Is transgenderism appropriate for a Christian?

In respect of the growingly popular issues of transgenderism (just think of NCAA women’s swimming), what I subscribe to and will defend is the integrity and acceptance of God’s creation and intention of only two sexes, which decide gender identity. The competing good is a complex package of “sympathetic recognition of their lived reality, full and welcoming social inclusion…legal recognition and protections…an opportunity for community with an identity… an end to stigma and discrimination.”[1] My more concise interpretation of the competing good is confirming one’s biology and psychology do not have to agree.

I will start with defining the terms, borrowed from a top Christian scholar on transgender issues – Mark Yarhouse. “’Gender identity’ is simply how people experience themselves as male or female, including how masculine or feminine they feel. ‘Transsexuality’ refers to someone “who wishes to or has identified with sex, in some cases through hormonal treatment or surgery.”[2] “’Transgender’” is an umbrella term for the many ways people express or present themselves differently from those for whom there is a match between their gender identity and their biological sex.”[3] It is important to also clarify gender dysphoria and transgender matters are not regarding having sex or allure to the same sex, even though “transgender” is included in the acronym LGBT.

First, I would like to look at transgenderism through the lens of deontic ethics[4], particularly what we can glean from the Bible. I think Wayne Grudem lays out several helpful assertions and evaluations in his book Christian Ethics. He starts with the point God produced just two sexes, male and female. We can see this in the first chapter of the Bible, “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”[5]  Science agrees with the Bible: men have an X chromosome and a Y chromosome in every cell of our bodies, whilst women have two X chromosomes. This accounts for a basic biological difference between sexes. Neuropsychiatrist Louann Brizendine claims, “Scientists have discovered an astonishing array of structural, chemical, genetic, hormonal, and functional brain differences between men and women.”[6]

Grudem’s second point is God expects a person’s gender identity to be decided by their biological sex. Grudem states,

“There is no hint anywhere in Scripture that a biological woman should ‘identify’ as a man or attempt to act in ways that are perceived as appropriate only for men. And there is no hint anywhere in Scripture that a biological man should ‘identify’ as a woman or attempt to act in ways that are perceived as appropriate only for women.”

What we see from Scripture as an alternative is somebody is either a man or a woman and there is no confusion in culture about telling the disparity: Lev. 12:2-5; Lev. 18:22; Lev. 20:13; Num. 27:8-9; Num. 30:2-3; Rom. 1:26-27; 1 Cor. 11:2-11; 1 Tim. 2:8-12; 1 Tim. 5:1-2; Titus 2:2-6. I want to highlight a particularly relevant verse. Deuteronomy 22:5 ought to give everyone who is honestly evaluating transgenderism great pause. Yes, it comes from the Old Testament Mosaic law. That does imply we (Christians) are not lawfully obliged by it, but it still tells us something about God’s methods. Old Testament professor Jason DeRouchie says of this verse:

“At a deeper level, however, the law assumes a more fundamental rule – that there are only two biological sexes – male and female – and that what is gender normative in God’s world is that one’s biological sex should govern both one’s gender identity and expression. Before divine wrath is poured out, this text provides a kind of corrective to gender confusion and transgender identity.”[7]

Considering these major points, some later issues to touch on briefly are the following: No, sex-reassignment surgery is not prohibited in the Christian ethic and can in fact be harmful. 324 people were studied for 30 years after they had sex-reassignment surgery and the study showed “beginning about 10 years after having the surgery, the transgendered began to experience increasing mental difficulties,” and their suicide rate was almost twenty times larger than the similar nontransgender populace.[8]

Also, transgenders should not be allowed in bathrooms, locker rooms, or the opposing biological sex’s sports. Grudem says this is “simply wrong because they are attempting to compel people to affirm a blatant lie.”[9] Furthermore, this undercuts the God-given sense of modesty concerning the publicity of sexual organs of boys and girls, men, and women (1 Cor. 12:23-24).

Now the matter of preferred pronouns is heavily debated, even among Christians. I agree with both Wayne Grudem and Ben Shapiro that we should not be using preferred pronouns because it affirms a lie and supports their delusion. Could I deny a transgender’s preference face to face? I honestly do not know because I realize how uncompassionate it may be perceived, and thankfully I have not run into this scenario yet. I may compromise on their name, but I have not thought through my conviction with that element yet.

This brings me to the last point; the aretaic ethic[10] of this issue, and what is practical for Christians to do when interacting with transgenders. Whether one believes every transgender scenario is a willful choice (and thus moral sin) or a deeply unfortunate and unwelcome part of the fall, we cannot only wish transgenders to turn in agreement with their biological sex and disregard the reality of the confusion, mental unhealth, and whatever else they may be experiencing. Although we should not celebrate their situation, we do need to have compassion and still attract them to the individual and act of Jesus Christ, and the ability of the Holy Spirit to transform us into his image.


[1] David P. Gushee, Glen H. Stassen.; Kingdom Ethics, 2nd Ed.: Following Jesus in Contemporary Context. 144.

[2] Mark Yarhouse, Understanding Gender Dysphoria (Christianity Today, July/August 2015), 46.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Deontic means rule-centered ethics, which concentrate on the advancement of regulations and rules by which individuals should abide by. This entails carrying out one’s duty and preventing sin.

[5] The New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011), Ge 1:27.

[6] Louann Brizendine, The Female Brain (New York: Morgan Read Books, 2006), 4.

[7] Jason DeRoucie, “Confronting the Transgender Storm: New Covenant Reflections from Deuteronomy 22:5,” Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood 21, no. 1 (May 25, 2016), http://cbmw.org/topics/transgenderism/jbmw-21-1-confronting-the-transgender-storm-new-covenant-reflections-from-deuteronomy-225/.

[8] Paul McHugh, “Transgender Surgery Isn’t the Solution: A Drastic Physical Change Doesn’t Address Underlying Psycho-Social Troubles,” The Wall Street Journal, June 12, 2014, updated May 13, 2016, https://www.wsj.com/articles/paul-mchugh-transgender-surgery-isnt-thesolution-1402615120.

[9] Wayne Grudem, Christian Ethics: An Introduction to Biblical Moral Reasoning, (Wheaton, IL: Crossway), 880.

[10] Aretaic means character-centered ethics, which concentrate on the development of virtues and the prevention of vices.

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