Flooding news interviews, college campuses, and social media posts are stories around transgenderism. The result: This past September, the University of Michigan formed a Pronoun Committee to promote “inclusiveness” after students petitioned for the use of designated pronouns on campus (Rick Fitzgerald, “Students Now May Designate Personal Pronouns On Class Rosters”, September 27, 2016).
On October 1, Army Secretary Eric Fanning approved a new Pentagon Policy under the Transgender Guidelines to perform sex change operations for all military personnel (Eric Gay, The Associated Press, CBSNews.com, October 24, 2016). This occurred only months after the ban on transgender persons serving openly in the military was lifted.
Congressmen recently wrote to the Health and Human Services department questioning litigation that requires medical professionals to perform gender-altering operations on children regardless of a doctor’s medical advisement against such procedures (The Becket Fund, “Congressional letter questions HHS transgender mandate,” October 12, 2016.)
To put it plainly, this debate on gender is widespread, moving intensely. I’m a Christian. I have two kids—one special needs daughter and one son. Thus, I want to know how I should be thinking and responding to this new worldview for my kids’ sake, for my church’s sake, and especially for my Lord’s sake.
A quick disclaimer: As a Christian, I will in no way objectify this issue, speak condescendingly, or turn this people group into a political agenda. We Christians, above all, should be compassionate, caring deeply for those wrestling with gender identity.
So what’s the issue? Is it about gender-neutral bathrooms? Is it a civil rights matter? Is it a discrimination and hatred problem? Or have we just uncovered something new with our gender?
At the heart of this debate is a core, human value: freedom. Yet today the term freedom has changed. Freedom has morphed into having a lifestyle and worldview constructed solely by the individual. To be truly free is to do whatever, be whatever, and believe whatever according to oneself and no one else. It’s a free-for-all and a free-from-all life.
“Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the heart” (Proverbs 21:2).
In the case of transgenderism, the body is viewed as a prison barring the chance of happiness and fulfillment. Freedom for a transgender person, then, comes in the form of physical and/or psychological transformation. The new identity will usher in a sense of a true, whole self; one that is free from fear and pain and ridicule and confusion and rejection. What’s the problem here? Is not part of being human to want freedom from all that plagues us, all the ills of life? Sadly, here is a snapshot of a few recent studies of transgenderism:
The National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) surveyed over 6,400 transgender individuals revealing that 41% reported attempting suicide. If accepted by family members, that statistic drops to 32%, still a far cry from the general population’s 1.6% (NCTE, Transequality.org, 2011).
A long-term Swedish medical study followed up with 324 patients who had sex reassignment surgery. These 324 individuals had received surgery as well as hormonal treatment to make “the person’s body as congruent with the opposite sex as possible” (Dhejne, C. et. al. Department of Clinical Neuroscience, PubMed.gov, Fe, 22, 2011). The study’s findings: “Persons with transsexualism, after sex reassignment, have considerably higher risks for mortality, suicidal behaviour, and psychiatric morbidity than the general population” (Dhejne, C. et. al.).
Another study in Boston on transgender youth revealed “a two-fold to three-fold increased risk of psychiatric disorders, including depression, anxiety disorder, suicidal ideation, suicide attempt, self-harm without lethal intent, and both inpatient and outpatient mental health treatment compared to a control group of youth” (Cook, Michael. Mercatornet.com, Oct. 23, 2015; qtd. Reisner, Sari L., et. al. Journal of Adolescent Health, January 7, 2015).
Conclusion #1: This is serious. People’s lives and wellbeing are at stake.
Conclusion #2: This kind of freedom frees no one. The problems for many persist after transitioning genders.
The question we must answer is why. Why are many transgenders still profoundly struggling after transitioning?
First, this battle is not unique. Every human being has internal struggles and thoughts about ourselves that we wrestle with constantly. It’s like there’s a person inside you whispering every day that you do not add up; you didn’t handle that well; you shouldn’t have said that; you’re a failure; you’re ugly; no one cares about you; you’ll never have what you want and so much more. And when it comes to our bodies and body image, things can get real messy; even as a white, middle class suburban man like me.
Secondly, this battle is not winnable. The more we focus on our struggles the worse they get, the stronger they get. The same temptations, the same failures, the same yearning for release never ends. And the more they cycle the harder it is to see a way out.
Lastly, freedom was never meant to come this way—by focusing on self and giving it all its desires. Instead, freedom comes with surrender; surrender to the One who created us and invented freedom. It is vital that we throw away misconceptions about who we are and how we fit in this world and seek out the God who is responsible for our very being, our every breath. I don’t trust myself to understand myself. I trust the Lord who gave me life. What’s more, He lovingly sent His means of freedom named Jesus Christ, the Son of God!
For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1).
Freedom can come. Yet, it comes only after we have laid down our definitions and desires for ourselves and look to God’s. Jesus demonstrates God’s freedom when He said from a cross, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). We do not know what we do when we scoff at the mere mention of Christ and go back to our trivial understanding of the world and ourselves. Yet, finding forgiveness through Christ is powerfully freeing.
What is freedom then? Freedom is putting away ourselves and trusting the Lord’s Christ. Freedom is living within His gracious, merciful and loving commands. Freedom is saying no to lust and yes to Christ’s forgiveness of all lust. Freedom is being broken before God over our rebellion against God. Freedom is desiring to meet the Lord in His eternity. Freedom is striving to align our lives and minds by His purpose and design for everything. Freedom finds its satisfaction only in Jesus. There is no other way to freedom; none.
I beckon you today to pursue freedom from the grip of all of your pains and struggles and dashed hopes. Do it by surrendering yourself to Christ, the sure way to freedom forever.
“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36)