The House of Bishops and transgender: Fifteen wasted years.

Introduction.

In 2018 the House of Bishops issued two statements on the transgender issue. The first of these was GS Misc. 1178, ‘An update on ‘Welcoming Transgender People,’’[1] and the second, which built upon the first, was ‘Pastoral Guidance for use in conjunction with the Affirmation of Baptismal Faith in the context of gender transition.’[2]

Although these are the two most recent House of Bishops statements on the subject, they were not the first material produced by the House on the transgender issue. In 2003 the House of Bishops published a discussion document entitled Some Issues in Human Sexuality[3] which, among other topics, looked at what it called ‘transsexualism’ and in the same year the House issued a memorandum on the matter.[4]

In this paper I shall compare and contrast what is said in these four documents. I shall argue that they show us three main things. First that the House’s position changed from one of neutrality in 2003 to one of support for gender transition in 2018. Secondly, that that the House failed to give adequate theological justification either for the position it took in 2003 or for the position it adopted in 2018. Thirdly, that for fifteen years the House has avoided answering the key questions about the transgender issue identified in Some Issues in Human Sexuality and that is this failure that has prevented it from reaching a theologically justifiable position on gender transition.

I shall also argue that the House has failed to make a proper contribution to the public debate on the transgender issue, and has failed to give guidance on pastoral care for people with gender dysphoria and their families, on the marriage of those who have gone through gender transition and on the issue of whether those who have gone through gender transition should be ordained.

Finally, I shall suggest where we need to go from here.

Some Issues in Human Sexuality 2003.

As its subtitle suggests, Some Issues in Human Sexuality was written as ‘a guide to the debate’ about human sexuality as this stood at the time when this report was written. The report was intended to enable members of the Church of England to better understand the matters under discussion so that when they came to make decisions about them they would do so in a properly informed fashion.

Chapter 7 of the report is concerned with the topic of ‘transsexualism’ (what we would now call ‘transgender’ issues). The chapter looks in turn at what is meant by the term ‘transsexualism,’ the history of transsexualism, the growth of the debate about transsexualism in society as a whole and the nature of the Christian debate about transsexualism. It also highlights the issues about the nature of the human person, divine order, the interpretation of the Bible, the appropriateness of medical intervention, marriage and birth certificates, and the place of transsexual people in the life of the Church that are raised by the Christian debate.

At the end of the chapter two key questions are identified as lying at the heart of the Christian debate about transsexualism.

The first question concerns what it means for a transsexual person to live in obedience to Christ.

The report asks:

‘Does such obedience mean learning to accept and live with their given biological identity because this is the identity which God has given them, or does it mean seeking a new post-operative identity on the grounds that it is this which will enable them to more fully express the person God intends them to be?’[5]

What is said in this quotation reflects the fact that back in 2003 sexual reassignment surgery was the centre of the discussion of transsexualism. Today we would be more aware that many transgender people find ways of expressing their sense of their true identity without undergoing surgery. However, the fundamental issue raised in the question remains as relevant today as it was then. Does the path of Christian discipleship for transgender people involve accepting their biological identity, or does it mean seeking a new identity which they think more fully expresses the person God intended them to be?

The second question concerns what constitutes our God- given identity as human beings. The report states:

‘It has traditionally been held that one of the implications of the Christian belief in the resurrection of the body is that it shows that our bodies are integral to who we are before God. We are not simply people who inhabit bodies, rather our bodies are part of who we are. If this is the case, what are the theological grounds for saying that in the case of people with gender dysphoria their ‘true’ identity is different from that of the body with which they were born? Can we go down this road without moving to a new form of gnostic dualism in which the body is seen as separate from the self? ‘[6]

Although the report itself does not say so, because it is raising questions rather than answering them, the answer to the question in the last sentence of this quotation is ‘no.’

As Robert George explains in his 2016 article ‘Gnostic Liberalism,’ despite the differences between them the various Gnostic heresies that existed during the early centuries of the Church all held to an anthropology that sharply divided:

‘….the material or bodily, on the one hand, and the spiritual or mental or affective, on the other. For Gnostics, it was the immaterial, the mental, the affective that ultimately matters. Applied to the human person, this means that the material or bodily is inferior—if not a prison to escape, certainly a mere instrument to be manipulated to serve the goals of the ‘person,’ understood as the spirit or mind or psyche. The self is a spiritual or mental substance; the body, its merely material vehicle. You and I, as persons, are identified entirely with the spirit or mind or psyche, and not at all (or in only the most highly attenuated sense) with the body that we occupy (or are somehow ‘associated with’) and use.‘ [7]

The anthropology of the modern transgender movement is based on a similar division between the self and the body. The often repeated transgender claim that someone is a man trapped in a woman’s body, or a woman trapped in a man’s body (or someone who is neither male nor female trapped in a man or woman’s body), only makes sense if it is held that that there is a self which has an identity which is separate from, and different to, the body to which it is attached. I can only meaningfully say that my sexual identity is different from the biological sex of my body if in fact I am not my body, but a distinct spiritual or mental substance which exists apart from my body.

Orthodox Christianity, however, rejects this kind of body-self dualism. Scripture, reason and the Christian tradition all teach us that in his goodness and wisdom God made human beings as a unity of body and soul. Rocks are purely material, angels are purely spiritual, but human beings are a unity of a material body and an immaterial soul. This unity means that we are our bodies and our bodies are us, which is why it makes sense to say I got up in the morning, I ate and drank, and I went to bed at night. All these are actions of the single self who is both body and soul. It is this combination of body and soul that we see exhibited in the stories in the Gospels about the humanity of Christ. Christ is one self in whom a human body and soul exist and act together.[8]

It is as this unity of body and soul that we are either male or female. To be male or female is to have certain bodily characteristics that are designed by God to enable us to fulfil his command to ‘be fruitful and multiply’ (Genesis 1:28) by playing a particular role in the procreation and nurture of children.

Although death leads to a separation of the body and the soul, so fundamental are our bodies to who we are that, following the pattern of Christ’s resurrection, God will resurrect our bodies at the end of time so that we will exist for all eternity as the male and female human beings God created us to be (see 1 Corinthians 15).

There is a very tiny number of human beings (around 0.018% of live births) who suffer from a developmental disorder stemming from the Fall that means that they either have elements of both male and female in their biology or have a body whose observable physical characteristics cannot be classified as either male or female.[9] However, these intersex people are the exceptions that prove the rule. The vast majority of human beings fulfil God’s original creative intention by being clearly and indisputably either male or female in their biology and therefore in who they are.

Those who suffer from gender dysphoria are part of this majority. They find it psychologically difficult to identify with the sex of their bodies, but the sex of their bodies is physiologically unambiguous. They are men and women who, for reasons which are still not clearly understood, struggle with being men and women.[10]

All this being the case, it follows that the answer to the previous question in Some Issues about Christian discipleship is that it is not compatible with the path of Christian discipleship for people with male or female bodies to claim either that they are really a member of the other sex, or that they have some other kind of sexual identity. Our responsibility as God’s human creatures is to acknowledge and accept with gratitude the sex God has made us to be as this is manifested to us in the nature of our bodies, and this remains true even in the case of those who struggle with gender dysphoria.

In the words of Oliver O’Donovan:

‘The sex into which we have been born (assuming it is physiologically unambiguous) is given to us to be welcomed as the gift of God. The task of psychological maturity – for it is a moral task, and not merely an event which may or may not transpire – involves accepting this gift and learning to love it, even though we may have to acknowledge that it does not come to us without problems. Our task is to discern the possibilities for personal relationship which are given to us with this biological sex, and to seek to develop them in accordance with our individual vocations. Those for whom this task has been comparatively unproblematic (though I suppose that no human being alive has been without some sexual problems) are in no position to pronounce any judgement on those for whom accepting their sex has been so difficult that they have fled from it into denial. Nevertheless, we cannot and must not conceive of physical sexuality as a mere raw material with which we can construct a form of psychosexual self-expression which is determined only by the free impulse of our spirits. Responsibility in sexual development implies a responsibility to nature – to the ordered good of the bodily form which we have been given.‘[11]

The House of Bishops Memorandum 2003.

Following its meeting in Leeds early in 2003 the House of Bishops issued a memorandum on transsexualism which runs as follows:

‘The House recognised that there was a range of views within the Church on transsexualism and accepted that (as matters stood at present) both the positions set out below could properly be held: a) some Christians concluded on the basis of Scripture and Christian anthropology, that concepts such as ‘gender reassignment’ or ‘sex change’ were really a fiction. Hormone treatment or surgery might change physical appearance, but they could not change the fundamental God-given reality of ‘male and female He created them’. b) others, by contrast, whilst recognising that medical opinion was not unanimous, were persuaded that there were individuals whose conviction that they were ‘trapped in the wrong body’ was so profound and persistent that medical intervention, which might include psychiatric, hormone, and surgical elements, was legitimate and that the result could properly be termed a change of sex or gender.

The House agreed that the Church should continue to engage in discussions with the Lord Chancellor’s Department with a view to safeguarding the position of bishops unwilling to ordain transgendered candidates and, once marriage of transsexuals became possible in law, securing an exemption for clergy not willing to solemnise such marriages.’ [12]

As the second paragraph indicates, the context of this memorandum was the discussions which the Church of England was then having with the Lord Chancellor’s Department to safeguard the freedom of bishops not to ordain transgender candidates and the right of clergy not to marry transgender people in their chosen sex once such a marriage became possible in law (as it did under the Gender Recognition Act the following year).

In this context the purpose of the first paragraph was to make clear that the view that ‘gender reassignment’ or ‘sex change’ was a fiction could properly be held by members of the Church of England and that therefore freedom of religion meant that such a view should be protected in law with the consequence that bishops should not have to ordain transgender candidates or clergy have to marry people in their assumed identity.

From an orthodox Christian standpoint it is easy to see why the bishops state that this position (position a) can properly (i.e. rightly) be held within the Church of England. As we have seen, orthodox Christian anthropology holds on the basis of Scripture, reason and tradition, that the unity of the human person means what makes someone male or female is their biology. Because this is immutable it follows that any claim to have changed sex is a fiction. Someone can adopt the role of a member of the opposite sex (or of someone who is neither make nor female), but this is not who they truly are.

What the bishops do not make clear, however, is why the alternative position (position b) can also properly be held. There is a growing body of evidence that medical intervention is not necessarily the best way to help people who find it difficult or impossible to accept their sex.[13] Furthermore, it is difficult to see on what basis the results of such intervention could rightly be called a change of sex. Hormones and surgery can mask someone’s biological sex, but they cannot fundamentally alter it. It follows that a change of sex does not and cannot occur. As John McHugh puts it, ‘Transgendered men do not become women, nor do transgendered women become men.’[14]

The only way it could be held that someone’s true identity was different from their biology would be to go down the route of dividing the self from the body and, as we have seen, this approach involves a gnostic dualism which is incompatible with orthodox Christian anthropology. The bishops’ memorandum suggests that it is possible for medical intervention to change someone’s sex by changing their body, but for the reason noted in the previous paragraph this suggestion does not work. This means one either has to buy into body-self dualism, or say that the claims about their identity made by those who have undergone gender transition are indeed fictitious.

Although the memorandum was produced prior to the publication of Some Issues in Human Sexuality, the bishops were aware of what that report was going to say. However, they decided not to address the questions it raises about whether the claims made by the transgender movement can be upheld without accepting a gnostic anthropology and whether, therefore, gender transition is compatible with Christian discipleship. Because the memorandum does not engage with these questions the bishops fail to establish that Christians can properly support gender transition.

GS Misc. 1178 – ‘An update on ‘Welcoming Transgender People’’ 2018.

After 2003 the House of Bishops produced nothing further on the transgender issue until January 2018 when it published GS Misc. 1178, ‘An update on ‘Welcoming Transgender People.’’

This paper was a response to a motion on ‘Welcoming transgender people’ that had been passed by the General Synod in July the previous year. This motion ran:

‘That this Synod, recognising the need for transgender people to be welcomed and affirmed in their parish church, call on the House of Bishops to consider whether some nationally commended liturgical materials might be prepared to mark a person’s gender transition.’[15

In response to this motion, GS Misc. 1178 suggests that rather than create new liturgical materials Church of England ministers should respond to requests to mark a transgender person’s new identity ‘in a creative and sensitive way’ by making using of the existing rites of Baptism and Confirmation, or the service for Affirmation of Baptismal Faith, which the paper suggests is an ideal liturgical rite which trans people can use to mark this moment of personal renewal.’

Unlike the 2003 memorandum, which declares that those in the Church of England can properly hold both that the identity claimed by someone as a result of gender transition is a fiction, and that a change of sexual identity has in fact occurred, GS Misc. 1178 talks only about the affirmation of gender transition. The idea that someone might properly be unable to affirm that gender transition has occurred, or might properly hold that a person’s rejection of their biological sex was incompatible with Christian discipleship, is absent from the picture.

If we ask why GS Misc. 1178 thinks that gender transition should be affirmed we are not given an answer.

The two places in the paper in which the bishops give justification for what they propose are in paragraphs 3 and 6. They run as follows:

‘The House of Bishops welcomes and encourages the unconditional affirmation of trans people, equally with all people, within the Church, the body of Christ, and rejoices in the diversity of that one body, into which all Christians have been baptized by one Spirit.’

‘The image of God, in which we are all made, transcends gender, race, and any other characteristic, and our shared identity as followers of Jesus is the unity which makes all one in Christ (Galatians 3.27-28).’

What is said in these two quotations is in itself true and helpful. It is right to welcome and affirm unconditionally as people those who identify as transgender and it is right to rejoice in the God given diversity of the body of Christ. It is also right to say that all human beings are created in God’s image regardless of their gender, race, or any other characteristic and that it is being followers of Jesus that unites Christians together.

However, none of this tells us why it is right to affirm gender transition. Welcoming and affirming people as those whom God has created and redeemed, rejoicing in the contribution they make to the diversity of the body of Christ, and acknowledging that they have been made in God’s image and that we are united to them as fellow followers of Jesus, does not mean that we have to accept every claim that people make about themselves or everything that they do. Indeed the warning given by St. Paul in Romans 1:18-32 about the way in which human thinking and behaviour has been distorted by the Fall means that we have to accept that some of the claims people make about themselves will be untrue and some of things that they do will be wrong.

This means that we cannot simply accept at face value the claim made by transgender people that they are trapped in bodies which do not express their true identities, or that it is, or has been, right for them to undergo a process of gender transition. Reasons have to be put forward for accepting either of these claims and GS Misc. 1178 does not offer such reasons.

Furthermore, like the 2003 memorandum, GS Misc.1178 fails to engage with the key questions raised in Some Issues in Human Sexuality. Just like in 2003 the bishops fail to address the questions Some Issues raises about whether the claims made by the transgender movement can be upheld without accepting a gnostic anthropology and whether, therefore, gender transition is compatible with Christian discipleship.

As we have seen, had they looked seriously at these questions they would have had to say that the answer to both of them is ‘no’ and that for this reason it is not right to use the Church of England’s liturgy to affirm gender transition regardless of what was said by General Synod about the matter.

Pastoral Guidance for use in conjunction with the Affirmation of Baptismal Faith in the context of gender transition 2018.

The Pastoral Guidance published by the House of bishops in December 2018 follows on from what is said in GS Misc. 1178. This guidance explains in more detail what would be involved in using the Affirmation of Baptismal Faith (or the rites of Baptism and Confirmation if these are felt to be more appropriate) in order ‘to recognize liturgically a person’s gender transition.’ [16]

Like GS Misc.1178, the Pastoral Guidance gives unequivocal support to affirming gender transition. The guidance insists that rites marking gender transition ‘should have a celebratory character’[17] and once again the idea that someone might properly be unable to affirm that gender transition has occurred, or might properly hold that a person’s rejection of their biological sex is incompatible with Christian discipleship, is conspicuous by its absence.

The Pastoral Guidance is also like GS Misc.1178 in failing to explain why gender transition should be affirmed. The justification that is offered is word for word identical with what is said in the previous document[18] and is unsatisfactory for exactly the same reasons.

The Guidance that has not been given

Part of the role of the bishops is to contribute a Christian voice to debates about important issues taking place in British society. When it comes to the issue of gender transition the bishops have failed in this role.

They have, rightly, spoken out against violence and hatred directed towards transgender people. However, they have not contributed to the public discussion about whether it makes sense to say that people are ‘trapped in the wrong body’ or can ‘change their sex,’ or to the discussion about how acceptance of male to female transition affects the issue of women’s rights, or to the discussion about whether gender transition is the best treatment for gender dysphoria, or to the discussion about the potential medical and psychological effects of launching children and young people on a path of gender transition that may involve the use of hormones to block puberty.

All these are serious issues on which there has been, and still is, vigorous debate. However, the bishops have failed to make a Christian theological or ethical contribution to this debate and have therefore left the impression that these are issues on which the Church has nothing worthwhile to say.

There has, for example, been no contribution from the bishops to the vigorous public debate around the Government’s proposed reform of the Gender Recognition Act. The sole official Church of England response has been a note from Dr Malcolm Brown, the Church of England’s Director of Mission and Public Affairs, explaining that the Church was not going to respond to the Government’s questionnaire because this might cause difficulties for the Living in Love and Faith Process – a consideration which did not, as we have seen, prevent the bishops agreeing to a change in the Church’s liturgical practice to allow the celebration of gender transition. [19]

The bishops have also failed to give any guidance on pastoral care for people with gender dysphoria and their families. Gender dysphoria is a condition which can have a devastating effect on the people involved and on their families and friends. Clergy and laity need guidance on how to provide, or arrange, appropriate spiritual, emotional, psychological and medical support which is in line with Christian teaching for people in this situation. Sadly the bishops have failed to provide, or commission, any material to provide such guidance.

A final failure by the bishops has been to provide guidance on the issues of marriage and ordination. The position of the Church of England is that clergy may, but do not have to, marry those who have gone through gender transition in their new identity, and that bishops may, but do not have to, ordain transgender candidates.[20] Some Issues in Human Sexuality sets out the arguments around the marriage and ordination of transgender people,[21] but the bishops have failed to engage with these arguments and have not produced any material which gives a theological justification for the Church’s current policy. As a result the Church’s position appears simply arbitrary.

Where should we go from here?

The transgender movement has taken over from the gay rights movement as the leading progressive social cause of our time and conversation with those involved in ministry, particularly ministry among young people, will soon show that the number of people who identify as transgender is growing exponentially. This is therefore an issue which the Church has to get to grips with and the bishops have the responsibility to provide the Church with leadership and guidance on the matter. Unfortunately, as this paper has shown, their track record in this area has not been good.

After fifteen years this needs to change. The bishops should take the opportunity provided by the Living in Love and Faith process to produce detailed teaching and guidance on this issue, teaching and guidance which covers all the matters noted in this paper and which starts from the basic Christian beliefs that human beings are a unity of body and soul and that the human calling is to accept with gratitude the sex we have been give through our bodies as a good gift from God (however challenging we may find such acceptance to be) and to live accordingly.

This is, of course, very hard teaching for those with gender dysphoria, but, as we have seen, it is teaching that we cannot avoid unless we want to go down the gnostic path of dividing the self from the body. We are called to show the maximum amount of compassion for those with gender dysphoria, and give them the maximum amount of support, but we cannot do this by simply setting aside what Scripture, tradition and reason tell us about the way God created his human creatures to be.

M B Davie 2.1.19

[1] General Synod, GS Misc. 1178, ‘An Update on ‘Welcoming Transgender people’’ at https://www.churchofengland.org/sites/default/files/2018-01/GS%20Misc%201178%20-%20An%20update%20on%20Welcoming%20Transgender%20People%20%28003%29.pdf

[2] House of Bishops, ‘Pastoral Guidance for use in conjunction with the Affirmation of Baptismal Faith in the context of gender transition.’ at https://www.churchofengland.org/sites/default/files/2018-

12/Pastoral%20Guidance-Affirmation-Baptismal- Faith.pdf

[3] House of Bishops, Some Issues in Human Sexuality, London: CHP, 2003.

[4] House of Bishops Memo HB(03)M1 text at http://changingattitude.org.uk/archives/8542

[5] Some Issues, pp.248-9.

[6] Ibid, p.249.

[7] Robert George, ‘Gnostic Liberalism,’ First Things, December 2016, at  https://www.firstthings.com/article/2016/12/gnostic-liberalism

[8] In the words of the Athanasian Creed, Christ was (and is) ‘Perfect God and Perfect Man: of a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting.’

[9] For details see Leonard Sax, How common is intersex?’, Journal of Sex Research, 1 August, 2002, text at http://www.leonardsax.com/how-common-is-intersex-a-response-to-anne-fausto-sterling/.

[10] It is sometimes suggested (and even taught in schools) that there are people who have female brains in male bodies and vice versa and that this is what leads them to identify with the opposite sex from the rest of their body. However, at the moment there is no reliable scientific evidence which shows that transgender people have distinctively different brains or that it is the form of their brains that gives them their sense of sexual identity (see the   summary of the relevant studies in Lawrence Meyer and Paul McHugh, ‘Gender identity’  New Atlantis, Fall 2016, pp.102-104 and the discussion in Mark Yarhouse, Understanding Gender Dysphoria, Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2015, Ch. 3).

[11] Oliver O’Donovan, Begotten or Made?, Oxford: OUP, 1984, pp.28-29.

[12] House of Bishops Memo.

[13] See Meyer and McHugh, op.cit, Part 3 and Ryan T Anderson, When Harry became Sally, New York: Encounter Books, 2018, Chs. 5-6 and Yarhouse, op.cit. Ch. 5.

[14] John McHugh, ‘Transgenderism: A Pathogenic Meme,’ Public Discourse, June 10, 2015 at https://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2015/06/15145/

[15] Details about the motion can be found at https://www.churchofengland.org/more/media- centre/news/welcoming-transgender-people.

[16] Pastoral Guidance, Para 2

[17] Ibid, Para 4

[18] Ibid, Paras 1 and 2.

[19] Reform of the Gender Recognition Act – Government Consultation A Response from the Church of England can be found at:  https://www.churchofengland.org/sites/default/files/201810/Gender%20Recognition%20Act%2 consultation%20response.pdf.

[20] The decision of the House of Bishops in 2002 was that bishops who agreed to sponsor a transgender  candidate must also take responsibility for ordaining them and finding them a title parish. See Chris Newlands, GS 2071A Diocesan Synod Motion Welcoming Transgender People , Para 11 at: https://www.churchofengland.org/sites/default/files/2017-11/gs-2071a-welcoming-transgender-people.pdf and also Ministry Division, Sending Candidates to BAP, 2017, para 1.14.

[21] Some Issues, pp. 239-242, 247-8 and 286-289.

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Transgender, reality and pastoral care

Introduction

Last week the Church of Scotland published a report entitled Diverse Gender Identities and Pastoral Care which is intended help its pastoral teams ‘to support those in our communities who identify themselves as transgender.’[1]

The report was produced on behalf of the Church of Scotland by the Scottish Trans Alliance which describes itself as a ‘project to improve gender identity and gender reassignment equality, rights and inclusion in Scotland.’ [2] It consists of eleven stories about the experiences of seven transgender people, two mothers of transgender children, the wife of someone who is transgender and a Church of Scotland minister. The transgender people involved include those who would describe themselves as ‘androgyne’, ‘non-binary,’ and ‘demi-boy’ and those who have undergone transition from male to female and female to male.

This report is worth considering by those outside the Church of Scotland because it raises the question of what is the best way to care pastorally for those who identify as transgender. Is the approach advocated in the report the correct way forward, or would some other approach be preferable?

The approach taken by the report.

The approach to pastoral care advocated by the report can be summed up in the single word ‘acceptance.’ The message contained in all the stories in the report is that everyone should accept unconditionally and without question the identities claimed by transgender people and support them in living out those identities.

Three reasons are given for this.

First, these identities are who people really are. This can be see, for example, in the stories of Kaden and Judith which are designed to tell us that Kaden really is a demi-boy and that Judith really is woman.

In Kaden’s story we are told:

‘I am an 18-year-old demi-boy which basically means I mostly identify as a boy but thatthere is a bit of me, that could be a third gender, but isn’t: it is feminine, I suppose, but not in a girly way. I don’t really know, it is just a thing. I’m definitely non-binary which is under the umbrella term of trans.

My self-discovery that I’m non-binary happened almost overnight. One day suddenly I realised everything felt a bit wrong. Up until then, I hadn’t acknowledged puberty, I had ignored it and then on my 15th birthday I felt disconnected from what my body had become and, more importantly, I realised that I felt disconnected rather than just fumbling through life with a disconnection.

When I first came out I described myself as gender fluid but as time went on I tried out trans-guy and then found demi-boy and that really fitted what I felt so I carried on down that road. A lot of people talk about gender dysphoria but they don’t mention gender euphoria as much. For me when someone introduced me as Kaden or used male pronouns that felt really good, that felt right.

I suppose I am androgynous but mostly boy. I lean towards the masculine with a masculine outlook and feelings but I do have feminine in me. I try to describe it via life goals and my life goal would be to have a beard and lipstick.’ [3]

In Judith’s story we are told:

‘I’ve always known I was different. Even at school the other boys called me Mary because I was much happier playing with girls than running around with them. Growing up in an industrial town in the 1940s and 1950s was hard. Men were men and women were women and women were somewhere down there – lower. I’ve always known I was born into the wrong body.

But you go along with life. I got married at 24 to a lovely woman, and eventually had a family – as that was what was expected, but part of me was always unhappy. I had tofind time, to dress as Judith, privately. All the stress of pretending to be someone else –pretending to be a man – all that stress would fall away if I could just spend some time dressed in Judith’s clothes. Then I could relax and be who I knew I really was. Luckily my jobtook me away a lot and I stayed in hotels, so hidden in the boot of my car was all I needed to be Judith. Alone, I would lock myself up in the hotel room and watch TV in a nice dress It wasn’t anything sexual, it was just about being honest, being me – Judith.’ [4]

Underlying this acceptance of the identities that people claim for themselves is the further belief that our identities as sexual beings are not determined by our biology. As Jo puts it in the course of telling her story: ‘Some men have vaginas and some women have penises.’[5]

Secondly, discovering their true identity helps people’s mental well-being whereas not acknowledging that identity is mentally damaging and can even lead to suicide. We can see this point about mental well -being in the stories of Kaden and Judith, and we can see the point about mental damage in the stories of Andrew and Dyan.

Andrew, who is a female to male transgender states:

‘People presume I chose to be a trans man. Please believe me when I say that no one chooses to be transgender. Nothing about this journey is easy; who would choose to put themselves through this, all this pain and stress and medical procedures? It’s not about choosing to be transgender – it is about choosing to live as your real self and in the end that is a choice you don’t really have. You can’t go on any more – you have to live as yourself. That’s why suicide rates for the trans community are so high. You can’t carry on living a false life. ‘ [6]

Dyan tells the story of how her daughter Julie transitioned to her son James. She declares:

‘Things are good now but looking back Julie was a very unhappy teenager. There was self-harm and suicide attempts. Julie would have killed herself and it was killing me – I couldn’t watch her all the time. She was a nightmare teenager. She’d go into her room and I was terrified about what was going on, certainly some cutting. I’d hide every blade in the house. There were no sharp knives in my kitchen during that time. There had been no mental health problems until adolescence arrived because if you feel you are male and you start getting breasts and periods – well that is when he just flipped out – couldn’t cope with it. That’s where the self-harming came in because of disgust at the body – he had no self-esteem.

Julie was a desperately unhappy person who was trying to kill herself so if Julie said she wanted to be James then by golly I was going to support it. We knew we had to go down this route because eventually a suicide attempt was going to be successful. The provement in his mental health was huge and as he’s continued on his journey; it has all sorted itself out now. I have no worries on that score anymore.‘  [7]

Thirdly, God approves of people’s identity. Thus Jo, who identifies as non-binary, tells us:

‘I have had conservative traditional Christians call me an abomination, an affront to decency, a profound threat to the natural order but I don’t see that in the Bible. When I read the two creation stories in Genesis I see that ‘male and female created he them’. I know that these people read that as ‘male and separate to that female’ but the Hebrew is much more ambiguous than that. Perhaps it is ‘male together with female’. It might mean that the first being was androgyne. Indeed the work of Jung would suggest that we all have female and male energy in us. Trans people are part of God’s creation. It says in Isaiah that I named you in the womb. God’s word is full of texts that talk about the mercy and compassion of the creator.

I have no doubt that Jesus would love us. I was taught that Jesus came down to earth andembraced all human experience so, of course, that must include my experience too. We see that Jesus reached out to people that conventional society of the time would have hated and excluded and that he treated them all equally. We even have the passages in Matthew (19:12) where Jesus directly talks about eunuchs. That is me. He is talking about me. I am a eunuch. Look at the beautiful story of Phillip and the eunuch in Acts (8:26-40). Even the passages in the Old Testament refer to specific cultural contexts that aren’t around anymore. There isn’t a theological problem with trans people, there is just prejudice.’ [8]

Maxwell, who is a female to male transgender, likewise explains:

‘Thankfully, I never had any kind of fear that God would have any difficulty with my transition. I knew I was made, loved and affirmed by God. I knew that I was made in God’s image and that being transgender was truly a gift from God. My gut feeling was that it was all good and that God had finally got me to the place I needed to be.

I can link my transition experience to the resurrection story. Being resurrected in a different way, being transformed in a new way, you become who you were meant to be. I often hear transgender folks in a church context talk about having a resurrection experience and I feel like that is what God has allowed me to have.’ [9]

For these three reasons, the report says, whether you are a minister with transgender people in your congregation, a member of a congregation with transgender people in it, or the parent, spouse or other family member of a transgender person, you need to listen to them and accept who they say they are.

Responding to this approach.

The first thing that needs to be said in response to this report is that that anyone interested in the debate about transgender needs to read it. It is a very clear and accessible statement of the pro-transgender position. If you want to know why those arguing for the acceptance of transgender by the churches think as they do then this report will tell you.

Secondly, the report is right to highlight the importance of listening to the stories of transgender people and their families. All good pastoral care has to start from where people are, just as Jesus started from where the Samaritan woman at the well was in her life (John 4:7-26), and we will only discover where people are if we are prepared to listen to their stories in a non-judgemental fashion. The report’s prescription of ‘a hanky, a cup of tea and a hug’[10] may sound rather twee, but is in fact a good place to start.

Thirdly, however, we should not simply take at face value what people say about their own identities. This is because one of the consequences of this being a fallen world is that people can be deceived about who they truly are. A classic example of this is the strange case of King Charles VI of France, who became convinced that he was made of glass and consequently would not allow people to touch him and had special reinforced clothes made to prevent himself from being broken.

Transgender people may find the suggestion that their position is in any way akin to that of Charles VI to be offensive. Nevertheless, his story is relevant because it reminds us that we cannot just accept the truth of what people say about themselves. We have to check what they say against other available evidence.

In the case of Charles VI and others suffering from what is known as a ‘glass delusion’ there is no reason to question the sincerity of their self-perception. They genuinely believe that they are made of glass. However, everything else we know about the composition of human bodies tells us that this belief is wrong. There can be no such thing as a glass human being. [11]

In the case of transgender people there is likewise no reason to question the sincerity of their self-perception. As the stories in the Church of Scotland report remind us, there are a small minority of people (some one in ten thousand men and one in thirty thousand women) who experience a disconnection between their sense of who they are and the sex of their bodies (what is technically known as ‘gender dysphoria’). Declaring that they are gender non-binary, or that they are a member of the opposite sex to that of their bodies, is a way of overcoming this sense of disconnection by adopting an identity which accords with their sense of who they are.

However their adoption of this identity does not prove that their sense of who they are is correct. As in the case of all other human beings, what they say about themselves has to be checked against the other available evidence.

If we do this, we find that the evidence provided by the use of our natural reason tells us that the human race, like other mammals, is a sexually dimorphic species. That is to say, the human race is a species of animal that is divided into males and females. As the American writer Christopher Tollefsen explains:

‘Our identity as animal organisms is the foundation of our existence as selves. But fundamental to our existence as this animal is our sex. We are male or female organisms in virtue of having a root capacity for reproductive function, even when that capacity is immature or damaged. In human beings, as well as in many other organisms, that function is one to be performed jointly with another human being; unlike the digestive function, no individual human being suffices for its performance.

Accordingly, reproductive function in human beings is distributed across the two sexes, which are identified by their having the root capacity for one or the other of the two general structural and behavioral patterns involved in human reproduction. In male humans, this capacity is constituted by the structures necessary for the production of male gametes and the performance of the male sex act, insemination. In females, the capacity is constituted by the structures necessary for the production of oocytes and the performance of the female sex act, the reception of semen in a manner disposed to conception.’ [12]

Of course, human beings are not simply mechanisms for producing sperm and eggs and bringing them together to produce offspring. However, everything else that is true of human beings is true of them as creatures who have bodies that are biologically designed for the performance of this basic function, even if through accident or design they never actually have children.

Furthermore, the distinction between the two types of human beings necessary for sexual reproduction begins from the moment of conception. To talk in the way that has now become fashionable about ‘sex assigned at birth,’ as if what makes someone a boy or a girl is what someone decides at that point, is a denial of reality. The development of medical technology means that we can detect that a foetus is male or female long before they are born.

The use of our natural reason also tells us that as well as having bodies we also have immaterial souls, or conscious selves, which is why we are capable of rational thought, and possess freedom of action and moral responsibility.

Our souls, however, do not exist in isolation from our material bodies. Each human being is a single person consisting of a unity of body and soul. We can see this, for example, if we consider a case where someone asks someone else ‘shall I give you a hug?’ A hug is a physical act by the body and yet it makes sense to ask ‘shall I give you a hug?’ rather than ‘shall my body give you a hug?’ because when my body acts it is my whole self, body and soul, that is involved. Conversely, if I have a thought it is ultimately my conscious soul that is doing the thinking, but it does so in unity with my body. That is why our thoughts can be affected by the state of our bodies to the extent that when our bodies become unconscious we cannot think at all.

The fact that ‘I’ am a unity of body and soul means that it makes no sense to suggest, as we have seen Judith does in the Church of Scotland report, that ‘I was born in the wrong body.’ There is no ‘I’ separable from the body we possess. What ‘I’ means is the person who exists in this particular combination of body and soul. The suggestion that I should have been born in a different body really means that I should have been a different person, but in that case I would not exist, so the suggestion is asking for the impossible.

What is also impossible is for someone to change their body from male to female or vice versa. It is possible through the use of hormones and plastic surgery to change to a certain extent the way our bodies function and their outward appearance, but we cannot change the fundamental character of our bodies as male or female. We can produce what Paul McHugh calls ‘feminized men or masculinized women, ‘ [13] but we cannot make a man into a woman or a woman into a man.

The evidence of Scripture agrees that human beings are bodily creatures that are male and female and are able to reproduce as such, but it supplements the witness of natural reason in this regard in two key ways.

First, it teaches in the creation narratives in Genesis 1 and 2 and also in the words of Jesus in the Gospels (Matthew 19:4, Mark 10:6) that we are not a dimorphic species by accident, but because God in his goodness and wisdom created us as such so that men and women together can rule over and care for the world on God’s behalf and together can produce offspring who can continue this vocation in their turn.[14] Scripture as a whole further teaches that the dimorphic structure of the human species is also the basis for marriage (Genesis 2:23-24) through which human beings are called to bear witness to the marital relationship between God and his people, which has begun in this world, but will be finally consummated in the world to come (see Ephesians 5: 21-33 and Revelation 19:6-9, 21:2-4).

Secondly, it teaches that our bodies are an eternal part of who we are. In the life of the world to come we shall have the same physical bodies that we have now, only animated by the Spirit and thereby made imperishable and immortal (1 Corinthians 15:52-54). This means that if because of our form of embodiment we are men in this life we shall be men in the world to come and if we are women we shall be women in the world to come. We can see the truth of this in the case of Jesus, who is in his humanity the ‘first fruits’ (1 Corinthians 15:23) of the new form of human existence created by his death and resurrection. In his humanity Jesus was a male human being with a male body and it was this same body that was resurrected (Luke 24:36-42), which subsequently ascended into heaven and which will return to earth when Jesus comes in glory (Acts 1:9-11). Being embodied as male or female is thus literally an inescapable part of our existence. Who we are as sexed being will be who we are for eternity.

Maxwell’s appeal to resurrection in support of gender transition thus backfires. Biblically understood, belief in resurrection tells against any idea of a genuine move from one sex to another.

It is true, as Jo notes in her contribution to the report, that the Bible makes reference to eunuchs. However, in the Bible eunuchs do not form an exception to the binary distinction between men and women. This is because the term eunuch refers to men who for some reason lack sexual capacity (and are therefore incapable of entering into marriage). Thus the standard dictionary of New Testament Greek offers three possibilities for the word eunouchos. The first is ‘a castrated male person’ (Matthew 19:12, Esther 2:14, Acts 8:27ff). The second is ‘a human male who, without a physical operation, is by nature incapable of begetting children’ (Wisdom 3:14, Matthew 19:12) and the third is ‘a human male who abstains from marriage without being impotent, a celibate’ (Matthew 19:12).[15]

This being the case, the welcome extended to eunuchs in Isaiah 56:1-5, Matthew 19:10-12 and Acts 8:26-40 cannot be understood as biblical support for those who are transgendered because the eunuchs referred to in the Bible were not transgendered. They were, as we have said, men who lacked sexual capacity. It is true that this made them ‘gender variant’ in the sense of being outside the norm for men of their culture, but this does not mean they were transgender.

It is also true that there are a very tiny number of people (referred to as ‘intersex’) [16] whose sex is genuinely ambiguous in the sense that they have a mixture of male and female chromosomes, or a body that has a mixture of male and female characteristics. These people are not evidence against the idea that the human race is dimorphic because their condition is a result of a developmental disorder that has no good biological purpose of its own and that both by its extreme rarity and by its character points us to the truth that the human norm intended by God is to be either male or female. In the words of Oliver O’Donovan, what we find in the bodies of people with intersex conditions is, ‘an ambiguity which has arisen by a malfunction in a dimorphic human sexual pattern.’[17]

However, even though the development of their male or female identity has become disordered, people with intersex conditions bear witness to their creation as human beings in God’s image and likeness through the male and female elements that exist in their bodies. They are therefore to be treated with same dignity and respect as all other human beings and pastoral care for them has be about helping them to discern the specific vocation that they have before God, in the light of their condition, as people created by God and redeemed by Jesus Christ, and summoned to have faith in the Gospel and love God and neighbour.

What the evidence that we have looked at thus far indicates is that it makes no sense to say that people have a true self that is at variance with the sex of their bodies. It also shows us that it would be wrong to say that God wills people to live as if this were the case. God has made us permanently the male or female creatures that we are and he calls us to live accordingly. To quote O’Donovan again:

‘The dimorphic structure, with its orientation towards permanent heterosexual union, is the generically given foundation for our individual sexual vocations. The first obligation of every human being is to hail that created givenness as a created good and to thank God for it, even though he or she may then have to acknowledge that for him or her in particular this created good has taken on the aspect of a problem.’[18]

This means that the first two reasons given in the Church of Scotland report for accepting transgender people’s claimed identities do not work. This leaves us with the third reason, which is that adopting new identities is necessary for the mental well-being of the people concerned.

The evidence that we have challenges this argument as well. This is because although the stories in the report all suggest that gender transition produces a happy outcome, this view of the matter is challenged both by academic research studies and by the testimony of those who have ‘de-transitioned’ (i.e. returned to live according to their original sex).

If we look at the research studies first of all, we find they suggest that measures to achieve relief from mental anguish by embracing a transgender identity are of very limited effectiveness overall.

The available evidence shows that being transgender is linked to serious issues of both mental and physical health. For example, the biggest ever survey of transgender people in the United States indicates that there is a far higher prevalence of mental and physical health issues among transgender people than among the population as whole. The survey, undertaken by the National Center for Transgender Equality, surveyed 27,715 self-described transgender people in 2015. The key findings were that

  • 39% of transgender people had suffered serious recent psychological stress (as compared to 5% among Americans generally);
  • 40% of transgender people had attempted suicide (as compared to 4.6% among Americans in general);
  • 7% of transgender people had attempted suicide in the last year (as compared to 0.6 among Americans in general);
  • 1.4% of transgender people were infected with HIV (as compared to 0.3% among Americans in general. In particular, 3.4% of male to female transsexuals and 19% of black male to female transsexuals had HIV.[19]

Furthermore, the research suggests that that gender transition will not necessarily be effective in resolving these issues.

Thus Dr Chris Hyde of the University of Birmingham notes that a study of the issue by the university’s Aggressive Research Intelligence Facility in 2004 showed that ‘there’s still a large number of people who have the surgery but remain traumatized – often to the point of committing suicide.’[20] Likewise, a major Swedish study in 2011 looking at the long term outcomes for people who had undergone sex-reassignment surgery found ‘substantially higher rates of overall mortality, death from cardiovascular disease and suicide, suicide attempts, and psychiatric hospitalisations in sex-reassigned transsexual individuals compared to a healthy control population.’[21]

In 2014 the highly respected American medical research company Hayes Inc. undertook a review of the evidence for the long-term benefits of gender transition. It gave the studies supporting transition its lowest rating for quality and concluded that ‘Statistically significant improvements have not been consistently demonstrated by multiple studies for most outcomes.’[22] In 2016, on the basis of their survey of the evidence, Lawrence Meyer and Paul McHugh likewise found that it ‘suggests we take a skeptical view toward the claim that sex-reassignment procedures provide the hoped for benefits or resolve the underlying issues that contribute to elevated mental health risks among the transgender population.’[23]

The growing body of testimony from people who have ‘de-transitioned’ also points in the same direction. Two examples, one from a Christian and one from a secular writer, illustrates this point.

First, the American Christian writer Walt Heyer, who underwent male to female transition, reports in his article ‘I was a trangender woman’:

‘I knew I wasn’t a real woman, no matter what my identification documents said. I had taken extreme steps to resolve my gender conflict, but changing genders hadn’t worked. It was obviously a masquerade. I felt I had been lied to. How in the world had I reached this point? How did I become a fake woman? I went to another gender psychologist, and she assured me that I would be fine; I just needed to give my new identity as Laura more time. I had a past, a battered and broken life that living as Laura did nothing to dismiss or resolve. Feeling lost and depressed, I drank heavily and considered suicide.’[24]

Secondly, Cari Stella, another American, who underwent female to male transition, declares:

‘I will say, from my own experience and from my conversations with other detransitioned and reidentified women: transition is not the only way, or even necessarily the best way, to treat gender dysphoria. I felt a strong desire, what I would have called a ‘need’ at the time, to transition….And it wasn’t weeks, or months, that I stayed on hormones, before I realized that I needed to stop. I was on them for over three years, cumulatively. I know women who were on testosterone, three, for, five, even ten years before they were able to recognize that it was f***ing them over. It can be dam hard to figure out that the treatment you’re being told is to help you is actually making your mental health worse. Testosterone made me even more dissociated than I already was.’ [25]

What all this suggests is that purely from a mental health perspective we need to find a better approach to helping transgender people that enables them to understand and address the underlying issues that cause them to feel disconnected from the sex of their bodies so that these do not continue to haunt them in the future. [26] The selection of happy stories in the Church of Scotland report is a piece of propaganda by the Scottish Trans Alliance which obscures the darker reality pointed to by the sort of evidence that we have just considered.

What should pastoral care look like?

As we have already noted, Christian ministry to transgender people, as to all people, has to begin by meeting them where they are, getting to know them and understanding their stories. Beyond that starting point, we need to be a people who exhibit both truth and love. As Andrew Walker writes in his book God and the Transgender Debate:

‘If Christians have anything to offer in this contentious age it is truth, and we should not shy away from the truth. But equally, if we use truth as blunt force trauma against those who are coming to grips with what discipleship means, woe to us. Woe to us if we demand conformity from those who are struggling more than we are willing to walk alongside them while they are struggling.

It is only loving to hold to biblical truth if that truth comes wrapped in love. We are only firmly anchored, able to grow and to share the gospel without being tossed about by every idea and argument from both the conservative and progressive ends of the spectrum, if we are ‘speaking the truth in love’ (Ephesians 4 v 15). Neither love nor truth is an optional bolt on to our Christianity.’[27]

As people of truth we have to continue to uphold a number of key truths that we have already identified in the course of this paper:

  • Reason and Scripture tell us that people’s sex is defined by their biology;
  • Reason and Scripture tell us that there are two sexes, male and female;
  • Reason and Scripture tell us that a person’s sexual identity cannot be changed or eradicated;
  • Reason and Scripture tell us that the path of wisdom and godliness lies in accepting the truth of our sexual identity and living accordingly;
  • A growing body of evidence indicates that seeking to change one’s sexual identity will not bring lasting relief from the distress caused by gender dysphoria and reason therefore suggests that encouragement should be given to alternative forms of treatment that address the underlying mental health issues that lead to gender dysphoria.

As people of love, who value the God given dignity of transgender people as those whom God has created and for whom Christ died, we should be proactive in ensuring that transgender people are not subject to harassment or violence, or discriminated against in the provision of goods, services, or opportunity for appropriate employment.

As people of love, who recognize and value as a work of God the sex into which transgender people were born, we should encourage transgender people not to engage in cross-dressing or to go down the path of gender transition. If they have gone down this path, love means helping them to accept and live out their original, God given, sexual identity, whilst acknowledging the acute challenges doing this will raise, particularly for those who have undergone gender re-assignment surgery or formed families in their assumed identity.

Finally, as people of love we should give transgender people an unconditional welcome into our churches and provide them with appropriate pastoral care. As a Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod report helpfully explains, the starting point for such pastoral care is the truth that:

‘…. the deepest need of such a man or woman—as it is for every person—is to know that he or she is beloved by God. Christ’s love and forgiveness are in this case, as always, one’s greatest needs. Sorrow, confusion, frustration, shame, and despair are likely present in any individual dealing with gender dysphoria or struggling with questions about his or her identity as male or female. If such an individual has not already sought psychotherapeutic care, the pastor should seek to encourage and, to whatever degree possible, facilitate the individual in securing competent therapy that is not hostile to the Christian faith.’[28]

Such pastoral care also needs to be based on:

‘…. the development of genuine Christian friendship modelled after the One whose friendship knows no boundaries (Luke 7:34). Loving pastoral care for the individual seeks to provide a spiritually nurturing, encouraging, and accepting ‘safe place’ to someone who may well have suffered from actual or perceived ostracism, mockery, and animosity. He or she may view the church with suspicion or share the common assumption that Christianity is more concerned with moral judgments, cultural battles, or political victories than about broken and suffering people. In accepting the struggling individual, a relationship of interpersonal trust develops. Within that relationship there will be natural opportunities to make Christ known, to call the person to trust in his promises and love, and to show that the purposes and commands of God for our lives are for our good.’[29]

Since ‘the pathway of growth, sanctification and change can be expected to be slow and painful’ and ‘struggle and relapse can be anticipated’[30] our pastoral care needs to involve patience and a long term commitment to praying for, loving, listening to, and assisting the person concerned in any way necessary. It will also mean continuing to love and support them even if progress is slow or relapses occur, trusting that God is in the process and has the capacity to bring about the result that he desires, even if this takes years. As Walt Heyer reminds us in A Transgender’s Faith: ‘we must never give up on people, no matter how many times they fail or how long recovery takes. We must never underestimate the healing power of prayer and love in the hands of the Lord. We must never give up hope.’[31]

The reason we must never give up hope is because God can and does change people’s hearts and lives. We noted earlier that there are a growing number of testimonies from people who have de-transitioned following gender reassignment. Among these are Christians who testify how God has enabled them to accept their biological sex as a gift from him and live accordingly. A good example, with which we shall conclude this response to Diverse Gender Identities, is the following testimony from Robert John bearing witness to what God has done for him:

‘I had irreversible gender reassignment surgery in 1997 absolutely convinced I was a woman in a man’s body. I anticipated living happily ever after, however I had persistent difficulties and fell into deep depression. I began reading the Bible, unsatisfied with superficial proclamations of diversity, inclusiveness, and tolerance. I happened upon King David’s famous repentance Psalm 51 and discovered, like David, I could be forgiven for all my sins. I also learned God chastens those whom He loves and I was being guided to seek repentance, and faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ. I knew identifying as a woman was not living in truth, and returned to my given names and birth gender without further surgery. My victory has come by allowing the Lord in my heart, becoming God-focused instead of self-centered, and am thankful for my birth sex and many blessings. Despite the consequences and challenges. God has led me to witness His truth and love, and I can testify: indeed, God’s grace, mercy and truth do set one free.’ [32]

M B Davie 15.3.18

 [1] Church of Scotland, Diverse Gender Identities and Pastoral Care at: http://www.churchofscotland.org.uk/resources/learn/publications/diverse_gender_identities_and_pastoral_care

[2] Scottish Trans Alliance at https://www.scottishtrans.org/

[3] Diverse Gender Identities, p.11.

[4] Ibid, p.15.

[5] Ibid, p.7.

[6] Ibid, p.22.

[7] Ibid, p. 25,

[8] Ibid, p.7.

[9] Ibid, p.28.

[10] Ibid, p.18.

[11] For more on the glass delusion see ‘The people who think they are made of glass, ‘ BBC News Magazine, 8 May 2015, at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-32625632

[12] Christopher Tollefsen, ‘Sex Identity,’ Public Discourse, 12 July 2015, at http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2015/07/15306/

[13] Paul McHugh, ‘Transgenderism: A Pathogenic Meme’ in Public Discourse, 10 June 2015 at http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2015/06/15145/

[14] Contrary to what Jo argues there is no suggestion in the creation narratives that human beings were originally androgynous. See Richard Davidson, Flame of Yahweh – Sexuality in the Old Testament, Peabody: Hendrickson, 2007, pp.20-21.

[15] W. Arndt, F. W Danker, F. Wilbur Gingrich and Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000, p.409.

[16] Around 0.018% of live births.

[17] O’Donovan, Transsexualism: Issues and Argument, Cambridge: Grove Books, 2007, p. 8.

[18] Ibid pp.19-20.

[19] James, S. E., Herman, J. L., Rankin, S., Keisling, M., Mottet, L., & Anafi, M, The Report of the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey. Washington, DC: National Center for Transgender Equality, 2016.

[20] David Batty, ‘Mistaken identity,’ The Guardian, July 30, 2004, http://www.theguardian.com/society/2004/jul/31/health.socialcare.

[21] Cecilia Djehne et al, ‘ Long-Term Follow-Up of Transsexual Persons Undergoing Sex Reassignment Surgery: Cohort Study in Sweden,’ PLoS One, 6 (No.2), 2011.

[22] Hayes, Inc ‘Hormone therapy for the treatment of gender dysphoria’ and ‘Sex reassignment surgery for the treatment of gender dysphoria,’ in Hayes Medical Technology Directory, Lansdale Pa: Winifred Hayes,  2014.

[23] Lawrence Meyer and Paul McHugh, ‘Gender Identity,’ in New Atlantis, Fall 2016, p.113.

[24] Walt Heyer, ‘I was a Transgender Woman,’ Public Discourse, 1 April, 2015, article at http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2015/04/14688/.

[25] Cari Stella, ‘Response to Julia Serano: Detransition, Desistance and Disinformation’ posted on You Tube9 August, 2016 at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9L2jyEDwpEw. For further testimonies pointing in the same direction see Ryan Anderson, When Harry Became Sally, New York: Encounter Books, 2018, Ch.3.

[26] A particular area of concern is the way in which children and young people who exhibit confusion or distress about their sexual identity are now being encouraged to identify themselves as members of the opposite sex and are given powerful drugs to prevent the onset of puberty. Since we do not know what the long term psychological and physiological consequences will be, this amounts to dangerous experimentation on the nation’s children and is something the Church needs to challenge. For an introduction to the issues involved see Anderson, op.cit. ch.6.

[27] Andrew T Walker, God and The Transgender Debate, Epsom: The Good Book Company, 2017, p.128.

[28] The Lutheran Church -Missouri Synod, ‘Gender Identity Disorder or Gender Dysphoria in Christian Perspective,’ 2014.

[29] Ibid.

[30] The Evangelical Alliance, Transsexuality, Carlisle: Paternoster Press, 2000. p.82.

[31] Heyer, op.cit. p.141.

[32] Text from the website Sex Change Regret http://www.sexchangeregret.com/examples. For other such testimonies see Heyer, A Transgenders Faith and the documentary film Tranzformed which containsthe witness of fifteen ‘ex-transgender’ Christians, https://tranzformed.org/.