Sadly, no matter how much experience and balance we bring when speaking the truth, the majority will not believe because they choose not to believe.
They genuinely are convinced they already have the correct answers to life's difficult questions. No matter what anyone says to the contrary, it will not move them a bit. Their hearts are hardened. They ignore reality in favor of whatever they think creates peace and happiness, even if it contradicts their words and beliefs. They say, “I’m so happy after such a long struggle to live my true self.” They chose not to believe. In the second letter to the Thessalonians, Paul writes "that because they had refused to love the truth of God's word to be saved, He [God] gave them a powerful delusion so that they would believe the lie." (2 Thess 2:11) Everything they are participating in and living out in that lifestyle is a lie. Ignoring reality will eventually cost them everything. Believing whatever you want and making choices based solely on what someone regards as truth to bring a person happiness leads only to destruction. The belief that if it feels proper or reasonable to do it, then I should do it is a false reality. It is a delusion that runs deep in the conscience of the LGBTQ community. Paul also explains that God caused this delusion to punish those who remained wicked, turning from the truth. The condemnation beset on that community is one of great shame. Bringing the truth boldly and with compassion is desperately needed to create remorse, eventually leading all those out from under that delusion to Jesus and salvation. In my experience, the sad reality is that no matter what anyone says or proclaims as to their reasoning for living that lifestyle: I was born this way, or if they chose later in life to live an alternative lifestyle, it is all an excuse not to face God's reality. All reasons for living a gay lifestyle hold no biblical truth. Scripture is and should be for everyone the ultimate authority. Not believing and interpreting scripture to fit your belief is fundamentally a turning away from God's; it is simple unbelief in every circumstance. Whether they walked away from God's word or his word was never made available to them, all are guilty. The truth of the knowledge of God is not hidden. It is readily available to anyone who wishes to know. More so today than at any other time in history. When we talk to people in that community about God's saving truth, we need to follow God's lead, “be on guard and stand firm in the faith, be courageous, and be strong to do everything for them in love.” (1 Cor 16:14) To do everything in love is the key to helping them to expose and understand their delusion, turning their condemnation into shame and regret and then, God willing, into repentance. Speaking the truth in love, we need to clarify who Jesus is. When confronting someone supporting a transgender lifestyle with a false biblical interpretation or someone struggling with their identity is crucial to help them see the truth of who Jesus is. We can persuade them by saying that they cannot be in the right relationship with God if they do not acknowledge God's existence. We can explain to them that they cannot be fully present in life if they are walling off part of themselves or hiding beneath a mask. We can bring them around to understand that it is impossible to be your best authentic self when living in a cage. All this in the hope that God’s truth will bring them to repentance and salvation through Jesus Christ.
We must lead with repentance and salvation against false teaching and those under the foot of this serious delusion and end every engagement with scripture. The word of God can change everything. No type of sinner is beyond the reach of God's grace. Paul, the apostle, confirmed the perilous consequence of various unrepentant sins: "Neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God" (1 Cor 6:9b-10). However, then Paul affirmed the life-changing power of the word of God. "And such were some of you. Nevertheless, you were washed, sanctified, justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God" (1 Cor 6:11). Such were some of you. However, we are no longer in sin; we are now In Christ, and the chains of sin are broken, and the believer's identity is transformed. Scripture makes it clear that the power of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is unlimited to those who accept Him. There is no sin, sexual or otherwise. Jesus' sacrifice cannot cleanse. John the Baptist said, "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" (John 1:29). Paul wrote, "God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God" (2 Cor 5:21). John wrote, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9). Only through the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit, people, regardless of the nature of their sin, can be made new creations in Christ Jesus. God's plan of salvation extends to every living person. To those practicing homosexuality, those believing they are their own God, to the person living a transgender life. It extends to the confused scholar interpreting scripture to fit his beliefs, teaching false doctrine. All who genuinely want to be delivered from the penalty and power of sin must come to God in the same way all sinners come to God. In the same way, all who are now His children have come for deliverance from their sins. The act of turning to God for salvation includes both repentance and faith. Jesus is both Savior and Lord. He is the one who forgives our sins as we believe in Him and repent. Repentance represents a change of mind in which there is a turning from sin in attitude and behavior. Like the Philippian jailer who asked what he had to do to be saved, those desiring salvation must ask and then believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. Believe that He can save them from the power and penalty of sin. Obedient faith, like repentance, is a condition of salvation. Only God's truth will set you free. God's truth will always be the truth; it can seem restrictive, and it does not always keep with the world's changing standards, and yes, most times, it does not fit people's immediate wants and desires. However, God's timing is not our timing, and God gave us the ability to choose, and He yearns for us to choose His desires, wants, character, and rights. He wants us to choose Him, and then our hearts will match God's desires. "Do not deceive yourselves. If any of you think you are wise by the standards of this world, you should become "fools" so that you may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God's sight. As it is written, He catches the wise in their craftiness" (1 Cor 3:18-19) By becoming a fool, we will be made wise. Unbelievers and many Christians follow false teachings from Christian scholars and pop culture icons.
These transgender moments have set up residency in every secular and non-secular division of society. It has damaged our understanding of biblical truth, and we have become desensitized to its moral implications. The truth of God's word should be our ultimate authority, but for many, it is not; for some, it will never be. No one could foresee the radical change of direction society was moving in when Renea Richerds stepped into the public eye coming out as transgender. When he/she competed as a professional woman's tennis player in the 1970s, everyone seemed to turn a blind eye, thinking it was a short-lived phenomenon. However, since then, it has grown partly because of the success the gay rights movement had since Stonewall and during the aids epidemic. Transgender people have ridden on the heels of the gay rights movement. As a result of their success, the doors have opened wide, allowing transgenderism to step into the limelight of the Hollywood screen, onto the asphalt surfaces of the track fields, into the biologically wrong bathrooms, and the competitive wrestling mat. However, despite the apex of awareness the community has reached, the transgender conversation is not about Hollywood, false defenses, wrong bathrooms, and wrestling mats; it is about God's created people. Our fellow creations identifying as transgender, whether they are aware of it or not, are deeply troubled and broken people. A Transgender Remembrance Day poster stated, "34% of trans people attempt suicide. 64% are bullied. 73% of trans people are harassed in public. 21% of trans people avoid going out in public due to fear.” Many have a background of abuse, trauma, mental disorder, loss, family dysfunction, and sin. When reaching out to our fellow creations, Christians should, like Jesus, hate sin and love the sinner. We, like Jesus, should be "moved with compassion" for the troubled, confused, and helpless creations of God (Matt 9:36). We need to walk in Jesus’ example, "when Jesus went out, He saw a great multitude, and He was moved with compassion for them and healed their sick." (Matt 9:14-21) Let us hate the harmful lies of transgender ideology. Let us love them as God loves us. Let us love our struggling fellow creations, speaking the truth of God's saving grace that can set them free.
1. Anderson, Ryan 2018, When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment, New York, N.Y.: Encounter Books, Introduction.
2. Tracy, Marc and Blinder, Alan. 2016. N.C.A.A Moves Championship Event From North Carolina, Citing Anti-Gay-Rights Law. New York Times, September 12, 2016. New York edition.
US Department of Justice, Office of Public Affairs, Civil Rights Division, Justice News 2016. U.S.
3. Department of Justice Education Release Joint Guidance to Help Schools Ensure the Civil Rights of Transgender Students. Press Release Number: 16-568, Friday, May 13, 2016.
4. Babb, Kent, 2017. Transgender Wrestler Mack Beggs Identifies as a Male. He Just Won the Texas State Girls Title. The Washington Post, February 26, 2017. The Texas Tribune.
5. Bostock v. Clayton County, Georga. Certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. Argued October 8, 2019, Decided June 15, 2020, S. Ct. (No. 17-1618).
6. Branch, Alan J, 2019, Affirming God’s Image, Addressing the Transgender Question with Science and Scripture. Bellington, Washington: Lexham Press, Quoted, 1.
7. Hartke, Austen, 2018. “God’s Unclassified World,” Nonbinary and the Beauty of Creation, Source: The Christian Century, April 15, 2018, 27, 28.
8. Roberts, Vaughan, 2016. Transgender: A Talking Points Book. Vaughan Roberts/The Good Book