In recent days and weeks, the moral revolution has found itself a new hero to give transgenderism a face. Bruce “Caitlyn” Jenner, a former Olympic gold medalist and reality TV star, underwent a sex-change operation to become a woman.
The mainstream media cannot say enough about Jenner’s “bravery” in undergoing the transformation. He was even given the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage. Society expects everyone to join in the celebration. So how should we, as Christians, think Biblically about these issues?
The Origin of Gender
That isn’t just a statement about Adam and Eve’s anatomy. It’s deeper and more profound than that. He created Adam and Eve differently – Adam from the dust of the earth, and Eve from a rib of Adam’s side. This gender distinction wasn’t an accident or an afterthought. It was deliberate and purposeful on God’s part. He made men and women different.
Gender is defined by that creative act of God.
We usually gauge a person’s gender by their physical appearance. But physical appearance isn’t what makes a man a man or a woman a woman.
The anatomical differences between men and women are even more clear. But those aren’t what defines gender either.
The anatomical differences between men and women happen because God creates people as male or female.
Ponder that for a moment. It’s a point the Bible makes very clearly, and which Jesus reiterates in the New Testament. It’s key to our Christian understanding of human sexuality. It means the nature of gender goes much deeper than one’s anatomical organs.
Sex Change or Self-Mutilation
If gender is not rooted in anatomy, then surgery to change that anatomy won’t change a person’s gender. It won’t turn a man into a woman; it’ll turn a man into a man who looks like a woman. It’s less a “sex change” and more voluntary mutilation.
Psychologists recognize something similar called body integrity identity disorder (BIID). Some people strongly believe that one of their perfectly good limbs “doesn’t belong to them,” and want to have it amputated. The limb doesn’t line up with what they believe their “ideal self” to be. Researchers refer to these people as transabled.
The transabled have a faulty perception of reality. That’s why it’s classified as a “disorder.” Their problem isn’t that they have a healthy body. It’s that they believe they shouldn’t. We need to treat the psychological problem, helping them to see reality as it is, rather than cutting off a leg to make their disordered perception of the world true.
Likewise, the transgendered have a faulty perception of reality (also called gender dysphoria). The problem isn’t that they have a male body. It’s that they believe they are female. We ought to treat that psychological problem.
A Christian Take on Transgenderism
Dr. Paul McHugh, former psychiatrist-in-chief at Johns Hopkins, wrote an article back in 2004 explaining why (on psychiatric grounds) the hospital stopped performing gender-reassignment surgeries. He and his team studied men who had undergone the surgeries, to see if their general psychological problems had been resolved. They had not. Their problems with work, emotions, and relationships continued much the same as before.
Dr. Hugh writes:
We saw the results as demonstrating that just as these men enjoyed cross-dressing as women before the operation so they enjoyed cross-living after it. But they were no better in their psychological integration or any easier to live with. With these facts in hand I concluded that Hopkins was fundamentally cooperating with a mental illness. We psychiatrists, I thought, would do better to concentrate on trying to fix their minds and not their genitalia.
- The Bible tells us that gender dysphoria is a faulty perception of reality. God created us male and female; that isn’t something we can change with a scalpel.
- Gender dysphoria is a psychological disorder, not a physical disorder. Sex-change surgery only perpetuates the delusion. It doesn’t actually fix the root cause or even the symptoms.
As Christians, we have to call people to face reality. Self-mutilation won’t help them find the peace and happiness they’re looking for. They need Christ, and in some cases extensive therapy.
We want to see transgendered people flourish and find real happiness. So when we see them destroying themselves, how could a caring person respond any differently?