Gender dysphoria and transgenderism, how the Bible rejects gender fluidity and affirms manhood and womanhood, sin’s corruption, and hope for the gender confused in Christ.
The world is changing fast. A generation ago, who would have thought the church would need to address transgenderism? Not long ago, those who identified as transgender were hidden from most of society and found only in seedier parts of a large city. Not anymore. According to the Williams Institute, as recently as 2011, only 0.3% of the U.S. population or 700,000 was reported to be transgender. Five years later, the transgender population has doubled to 1.4 million people per the New York Times. Though 0.6% of the population doesn’t account for many people overall, the widespread gender confusion is permeating our culture. And it doesn’t just affect adults.
The BBC reported on the growth of transgenderism among youths in the UK. Those under the age of 18 referred to the Gender Identity Development Service grew nearly 10X in 6 years from 2010 to 2016. Add to these referrals the constant onslaught of trans-friendly media to the rest of society, our culture is forgetting what it means to be a man or a woman.
As the world trends from bad to worse in our post-Christian context, Christians should remember the biblical perspective on humanity. We should both aim to understand the claims of transgenderism and how the Bible addresses this issue so that we can better communicate God’s law and grace concerning humanity.
Those under the age of 18 referred to the Gender Identity Development Service grew nearly 10X in 6 years from 2010 to 2016.BBC (2017)
In this post, we want to define transgender and gender dysphoria, showing how the Bible rejects gender fluidity and affirms manhood and womanhood, review how sin has corrupted our humanity, and affirm hope in Christ for those confused about their gender.
Transgenderism & Gender Confusion
The world has very different ideas about sexuality compared to the Bible. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), “transgender is an umbrella term for persons whose gender identity, gender expression or behavior does not conform to that typically associated with the sex to which they were assigned at birth.”
In the recent past, sex and gender were considered synonmous. No longer. Secularists have divided biological sex from gender. In this new system, gender is fluid and not static. This “gender fluidity” suggests we can decide which gender we are regardless of our genitalia. For instance, Facebook now recognizes 70+ genders (and growing) including polygender and asexual. With their logic of ever-expanding gender possibilities, there are an infinite number of genders one could choose.
As Christians, we can affirm some people are confused about their own gender. Since the Fall of Adam affected every area of our being, including our self-awareness, gender dysphoria is an actual condition. According to the Mayo Clinic, gender dysphoria is that “feeling of discomfort or distress…in people whose gender identity differs from their sex assigned at birth or sex-related physical characteristics.”
In other words, a boy who feels uncomfortable being a boy and feels like a girl suffers from gender dysphoria. This doesn’t mean the boy is actually a girl. This gender confusion has affected many people and is an unhealthy trend in our post-Christian context. It doesn’t reflect changing physiological reality. Gender dysphoria is a psychological condition not biological.
God’s Design for the Sexes
The world may not understand what a man or woman is any longer, but God is not silent about gender. God defined two genders at creation. In the first chapter of Genesis, Moses wrote, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:27) God made humanity in his image as a man and woman. The rest of humanity have sprung from the first woman and man as a woman or a man.
Separating biological sex from gender, as transgender activists aim to do, is foreign to Scripture. Instead, the Bible views biological sex and gender as synonymous. Jesus combined the concepts of “male and female” with biological sex “man” and his counterpart “wife” when he spoke in Matthew 19:4-5: “He answered, ‘Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’’?” In the Bible, we don’t see a divergence between biological sex and gender. They are one and the same.
“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”Genesis 1:27 (ESV)
The implication to this is simple: If you are born a biological male with all the associated parts, you are a man. If you are born a biological female with all the associated parts, you are a woman. There is no continuum of genders to choose from. There is no freedom to deny what God imprinted on your DNA. A man is a male and a woman is a female according to Scripture.
Biblical Manhood & Womanhood Movement
The Bible does more than acknowledge a human being’s God-given gender. It also acknowledges masculinity and femininity. Being a man and being a woman are separate spheres that are cherished and honored in both the Old and New Testaments.
Recognizing a need to more fully embrace biblically-based manhood and womanhood, several Evangelical leaders convened in Massachusetts in 1987. What resulted from that meeting was a future Danvers Statement (1988), many articles and books, and an influential organization: The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. The Council’s most recent statement with 24,000+ signers including many prominent Evangelicals is the Nashville Statement (2017). That statement aims to capture the essence of the Bible teaching on the roles of men and women, sexuality, and other related issues.
In addressing the issue of biblical manhood and womanhood, Article 4 of the Nashville Statement states:
“WE AFFIRM that divinely ordained differences between male and female reflect God’s original creation design and are meant for human good and human flourishing. WE DENY that such differences are a result of the Fall or are a tragedy to be overcome.”
Aside from the foundational verses at creation (Genesis 1:26-28), there are several other Scriptures that support the mutually exclusive roles of manhood and womanhood. These include:
- “A woman shall not wear a man’s garment, nor shall a man put on a woman’s cloak, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the LORD your God.” (Deuteronomy 22:5)
- “Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair it is a disgrace for him, but if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For her hair is given to her for a covering.” (1 Corinthians 11:14-15)
- “I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.” (1 Timothy 2:12).
In these verses, we see the two Scriptural categories for genders. God created humanity in the male and the female varieties. The Bible acknowledges that men act in a certain way and women act in a different way because he created the two sexes to function like that.
Until very recently, this division of roles was acceptable in most of society. But in our post-Christian context, we’re seeing more of a breakdown between the roles. For instance, women are competing in traditional men’s sports like football. Men are competing in women’s sports as transgender and beating their female competitors (even secularists have a problem with that). Men dressing like women (and vice versa). Celebrities (and their children) are transitioning to the opposite sex with surgery and hormone replacement therapy (HRT).
Our culture is trending in two directions: in one way the world rejects biblical manhood and womanhood blurring distinctions between femininity and masculinity which is androgeny. In another way, some aim to reject their God-given gender and embrace the opposite gender which is transgenderism. Both concepts are foreign to the biblical gender binary of male and female.
Corruption in Gender: What About Intersex?
Sin has corrupted everything. This latest attempted gender revolution is yet another aspect of the rebellion against divine order that began in Genesis 3. But there are other aspects of how sin has corrupted God’s “very good” creation. (Genesis 1:31).
One of those aspects of corruption relates to our physicality. On rare occasions, some people are born with aspects of both sexes or it’s not clear which sex the person is born with. Previously referred to as ‘hermaphroditism,’ most now refer to this condition as intersex. Intersex people “are born with physical or biological sex characteristics (such as sexual anatomy, reproductive organs, hormonal patterns and/or chromosomal patterns) that do not ﬁt the typical deﬁnitions for male or female bodies.”
(Intersex is) a condition that affects a very few number of people, about 1 in 1000 (0.1%)…Intersex is a very rare condition.WebMD (2019)
Jesus acknowledged the category of intersex when he said, “For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth” (Matthew 19:12). In other words, some people have been born in such a way that their biological sex is not immediately obvious. This is not the same thing as “affirmed gender” in the LGBTQ+ lexicon. Instead, it’s a condition that affects a very few number of people, about 1 in 1000 (0.1%) according to WebMD. Intersex is a very rare condition.
Like every person afflicted with a genetic disorder, intersex people are made in the image of God. They should be loved, affirmed as God’s creature, and helped to embrace their femininity or masculinity whichever becomes more apparent over time.
Application: Hope for the Gender-Confused Person
Transgenderism is not an unforgivable sin. Christ offers complete forgiveness to anyone who comes to him, confessing sin, and turning away from it (1 John 1:9). Transgenderism is one of many sins, all of which are able to be forgiven.
This Scripture is still true today: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15). Jesus died and was resurrected for adulterers, fornicators, liars, thieves, idolaters, and even practicing transgender people. Regardless of your sin background, everyone who calls out to the Lord can be saved (Romans 10:13).
Transgenderism – Our Position – Focus on the Family
Transgender | Culture Shock Series (Video: 1:22:19) – Owen Strachan
Is it OK to be a Christian and be transgendered? (Video: 3:38) – John Piper
Photo by Lena Balk on Unsplash.