I think gender and transsexualism are very personal issues. I find it odd when someone uses the plight of an individual to create elaborate social constructs and issues out of it. I’m downright suspicious when someone uses it to put it into “broader” contexts or sees motives behind it that go beyond the needs of the individual. Gender dysphoria is a mismatch between the gender of the brain and the physical sex of the body. People are born with it. That’s all there is. There is no political, social, cultural or religious agenda whatsoever behind it. How could there be? It’s a natural human condition, and believe me, people do not choose to be afflicted with it. It’s just like any other condition or illness that diminishes individual happiness.
Normally, this webpage would not have had a page about religion – except that it often comes up in US-American discussions of transsexualism. When I first learned about this, I was quite surprised. In Europe, where I grew up and currently live, the church takes a much milder stance. It doesn’t publicly judge people as much, it usually doesn’t try to interfere with people’s life, and it’s probably more focused on love, charity and help. Maybe that’s a more Jesus-like, milder form of Christianity. At the same time, churches are not really strong social or political forces, with only about half of EU-citizens believing in god. In the US, depending on the survey, maybe only five to ten percent of people do not believe in god, and there also seems to be more orthodoxy about.
So, I was quite surprised when I learned that some religious groups have opinions on transsexualism and, in some cases, condemn transsexuals. After all, transsexualism is not mentioned anywhere in the bible (or the Quran or any other holy book I’m aware of).
My understanding from the new testament is that illness does not reflect badly on the sick person, that it has nothing to do with that person’s actions or character (theologians, please correct me if I’m wrong). At some places in the bible, Jesus shows his love and compassion for sick people and heals them. Maybe in line with those intentions, modern medicine has improved our lives greatly. Helping sick people is a wonderful thing, and many churches run hospitals and other places to care for the ill, and that includes mentally ill people. Very, very few religious people refuse medical treatment.
So, why do some religious groups (including the Catholic Church, sadly) have an issue with transsexualism? I believe it comes from a misunderstanding, caused by unwillingness to think, to understand people and from the confusion of gender issues with sexual acts and sexual orientation.
These groups apparently want to see transsexualism as sexual deviancy, a lifestyle choice, a fetish, a decision that one takes – perhaps pushed by inborn desires, perhaps by mental illness, perhaps by sick sexual thoughts. Gender dysphoria is seen as reflecting negatively on the individual; the individual should act against such feelings, not in line with them.
These people see only a strict gender dichotomy, male and female (presumably because the bible mentions male and female only and doesn’t elaborate on details beyond). Shades of grey that exist in nature (just look at the phenomenon of intersex people), are ignored. Within this gender dichotomy, they dictate that the body decides whether a person is male or female. A person must live within the cultural confines of the gender role dictated by the appearance of the body. Anything else is apparently an offense to god.
I have never understood this. First of all, god doesn’t say that anywhere. Secondly, why the gender role the body dictates? The brain also has a gender identity. Is this fact denied or simply ignored by those religious groups? If the gender of the brain and the sex of the body are different, why would the body then dictate the gender role? After all, the seat of the mind, the identity, the personality, the soul, if you will, is in the brain. A lot of religious thought is about how the mind can rise above the body, the mere flesh. Mind and thoughts are usually seen as more important as our weak, short-lived body. Why is this different for transsexuals? Why is our personality, our self, the essence of who we are, subjugated to the mortal flesh? Shouldn’t religion believe in “mind over matter”? I have not seen an argument on why this must be different for transsexuals.
Reality is unfathomably complex. The bible, like any other book, can only include a small part of the phenomenons we experience. Many things are not mentioned in the bible, and of the things that are mentioned, only a minority has a desired conduct related to them or is judged upon. What should we do about diabetes, pest, aortic insufficiency, autism, Alzheimer’s, cleft palates, glaucoma, allergies? Motor traffic, chocolate milk, chewing gum and space exploration are also not mentioned (it’s almost like the knowledge of the bible writers didn’t extend beyond the knowledge of their time 😏). Why take a phenomenon like transsexualism, which only modern science has been able to properly define, and distort and interpret scripture until an imagined biblical reference is found?
Fortunately, for people with illnesses and other conditions that reduce quality of life, we don’t take the state of the body at birth for granted. We help and heal and cure, as we are morally obliged to. Babies with physical and mental problems get the treatment they need, in order to improve a condition caused by nature or the environment. Only a very cruel person would order that their bodies determine their fate, that no medical intervention is allowed, and that they have to live with illnesses or disfigurement as they were born. Why not the same right for transsexuals?
“In the age of information, ignorance is a choice” – everyone, religious or not, should be aware that distorting facts and having convictions without evidence is a moral failing. Informing yourself by reading websites like this one or talking to transsexuals before forming an opinion would be a good start.
There is no political, cultural or religious agenda behind gender dysphoria. It’s simply what some individuals feel. It’s part of humanity, part of nature. It can be objectively measured and studied. Plus, transsexuals do not intend to cause harm to anybody.
A great and complete discussion on all that the bible says about issues that could be relevant to transsexualism (it doesn’t actually mention gender or transsexualism) can be found at http://www.drbecky.com/lynnmont.html. This is an article written by Lynn Montgomery in 1993, published on the wonderful website of Becky Allison http://www.drbecky.com/.
There is a so-called briefing about Transsexualism from the Christian Institute, 2002. It’s perhaps symptomatic for the line of thinking criticised in the article and riddled with misunderstandings. Very cruelly and cynically, it starts and ends with the phrase "mind over matter". This is exactly what transsexuals say and want, and what the Christian Institute tries to deny them. To use it as a slogan for this kind or article either shows some very severe misunderstanding of the facts or a cruel mind at work. See for yourself at http://www.christian.org.uk/html-publications/transsexualism.htm.
In 2013, another hateful mind, that of the Swiss catholic bishop Vitus Huonder, produced the essay “Gender – die tiefe Unwahrheit einer Theorie” criticizing “genderism” and devaluing the life of people not fitting into the male-female-heterosexual picture. It points out the gender dichotomy mentioned in the bible and lists lesbianism, homosexuality, bisexuality and transsexuality as “sexual practices” – is that just incredibly sloppy writing and thinking or is there malevolence behind? Surely the bishop should be responsible enough to research and understand his subject before making value judgements. Please decide for yourself: irresponsibility or hate?
 I love this quote about religious judgment: “Saying someone shouldn’t be gay because it’s against your religion makes as much sense as saying someone shouldn’t eat a donut because you’re on a diet.”
 I hope I don’t labour the point too much when I link again to More evidence: Disorders of sex development. I would very much like to know what religious groups think about how individuals should live that are affected by various sex development disorders. If there is no official opinion, why have one for transsexuality?
 I love the quote: “In the age of information, ignorance is a choice.”