For Christmas I got a copy of Andrew T. Walker’s book God and the Transgender Debate. Now I love to read, and I could burn through it in a couple of days if I wanted to, but I really want to engage with this book on a critical level and so I have been forcing myself to take it slow. After a week I’m still in the Forward (which tells you just how slowly I’m taking this). The Forward here is written by Dr. Albert Mohler, Jr., and how he frames the “transgender debate” is something I feel the need to respond to. To Dr. Mohler, the issues raised by the transgender “revolution” are “comparable to the sort of theological challenges posed by the Trinitarian and Christological controversies of the early church, the Pelagian controversy faced by Augustine, or even the theological challenges faced by the Reformes themselves.” He goes on to observe that “in each of these controversies, the true church understood that it could not embrace any theological conviction which might undermine the central truths of the gospel.” I haven’t even got into Walker’s book as a whole yet but that right there is a problem.
When you frame the narrative here in the manner that Dr. Mohler has chosen to do so the end result is determined well before the debate even begins. The only conclusion you’re allowed to come to is the status quo. Anyone who disagrees with that is not part of the “true church”. That also means that as a good Christian you can’t take trans people at face value. Their views are in error and they have to be shown as much. The problem here is further illustrated by Dr. Mohler’s view that “the reasons why Christians must confront the transgender revolution and why we must faithfully preach the gospel to transgender persons are because we love God and we love our neighbor.” The only love shown by framing the “debate” in this way is for Christians made uncomfortable by a perceived threat to the status quo.
What would happen instead if Christians saw trans people not as a threat but as simply people to listen to and to love? The questions involved in this “debate” are ones that I have prayerfully engaged with at length over the last year and what I have found is that they really come down to two issues. First of all, what are trans people saying? The heart of what we are saying is that biological sex and gender are not the same thing. They are unique and can be the same or separate depending on the person involved. The second point of contention, then, is whether or not that reality fits with what the Bible says. Conservatives love to quote Genesis 1 as evidence that we are created biologically male and female and that’s the end of the story. In exploring the text I have found that such an interpretation is too narrow for what is actually presented there. It overlooks deeper aspects of the text in order to (surprise, surprise) shore up the status quo and feeds the perception that trans people have a problem that needs to be fixed.
There is room for trans people within the Christian worldview. This worldview is, ultimately, the main casualty when as Christians we frame this “debate” as Dr. Mohler does. If you can set aside your views for even a moment on whether people should identify as trans or not you find that these people are who they are for a reason. What finally opened my eyes to see trans people as we are was understanding that every outward biological indicator of gender can be altered. This is a reality that exists whether conservative Christians think it should or not and if the best response you have to it is “Well, it can’t exist within our worldview,” then your worldview has a major flaw within it. The cost of viewing trans people as a threat and not as people to get to know and to love and to listen to is simply too high.
Trans people exist. We are not going away. We’re not a threat, either. We just want to be loved and accepted for who we are.