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Transgenderism, transsexuality,
gender dysphoria, & gender identity<

Part 1: Causes of, & cures for, transgenderism
according to conservative Protestants


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Background:

As noted elsewhere in this section a transgender individual is a person who experiences Gender Identity Disorder (a.k.a. GID, Gender Dysphoria, Disorder of Sexual Differentiation, or DSD), Their genetic gender is different from their perceived gender. Some describe themselves as a woman trapped in a man's body, or vice versa. Others view themselves as having a male brain in a female body, or vice versa. Still others do not identify with either gender, or identify with both.

According to the current thinking of human sexuality researchers and therapists, gender dysphoria has a biological cause that kicks in before birth. The main current theories suggest that it is caused by fetal exposure to abnormal androgen levels, or is genetically determined at conception by the structure of the individual's DNA. Scientists have linked gender dysphoria to fingerprint patterns and left-handedness -- two factors established in the fetus within 15 weeks of gestation, in the second trimester. They have also linked it to a longer version of the androgen receptor gene in the DNA of transsexuals.

Therapists have a zero success rate in curing GID by changing the transgender person's perceived gender to match their birth-assigned gender. However, injestions of hormones and special surgical techniques can change the person's appearance to more closely appear to be of their perceived gender.

Most conservative Protestants base their beliefs about transsexuality directly on their firm beliefs in gender and in particular on the role of men and women in churches, the family and the workplace. These are derived from their interpretation of key Bible passages and themes. They generally conclude that GID is either chosen or a delusion, and that a transgender person can change their perceived gender to match their genetic gender through prayer, therapy and/or being "saved." These beliefs are consistent with their concept of God as being caring, omnipresent, and omnipotent. It also agrees with their belief that God created only two genders, so that every individual is either a male or female.

Belief by various groups on the nature, cause, and cure of gender dysphoria:

Many Christian fundamentalists, other evangelicals, and other religious conservatives strongly believe that both homosexuality and transsexuality are "lifestyles" that are chosen by the individual. Some believe that dysfunctional family dynamics and/or traumatic childhood experiences may be contributing factors to their decision to become gay or transgender. 1

  • Exodus International (EI) describes their organization as: "The largest information and referral ministry in the world addressing homosexual issues." They describe gender dysphoria as a form of personal gender "confusion." EI implies that the transgender person is uncertain about their gender and that they can modify their perceived gender to match their genetic gender through prayer, ministry efforts, therapy, accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior,etc.

    These beliefs are in direct conflict with beliefs that we have gleaned from personal conversations with transsexuals and from information about gender dysphoria in texts, in personal web sites by transgender persons, and from medical studies. These sources conclude that no such confusion exists. They state that transgender individuals are very much aware of both their genetic gender and their perceived gender. They are quite aware of the conflict between the two. They are quite certain that they cannot change their perceived gender. It is this certainty that generally causes them extreme level of distress, and often suicidal ideation.

    The EI article:

    • Expresses concern that increasing numbers of youth will "lose years of their lives to the bondage of gender confusion."

    • States that the movements to achieve equal rights for gays and transgender persons are controlled by Satan who is attempting "to distort God's image on earth and claim the souls of His children."

    • Stresses that religious conservatives should love transgender and other "broken people."

    • States that freedom is to be found in truth: the implication is that a transgender person can resolve the conflict between their genetic and perceived genders through prayer and therapy.

    • States that one's genetic gender is one's "true gender;" one's perceived gender doesn't really count. 2 That is, a MTF (male to female transsexual) is still a male, even though the individual identifies and is accepted by family, friends, and coworkers as female.

  • The Christian Institute is a conservative Christian organization serving the UK. They believe in the inerrancy of the Bible and are pro-life. In their briefing about transsexualism:

    • They define the gender of a person with gender dysphoria according to their genetic gender. Thus, a male-to-female transsexual (MTF) is still considered a male. Most transsexuals, human sexuality researchers define their gender according to their perceived gender. A post-operation male-to-female transsexual (MTF) feels like a female, looks like a female, considers themselves a female. Most consider her to be a female and refers to her as "she."

    • Concerning gender reassignment surgery (GRS), they write: "A painful operation cannot solve the mental dysfunction." Actually, the intent of GRS is not to make a MTF transsexual believe that they are a male. It is to change their physical appearance so that their perceived gender matches their appearance.

    • They believe that God created humans so that everyone is either male or female. They write:
      "The human body is therefore a good gift of God and essential to the human person. But the transsexual sees their body as an accident, as denying their 'true self' which resides in their mind and emotions."
    • A transsexual who tries to change their gender from that listed in their birth certificate is  being "... fundamentally dishonest. You cannot alter a fact of history."

    • They believe that it is not:
      "... reasonable to assume that other biological factors, e.g. brain structure, cause transsexualism. There is little evidence for this and the plea 'I was made this way' was abandoned by biologists long ago."

      This seems to conflict with the findings of medical researchers who have found links between gender dysphoria and both fetal exposure to abnormal androgen levels  and the structure of the person's DNA.

    • The Christian Institute concludes:

      "The Christian response to a transsexual, as with any other person, should be prayer, care and counsel as for any with psychological difficulties and where necessary repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. (Acts 20:21)" 3

  • Charles W Socarides (1922-2005) was a past president and co-founder of the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH). He was a member of the Greek Orthodox church. Socarides was very highly respected by fundamentalist and other evangelical Christians -- particularly those working in reparative therapy which attempts to convert homosexuals to heterosexuality. NARTH is a very small professional mental health association with about 1,000 members. Unlike the much larger professional associations, such as the American Psychiatric Association (APA) that has over 150,000 members, NARTH believes that homosexual behavior is a disorder, that it is chosen, and can be changed.

    Socarides believed that there was a close link between homosexuality and gender dysphoria. He asserted that "... transsexualism does not constitute an independent diagnostic category." Viewing this simplistically: there is no such thing as transsexuality. For example, a person who believes themselves to be a MTF transsexual was born a genetic male, continues to be a male, has homosexual feelings, and is overwhelmed with guilt at their desire to have sex with another male. This extreme, unbearable conflict causes them to become convinced that they are actually a female desiring heterosexual sex. Many seek gender reassignment surgery so that they can look, feel, and act like a female heterosexual without overwhelming guilt. Socarides felt that such surgery "... constitutes a sanctioning of the transsexual's pathological view of reality and cannot resolve the underlying conflict." In Socarides' view, only reparative therapy can do that. 4,5

  • Warren Throckmorton, associate professor of psychology at Grove City College -- a conservative Christian institution -- in Grove City, PA. He is also a past president of the American Mental Health Counselors Association. He advocates that when pastors counsel transgender individuals that the latter must be told that their desires don't align with the Bible. He states that when scientific findings conflict with the interpretation of biblical passages by conservative Christians, that the latter must ignore the scientific evidence:

    "Desires must be brought into alignment with biblical teachings, but it will be inconvenient and distressful. ... Even if science does determine differentiation in the brain at birth, even if there are prenatal influences, we can't set aside teachings of the Bible because of research findings." 6

  • Family Research Council (FRC): This is a fundamentalist Christian group that actively opposes abortion access, equal rights for gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transsexuals, etc. Their vice president for policy, Peter Sprigg, said:
    "The pressure for acceptance is ultimately a challenge to the authority of Scripture and a violation of natural law. In the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender movement there is a tendency to continually push the envelope in trying to demand the acceptance of what most people perceive to be unusual behavior." 7

    Peter Sprigg, a senior fellow for policy studies at the FRC said that for a transgender person to ask to change their gender on a driver's license or birth certificate would essentially be:

    "... A form of fraud. ... I think you have the objective reality of their genital makeup and their chromosomal makeup, weighed against the entirely subjective experience of so-called gender identity.I think the objective considerations are the only thing that should be recognized by the law." 8

This topic continues in Part 2.

References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Rama Kant Mishra, "Research reveals biological basis of Trans-sexuality," Ground Report, 2008-OCT-27, at: http://www.groundreport.com/
  2. "Gender Identity," Exodus International, undated, at: http://exodus.to/
  3. "Transsexualism - mind over matter," The Christian Institute, 2002-FEB, at: http://christian.org.uk/
  4. Charles W. Socarides, "The Desire for Sexual Transformation: A Psychiatric Evaluation of Transsexualism, Abstract, American Journal of Psychiatry, (1969); 125; Pages 1419 to 1425.
  5. Gordene O. MacKenzie. "Transgender Nation," Bowling Green State University Popular Press, (1994). Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store Rated at 4.7 stars out of 5 by Amazon customers.
  6. John W. Kennedy, "The Transgender Moment," Christianity Today, Page 3, 2008-FEB, at: http://www.christianitytoday.com/
  7. Ibid, Page 4 at: http://www.christianitytoday.com/
  8. John Eligon, "Suits Dispute City’s Rule on Recording Sex Changes," New York Times, 2010-MAR-22, at: http://www.nytimes.com/

Copyright © 2009 and 2011 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Original posting: 2009-JAN
Latest update: 2011-APR-23
Author: B.A. Robinson

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