In a follow up to our Sunday Evening presentation on Sexuality, Gender, and the Bible, we have provided an article to help focus us on how to reach out with our LGBT neighbors.
A study from the National LQBT Task Force on transgender discrimination is very telling. Though published in 2011, these stats give us key insights into the transgender experience.
First, as I read the stats, I am heart broken. The rates of homelessness, poverty, and the 41% suicide rate among transgender (and “non-gender conforming”) individuals lead me to mourn. These statistics should not hit us cold, as statistics often do. I hurt for those who are undergoing depression. Those who are transgender who are living on the streets: the church should do more for you. The system has let you down. I am sorry and I feel deeply for you. Caring for the homeless, the destitute, and the outcast are Christian virtues. It was a passion of Jesus; therefore, it should be a passion of His followers.
A second reality stood out as I glanced at this survey. One even more striking to those who affirm the Christian worldview. On page 79 of the survey, in the middle of the section about “Health”, we discover what the transgender individuals polled think about surgery. These are stats we have seen before. The media is rather partial to them. “Only 21% of Male-to-female transitions have undergone breast augmentation surgery.” A similar stat is also given for female-to-male hysterectomies. But, this study reveals that there is a lot more than meets the eye.
For Male-to-Female transitions: 53% “Want Someday” to have breast augmentation surgery, while over 60% “Want Someday” to have orchiectomy and vaginoplasty. On the female-to-male side 50% “Want Someday” to have chest surgery, whereas 58% desire a hysterectomy. The question of desire is an important one. But, desire is always limited in what it is willing to do. To be family friendly, the aforementioned operations are mainly about removing what is already there, whereas the remaining two operations have substantial “Don’t want” rating. When it comes to creating what females do not already have, one operations has a nearly ¾ who would prefer to leave well enough alone.
What do these stats tell us? From a Christian worldview perspective it confirms what we have been saying all along: our genders cannot be separated from our biology. While only around 20% of men asked about each surgery have had them, up to 86% of male-to-female transitions want or have had orchiectomy surgery. Even the lowest amount, nearly ¾ of those polled want augmentation surgery. The implications are clear: transgender individuals overwhelmingly desire for their biology to match their gender orientation. Even Richard Friedman, professor of clinical psychiatry at Wells Cornell Medical College asked recently in his opinion piece in the New York Times, “But if gender were nothing more than a social convention, why was it necessary for Caitlyn Jenner to undergo facial surgeries, take hormones and remove her body hair? The fact that some transgender individuals use hormone treatment and surgery to switch gender speaks to the inescapable biology at the heart of gender identity.”
On the “Female-to-Male” transition side, 93% had desired or had had chest surgery. Almost 80% for a hysterectomy. But, the remaining two surgeries, those which seek to “add” what is not already there are only met with 29% and 57% desiring/have had rate. Why so low? If we can be frank, humans do not create as well as we think. Give flight for an example. We can try to build wings, but even in this scientific age, the best we seen to do is strap card board on our arms and flap until we reach Europe. We have to use exterior means to fly. As good as planes are, they are a screaming admission that we limited in what science and technology have been able to change, at least about the human anatomy.
We must recognize the Creator/creation distinction. God has created man and woman, gender and all, in His image. All of our attempts to forsake that image have proven unsuccessful and expensive. We can destroy and take away, but we are left empty handed when it comes to creating. As Hebrews 11:3 tells us, only God can make something come nothing. We are left longing for something that we can never be. In fact, that is not a transgender only experience. That is the story of all of us. We have all forsaken God’s image and purpose. We have all sought out ways of creating a new reality where we set the terms. From the Garden of Eden until today the question remains the same, “Did God really say?” (Gen. 3:1). Sometimes this questions takes several forms, but each equally rebellious. Fundamentally we have all sought to set ourselves up as the creator and definer. We have sought to take God from His throne. We have committed treason against an absolutely Holy King. We need divine pardon. But not just a pardon, we need power to help leave behind our rebellion and find satisfaction under the Kingship of God. We need power to pursue the image we have shattered, and we need transformation to complete process. We have a problem.
But, we have the solution. The King descended from the palace, took upon Himself the penalty for our treason. The Creator descended to creation and He offers power today to overcome our broken image, and the promise of future restoration. This King is Jesus Christ- the God Man, and by the cross we are forgiven, set free, and transformed- one day He will conform us to the image we have broken and are longing to be restored to. His Kingship is kind. When we turn from the life we are living and submit to His Lordship, and regardless of our past, we find redemption, forgiveness and newness of life. He not only cancels the penaltly of sin, but also empties sin of its power over us, so we can freely fight sin and pursue holiness.
The study LQBT task forces shows us that transgender people long to be something they are not, but the Bible says the same for all of us. None of us are satisfied with the way we were born. Jesus’ words ring true, “You must be born again” (John 3:3). An exterior surgery will not do the trick, it is but an empty promise. We need heart surgery- transformation, redemption, healing- this is found only through the work of Jesus Christ, the Great Surgeon for the broken, lost and the outcast (Luke 5:31-32).