It is no exaggeration to say that the evangelical church in Canada has been caught completely unprepared to deal with the cultural revolution that has dissolved all biblical and traditional assumptions about sex and gender. As Peter Jones notes, its scale and velocity are “without precedent in human history” not spanning centuries or even a single century, but rather “a single generation.”1
Our great challenge in responding to this revolution in thought and living is to marry both compassion and truth, realizing that:
Truth without Compassion is mere LEGALISM
Compassion without Truth is mere SENTIMENTALISM
But Compassion WITH Truth is the WAY OF JESUS.
To that end I am compiling a growing list of resources that have proven useful in my research on the issues surrounding gender identity. Please note that not all sources are necessarily speaking from a Christian perspective, which means that while I believe they contain content that helps us in better understanding the issues, I do not necessarily agree with all of their conclusions, especially where they may advocate a non-binary view of gender which the Bible clearly affirms.
Where possible I will include some comments regarding the specific benefits I see from each source as they contribute toward the marriage of both COMPASSION and TRUTH in formulating a distinctively Christian response to the issues. May God bless you as you seek to equip yourself to be a thoughtfully informed ambassador for Christ to our contemporary Canadian culture, such as it is.
In Transgender, Vaughan Roberts provides Christians with a helpful primer to the subject. He supplies useful definitions germane to the issues and insights into the experiences of those who wrestle with cross gender identification. He provides good help in placing the issues into the context of biblical teaching, as well as giving Christians practical and biblical guidance for response and engagement.
This is a short, but helpful introduction to the subject and one that every Christian should read in preparation for thoughtful and gracious response.
In Understanding Gender Dysphoria, Mark A. Yarhouse, a practicing clinical Christian psychologist provides a thorough explanation of Gender Dysphoria, the diagnostic term for those whose sense of self is at odds with their biological sex. He lays out three different ‘lenses’ through which people may view gender identity concerns:
The Integrity Framework: Recognizes the immutability of the male/female distinction as established by God in Creation.
The Disability Framework: Recognizes the fallenness of Creation due to sin and that all things within human living experience are not as they were originally intended. At every level, to a greater or lessor degree, humanity experiences ‘disorder’ because of sin.
The Diversity Framework: Seeks to view transgender experiences as a reflection of human diversity and therefore as something to be celebrated. Emphasizes blurring all distinctions between the sexes and acceptance of people as they are given the universal need for community and belonging.
Yarhouse’s thesis is that all three frameworks supply something of value, and that a distinctively Christian response will embrace elements from all three, what he refers to as an ‘integrated’ framework. This may stretch some Christians, especially those who have a high inclination to the integrity framework.
Pros: Yarhouse is a practicing clinical psychologist, and so brings a level of practical insight to the experiences of those who struggle with gender identity issues. This work is therefore a good help to developing COMPASSION in our response as Christians.
Cons: Sometimes it’s hard to nail down exactly what Yarhouse is proposing when it comes to application of his ‘integrated’ framework. At times it feels like, in leaning on the ‘disability framework’, he is suggesting the accommodation of a person’s transgender identity as a means of gracious response. This is concerning when we are called to graciously lead people to the truth, and I think great caution should be taken to avoid becoming complicit in reinforcing ‘sinful’ behaviour in order to be ‘gracious’. At the same time it should be recognized that only Christ can bring ultimate healing to the transgender person and that sanctification in this complex area of their being may not be immediate nor tidy. There is perhaps a sense in which we must welcome sinners as they are while we seek to lead them to where they need to be in Christ.
The issues surrounding gender identity concerns are complex, and embracing the gender struggling into the church while graciously helping them toward redemption and sanctification in Christ can be difficult and messy. Yarhouse’s work is an excellent tool for the uninitiated for developing a good understanding of the real issues, and brings a necessary voice into the church’s conversation.
While sexual orientation and gender identity are not the same thing, they are often very interrelated. In Homosexuality and the Christian, Mark Yarhouse supplies Christians with a solid primer on the major issues and questions surrounding homosexuality. Of particular help to parents is chapters 5 and 6 in which he deals with the question “What If My Child or Teen Announces a Gay Identity?” In this chapter he provides some practical response strategies, including some discussion on how to respond if a child begins identifying themselves with the opposite gender.
Written as a practical guide for Christian parents in responding to a child who declares a gay identity, When Homosexuality Hits Home, by Joe Dallas can also be a useful tool for parents wrestling with transgender children as his princples for response are very transferrable.
This is a helpful report that challenges the prevailing “scientific” view that gender identity is inborn and innate.
Former head of psychiatric medicine at Johns Hopkins Hospital discusses why the hospital decided to stop preforming sex change operations.
Using a pseudonym, a former psychotherapist specializing in work with transgender teens discusses why she felt compelled to leave her practice. Having taken a vow to “do no harm”, she felt hamstrung by the prevailing ideology that increasingly prohibits therapists from exploring underlying causes that may be resulting in gender mis-identification. This is a helpful article to give us a perspective on how trapped people who struggle with gender identification have become by a politically driven gender ideology.
“Gender Dysphoria in Children and Suppression of Debate” – Michelle A. Cretella, M.D. – American College of Pediatricians, in Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons, Vo. 21 Number 2, Summer 2016.
Dr. Cretella provides an excellent critique of lack of debate around treatment of children suffering from Gender Dysphoria, especially in the light of recent efforts to standardize treatment regimes which include puberty suppressing drugs and cross-sex hormones. She states:
A review of the current literature suggests that this protocol is rooted in an unscientific gender ideology, lacks and evidence base, and violates the long-standing ethical principle of “First do no harm.”
4thwavenow is an online community of parents and friends who are skeptical of the transgender child/teen trend. This is not a Christian site, and many who write do so from an openness to transgenderism. What they are skeptical of however is the growing trend of escalating occurrences among children and teens and see it as a result of an ideological agenda rather than true transgenderism. There are often helpful links to research that counters the ideological trends.
- Peter Jones, The Other Worldview: Exposing Christianity’s Greatest Threat, (Bellingham, WA, Kirkdale Press, 2015). Kindle Loc. 1443.