The cover of the March 2017 edition of TIME magazine reads, “Beyond he or she – How a new generation is redefining the meaning of gender.”
The TIME article says,
“A growing number of young people are moving beyond the idea that we live in a world where sexuality and gender come in only two forms.”
With Bruce Jenner famously having surgery to become Caitlyn Jenner, the notion and novelty of transgender or gender fluidity has gained much more traction.
What is transgender?
Generally, when a child is born we say, “It’s a boy!” or “It’s a girl!” We have traditionally assigned someone’s gender according to biology – according to their chromosomes and anatomy.
However, for some people, their sense of gender – their inner feelings of being male or female – do not always match their assigned, biological gender. Thus, one may be born with male anatomy, but feel female “inside”.
The TIME article concludes with the quote:
“I don’t understand why people are so attached to labels like female and male… I’d rather be who I am and be authentically me than try to fit into one of those crappy little boxes. I have a great box that I have made for myself.”
The big virtue of our age is authenticity. You need to be true to yourself, whoever you may think you are.
What does the Bible say about all of this?
The great news is that God’s Word gives us answers and hope.
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1)
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)
The story of the Bible begins at creation. The universe and ourselves are not random, by chance, or evolved from slime, but created by a loving God. God creates human beings as men or women. Being human and flourishing as a human, is knowing and embracing who God created us to be: male or female.
Imagine a fish decides that he is frustrated by being a fish and, besides, he feels he is a lion trapped in a fish’s body. He jumps out of the river onto the sandy bank. He soon discovers that actually being a fish and living like a fish was actually the best thing for him. God’s order is always best.
God creates human beings as male or female. Deuteronomy 22:5 therefore says,
“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.”
We are to embrace who God created us to be, not try to be who we think we want to be.
The fish may like to believe it’s a lion, but it’s not, it’s a fish.
Many people think that their true selves are different to their bodies or biological gender. They suppose that their body can be one thing and their true selves can be another; and they somehow have to escape their bodies to be who they really are.
The Bible, however, tells us that God created our entire person, body included. We are our bodies. Our body, soul and mind is integral to who we are. Don’t think you need to escape your body or surgically change your body to be what God wants you to be. God created you mind, soul and body.
Only two genders
The fact that humans have male or female body parts is not an accident. The notion of male and female and the notion of marriage between one man and one woman, is not a man-made tradition; it’s fundamental to who we are as human beings. Intrinsic to our human well-being is accepting the body and the gender a loving God has given us.
This all sounds very idealistic. Why then are we and the world so confused?
2. The Fall
What we call the “Fall” happened. The third chapter of the Bible tells us that humans rebelled against God; the creature defied the Creator. Human beings thought they knew better than God. Adam and Eve believed they could decide for themselves what was right and wrong. They believed in the autonomy of the individual and told God to get lost.
Because of this human rebellion, we live in a fallen, broken and disfigured world where human beings keep on rebelling against God. We can see the evidence of this not only in the world, but also in our own lives. Human independence of God does not bring freedom and happiness, but sadness, pain and frustration.
We are broken, we don’t live up to our own standards, we do what we know is wrong, we are fallen, scarred, sinners. We struggle with all kinds of things. Our minds, bodies and wills are fallen.
The human condition
The Apostle Paul explains this in Romans 1:
v24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonouring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator… (Romans 1:24-25)
We don’t honour God, we honour ourselves and created things. As judgement, God gives us what our foolish hearts want. We are our own worst enemies.
What’s the result of all this rebellion?
Just look at the world around us.
Or read Romans 1:29-31,
v29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.
Not honouring God as God, but wanting to be our own masters, leads to all kind of bad things and sin.
Contrary to popular opinion, the Bible’s not obsessed with sexual sin, but sexual sin is an obvious sin. Our rebellion against God our Creator is seen when we refuse to go along with the way he made the world and ourselves, as Romans 1:26-27 indicates:
v26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonourable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another…. (Romans 1:26-27)
The way God created the world or “nature” will tell you that a male human is designed to have sexual union with a female human and vice versa. We are perfectly designed for that. Going against that order with, for example, homosexual practise or bestiality etc., demonstrates rebellion against God and leads to all kinds of medical and other issues.
We all rebel against God in all kinds of ways, but sexual rebellion is an obvious rebellion.
When we think about people who identify themselves as Transgender, we remember that we live in a broken world and people struggle with identity, gender and sexuality.
One person may struggle with same-sex attraction, another with thinking they’re another gender, another with pornography, another with pride.
Just because we have those feelings, struggles and desires, does not make them right. We remember that we are profoundly broken because of the Fall.
A Polish man was imprisoned for two years for defacing a masterpiece in London’s Tate Modern gallery. The piece was Rothko’s “Black on Maroon” that was valued between 5 and 9 million pounds. The polish gentleman graffitied his name over the painting, explaining that “Everything is art”, including (presumably) his graffiti on the painting.
This is what the Fall has done. It has defaced God’s masterpieces.
The good news of the Bible is that God is restoring and rescuing his masterpieces.
This rescue and restoration centers around Jesus being born as a human being. He was born and raised as a man – the perfect human being. Instead of doing what he thought was right, he always sought to do the will of God the Father. Jesus obeyed God, even to the point of death. He went to the cross for our rebellion, not his.
Jesus experienced the judgement of God for our sin and brokenness in our place, so we may be forgiven, rescued and restored.
Jesus rose from the dead in a real body demonstrating that his death was accepted by God to pay the price for our sin. One day, God is going to renew the entire universe to be what God intended it to be. On that day, God will remove all brokenness, fallenness and rebellion.
Until that time, we still live in this disordered world.
When we put our faith in Jesus, God forgives us of our rebellion and sin. God starts the process of restoring us. Yet we know we will only be fully restored in the renewed world to come.
Until that time we, even as Christians, struggle with all kinds of wrong desires. We are called to fight sin, put off the old self and do that which honours God. We won’t be sinless, but we will sin less.
Whatever particular temptation, you may struggle with: homosexuality, transgender, pornography, lust, pride, or greed, we are called to turn from it and to trust Jesus as Saviour, and to keep turning and trusting.
Responding as a church
We welcome everyone, whatever temptation or sin they struggle with.
We love people enough to tell them what sin is.
We love people enough that we want them to be part of God’s Kingdom.
We love people enough to tell them that any unrepentant sin will keep them out of God’s Kingdom.
We love transgender people enough to tell them that they are God’s defaced masterpieces, just like us, whom God wants to restore through faith in Jesus.
* This article is heavily reliant on the excellent booklet, Transgender, by Vaughan Roberts.