The personal mental and spiritual upheaval which comes from learning and accepting that one is transgender can be very profound. And when one tells the world around them of this – their family, friends, co-workers, and others – this upheaval can be magnified many-fold. In times of personal crisis many look to religion to lend them a hand, either through their own independent spirituality, or via the organized structure of their church and fellow worshipers.
It is therefore incredibly destructive when a transgender person discovers that an additional rift has been opened in their life, between them and their religion. This rift can take any one, or all, of three forms:
- A personal rift between one and their faith.
- A societal rift between one and their fellow worshipers.
- A theological rift between one and their religion.
The first of these rifts is something which each person must heal on their own, but the last two are largely outside of the control of the transgender person. And it is important to find ways to seal these rifts, because participating in a belief system or religion can greatly provide structure to the socio-mental qualities of life. One study of young transgender women in Chicago found that those who actively participated in an organized religion had a relative risk of contracting HIV of just 29% compared to the average transgender woman. (Dowshen) However, merely belief in God or a higher power was not found to be statistically significant in the study. Another study of 75 transgender women from New York City and Northern New Jersey found that both high levels of social support and high levels of religious belief led to a significant reduction in the risk of practicing unprotected sex. (Golub)
Knowing Nothing versus Knowing Too Little
One fallacy which is used to dispute the reality of the transgender experience is the “knowing too little” argument. Essentially, this is the case where someone will say to you:
“Each one of us has these things called chromosomes inside us, and they determine absolutely whether we are male or female. Science has proven this and you can’t argue with Science.”
It might be nice if those who say “you can’t argue with Science” would go and talk to those who believe the earth is only 6,000 years old and Jesus could have ridden dinosaurs. More productively, some research into the nature of the physical causes of being transgender quickly shows why this is in fact a fallacy. Our sex and gender are made up of a whole series of events during our development in the womb. Chromosomes, hormones, endogenous or exogenous chemical exposure, etc. can all yield persons who are part of one sex and part of the other (intersex), or who have a brain gender which does not match their body sex.
Inborn versus Ordained
Most religions allow one to overcome physical infirmities and disease through science. If someone is born without a leg, very few religions would object to a prosthetic leg. Nor do many religions object to necessary medical procedures, such as an appendectomy or fixing a cleft palate. Most religions do not forbid plastic surgery or other cosmetic surgical procedures.
One argument against transgender persons is that unlike infirmities and defects, the “defect” of being born transgender is not sufficient to overcome the fact that God ordained your sex. In other words, this argument says that “God made humans with two legs…it’s OK to fix a mistake, as we are all flawed people and may give birth to flawed people. But the Bible tells us there is only male and female, therefore being this is ordained.” The problem is that most view the body as being holy and sacred, immutable without causing sin, only for the purpose of SRS. They make the error of assuming that the gender in your brain has little bearing unless it aligns with your natural born body.
This quite honestly is not supported in most religions, and it certainly isn’t supported by science. It more represents wishful thinking, or a judgment call, on the part of humans.
Some transgender persons consider themselves to be special beings, as they have walked society as both sexes, and have a duality of gender (or at a minimum, a duality consisting of gender and sex.) Some transgender people who have the ability to submerge and go stealth or deep stealth purposefully choose not to do so, in order to maintain their duality. Possibly a good description of this feeling is being “two spirit,” a viewpoint which is often attributed to Native American transgender persons, sometimes named berdache. The berdache were sometimes chosen to be mediators between men and women, as well as the physical and spiritual worlds. (Bockting)
As being transgender becomes increasingly accepted by society, more transsexual women are choosing not to take extraordinary pains to “pass” physically. Furthermore, an increasing number of “non-op” transsexuals are being counted – some who are afraid of surgery, some who are medically unfit for surgery, and still others who are simply satisfied to exist full-time as a woman socially, legally, and otherwise. And one driver of some non-ops is a feeling of keeping their feet respectively on both sides of the gender line.
Comparative Religious Analyses
My goal in this section of Transas City is to accomplish two tasks. First, I want to report accurately on how the different major religions and belief systems view and accept transgender persons. And second, I want to provide some factual and historical background for those who would like to explore the basis of their religion’s treatment of transgender persons. My hope is that this will also aid folks in debates against those wish to marginalize, ostracize, and terrorize us because of how we were created and the nature of who we are.
This is a work in progress, and sections will be added over time.
The Old Testament (Judaism and Christianity)
Deuteronomy 22:5 (regarding dressing in clothes not congruent with one’s sex)
Deuteronomy 23:1 (regarding body modification and castration)
Ecclesiastes 11:5 (regarding the intent of God to create only men and women)
Genesis 1:27 (regarding the creation of women and men)
Genesis 2:18-25 (regarding the creation of women and men)
Isaiah 56:4-5 (regarding the acceptance of eunuchs)
The New Testament
Acts 8:26-40 (regarding the Ethiopian eunuch)
1 Corinthians 6:9 (regarding effeminate men)
1 Corinthians 6:18-20 (regarding the sin of body modification)
Galatians 3:28 (regarding gender in the eyes of God)
Matthew 19:12 (regarding the three types of eunuchs and whether they can marry)
Bockting, Walter O. and Cesaretti, Charles “Spirituality, Transgender Identity, and Coming Out” Journal of Sex Education and Therapy 26.4 (2001): 291-300.
Dowshen, Nadia et al. “Religiosity As a Protective Factor Against HIV Risk Among Young Transgender Women” Journal of Adolescent Health 48 (2011): 410–414.
Golub, Sarit A. et al. “The Role of Religiosity, Social Support, and Stress-Related Growth in Protecting Against HIV Risk among Transgender Women” J Health Psychol. 15.8 (November, 2010): 1135–1144.