What does the Bible say about being transgender?
Child: I wonder what God thinks of the transgender stuff.
Parent: That’s a great question! What do you think?
Child: I don’t know. I mean, I’ve been taught God created boys and girls, so I’m not sure what he’d say about people being transgender, you know?
The Bible doesn’t really say a lot about gender dysphoria, transgender experiences, or emerging gender identities. At least, it doesn’t say much about these terms directly. That doesn’t mean the Bible doesn’t speak into this conversation, but we have to be careful not to try to get the Bible to say things it either doesn’t say or wasn’t intending to say.
In sharing the story of redemption with us, the Bible reveals important information about sexuality and gender. But it doesn’t function as a handbook on sexuality and gender, nor is it a protocol for counseling people who have discordant experiences of gender identity.
Bringing the Conversation Home
Whenever we speak about “what God thinks” about something—anything—we should do so with humility, because we may not get it perfectly right. But at the same time, as parents, we are charged with raising and educating our children in the Christian faith, including how the Christian faith informs our understanding of important aspects of human experience, such as our sexuality and gender.
It is encouraging to me that we, as parents, are not raising and educating our children in isolation. We raise them in a household that is connected to a local church that is connected to a branch of Christianity that is connected to and rooted in historic Christian thought on these topics.
Indeed, it is when we depart from historic Christianity that we should especially give pause to our teaching and instruction, as we have warnings from Scripture about new trends in thinking that are not a reflection of the teachings handed down to us. Of course, we also scrutinize traditions and confirm that current teaching is a reflection of God’s heart toward a topic and the people represented by that topic.
There will likely be many opportunities to discuss what the Bible says about a topic, and I do encourage parents to think about the four acts of the biblical drama—creation, the fall, redemption, and consummation—to remind their child and themselves where we are in the story, what it means to experience redemption, and what it means to move toward the consummation of all things.
Cultural Ambassador: Our Three Cs
We want to think about ambassadorship and our three Cs of conviction, civility, and compassion. Scripture does speak to sexuality and gender, although Scripture does not go into great detail, nor does it specifically address what we refer to as gender dysphoria. Many of the passages of Scripture that address sexuality and gender do so in specific instances of, say, the
apostle Paul addressing a concern in a church. But we do see that sexuality and gender are addressed at different places throughout the scope of Scripture and can be understood with reference to creation, the fall, redemption, and consummation. Much of what is reflected in Scripture appears to be taken-for-granted expectations for what we today refer to as biological sex, gender, and gender identity. We can and should hold convictions about God’s creational intent, but also about the reality of the fall and the ways in which the fall may affect our sexuality and experience of gender. We can also consider what we believe to be true about redemption, about how God may be at work in a person’s life as they know him better.
Civility in conversations about the Bible can show up in several ways. We can demonstrate civility when talking to people who do not view the Bible as a source of authority in their own lives and see no reason to turn to it on matters of sexuality and gender. We can also be civil in our conversations with those who do seek the Bible as a source of authority but who disagree with us on any claims of a true north in what we believe Scripture teaches about sexuality and gender. This can be in terms of creational intent, the effects of the fall, and questions about redemption and moving toward consummation.
I believe compassion is needed the most when we engage with people directly affected by this topic. That includes the person navigating gender identity and their family. The person who is experiencing a discordant gender identity and who is a Christian is likely going to be asking a lot of questions about God, about God’s will, about their own experience of suffering, and about what God wants for them moving forward. We can show compassion to that person even and especially if we are invited to join them in discerning what the Bible says about these experiences.
Adapted from Talking to Kids About Gender Identity by Mark Yarhouse, provided by Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group. Copyright 2023. Used by permission.
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