Neither of us have struggled through gender disphoria, but I remember what bondage to sexual unwholeness feels like. I do remember the pain. Hiding. Dying emotionally day by day. Wanting to be truly known.
Maybe that’s why I identify with the loneliness Bruce Jenner spoke about in his ABC interview with Diane Sawyer a few weeks ago. And why I want so badly for him to be set free from his prison. But is this the way out?
Those wrestling with both homosexuality and/or gender identity—whether Christian or non-Christian— are suffering a great deal of ridicule, isolation, and depression. High rates of PTSD, suicide and psychiatric disorders are prevalent and undisputed in the gay[i] and transgendered communities[ii] both before and after coming out/completing gender reassignment surgery.
The Christian heart must be broken by their pain.
But the research does not provide evidence that gender reassignment will unlock the doors to Bruce Jenner’s (aka Caitlyn Jenner’s) self-torment. There is a reason that Johns Hopkins Hospital stopped doing sex reassignment surgery. (Though this is highly disputed by the GLBT community who offers new research to debunk the decision. However, more new research also supports Johns Hopkins decision and the respected medical giant who does have a Sexual Behaviors Unit to help individuals suffering from gender disphoria still does not do the surgery.) Study after study reveals that the path he (she) is on will not yield the results sought. In a study of 324 sex-reassigned persons in Sweden, for example, physicians noted:
“Persons with transsexualism, after sex reassignment, have considerably higher risks for mortality, suicidal behaviour, and psychiatric morbidity than the general population. Our findings suggest that sex reassignment, although alleviating gender dysphoria, may not suffice as treatment for transsexualism, and should inspire improved psychiatric and somatic care after sex reassignment for this patient group.”
Walt Heyer, who suffered through a sex reassignment surgery, is among many with the same story who wish they hadn’t and claim the process “only masked and exacerbated deeper psychological problems.”
The saddest thing is that I don’t think the Christian community is holding a key to unlock the prison door for those suffering like Bruce Jenner. We have done a terrible job responding to them. Christian comments on Facebook and Twitter make me sick. The most vocal evangelicals—that is those whose voices are heard in the public sector—are either A:) completely affirming (such as Rob Bell/Vicky Beeching) and use anything written by the American Psychological Association as their Bible or B:) hate-fueled and ignorant (such as Westboro Baptist) and use Leviticus as a beating stick for the lost.
I would like to see—and I wonder if you would too— a Christian conversation forming that is beneficial and gets to the root of diminishing the pain and depression of those struggling with SSA and gender disphoria. While there is widespread disagreement on whether the emotional pain is from discrimination—and certainly some of it is—or deeper issues of unwholeness that may contribute to the gender disphoria or homosexual desires they struggle with…there is one thing we must do: figure out how to comfort and heal them. I believe the Bible does contain the key for us to unlock their prison door. We just don’t have it at the ready to use for their freedom.
There is a third response Christians can offer to the current conversation. Dr. Russell Moore of the ERLC (Ethics and Religious Liberties Commission) coined the phrase “convictional kindness”[iv] and applies it liberally to all arguments of sexual choice whether our modern day gender reformation, the tolerance movement or the sexual reformation of the 60s and 70s. He says that the Devil deceives us in two ways:
Allowing us to make our own truth.
(aka Rob Bell or Vicky Beeching)
Accusing us for our choices.
(aka Westboro Baptist)
The devil stands on both sides to coach us along. For example, the sexual revolution brought us the pill and abortion.
“No one is more pro-choice on the way into the abortion clinic than the Devil,” Dr. Russell Moore said, “and no one is more pro-life on the way out of the abortion clinic than the Devil. Because what he wants to do is deceive on the front-end … he seeks to say on one hand, you’re too good for the Gospel, and the other hand you’re now too bad for the Gospel.”
The devil is an accuser. Let us not speak that language! Instead of throwing more accusations at them, Christians should be asking God to break our own hearts with the pain that gay, lesbian, transgendered and bi-sexual people are facing. Maybe that would create a safe environment where they could hear the saving love of Christ and his hope for their future.
My journey to sexual wholeness did not include gender disphoria or the process of sex reassignment, but it did include loneliness, shame, and a lot of fear of what people would think if they really knew me.
But then God invited me to tell someone. To walk out of the dungeon of secrecy.
To be free.
I was a new person and FREEDOM was my megaphone that called to shout out both God’s grace and his guidelines. (Frankly, my heart was not all that open to his guidelines until I was drenched in his grace. I had to tell my story to find the salvation of Christ’s merciful grace.) When I walked out of my prison door and told my story I actually wanted to pursue sexuality according to God’s design. Will every person struggling with gender disphoria, sexting, porn, erotica, hooking up, and homosexuality find their freedom the same way I did?
No. Not all will.
But some could, if only we were a safer place.
If I know anything as one formerly suffering from Satan’s accusations it is this: men and women struggling to find sexual wholeness need safe places to share their stories and struggles. To be known. Confession is the pathway to both healing and overcoming our sin. (James 5:16) This is the key that unlocks prison doors of all types and sizes and sentences. Our churches should be creating safe environments where those in deep shame, pain, and loneliness can tell their stories and then be comforted in their pain and struggles.
Are you a safe place for those struggling? Is your church actively seeking to create an environment of convictional kindness? The answer will lie in this: do know know the name of one person battling with gender identity and/or homosexuality? There is no question in my mind that he or she is there in your midst. Suffering. Struggling. Trying to find freedom.
Or maybe already has.
But until their stories are known, they will not be.
And that’s the deepest loneliness of all.
This blog is not meant to be a biblical response to the issue of gender, but the way we respond to those suffering with gender disphoria. If you are not familiar with my writing, you may understand my biblical position better with this quote from a former blog: “…in biological sex, we see God’s image. His picture. “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:27) While we are offered many God-like traits, no others are isolated and esteemed the way that biological sex is in the Genesis account, and this is affirmed in passages in the New Testament that instruct us concerning the complementary roles of men and woman as we are charged to rule over this earth. Our distinct biological sex is his image. We are his statues. We make the lost world see him and think of him and pine for him. For this reason, I embrace the fullness of my womanhood and reject anything that seeks to willfully diminish it or rebel against it.”