FOR PASTORS AND MINISTERS
Pastoring well is a hard calling and one that we at NeverUnloved are grateful to you for following. Serving a vast and diverse group of people is a challenge in any circumstance and if there is someone that you are in community with that is struggling with their gender identity, that can feel intimidating. It is our hope that you will be prepared and equipped to love well, point to the hope of God that you have experienced, and wall this difficult journey with them.
This page is meant to be an encouragement to you, answer questions that you may have, and provide some teaching and resources for you as you seek to serve those around you.
QUESTIONS & ANSWERS
This issue of gender identity confusion can be just plain confusion. As you seek to love and support those that God has entrusted you to shepherd, we hope to help remove some of that confusion and give you some tools and answers when serving and pointing others towards Christ.
Define some terms. What are some key definitions?
Transgender - Refers to a person whose physical gender does not match the gender that their brain is telling them that they are. For example, a person who was born female and physically is female may feel that they relate better to men and is able to
Transsexual – This is generally a person who is working towards or who has had Sex Reassignment Surgery to change their physical body to appear a member of the opposite sex.
LGBTQ - This is the label for (L)esbian, (G)ay, (B)isexual, (T)ransgender, (Q)ueer. Each initial stands for a particular sexual orientation or self-identifier. Other initials are often added as this list continues to grow (Pansexual, Innersexual, Asexual, etc.)
Gender identity - The gender that a person self-identifies with. According to our current culture, there is not simply 2 genders (male and female). There may be a blending of various identities that a person claims as their gender identity.
Gender Identity Confusion- This is a condition where a person feels that they associate and relate better as a member of the sex opposite that which they were born as. A person may have discomfort or the feelings of incongruence with their mental gender and their physical body. The medical term would be Gender Identity Dysphoria or Gender Identity Disorder. The person may desire to transition through the use of attire, hormones, and/or surgery to appear physically as a member of the opposite sex. Others may battle these feelings and desires yet the feelings and battle is very genuine.
Cisgender - This term is one that you may hear in reference to a person whose physical body and desired gender match one another. When there is a feeling of alignment or congruence between one's mental and physical gender.
Homosexual - This is the designation of a person who has same sex attractions. Meaning that a person has sexual or romantic attractions to a person of the same sex/gender. This is the opposite of a heterosexual who is sexually or romantically attracted to a person of the opposite sex.
Sexual orientation - Referring to the individual a person is sexually attracted to. Someone may be heterosexual and are romantically/sexually attracted to a member of the opposite sex. Likewise, someone may be homosexual and are romantically/sexually attracted to a member of the same sex.
Gender expression - The way in which a person This may be in line with their biological sex and it may be in contrast to their biological sex. A biological male may choose to express themselves in male or female stereotypical behaviors and dress or perhaps in an androgynous way that strives to align with neither gender stereotype.
Biological sex - This is the assigned sex of a person based upon their physical body. A male has male genitals and physical make up while a female will have female genitals and make up.
Sex Reassignment Surgery (SRS) - Is the operation a transsexual person will undergo to have their genitals surgically modified to appear and (to a limited degree) function as the genitals of the sex opposite from which they were born.
Pre-operative/Post-operative - Pre-operative means that a transsexual individual has not undergone sex reassignment surgery. Post-operative means that the person has undergone the surgery.
M2F or F2M - This is the shorthand for a transgendered person depending on the gender that they are adopting:
M2F = male to female transgendered person. A person who was male at birth but now identifies as or is transitioning to appear female. A transwoman.
F2M = female to male transgendered person. A person who was female at birth but now identifies as or is transitioning to appear male. A transman.
Transvestite - A Transvestite is someone who dresses as a member of the opposite sex (also known as drag). This may be for personal pleasure or for the entertainment of others. A transvestite may or may not be someone who has discomfort regarding their gender and shouldn't be confused with transgender.
Intersex/Hermaphroditism - There is a rare medical condition where someone is born with both male and female genitalia or a chromosomal abnormality. There are numerous medical options for individuals with a form of this condition depending on their situation. This is not evidence of transgender but is evidence that we live in a broken world. This condition is the exception to the norm and is not the standard.
Can someone really be transgender?
NeverUnloved will be the first to say that the struggle is real. Can a person really feel like their physical body does not match the person that they are meant to be? Yes. This can be a torturous thing for a person to live with. Especially when they feel like they are walking this alone.
Our hope is that this sparks compassion and love. As the popular saying goes, "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle." Struggling with gender identity confusion can be an excruciatingly hard battle.
With that understanding, there is currently no physical evidence to support the claim that people are born into the wrong gender. It's not a matter of physicality but one of the mind. For the vast majority of people, there is no proof of anything physical that would lead them to transition from one gender appearance to the other. It is based on feelings, emotions, and desires. Understand that those feelings and desires can be incredibly strong and so overpowering at times.
What people choose to do with those feelings and desires is the big question. Some people choose to let the feelings and desires determine their truth. Others seek to let God determine truth for them and submit themselves to who God says that they are.
What does the Bible say about this issue?
While the Bible does not use the terms transgender, it does have a great deal to say about gender identity. God made people male and female. There are not other options. This does not mean that God made the stereotypes that our culture has put into place (men are rough and like football and hunting/women are graceful and like shopping and beauty). Scripture speaks that gender is God-ordained and that men and women in a relationship together is a picture of God and the church. God cannot become the church and the church cannot become God.
Just before Moses leaves the people of Israel, he provides numerous reminders and outlines the way that they are to live. In Deuteronomy 22:5 Moses states, “A woman must not wear men’s clothing, nor a man wear women’s clothing, for the LORD your God detests anyone who does this.
The Contemporary English Version of that verse states it this way, “Women must not pretend to be men, and men must not pretend to be women. The LORD your God is disgusted with people who do that.” God holds a high view of gender. It’s been said that gender is sacred. So saying that it is not, is showing a disregard for how God created us.
Finally, the Bible does call people to live in truth. As much as a person may want, they are not the opposite sex. With the rare exceptions of an intersex condition, people are born either men or women. For the majority of transgendered people, it’s a matter of feelings and their mind telling them that they are one gender trapped in the opposite gender’s body. It’s all a matter of feelings without any basis in truth and reality.
In Psalms 51:6, David declares, “You desire truth in the innermost being, And in the hidden part You will make me know wisdom.” Just because a person feels something, does not mean that it is true. A person that is ruled by their feelings is unstable and unsafe in their thinking. We need to be people that are ruled by truth and reality. God wants truth to penetrate and permeate into the very deepest and most intimate places in our life.
Jesus said in John 8:23, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” He followed that up with John 12:6, “I am the way and the truth and the life.” From Scripture, we see that God’s heart is that the truth of God, Jesus Christ, will be who rules our lives. Not our feelings and desires.
Is being transgender a sin?
NOTE: This may be the question that draws the most eyes. This is the line that we tend to look to and there are a couple of temptations that we can have regarding an answer to this. First, there is the temptation to make a great deal of assumptions and conclusions about a person based upon their answer to this question. Secondly, because of the first, there is the temptation to be vague and nuanced...and actually not answer the question.
NeverUnloved's hope is that you will avoid the first temptation and we will seek to avoid the second.
Before we can effectively answer this question, we need to know what is meant when we say the word “sin”? What is sin? Is sin simply breaking one of God's rules? Then because it gets broken, God gets angry and we don't want God to be angry So…..don’t sin. Is that what we’re talking about here? Is that sin? No, not at all!
This may sound odd to you but sin is not about breaking God's rules. God is a loving and compassionate creator who loves his creation. Scripture says that God is love (1 John 4:8). Love is who God is and we are called to reflect God to others. He wants us to love others. Do you remember what Jesus said are the two most important commands? To love God and love others as much as you love yourself (Matthew 22:37-39).
Because God loves people, destruction and pain is not God's ultimate desire. We are to reflect that heart and seek to avoid pain and destruction. Therefore, sin is anything that would be destructive of another person or self-destructive to one’s self. It's not at all about breaking rules. The rules are not what makes something sin but the rules are in place so that we will not be destructive to others or self-destructive.
Therefore, with that definition in mind, is being transgender a sin? Yes it is.
The Bible says in Ephesians 2:10, “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” God created each person as masterpiece and has a plan for each person. Gender identity confusion is the mind of someone telling themselves that they are wrong and that the way that they were created is wrong and should be completely the opposite.
A person who transitions to appear as the opposite gender is destroying themselves to satisfy their desires. Many times, the person will destroy relationships and family connections. There is a great deal of pain and hurt that are often associated with a person who engages in transgenderism.
The Bible outlines the battle and the destruction that takes place quite well when James 4:2-3 states, “You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them. Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it. And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong–you want only what will give you pleasure.”
A person wants what they don’t have (to be the other gender) so they scheme and kill to get it. They plan on how to transition and find that relationships may die, people are hurt, and the person themself is destroyed in the process. All because what they want is what will give them pleasure.
Sin is either destructive of the person and/or other people. Transgenderism is just that.
What does repentance look like?
Repentance begins when a person declares Jesus as Lord of their life. Meaning that God is King and they are in submission to Him. Genuine submission and the removal of idols within the person’s life is the first and most important step in repentance.
Repentance is when a person recognizes that there are actions and attitudes in their life that are in opposition and conflict with who God has created them to be. Because they are not living as God created them to be, they are not experiencing the wholeness and fulfillment of a life lived the way the Creator designed us to live. Because of that, through the power of the Holy Spirit, they turn from those habits and mindsets and submit further to God.
Remember that repentance is not the same as sanctification. Sanctification is a process of becoming more like Christ and letting the Holy Spirit change us more into the image of Christ. That process is a life-long journey. Sanctification is also the work of the Holy Spirit in His timing and sequence, not anyone else’s. Repentance is turning away from sin as God reveals that to us.
When a Christian first comes to another believer with this issue, what is the best initial response?
One of the best first responses when a Christian hears that a sister or brother is going through struggles concerning their gender is simply to sincerely and simply say, "I'm so sorry that you are dealing with that." Genuine and loving sympathy (not pity) can be very refreshing.
Having the courage to step out and share with another person about their struggles with gender identity is a very big deal. That is an incredibly brave move and one that conveys more than simply needing to "get something off your chest". It communicates the person's trust, their desire for deeper community with you, and indicates a longing to not be alone. The best initial response is love and compassion.
Pray with them. If the other person is a Christian, seek God together. The goal of the conversation is to glorify God and journey the christian walk together.
Even if you don't know what to say, simply saying "I'm so sorry and you are not alone." goes a long way. Then just let the person talk and share their story. Don't feel like you have to say anything profound. Just love and be with them for a while.
How does transgenderism relate to other gender and sexuality issues? What distinguishes it from other gender issues?
Transgender gets lumped into the LBGTQ label, though it stands out as a bit different if you think about it. Lesbian, bisexual, gay, and queer generally refer to a person's sexual orientation and who the person is sexually attracted to. While transgender has less to do with attraction as it does with personal identification. A transgender person or someone who struggles with their gender identity is not as concerned about the person that they are sexually attracted to, though that may be a secondary component, but it is the fact that their physical body does not match with their mind and feelings.
Thus, gender identity is unique in someways as it is focused on personal identifications and feelings about one's self as opposed to sexual attraction to others. But (as with those termed cis-gendered people) there are a variety of ways that the issues overlap and play out uniquely.
Is there any Scriptural guidance on how to approach this issue for someone wanting to honor God, but not convinced God cares specifically about their gender identity?
One of the things that is so amazing about the creation account in Genesis 1-2, is what is shared about the first people that God created. If you read over that passage of Scripture, what are the only things that we know about how God made them?
Do we know how tall they were? No.
Do we know the color of their hair? No.
Do we know what language they spoke? No.
Do we know the color of their skin? No.
All we know is that they were created male and female. The one and only thing that we know about their physical bodies are that they each has a specific gender.
Scripture places a high view of gender as it seems that God places a high view of gender. Why did God place a high view of gender? Because it is a reflection of himself. It is a reflection of the multiple persons of the godhead who unite to be one. It is a reflection of God’s relationship with his bride (the church).
Gender is something that God gave to people that is a sacred reflection of himself.
Are those who struggle with gender identity confusion also homosexual and have same sex attractions?
Again, gender identity confusion refers to the personal identifications and feelings about one's self as opposed to sexual attraction to others. Homosexuality refers to a person being sexually attracted to someone of their same gender. There are many transgendered individuals who are in what would appear to be heterosexual or homosexual relationships.
At times, individuals who struggle with their gender identity may engage in same sex relationships as they want to be romantically involved with someone and loved as though they were the opposite sex. This can feed the desires and feeling that they have to transition their physical body to appear the opposite sex.
What advice can you give when talking with someone who struggles with gender identity?
The number one thing is to pray. Like Nehemiah prayed as he prepared to speak to the king in Nehemiah 2:4-5, “The king said to me, “What is it you want?” Then I prayed to the God of heaven, and I answered the king”. Seek the Holy Spirit to work through you and convey His love and truth.
Love and care about the person genuinely.
This is a person that God created for relationship with Himself. If you come across distant, disgusted, or shocked, there will be difficulty in walking this journey with a another person. Remember Jesus' words in Mark 2:17, "“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” We are to have the same heart.
Keep everything in strict confidence.
Be a safe person that can be trusted and will protect the person brave enough to share their struggle with you.
Remember that you are not the solution. God is.
Your job is to love the person, show compassion and empathy, and point them to God. Point them to the love and truth of Jesus and who He is. This also can take pressure off of you. It's not your job to fix them or have the "silver bullet" answers. Trust God and point to Him.
Validate the struggle.
A person battling gender identity confusion is in a hellish war. Do not belittle or make light of it. Empathy and compassion is a powerful tool. With that understanding, do not overemphasize the struggle but remember that "in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us" (Romans 8:37).
Do not try to reinforce stereotypes or speak poorly of one gender.
If a person comes to you and shares about their struggle with gender identity, don't try to reinforce gender stereotypes. The battle isn't with culturally determined gender roles but a matter of God-given gender identity. Men who love flowers and beauty is wonderful as well as women who enjoy hunting and football.
Likewise, don't cheapen gender by talking down about it. Saying things like, "Why would you want to be a guy? It's really not that great." or "As a woman, let me tell you why you would not want to be one." That does nothing to help and it simply adds to the confusion. Keep the main issue the main issue. That is to be like Christ and live the life God has called each person uniquely to.
Try not to debate or argue.
You are a tool that God may use to point the individual to Himself but don’t put too much faith in your reasoning and solid logic. The point is not to win an argument and convince another of anything. It is to be present for them while showing the love and healing of Christ.
Don’t drop the person.
The problem will not just go away. It may never go away. For a person walking through the journey of gender identity confusion, the feelings of loneliness and isolation are overwhelming. If they had the courage to reach out to you, celebrate that and don’t make them continue this journey by themselves. Protect their confidence but bring it up again. Follow up!
Seek the counsel and insights of others.
You don't have all of the answers. So be encouraged to reach out to other Pastors or leaders that you respect and trust. Seek their input and advice on how best to serve and love someone who struggles with the gender identity. You are not alone.
What is my responsibility as a Pastor?
Always point to Jesus.
A Pastor wisely stated,"Start with the gospel. Until a person understands the full gospel, battling any sin, idolatry, or identity issue is futile. Start with who Jesus is and what He’s done for you. Then, through discipling, allow God and Scripture to address a person's life." Your job is to point someone to God and share the work and power of God that is available and real.
Our identity is in God.
Scripture consistently points us to what our identity truly is. Galatians 2:20 reads, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Our identity ultimately is found in Christ. Paul directly tells us in Colossians 3:4 that Christ "is your life".
Remember that you are not the Holy Spirit.
It is God's job to shepherd hearts to Himself. It is your job to point people to God. The Scriptures say in Philippians 2:13, “for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” Trust in the work and power of the Holy Spirit and let Him use you.
Always love. No matter what.
WATCH AND LEARN
Below are powerful videos of teaching from Linda Seiler. Linda Seiler is the Director of Chi Alpha Christian Fellowship at Purdue University. Her story and wise insight are valuable in better serving and loving our community.
Both videos are produced by the Restored Hope Network.
Transgender 101 - by Linda Seiler - Restored Hope Network
Overview and introduction regarding the issue of transgender and having a Christ-centered worldview on the topic.
Why Gender Matters - by Linda Seiler - Restored Hope Network
A powerful testimony from Linda as she shares her story and explains why gender is a sacred gift from God.
Below are a list of web-pages and ministries that may be of help to you as you seek to serve and love those around you well.