Apologetics & Outreach Bible & Theology

What Does The Bible Say About Transgenderism / Gender Dysphoria / Gender Identity Disorder

June 23, 2015

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What Does The Bible Say About Transgenderism / Gender Dysphoria / Gender Identity Disorder

Our culture is changing so rapidly in regards to human sexuality that it takes your breath away. A decade ago, Bruce Jenner’s transgender transformation would not have been celebrated on the cover of Vanity Fair. A decade ago, the state of California would not have passed a law allowing transgender students to enter any restroom or locker room they choose. A decade ago, a transgendered man would never have been glorified by being allowed to sing the national anthem at a professional sporting event. Yes, the LGBT agenda has advanced at a shocking rate.

As we respond to the world’s embrace of gender identity disorder, Christians must offer informed, educated answers to our confused world – not ignorant, knee-jerk rants. When people resort to insensitive, clumsy name-calling (“You fags!” “You’re disgusting!”), their words and attitudes become every bit as sinful as the homosexuality or transgenderism they are attempting to criticize.

If we want the sinner to stop sinning, we need to study sin. We need to know what transgenderism is (and what it isn’t). We need to know what it means to be made in the image of God. We need to know what true repentance looks like for the transgendered individual. And we need to know how Christ treated sinners.

Who Do You Think You Are?

The core problem of the LGBT agenda is the issue of identity. We all want to be noticed, accepted, and approved of by our peers. Like sheep without a shepherd, we try to fulfill this desire in different ways. True worth, however, is found in being who God made us to be (Ecc. 12:13; Eph. 2:10). Jesus is the answer to our search for meaning. Our identity is found in Christ. We are not defined by our socio-economic status, by our race, or by our sexual urges. We are called to be Christians.

Understanding Gender Identity Disorder

Gender Identity Disorder is the diagnosis given to people who feel significant discontentment (dysphoria) with the biological sex they were assigned at birth. While gender identity disorder is similar to homosexuality (“transgender” is the “T” in “LGBT” references), they are different issues. While homosexuality is the attraction to the same sex, gender identity disorder is the identification with the opposite sex. Worthy of note, gender identity disorder is more prevalent in men than in women (Clinton, p. 231). Generally speaking, homosexuals do not have gender identity disorder (p. 233), and many who struggle with gender identity disorder do not necessarily struggle with homosexual attraction (WebMD). In both cases, however, homosexual and gender identity disordered behavior typically manifest themselves in emotionally and spiritually wounded men (James, p. 118).

“Trans” in “transgender” is merely a political prefix, not an actual fact. It implies that it is possible to literally completely change from one gender to another. Just because one is confused about their gender does not mean they can ever stop being biologically male or female. Only God can assign gender. While transgendered people feel like the opposite sex – and may succeed in looking like the opposite sex physically – they will never fully become the opposite gender biologically or spiritually.

Christians should be reminded that those who suffer from this disorder are very confused and often discouraged. They often suffer social rejection on a daily basis, opening the door to other problems like substance abuse, depression, and thoughts of suicide. It is common for those who struggle with gender identity disorder to “feel debilitating shame” because of their strong perception that they are very “different” and don’t fit in with their peers (Clinton, p. 234). As a result, they keep their feelings secret and attempt to hide from the rest of the world. There is a danger that they will meet someone who will affirm their gender confusion and “love” them by “accepting” and “embracing” sinful behavior.

Sin Comes In Different Flavors, But They All Have The Same Nutritional Value

No one is perfect. While I personally may not be tempted to act on feelings of gender confusion, I am tempted to sin in other ways. While someone else may struggle with transgender urges, they may not struggle with the same weaknesses with which I struggle. We all fall short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23). And all sin – regardless of whether it is the “transgender” variety or the “little white lie” variety – will produce spiritual death (Rom. 6:23; Isa. 59:2; Jas. 1:15). As far as sin goes, it doesn’t matter how big or ugly it is; even the smallest of sins will keep us out of the kingdom of God (cf. Jas. 2:10).

In order to be saved, we must repent (more on that below). Ezekiel said it (Ezek. 18:30); John the Baptizer said it (Matt. 3:2); Jesus said it (Mark 1:15; Luke 13:5); Peter said it (Acts 2:38; 3:19; 8:22); Paul said it (Acts 17:30). While we are broken and imperfect people, we must renounce our sinful imperfections. And what is remarkable is that Christ doesn’t call us to perfection (though we shouldn’t stop trying); He just calls us to “walk in the light” (1 John 1:7).

In the early days of Christianity, there were former sinners at the church in Corinth (including adulterers and homosexuals), but they repented and made sin a foreign element in their lives. “Such were some of you” (1 Cor. 6:11) will always be the hope-filled call to holiness to everyone who struggles with homosexuality, gender identity disorder, and everyone else who struggles with sin. Lifelong repentance is at the core of Christian discipleship.

God Made Us In His Image

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. […] So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created Him; male and female He created them. (Gen. 1:26-27, ESV)

When God created man, gender was the basis for how mankind would bear the image of God. He purposefully made us how we are (Psa. 139; 13-16), and the body parts which signify our gender are immediately evident.

The LGBT agenda has cheapened the concept of identity by reducing it to mere sexuality. Sexuality is not an identity; it is simply a behavioral term that describes the ability to act sexually (James 71). This means that neither homosexuality nor heterosexuality are identities. Being “transgendered” is not an identity. They are merely terms to describe what a person feels or chooses to do in regards to their sexual capabilities.

What we feel does not determine our identity. When we buy into the lie that says that feelings justify behavior, we have forgotten what it means to be “made in the image of God.” Transgenderism is, at its core, a confusion of spiritual gender identity. While some take the radical step of surgical sex reassignment (transsexual) or merely cross-dress (transvestite), it is impossible to totally become the opposite gender – physically or spiritually. Biologically, we will always be the sex we were given at birth, and spiritually, we will always be the gender God has chosen us to be. God gave sex-assigned body parts to mankind so men and women would know what gender they are. Yes, we are more than body parts, but certainly not less.

As God made man in His image, He made them male and female (Gen. 1:26-27). Men and women can have the assurance of their gender from the moment they are born. God is truth and has communicated His truth to us (1 John 2:21). The truthfulness of our identities is not dependent upon confusing feelings. If feelings could serve as the basis for our behavior, one could make the argument for any sinful deviant behavior (such as bestiality, adultery, fornication, pedophilia, polygamy, incest) or plural sinful behavior (like homosexual, pedophilic incest).

Men Should Act Like Men, Women Should Act Like Women

While there is some overlap in describing both masculinity and femininity, spiritually speaking, men need to be more masculine than they are feminine, and women are to be more feminine than they are masculine.

The Bible alludes to the importance of masculinity and femininity (and the difference between the two) throughout scripture. Fathers are to demonstrate leadership, and mothers to be nurturing (cf. 1 Thess. 2:7-11). Men are to clearly look and act like men, and women are to clearly look and act like women, and they are to follow in large part what culture determines to be masculine or feminine (1 Cor. 11:2-16). Men are to be particularly strong and resilient to difficult conditions (1 Cor. 16:13). Within the marriage bond, men and women are equal in value but have different roles to play (1 Pet. 3:7; Gen. 2:18-24; Eph. 5:22-25). A man’s behavior and appearance should not be characterized as being “soft and delicate” (malakos, “effeminate, ” cf. 1 Cor. 6:9). God has always wanted men and women to dress according to their gender (Lev. 22:5).

Instead of perverting gender into some sort of continuum, Christians must celebrate the differences of Biblical manhood and womanhood. We should encourage men to act like men and allow them to engage in recreational activities associated with masculinity. We should encourage the same with women. Father’s need to provide for their sons by not only affirming their masculinity, but by doing masculine things with them – camping, playing football, building things, and teaching them how to provide for and defend the people in their care.

It’s About God’s Glory

Gender distortion is a symptom of a larger problem. When people reject God’s authority and make their own wisdom their god, they will also exchange their respective genders for a lie (Rom. 1:21-31).

We glorify God by exemplifying our roles. Women glorify God by being feminine and playing the feminine role in the home and in the church (cf. Eph. 5:22-25; 1 Tim. 2:12; Titus 2:3-5; 1 Pet. 3:1-2). Men glorify God by being masculine and playing the masculine role in the home and in the church (1 Tim. 2:8; Acts 20:27-28; 1 Tim. 3:2, 12; 1 Pet. 5:1-5; Eph. 6:4; Gen. 3:16).

What Repentance Looks Like For The Transgender

Those who recognize they are guilty of sin must repent (Luke 5:32; 13:3, 5). Repentance is analogous to being “born again” (John 3:5); repentance is essential to receiving salvation (Acts 2:38; 3:19; 8:22).

Repenting means more than being sorry (cf. 2 Cor. 7:10). To repent means to change your heart, mind, and ultimately your actions. The Greek word behind the English word “repent” (metanoeo) is a combination of two parts: meta and noeo. The prefix meta means to move or to change. Noeo refers to the mind and its disposition and purpose. Therefore the basic meaning of repentance is to change one’s mind in relation to its intentions and desires.

Jesus told us what repentance looks like. He commanded us to “bear fruits in keeping with repentance” (Luke 3:8). Our inward change of mind needs to be reflected by our behavior. In other words, repentance means more than no longer sinning outwardly – it means to change inwardly which in turn keeps us from sinning outwardly.

Because sin comes in different forms, one’s repentance must be custom-fitted to each individual. The thief must stop stealing. The gossiper must stop gossiping. The pornographer must stop creating pornography. The alcoholic must stop drinking alcohol. And the transsexual must dress and behave in keeping with the gender God assigned him or her.

Repentance does not mean the automatic disappearance of any feelings of gender confusion. Perhaps over time, by God’s grace (cf. 2 Cor. 12:8-9), the temptation to identify as the opposite gender will diminish. It is not sinful to sometimes feel like the opposite gender, but it is sinful to rebel against one’s God-given identity by behaving like the opposite gender.

Perhaps you have undergone expensive surgery, mutilating your body to more closely resemble the opposite sex. But you must remember that gender is not dependent upon sexual plumbing. After all, the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8 still had a masculine gender, though he was asexual (cf. Acts 8:26-39). Repentance would not necessarily necessitate corrective surgery, but it does necessitate once again dressing and acting like the gender of your birth. God intends for women to be feminine and men to be masculine (cf. 1 Cor. 11:2-16).

Because sexuality is not the basis for our identity (though it is inseparably connected to the core of our identity), it is not mandatory for people who still struggle with feelings of gender confusion to date or marry. God can be just as glorified by remaining single (Matt. 19:12; 1 Cor. 7:1, 7).

We Must Respond To Gender Identity Disorder In The Manner Of Christ

Jesus felt compassion on those who were lost (Matt. 9:36). Likewise, Christians cannot assume an attitude of condescension when discussing gender identity disorder; we must be compassionate towards those who are lost and hurting.

Jesus engaged sinners and tried to influence them for God (Mark 2:15-17). Likewise, Christians must not withdraw their sphere of influence from those who struggle with gender identity disorder (cf. John 17:15). We must engage the culture, not become hermits. At the same time, we must do this without bowing to the temptation to approve or condone sin (Rom. 1:31; Gal. 6:1; Jas. 1:27).

Jesus loved people who had spiritual heart problems. Jesus, knowing the rich young man did not love God with all of his being (Mark 12:30), still felt love for him (Mark 10:21). Naturally, Jesus could not affirm the man’s sinfulness; the rich young man would need to repent to be saved. But Jesus loved him enough to engage him with God’s word.

As Christians we must

…love sinners without affirming their sin.

…love sinners without loving their sin.

…love sinners by teaching them the truth.

…love sinners by telling them to repent and obey the gospel.

…love sinners by demonstrating Biblical manhood and womanhood for them to emulate.

Conclusion

Struggles are real. Some struggle with lust. Some struggle with dishonesty. Some struggle with homosexual or transgender urges. Some struggle with depression and self-worth. As Christians, we groan under the weight of our problems (Rom. 8:22-25). But we are called to be faithful in Christ. Let us live lives worthy of the gospel, repenting when we sin and walking in the light (1 John 1:7), so we can be somewhere better one day.

But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city. (Heb. 11:16, ESV)

Your comments are welcome and encouraged, even if they are in disagreement. However, please keep your comments relevant to the article. For my full comment policy, click here.

Works Cited
Clinton, Tim, Mark Laaser. Sexuality & Relationship Counseling. Baker Books; Grand Rapids: Michigan, 2010. Page 231.
WebMD. “When You Don’t Feel At Home With Your Gender.” Accessed 22 June 2015. <http://www.webmd.com/mental-health/gender-dysphoria>.
James, David E., IV. God’s Truth About Gender: Unraveling the Lies of Modern Human Sexuality, Behavior, and Identity. VMI Publishing, 2008. Page 118.

Ben Giselbach is the pulpit minister at the Edgewood church of Christ in Columbus, GA. He and his wife Hannah have two children, Ezra & Colleyanna. Ben is a graduate of Freed-Hardeman University and has written three books in his You Are A Theologian Series: Thinking Right about the Bible, Thinking Right about God, and Thinking Right about Salvation.
16 Comments
  1. Kate

    I think this is a good article, but there are some gaps I think we have to understand and try to grasp before analyzing. First, you clearly make the distinction between transgender and homosexuality (which many fail to separate, assuming they are one in the same), which is right in line with the transgender community's claims. However, then you continue to bring up sexuality throughout the article. I think this could be slightly confusing to some who are looking to your article to truly understand the pleas of the transgender community. I heard it plainly put by a professional in the transgender community, "Sexuality is who you love. Gender is who you are. They are Independent of one another." I think that's an important distinction we must make when determining what their struggles and pleas are. Second, the transgender community really focuses on the difference between sex and gender. Gender is who their inner most person - their soul - associates themselves with. Sex is assigned from birth. In light of that, you use "gender" throughout the article as being what God assigned them with. The transgender advocates I've spoken with would whole-heartedly agree with you. They will tell you that they WERE born a specific gender (their "God-given gender) and that their sexual organs don't match that gender. That's a big distinction throughout their community. I think you've done a good job at grappling with a subject that many Christians, myself included, don't fully understand. In my (limited) research, those are some big distinctions that I've come across and that I think would help Christians to be more understanding and credible. Aside from that, I struggle with understanding and reconciling what is feminine and what is masculine, aside from outward appearance, relative to our culture. That's a different, controversial topic; but seeing "Tom boys" or "feminine" men doesn't throw up a red flag, until the word transgender is affixed to it. It's a blurry line, if a line at all. In light of that, sometimes it's hard for me to see what the actual sin is for people struggling with gender, especially in those cases where the person is not homosexual. Bruce Jenner, for instance, liked women. When he labeled himself Caitlyn Jenner, he/she still likes women. That's just a touch on that, but I think that'd be an interesting (extremely controversial) topic for another day. Keep working hard. God bless!

    • Ben

      Kate - Glad we share an alma mater; you must be a good person :) Thanks for the comment and for communicating what you have heard from those pushing an LGBT agenda. As Christians though, we cannot afford to be foggy about the underlying fact in light of God's Word: the practice of transgenderism is wrong. That is not to say that everything about this issue is easy to distinguish, nor is it to say that there are not people who genuinely feel like a "man/woman trapped inside a man's/woman's body." That's what sin does to us; it distorts reality and makes our lives messy. The incorrect response to this person would be, "Just cherish the way you are and don't try to be the gender God gave you as evident in your plumbing." Rather, the Christian's response must be, "I want to share the gospel with you; the road of repentance and 'walking in the light' (1 John 1:7) is not an easy one, but it is a road I will walk with you as you try to overcome your gender identity suffering by looking to Christ." Additionally, we need to be clear on this: There is no such thing as being born with a different gender on the inside compared to the type of plumbing you were assigned at birth. Again, that is not to say that some people don't feel like they are a different gender on the inside (often because of abuse as a child or lack of affirmation growing up). We must show compassion to these people and be sympathetic to them. But again, feelings do not define us; our faithfulness to Christ is what defines us (and one cannot be faithful to Christ without conforming to the gender with which one was assigned at birth). As far as the line between masculinity and femininity is concerned, it is not always clearly defined. There are plenty of cultural and behavioral variables to grapple with. But we know a man who embraces his masculinity when we see him, and we know a woman who embraces her femininity when we see her. When interacting with a Christian, there should be no doubt about his/her gender. We need to embrace the differences, not downplay them in our feministic/egalitarian society. As I hope is evident in this comment as well as the article, we need to be clear about what the gospel says about sin and how us messy, problematic human beings must respond to Jesus. While we need to consider the 'other side,' our job is not to be so open-minded that our brains fall out. We need to cherish fidelity to God's Word more than public opinion. We cannot pursue ambiguity for the sake of ambiguity; we need to be searching for specific answers to specific problems so one day we can enter the Kingdom of heaven. Again, thanks for the thoughts. I appreciate your thoughtfulness and your search for truth. Keep up the good work. -Ben

  2. Travis

    Ben, loved the way you handled this subject. However, I do need to followup to a comment you made - "There is no such thing as being born with a different gender on the inside compared to the type of plumbing you were assigned at birth." There are actually situations where this does occur - called "ambiguous genitalia" or being born "intersex." This is a tricky one to handle, and one that tears at the hearts of parents whose child really was "born this way" - and who have to make the decision which way to raise their child - as male or female. This is a rare condition, but one that does exist. As always, I appreciate your writing and the work you're doing for the Kingdom.

    • Shane R

      Intersex births are not as uncommon as one may think. As a matter of fact ABC News had a segment on this a few months back. This is a difficult issue, but there is something about it that doesn't change - the biological make up of the child. Even if a child is born with deformed reproductive parts, that doesn't change the biological make up of the child. We are male or we are female based upon X and Y chromosomes. One may choose to alter their hormones or genitals, but you cannot alter WHO you really are. Now, I’m not a professional in this field of study, but I can say this issue is an issue of culture and environment and not an issue of birth. The issue of transgenderism is not the same as intersex children. While there may be cases where this confusion is manifested in similar ways, they are two separate issues.

  3. Mallory

    I'm just curious but what do you mean by a "LGBT agenda"?

  4. Mallory

    Apparently I'm a different Christian than ya'll are...so if someone is in an interracial relationship do ya'll belive they'll go to Hell? Because I don't! I believe everyone goes to Heaven (Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, etc); we are just taking different paths to the same place. That I may make you swear by the Lord, the God of heaven and God of the earth, that you will not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell, but will go to my country and to my kindred, and take a wife for my son Isaac.” -Genesis 24:3-4 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. -Matthew 25:32

    • May I ask where in the Bible you have read that there are many roads that lead to Heaven? In John 14:6, Jesus said "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me". If "everyone goes to heaven" then Jesus died for nothing. A Christian is someone who lives their life believing according to the teachings of Jesus Christ. Jesus did not teach that everyone goes to heaven.

  5. GeneticslMatter

    This article has a lot of holes. I'd like to point out a major point, yoh CAN absolutely biologically be both male and female. You can have both male and female chromosomes. It's called being a hermaphrodite with mosaicism. If you missed that, it makes me feel like you missed a lot more. Sad really that you didn't know that since you researched so much. Then again, pepole 2,000 years ago didn't even know what a chromosome was so the Bible doesn't address it. In those cases maybe God just couldn't decide if the person should be male or female. Or it could be genetics.

    • Above all love

      Thank you!!!!!! Instead of saying, we don't know it all and we don't understand it all, but the one thing I do know is that God does. He made you and He loves

    • Above all love

      From birth many children exhibit opposite gender characteristics. This being done way before they have the understanding of choice in the matter therefore they are only doing what's naturally givin to the from birth. Sin is a choice. I can choose to steal or not to steal, murder or not to murder, commit adultery, .......... I am a heterosexual female and there is no possible way I can choose to have the sexual desire to be with a women or desire to have male characteristics, EVER!! Christians, this is not a choice!! It's a shame you are turning so many God loving people away from Him!!!!

  6. wow

    "There is no such thing as being born with a different gender on the inside compared to the type of plumbing you were assigned at birth. " Google 'intersex'. Wow.

  7. Lisa Childs

    Well written article. You always point out how we should deal with sinful activity with an attitude of love.

  8. Alabama Honey

    How do we address hermaphrodites? How does the person affected by this decide which gender they are, when both male and female anatomy are present? What about those whose dual gender is not known until later in life?

  9. AliAnn

    If Bruce Jenner still likes women, why did he want to be one? Women like men, not women....sexually. So how can he not be a homosexual?....That doesn't make sense to me. If he's acting, dressing and looking like a woman, his sexual desires would be toward men...That would inadvertently make him a homosexual...

  10. DK

    This article brought up some good points. But something important was missing., that being the spiritual aspect concerning demonic influences that may possibly be involved in any given situation. It appears to be more to it than people deciding they dont know what gender they are anymore. I would guess it may also be something some people would actually rather not go through, except that they (as you put it) 'feel' things that lead them to believe it's them, and dont know what it could be, (or even how to deal with it) when it could be a lying spirit they are being harassed by. I know of one such case, and it did entail a confrontation with a spirit that didnt want to give up its stronghold, (but of course it had to!) in this case, others prayed and the person was delivered There were a lot of tears, relieved to be free of it! (and this person went on to have a normal life and their own children, having gotten married to someone of the opposite sex!) Very happy life!! People forget (or dont want to believe) that there is this aspect as a possibility to so many lives now seeming to be in confusion as to who and even what they are anymore. It's (for lack of a better term) like open season on humanity (last days)! Need to read the Bible, its all in there! God forewarned us. Like reading @ history in advance! "Original sin" caused a lot of issues in society. It brought death & disease is part of that. The physical aspect of a person, with all due respect, just a shell for the time being. In each person is a spirit (their own) whom God loves, but unless they turn to Him, He cant/wont violate His Nature, His Word and force people to want or know Him! You're correct., we need to love everyone and show them God has a better plan AND a future to all who will turn to Him and trust Him! (the devil is a dirty rotten liar and no, doesnt 'play fair'. he's a loser! 'Tip', Dont follow the loser!)

    • Ben

      Thanks for the kind words. I must comment on the two matters you raised: Demon possession, of which I think you are talking about, is no longer happening today. There are no "demonic influences" (in the sense of demons literally causing someone to feel or act a certain way) today. When the spiritual gift of demon expulsion ended in the 1st century (cf. 1 Cor. 13:8ff), the problem of demon possession also ceased. Additionally, the LAST thing a faithful Christian needs to worry about are demons. Christ reigns in the lives of his disciples (1 Peter 1:5), and keeps them by his power. Therefore, "the evil one does not touch him" (1 John 5:18). We do not need to distract from an otherwise intelligent and reasonable conversation by bringing up folklore with no Biblical backing. The last thing those wrestling with confusing feelings of gender identity need to worry about is a false claim of demon possession. They simply need to concern themselves with being faithful to Christ. Also, the idea of "original sin" is not found in the Bible. Sin is not hereditary. Otherwise, Jesus - a biological descendent of Adam (Luke 3:23-28), would have been born with the guilt of sin. Yet we all know Jesus was without sin (1 Pet. 2:22; 1 John 3:5). See Ezekiel 18:20. Human beings sin when they consciously violate God's Law by giving in to temptation (Jas. 1:14-15; 1 John 3:4).

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