I once read a quote whose authorship I cannot place but it went something like this:
"In the silence of the church, people look to the world for guidance."
This video showcases an increasingly popular Aydian Dowling (with 24,400 followers and counting on YouTube) who at this moment of writing is contending for the top spot to be on the cover for Men's Health magazine for the year 2015. He is trans and that's perhaps why he is being interviewed on Ellen. As I watched the video, I thought of some questions I might ask the Christian reader of this blog.
If you are a Christian, how would you respond to a friend who is asking for donations to fund his/her surgery?
If you are a pastor/elder/leader in church, how would you advise the parents seeking your advice on how to cope after their child came out as trans and is needs their permission to start on hormones?
If you think that answer is clear cut and simple, consider the 41% suicide rate among transgender people.
Would you rather have a trans kid who has successfully transitioned to a different gender and fully alive, or bury a dead child who could no longer stand his/her gender dysphoria?
And if you still think it's that simple, consider the 70% of gender dysphoria cases that present themselves at childhood that passes away without incident after adolescence.
But a for a kid watching the dozens of YouTube videos out there on trans people, can he/she wait until 21 before starting on hormones? What if he/she is worried about getting them too late and not being able to pass (to be identified as their desired gender) as easily as he/she could if they started early? How do you prevent him/her from becoming the next Leelah Alcorn?
I don't know the answers to the questions I posed above. But I know that it's time that Christians, especially leaders, starting taking time to pray over these issues.
On my part, I'm eagerly awaiting Mark Yarhouse's latest, Understanding Gender Dysphoria, to gain a deeper understanding into this.
As I had this conversation with two trusted friends of mine, they pointed out a few things I had not considered before.
Consider individuals who undergo gender reassignment versus those who undergo cosmetic surgery due to body part dysphoria. Nose jobs, breast augmentation, double eyelid surgery, you name it. What about *milder* forms of cosmetic procedures such as liposuction or even a Botox shot? The church doesn't seem to raise a big fuss. But what does God says about vanity?
And then consider the baby born with a cleft lip. Are we to deny him/her a chance to breathe and chew more easily?
What is the difference?
What is the difference?
My friend's stand on this issue is to strive for psychological emotional and physical well-being. There might be trade-offs, but these choices still have to made and consequences have to be borne by the trans individual. The church, family and friends all need to help the individual make informed choices, support him/her and take steps to work towards finding their identity and seek for total well-being.
Another friend pointed out that it really boils down to an issue of contentment. As such, our response should be the same as to those pursuing wealth or fame to gain contentment. This also applies to those who feel they can only be accepted if they live a particular way (i.e. a luxurious lifestyle). Our response is the gospel. Trans people need to know that God created us, loves us, and longs for us to be in communion with him, sending His Son so this would be possible etc.
My friend's response to someone wanting to undergo cosmetic/gender reassignment surgery is that "they are fearfully and wonderfully made and don't have to change themselves to be loved. God loves them and I love them just as they are. However, if they feel like there's no other way then I would support them because I'd rather have them around."
Of course, if one isn't a Christian, then this might perhaps not apply.
I love talking to my friends! Spiritual, compassionate and loving. The church needs more of such people instead of judgmental ones the LGBT+ community have gotten used to over the years.
Are you willing to take part in this conversation? To include instead of exclude? To showcase the love of Jesus like he did with that woman?
Because it your words can bring life, or they can bring death.
Because in the silence of the church, individuals would look to the world for guidance instead.