It has been a while since I published my book “The Gay Conundrum”. It has been updated more than once in the light of ongoing developments, and these continue to come to light, such that there can be no final word on the matter. In the meantime society has become more accepting of same sex relationships (including same sex marriage being enshrined in law) and this has filtered down to the church, realizing the need to be more inclusive and less discriminatory toward those with same sex orientation.
I used the word “conundrum” advisedly, not wanting to offend gay or transgender folk and conscious this word does not apply to them personally but rather to the dilemma some Christians (and I included myself here) operating in a church context face when on one hand they seek to welcome gay and transgender folk unreservedly and on the other their belief anything other than sex between opposite sex married couples is sinful or at least is not what God intended. I have no intention to elaborate on the matter of gay sex given I have already done so at length and besides the subject of this post is to do with transgenderism rather than homosexuality. While the Bible says little about homosexuality (contrary to what some think), it says even less concerning those identifying as transgender. Strangely enough (or maybe not) while I try not to cherry pick or take out of context Bible texts to back up my views, if I were to do so I would start at the very beginning, i.e. in Genesis.
Regarding my belief that marriage should be the only context for sexual activity, and this is intended as being between one man and one woman for life, I would cite: “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh” (2:24). Regarding my belief there should only ever be two gender identities, I would cite: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them” (1:27). While in recent years there has been much discussion on the subject of homosexuality, in even more recent days it is has also been the case with transgenderism.
I will begin by saying, while I think I understand people who are attracted to members of their own sex (a lot more now than used to be the case), I am less sure when it comes to those people who wish to change the sexual identity they started life with. Yet the reality is, just as in recent years I have come across a lot more openly gay folk than in my early years, partly as a result of society becoming more, although not entirely, accepting of homosexual and lesbian relationships, I am beginning to see the same trend when it comes to people wanting to change their gender identity. I preface my further discussion by wanting to pay the same respect and consideration to transgender as gay folk, for after all the move toward full LBGT equality embraces both. The “conundrum” the church faces with transgender folk is similar to that faced with gay folk. I recognize the need to understand more and to judge less; to be more accepting and yet not to compromise, but it would be foolish to ignore the way our culture is going, for it will have ramifications.
It is impossible nowadays to escape news with a transgender element. There is news regarding the US Olympic gold medal winning decathlete Bruce Jenner who became Caitlyn Jenner. There are stories of pressure being put on healthcare institutions in the US being forced to offer sex change therapy to qualify for healthcare funding and of institutions being forced to allow people to use the bathroom facilities that align closest to the gender that best identify with the users. There is a recent case in the US of a successful court case when a transgender person successfully sued for not being addressed in the “correct” way. In the UK, we learn of schools inviting children as young as 5 to state the gender they prefer and of stores offering children’s toys and clothes making what they offer gender neutral. While the devil is in the detail and this needs to be checked out, much of this sits uncomfortably with those who hold the simple, traditional view that someone is either male or female and there is nothing else in-between. While there is no doubt that some are uncomfortable with the gender of their birth, should this be ground to change later (and I need to investigate further)?
In many ways this is a “stake in the ground” post. Because I love God, I need to love my homosexual and transgender neighbor as well, and that includes coming to a better understanding. But because I fear God, I also need to act in a way that right before God!