Kings Church: Transgender and Intersex

A few days ago, I began scouring the Internet for Christian resources on transgender issues. And most of the material I found was pretty useless. The church just hasn’t given this subject much thought, and I could find very little that seemed to actually be based on the Bible. That is, even Christians are addressing the question in very secular, worldly, political terms rather than in pastorally sensitive terms shaped by Jesus and scripture.

By a fortunate coincidence, reader Christopher has pointed me to this video, which I find to be excellent. I’m still thinking through the issues, but the speaker, Andrew Wilson, at least gives us something worth thinking about.

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About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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17 Responses to Kings Church: Transgender and Intersex

  1. Christopher says:

    Thanks for making a post around this, Jay. Actually, kind of stumbled upon it myself. An old friend and mentor recommended I read some things by Brian McLaren, who reminded me of Rob Bell, which lead me to video of a short debate on gay marriage between Bell and Wilson. The latter struck me his respectfulness and clear reasoning, so I started seeing what I could find written or spoken by him. So far, I very much like what I see.

  2. Gary says:

    It is important to remember that there is so much that we don’t know about this subject. With one or two persons per hundred who have physical intersex conditions most of our churches have such members in them. Their condition is likely invisible to others but even if it wasn’t we would respect the privacy of the individual and their family to make whatever decisions they think best. Individuals who are transgendered are no different. The origin of their ambiguous sexual identity is also physical as it originates in the brain. Today’s New York Times has a helpful article entitled “A Deeper Understanding of Gender.” In it the author, Jane E. Brody, writes “if the fetus is male, testosterone normally programs both the genitalia and the brain to develop as male. But autopsies of a small number of male-to-female transgender people found that two important areas of the brain had a typical female pattern, suggesting an alteration in the brain’s sexual differentiation.”

    There are no easy answers for transgendered persons. What “works” for one might not for another. The best we can do as Christians is to consistently offer unconditional love and acceptance and leave any judgemental attitudes we may have within our own therapy sessions.

  3. Dustin says:

    Here are the intersex statistics from Brown University researcher Anne Fausto-Sterling, a well-known researcher:
    http://www.isna.org/faq/frequency

    As Gary mentioned, they are more frequent than anyone cares to admit. There are 17 different intersex conditions mentioned in the study.

  4. Christopher says:

    Jay, another great sermon by Andrew I thought you might like:
    http://www.kings.church/media.php

  5. Dwight says:

    Dustin, Anne’s assessment is not very good and is very broad.
    The 17 intersex conditions aren’t really intersex at all.
    Take congenital adrenal hypoplasia is a condition where the glands cause an abnormal boost of one hormone or the other, which can be very slight or very profound. Only the very profound will cause changes to the extent where physical changes will show up and need surgery or medicine. But even so according to NORD (rare diseases) “The most common form of CAH, 21 hydroxylase deficiency, affects approximately 1:10,000 to 1:15,000 people in the United States and Europe. Among the Yupik Eskimos, the occurrence of the salt-wasting form of this disorder may be as high as 1 in 282 individuals.” while the non-classical might affect smaller groups more often they are much less severe resulting in a higher hormone level than normal.
    Most intersex conditions are rare in most populations, unless you have like the eskimos or some Jewish groups where intermarrying has caused some genes to propagate in the dense groups.

    But transgender is not really intersex, as transgender is where one person who believes, despite all evidence to their biological and medical physicality, they are of the other gender and thus wish to become the other gender. And even this is unclear. Bruce Jenner is considered transgender, despite the fact he is taking female hormones and yet still maintains his male genitals. Once off of the female hormones, he will start reverting back to full on male.

  6. Dwight says:

    It is amazing how when you can re-label or re-name something that might seem objectionable, how that thing can suddenly become palatable and even desirable. Patagonian toothfish wasn’t a big seller, until it was renamed a Chilean Sea Bass. IT used to be that pure breeds were the standard for dogs, that is until someone combined the name of two pure breeds into one name as in Labradoodle or Chiweenie and suddenly they are all the rage and no longer seen as just mutts.

    Now what used to be called transsexuals is now called transgender and now they are some how linked with those people that are medically intersex, which is even an incredibly small part of the population. But as social pushes go, now the transgender is all the rage.
    This despite the fact that as Mayo Clinic has found out that in which those people who undergo the transgender assingnments are not any happier after than when they were before and many feel regret in their change, that is if they truly underwent the whole change, which many don’t.
    The Mayo Clinic upon this realization has decided to treat the psychological problems of the person, instead of just changing the dressings through costly surgeries.

  7. Jeff Richardson says:

    I might need to go back and listen again. As for the eunuch’s that where made at birth, God did not make them that way. They were born that way, which would be a biological oddity. Eunuchs made by birth or man’s hands, the gender doesn’t change. Jesus was speaking to the fact, that they wouldn’t seek a wife, that biological urge won’t be present. They would have to live a life of celibacy. The Intersex, another oddity. I’ve heard that even those tend to lean towards a particular sex, in regards to what’s there. As for the transgender, I’m sure there are children who struggle with this. The question to me is, why? I think most would agree that we have to teach our little boy’s to be young men, our little girls to be young woman. If a parent gives a child the option of deciding for themselves or if the parent treats a child as the opposite sex, sure they will grow up with identity problems. The child will need professional help. But we have to be real, and understand that a man cannot transform into a woman. Bruce Jenner, he says he identifies as a woman, he changed his name, dresses like a woman. Even if he has the surgery, takes the hormone therapy what would he be? He would still be a man, because biology can’t be changed. Apparently he doesn’t want to live in reality.

  8. Gary says:

    Jay I made a second comment this afternoon that has disappeared. Would you check to see if it’s in the filter? Thanks.

  9. Alabama John says:

    There have always been those that were born of a mixed up sex. In Native Americans they were looked on as special and even had a different clothing they wore. Their duties in the Tribe were different too. This is nothing new.

    Interesting that when homosexuals were exempted from the draft there were many more.

  10. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Gary,

    I have no idea what happened to your comment. It’s not in the spam filter or anywhere else I have access to.

  11. Dustin says:

    Dwight,

    There is plenty of research that disagrees with your statements. As the previous link to research explained, the most common number found is that 1 out of 100 are born with disorders of sex development(DSD).

    Citations:
    Hughes, I. A., Houk, C., Ahmed, S. F. & Lee, P. A. Consensus statement on management of intersex disorders. J. Pediatr. Urol. 2, 148–162 (2006).

    Link:http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jpurol.2006.03.004

    Lux, A., Kropf, S., Kleinemeier, E., Jurgensen, M. & Thyen, U. Clinical evaluation study of the German network of disorders of sex development (DSD)/intersexuality: study design, description of the study population, and data quality. BMC Public Health 9, 110 (2009).

    Links: http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/1471-2458-9-110

  12. Alabama John says:

    making Eunuchs bindingly at birth or later surgically was done to male children so you would feel safe with them helping the women. Some men chose that procedure for religious reasons to show they had their mind on other more important dedicated things than the women.

    That also is an old worldwide, not just the Israelite or Jewish practice with different names for it in animals, like a eunuch in horses is called a gelding.

    Makes them easier to work with as their mind is focused on the work at hand and not on looking at and having their mind on the females like a self groomed, snorting, squeeling and prancing about stud does.

    That practice worked for humans as well as animals!

  13. Dwight says:

    Dustin, this might be technically true if you include the most benign or slight conditions, “the most common number found is that 1 out of 100 are born with disorders of sex development(DSD)”, but not true if you look at people that have conditions that are life altering or noticeable. I can argue that everyone is born with a defect and this is true, but not all defects make life difficult or change a person in any meaningful way. The information I posted did include 1 in 66 people, but this condition might cause a woman to be a little more hairy than normal or a man to have softened features, but this wouldn’t change who they are and what they look like or make them not masculine or feminine. They aren’t what would be called profound.
    Only a rare percentage of people are born with hormones that are on the edge of either male or female with parts to match, as one hormone is usually predominant.

    But when we get to the majority of transgender or transsexuals, the above rarely applies.
    The majority of transgender people don’t change due to a hormonal imbalance or a medical condition, but due to feelings. They feel like they should be a woman, and a large portion of these “transsexuals” don’t actually convert totally one way or the other. Bruce is an example of a man wanting to be a woman, somewhat. He wants to look and feel like a woman, but still have the male parts.

    The study that Gary cites doesn’t explain cause and effect, meaning that while it might be true that a “small number of male-to-female” brains might have a “typical female pattern” what hasn’t been proved is if they had been like this previous to their change over, after all they are taking strong levels of female hormones to force the body to physically change. Note: the body is changing physically due to the hormones they are taking.

  14. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Dwight,

    I’m lost. Why does it matter what percentage of people have one of these conditions in terms of how we treat such people? As I heard the sermon, our first reaction must be one of love. And love would compel us to want to hear from them. How do I know how to love you if I won’t listen to you? I just don’t see the relevance of percentages — unless we’re talking about bathrooms and legislation. I mean, politically, I suppose the likelihood of this being a real issue in my high school impacts whether it makes sense to have unisex bathrooms. But in terms of how a church or Christian treats someone dealing with these sorts of issues, the odds really seem beside the point.

    I don’t know the right percentage, but I’ve been around long enough to know that most Americans are going to run into people who struggle in this area. And that makes it worth talking about. I mean, what happens in your church when a family has a child who believe he or she was born the wrong gender? How do you counsel such a person? What does the Bible say?

    The theologians are fond of pointing out the “binaries” in Gen 1 — light/darkness, day/night, evening/morning, male/female — and that’s very true. But does that mean we must counsel all of our members that they must live based on their chromosomes even when their hormones or other features don’t fit X/X or X/Y? Well, the Matt 19 argument suggests that (1) God did indeed create with an intended binary result and (2) God loves eunuchs, too — even though they don’t fit Gen 1:26-28. They can’t be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. Under Moses, they couldn’t even enter the Temple for that reason. Now God allows eunuchs into his Kingdom!

    (Isa. 56:3-5 ESV) 3 Let not the foreigner who has joined himself to the LORD say, “The LORD will surely separate me from his people”; and let not the eunuch say, “Behold, I am a dry tree.” 4 For thus says the LORD: “To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose the things that please me and hold fast my covenant, 5 I will give in my house and within my walls a monument and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off.

    So the Kingdom is open to those who are outside of God’s intended binary system — male/female who are fruitful and multiply.

    That hardly answers all the hard questions, but it’s a place to start from.

  15. Christopher says:

    Jay, I suspect Dwight is countering the statistics-as-an-explanation-for-transgenderism argument you can sense people Gary wanting to make. Perhaps, in some cases, genetic anomalies do engender transgenderism, but certainly not all or even most. And, as I recall, there were prohibitions against “cross dressing” in the OT – something Andrew did not take stock of.

  16. Monty says:

    Forty years ago when I was in High school it was a rare thing in my town of 100,000 to run across someone who was butch or gay that couldn’t be hidden. It was just there and you knew it. It was even more rare to run across someone who crossed dress(at least publicly). I was 18 or 19 the first time I remember asking a woman(I thought)sitting two seats down if I could have the seat next to her as another friend of mine had showed up. When I looked into her(his) face I was floored. Never seen that before. I was 19 at the time and not sheltered. The sexual identity thing is way more prevalent today than used to be. It seems to be almost faddish for lack of a better word. Definitely people are more mixed up than years ago. It would be interesting to understand the why.

    I did have a cousin who was 3 years older than me who was very Tomboyish who even got into fights with guys her age and “whooped” them. Turns out she may have been more boy than girl but was decided at birth it would be called a girl. She eventually had her breasts removed and I’m not sure what else was done but has lived as a man the past 35 years and is married to the same person she(he) first fell in love with in high school. It was seen as a lesbian thing then. I feel quite certain she(he) never felt anything like a girl growing up as she(he) was always was attracted to girls.

    It would be interesting how an untrained(in that area) preacher or eldership would counsel a family with a child that was experiencing something similar? One thing for sure, they would need lots of love and support from the congregation. Not sure we’re there yet.

  17. Dwight says:

    My point has nothing to do with statistics in reality, but rather in reality. There is a tendency to want to make the group of intersex larger than it really is. Some of the abnormalties will cause a shift in hormones, but some are very slight and cannot be differentiated from other shifts, lets say pregnancy or even exercise, except for genetic testing, which detects the genes.
    Almost everybody has defective genes due to a broad gene pool. Some are profound and others aren’t.
    Christopher I think is getting my point. Genetic differences might account for what we call intersex, but intersex doesn’t translate to transgender, which means from one gender to another, as intersex usually has one prevalent gender according to dominant hormones.

    Technically all humans are “intersex” in that males produce certain amounts of female hormones and females produce certain amounts of male hormones and some people produce more than others. And there are many men who produce more female hormones than “normal”, but who are not homosexual and do not want to be a woman. The term intersex used to be mainly aimed at people who were physically or profoundly different due to profound hormone changes from birth (hermaphrodite), but now it has been leveraged by the transgender movement as being a reason for their wanting to change genders, while there is really a very slight correlation between transgender and intersex. Intersex, over all don’t want to change genders, but rather be the gender that their natural hormone output is directing them to be.

    The reason there is such a thing as LGBT is to inflate the sexual orientation pool for maximum effect, even though most homosexuals don’t really recognize the bi-sexual, because they switch back and forth by choice among genders, which most homosexuals claim cannot be done. And many transsexuals claim they are not homosexuals, but rather just born in the wrong body. The bigger you can make the pool, the less abnormal it seems to be.

    Jay, I agree that we must act towards others with love. But I refuse to be swayed by numbers, over reality and scriptures. All are deserving of God’s grace and mercy. God wasn’t a God of percentages, but of people who desired Him.

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