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Transgenderism: The challenges, moral thinking and the church

Yesterday Premier had a news special headline – ‘Churches urged to be more welcoming to transgender Christians’. A number of Christian leaders were quoted on how and whether churches need to be better at being inclusive. 

Thirty years ago some friends of mine had a new baby. The doctor had to tell them it was unclear, if the child was male or female and he asked which they wanted. They chose male. The little boy grew up and was fine, until he went to school and used sports changing rooms; he thought he was really a girl. Acquaintances of mine adopted a little nine-year old boy and he recently announced, he wanted to be a girl. He dresses like a girl and plays with ‘girlie’ toys. His school has been very understanding and her classmates have accepted her. However, the parents are struggling with whether a child can make such a decision and what it will mean as puberty and bodily changes kick in.

Perceived wisdom separates biological, sexual characteristics and socially-constructed gender roles. It is not so much a matter of genetics, but more about social stereo-typing and expectations. Friends have been through the process. You have to dress and live as a member of your chosen sex. You have psychological counselling. If you want to change sex, then voice lessons, wardrobe advice and hormonal treatment begin. Your body changes. If you are determined, you decide in favour of surgery. My friends became women and one is delighted to socially and sexually be a woman. Another former student thought he had made a terrible mistake and unfortunately the doctors couldn’t replace what they had taken away. It is not just the Church, but also the schools, professional groups and friends who wonder how to react and consequently bathrooms, changing facilities, names, birth, marriage and legal documents become issues.

There is no exact Bible verse to quote when speaking about transgenderism and some may argue that Scripture is not a handbook to look up answers to difficult modern moral problems.  However, we are driven back to basics. Christ was inclusive and he spent time and welcomed the outcast, the stranger and the unacceptable folk of this world. But ‘welcoming’ is different from agreeing. A Catholic Health Care specialist commented that his institution’s policy doesn’t agree to operations below the waist and  he raised important questions such as “If God made us, then is it possible, in a fallen world, for a person to inhabit the ‘wrong’ body”? Natural Law teaches that there are laws in nature, which fundamentally affects us, but what counts as ‘natural’? Many of us may not accept our bodies just as they are; we bathe, dress and alter our appearance. Should we change our bodies to match our psychological preference and orientation? Is there a difference between breast augmentation and the alteration of sexual organs? Medicine is about restoring what has gone wrong. Plastic surgery was developed to treat deformities and injuries, however now it is used for cosmetic purposes. Disease is not just physical; Psychological and spiritual dis-ease are just as real and devastating. What does it mean to be a ‘person’, is it about how we feel personally and existentially or how we relate to others? God wants wholeness and peace for each of us. How far should medicine and society go to provide what people want, need or desire?

 

Click play below to listen to 'Did God Give Me The Wrong Body' a documentary exploring the Christian response to transgenderism, produced by Hannah Tooley and Narrated by Maria Rodrigues. To watch the full videos and interviews click HERE

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