Culture,  Ethics

Biblical Thoughts on the Transgender Issue

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Over the last few months I have been following the cultural push for transgender equality. One of the biggest arguments for those arguing for transgender rights is that these individuals have the right to declare what gender they really are on the inside. However, is gender a choice, or is it something inherent to each individual’s identity?

The Bible is clear on the matter. God created them male and female (Gen 1:26-28). God is intimately involved with the creation process of each individual (Ps 139:13-16). Hence, each human being is endowed by God with their gender, and they ought to accept it as part of the Creator-creature relationship.

According to the Bible then, if a child is struggling with their sexual identity, they should not undergo some kind of sexual reassignment surgery. Rather, they should be patient and be allowed to continue to develop.

Interestingly, on June 12th, Paul McHugh posted an article in the Wall Street Journal which agrees with this assessment. Dr. Paul McHugh is former psychiatrist in chief at Johns Hopkins Hospital, and he writes the following:

You won’t hear it from those championing transgender equality, but controlled and follow-up studies reveal fundamental problems with this movement. When children who reported transgender feelings were tracked without medical or surgical treatment at both Vanderbilt University and London’s Portman Clinic, 70%-80% of them spontaneously lost those feelings. Some 25% did have persisting feelings; what differentiates those individuals remains to be discerned.

Clearly part of the growing up process involves going through phases. Human beings have recognized this for years. McHugh went on to describe the effects of sex reassignment surgery:

We at Johns Hopkins University—which in the 1960s was the first American medical center to venture into “sex-reassignment surgery”—launched a study in the 1970s comparing the outcomes of transgendered people who had the surgery with the outcomes of those who did not. Most of the surgically treated patients described themselves as “satisfied” by the results, but their subsequent psycho-social adjustments were no better than those who didn’t have the surgery. And so at Hopkins we stopped doing sex-reassignment surgery, since producing a “satisfied” but still troubled patient seemed an inadequate reason for surgically amputating normal organs.

This is important to realize. Even the surgery itself did nothing to help the long-term emotional welfare of the individual. The physical makeup of the individual is not the issue at stake. Those who read the Bible should understand this.

On June 16th, Wretched Radio looked at this article and made an apt comparison to Anorexia. Anorexia nervosa is defined by Mayo Clinic as follows:

Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder that causes people to obsess about their weight and the food they eat. People with anorexia nervosa attempt to maintain a weight that’s far below normal for their age and height. To prevent weight gain or to continue losing weight, people with anorexia nervosa may starve themselves or exercise excessively.

Anorexia (an-oh-REK-see-uh) nervosa isn’t really about food. It’s an unhealthy way to try to cope with emotional problems. When you have anorexia nervosa, you often equate thinness with self-worth.

Is the solution to Anorexia surgery? Should individuals who struggle with anorexia have their bodies conformed to their faulty mental imagination? Or, should an attempt be made to help these individuals think in terms of reality? Currently, the medical consensus is that anorexia should be treated as a mental condition and attempts should be made to help an individual understand the reality of the situation rather than allowing them to engage in something that is quite harmful to them.

The transgender issue is quite similar. Someone who struggles mentally with what does not match with reality should not be encouraged to attempt to conform reality with their faulty mental picture. This is quite detrimental long-term for individuals. Even McHugh’s article stated that individuals who underwent surgery were helped initially, but long-term continued to suffer.

Why, as Christians, would we want to encourage a potential solution which is actually no solution at all?

photo credit: crunklygill via photopin cc

Paul McHugh, “Transgender Surgery Isn’t the Solution,” Wall Street Journal http://online.wsj.com/articles/paul-mchugh-transgender-surgery-isnt-the-solution-1402615120

Peter serves at Shepherd's Theological Seminary in Cary, NC as the professor of Old Testament and Biblical Languages. He loves studying the Bible and helping others understand it. He also runs the Bible Sojourner podcast.

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