On April 11, the church that I grew up in issued a statement on “transgenderism.” I remember looking at the link on my Facebook feed and wanting to click on it and deciding against it. I wanted to wait until I was home and not as upset.
Let me explain, “transgenderism” is an outdated term. In fact, those who do prefer to use this term to describe the transgender community tend to hold anti-transgender beliefs and reduce those who belong to this community as those who suffer from a “condition.”
The statement itself gave off a similar incomplete feeling that the 2012 statement on homosexuality had. Granted, the recent statement was much longer and included distinct points as to how to approach and biblically understand the “transgender phenomenon.” I felt the list of points that were provided focused on four main themes:
1. Human beings were created perfect, male and female. Biblically, human beings are seen as possessing “psychosomatic unity,” meaning that a person’s sense of sexuality is not separate from his or her body.
2. The idea that a person can feel incongruence between his or her biological sex and gender identity goes to show how this dichotomy is an expression of the effects of sin.
3. Those who do have gender identity issues should not have sex reassignment surgery, nor should they get married if they have transitioned, or plan to. Additionally, those who are transgender should not lead alternative sexual lifestyles that are condemned by the church.
4. Christ loves everyone and the church should be a place of refuge for those who are struggling.
I was raised an Adventist. I went through the usual route of Adventurers and Pathfinders. I worked as a camp counselor and even preached a few sermons. I love this church. I believe in its message. But how can I get behind a statement that seeks to tell someone that the body that God gave them, in His image, is a result of sin?
As a social work student, I struggle with answering this question. We are taught to invoke empathy and to respect diversity. We believe in the “inherent dignity and worth of the person,” and seek to fight against discrimination and social injustice. As the daughter of conservative parents, I was also taught to seek truth from scriptures and to look to the church for guidance. With these two mentalities, how do I arrive at an evidence-based answer that is both Biblically and ethically correct?
The answer is one that, surprisingly, came from my mother, who does not understand the LGBTQ+ community, but understands the concept of Christ-like love. In a church that tolerates those with different lifestyles, the acceptance that matters will only come from God. As my mother said, thankfully, God will look at the heart.
Those who struggle with gender and sexual identity issues are often seen as choosing to be in a community that has faced discrimination, oppression and persecution throughout the years. People cannot be forced into understanding the struggle and the pain of someone else if they have not lived it. This is why we turn to Jesus, someone who understands the internal and external struggles that everyone deals with, in one form or another.
How do we reconcile the struggle between our Christian faith that, seeks to tolerate, with our Christian responsibility, that seeks to accept? Biblically, we must pray for discernment to understand those things we cannot comprehend until He determines that we are ready for it.
Ethically, we must remember the importance of humanity and the great gift that is diversity. I stand with the transgender and LGBTQ+ community. I believe that God looks at the heart, and that He always finds something beautiful.