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Transgenderism, transsexuality,
gender dysphoria, & gender identity

Part 2: Causes of, & cures for, transgenderism
according to conservative Protestants


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This is a continuation from Part 1.

The nature, cause, and cure of gender dysphoria (Cont'd):

  • Focus on the Family is a fundamentalist Christian group centered in Colorado Springs, CO. They have an entire section in their web site that deals with sexual identity. In common with many other fundamentalist groups. They believe that therapists can change a transgender person's gender identity. They also believe that transgenderism is caused by poor parenting, that psychiatrists are not interested in helping transgender persons but are solely concerned with political correctness and the destruction of cultural values, and that transgender persons are merely confused about their gender identity.

    Some of their points are:

    • "The movement promoting the normalization of 'transgenderism' radically redefines the clearly articulated vision for the sexes as outlined in the Bible."

    • The "... spirit of "transgenderism" casts doubt on God's clearly articulated ordination by acknowledging a well-known truth and supplementing it with a blatant lie. In this case, this acknowledgment of the two sexes (the truth) is supplemented with the view that male and female are merely two possible genders along a completely "fluid" gender spectrum (the lie)."

    • "... as Christians, we acknowledge that the general and specific distinctions between male and female have been instituted by God from the beginning."

    • "... the goal of activists is to radically deconstruct the biblical and biological understanding of 'sex' and teach that gender is 'fluid' and changeable. We're being called to toss aside biological sex in favor of a person's feelings or self-identification about their gender – whether or not these perceptions conform to biological reality."

    • " 'Transgenderism' attempts to create a facade of legitimacy for what is otherwise a recognizable and treatable mental illness. The American Psychiatric Association refers to this condition as Gender Identity Disorder (GID) – a mental condition, not a physical condition."

    • "Psychiatrists should not be allowing mentally ill patients to suffer through such a devastating condition solely for the sake of political correctness."

    • "... body and spirit are meant to be holistically united from the moment of conception. Thus, humans are called to embrace their embodied gender and not seek 'sexual reassignment' when they struggle with feelings of gender confusion." 1

    • "Many of the problems associated with transgenderism, like confusion and pain, stem from a lack of parental involvement and guidance." 2

    • "We oppose the ordination of 'transgender' and 'transsexual' individuals and the celebration of 'transgenderism' as one of God's gifts." 3

  • Asher Kolieboi is a transsexual who works for SoulForce, a non-profit that attempts to overcome religious bias against lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender persons and transsexuals (LGBTs). He was identified as a girl at birth, but behaved as a male through most of his childhood.

    "... when he decided to transition, his Pentecostal family had no vocabulary to understand his decision to alter his body. They saw it as a rejection of God’s divine plan. 'That’s not God’s plan, and that’s not God’s plan for you, and it’s definitely not God’s plan for the way society is suppose to run,' they said. 'So not only was I doing something that’s not natural, but, of course, it’s an abomination'." 4

  • The American Family Association (AFA) is a fundamentalist Christian group that opposes equal rights for lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender persons and transsexuals (LGBTs). Personnel from their central office and state chapters occasionally comment on transgenderism:

    • On 2010-FEB-28, Diane Gramley, president of the APA, is quoted as saying about transgender persons:
      "To embrace or to affirm that lifestyle or their confusion does not help them. The only compassionate thing would be to provide counseling for them. Counsel this individual that you were born a female or a male, and this is what you were intended to be. To change that, you’re not going to be able to live the life you were meant to live, and it’s going to impact everyone, especially the children." 3
    • On 2010-APR-30, Michael Heath, president of the AFA's chapter in Maine commented on whether transgender students should be able to use the washroom with which they identify. This has been allowed in various schools around the state without incident. Heath complained:
      "We're being persuaded to believe things about gender that just aren't true. If a woman is born a woman we can tell that from biology and we don't need to create a society where people are encouraged, if they begin to think for emotional reasons or because they're thinking a certain way, that they are the opposite gender." 5
    • On 2010-AUG-26, the APA Michigan chapter criticized the Secretary of State in Michigan for allowing transgender persons who were identified as male at birth:
      "... to falsely identify themselves as female on their state-issued driver’s license, and vice versa. The people of Michigan should at minimum be able to trust their state government to tell the truth, not enable certain individuals’ psychological and emotional delusions by officially and legally identifying them as something they biologically are not." 6
    • On 2010-SEP-13, the APA criticized the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation's decision to allow transgender persons to register for a drivers' licence identifying them as being of the sex that they are actually living if they have the backing of their therapist. As of that date 26 other states and the District of Columbia had the same policy. The sexual reassignment surgery criteria that used to be required has been discontinued. The APA's Pennsylvania branch complained:
      "So, if an unsuspecting woman finds a man who thinks he is a woman standing naked next to her in the shower area of a health club he can produce his official state-issued driver’s license to show he’s legally recognized by the state of Pennsylvania as a female." 7

The Roman Catholic Church is the largest single conservative Christian denomination. They consider gender reassignment surgery as mutilation and violation of God's plan. Their teachings are discussed in a separate essay.

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Use of passages from the Holy Bible:

The phrase "male and female" or "male or female" appears 20 times in the King James Version of the Bible. Examples are:
  • Genesis 5:2: "Male and female created he them; and blessed them ..."
  • Matthew 19:4: "And he [Jesus] answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female."
  • Mark 10:6: "But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female."

They interpret these verses as implying that one's sex must be either male or female. A secondary interpretation is that God created the sexes as distinct and separate. There is no biblical provision for individuals who do not fit neatly into this binary system. These concepts fit well into the beliefs of many religious conservatives that women and men are designed to have very separate roles in church, family, and employment, and that these roles must be preserved. It is this separation of roles by sex within the family that fuels so much of the conservative opposition to same-sex marriage.

Curing transsexuality:

Most religious and social conservatives, conservative denominations, and conservative para-church groups believe that prayer and counseling can end a transgender person's gender dysphoria by harmonizing the individual's genetic gender with their perceived gender.

This is a logical conclusion from their beliefs about God. If God hates homosexual and transsexual behavior, and if God is omnipotent, then he can -- and will -- respond to their prayers, eliminate the gender dysphoria, and allow a transgender person to accept their genetic gender as their true identity. In support of this belief, they can cite many biblical passages that describe other types of prayers answered by God.

However, most transgender persons, medical researchers, and therapists argue that the above beliefs do not agree with reality. Consider that:

bullet In previous decades, the suicide rate among adult transsexuals was believed to be close to 50%, and is still extremely high. The suicide rate, anxiety, and depression felt by so many transsexuals is one strong indicator that transsexuality is not a choice and is not changeable.

bullet All types of therapy have been tried and have appeared to have a zero percent success rate at resolving gender dysphoria.

bullet Young children often become aware of their gender dysphoria as young as 24 months-of-age, about a decade before puberty and sexual attraction kicks in.

These suggest that gender dysphoria cannot be "cured" by any means other than changing the person's physical appearance to match their perceived gender. To attempt counseling or to rely on prayer might possibly alleviate anxiety and depression, but runs an unacceptable risk of ending up with a dead transsexual.

Webmaster's note:

What is the core problem? How can it be solved?

My job mainly involves researching developments in various topics with a religious or ethical component, and trying to accurately explain them to this web site's visitors. I try to suppress my own beliefs and attitudes. However, I would like to make an exception here.

I am furious at the depraved indifference by mental health professionals and some religious leaders concerning persons with minority sexual orientations and/or gender identities. Each group has been promoting their conflicting beliefs concerning these two topics without attempting to reach a consensus. Agreement is needed if society is going to reduce the tragic loss of life through suicide, and the overwhelming loss in quality of life of survivors.

There exists a massive disagreement concerning gender identity between conservative religious leaders and other groups. The conflict is very similar to that seen about lesbians, gays, and sexual orientation. As described elsewhere, the two sides can agree on almost nothing concerning the cause(s) of sexual orientations, associated moral issues, whether minority sexual orientations are normal or abnormal, chosen or discovered, fixed or changeable, and hated or accepted by God. This almost complete lack of agreement is maintained largely by an unwillingness of both sides to enter meaningful dialogue.

It can be argued that both sides have blood on their hands -- in the form of countless and preventable suicides by lesbian & gay youth, by and transgender persons. The loss of life could be greatly decreased if both sides could agree to cooperate in studies to discover reality, and later educate the public about their findings and revise their teachings as necessary.

With both sexual orientation and gender identity, conservative Christians tend to have different definitions of "truth" when compared to most transgender persons, transsexuals, mental health therapists working in this field, religious liberals, human sexuality researchers, and secularists:

  • Conservative Christians generally define truth according to what the Bible says -- or more accurately, according to their interpretation of what the Bible states. The Bible describes God as having created one male and one female who went on to create other males -- and presumably other females with whom the males could commit incest. Each gender is assigned a different role in society. There is no mention in the Bible of a person who appears to be of one gender, and yet identifies as being of the opposite gender.

    God is seen as wishing to develop a close relationship with people; as being omnipotent, omniscient, and caring; and as fully capable of generating miracles and answering people's prayers. Many conservatives believe that God is still involved in the creation of males and females during the conception process. He decides at the fertilization of each ovum what gender it is.

    If an adult is transgender, most conservative Christians believe that the individual is simply confused about their the gender -- the gender that God intended them to be. They can be unconfused with the help of a therapist, and/or with the help of God through prayer. Their identity can be realigned to match God's original intent. To mutilate the body in order to attempt to change one's apparent gender to match their perceived gender is seen as a horrendous act.

  • The other groups, religious and secular, tend to define truth according to what is observed during scientific and medical studies. They conclude that therapy and prayer has had a zero success rate at resolving the conflict between brain and body within transgender persons . The latter do not choose to have a gender identity different from their birth-assigned gender. They are unable to change their gender identity in adulthood. They are faced with three options: to somehow try to live with an intolerable condition, or to change their appearance through hormone therapy and perhaps sexual reassignment surgery, or commit suicide. Sadly, too many choose the third option.

Again, it can be argued that both sides have blood on their hands for not taking the initiative to dialogue and attempt to reach a consensus.

Currently, religious conservatives are committing some effort attacking equal rights and protections for transgender persons. Their current major concern is to prevent marital equality by preventing same-sex couples from being able to marry. However, a recent statement by Dr Albert Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and another by Rep. Barnie Frank (D-MA), who is openly gay, show that both agree that the same-sex marriage conflict seems to be running out of steam and winding down. Religious conservatives may well turn increasing attention away from same-sex marriage toward gender identity. Now would be a good time to resolve the latter issue.

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Talking Points (Transgenderism)," Focus on the Family, at: http://www.focusonthefamily.com/
  2. "Our Position (Transgenderism)," Focus on the Family, at: http://www.focusonthefamily.com/
  3. Diana Fishlock, "Transgender people may feel they were born in the wrong bodies, take steps to change," The Patriot-News, 2010-FEB-28, at: http://www.pennlive.com/
  4. Jori Lewis, "Transgender and Christian: Finding identity," Religion Dispatches magazine, 2009-SEP-03, at: http://www.religiondispatches.org/
  5. Sarah Delage, "Debating transgender rights in schools," WCSH-TV, 2010-APR-30, at: http://www.wcsh6.com/
  6. "American Family Association: Transgender People Are Committing Identity Theft," JoeMyGod Blog, 2010-AUG-26, at: http://joemygod.blogspot.com
  7. Diane Petryk, "Transgender drivers win concession: Pa. licenses will reflect gender that they live," The Daily Item, 2010-SEP-13, at: http://dailyitem.com/

Copyright © 2009 and 2011 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Original posting: 2009-JAN
Latest update: 2011-APR-18
Author: B.A. Robinson

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