Does God Hate the Transsexual?
Revd David Horton
Gender Trust Associate, Chaplain to Gender Trust
Under the Law of Moses (Deuteronomy Chapter 23 verse 1) such people are excluded from the common life and worship of Israel. By the time of the prophecy of Isaiah it is acknowledged that such people may still be blessed by God (Isaiah 54 verses 4 and 5). Jesus shocks his hearers by announcing that if may be an acceptable way of life (St. Matthew 19 verse 12). Then, as the early church explodes across the Middle East in its early days, Phillip, a successful evangelist, is directed to leave a major success in Samaria and head off down a desert road. God has planned a meeting with a single foreign eunuch whom Phillip teaches and then baptises (Acts of the Apostles 8 verses 26-39). Christians are taught to respect the Bible as a progressive revealing of the heart of God. This is how the churches eventually concluded that slavery was contrary to the will of God, and is now finding patriarchy too narrow. In the same way I believe that the churches are being forced to face up the fact that the transgendered are human too.
That said, it is clear that God does hate aspects of humanity. The acts of meanness and selfishness that are part of our nature, the waste and violence of our way of life, the dehumanising of those around us are precisely the things which led to the Good Friday the collect above celebrates. We have sinned against others in thought and word and deed through negligence, through ignorance, and by our own deliberate fault. But the Christian claims that God can overcome our evil and strengthen us to survive the consequences of our own and others' evil.
So if God does not hate us, and at personal cost has made a way through the hurt of this world, why should people, including sometimes the transgendered themselves, come to believe that God hates them? Lee Francis Heller, the American editor of the `Grace and Lace Letter' is adamant that to be transgendered is a special gift from God. I wonder how long it took her to come through to this position!
I believe that such negative feelings about the transgendered come from a number of causes. To face up to them should help us have a better understanding of ourselves, regardless of how others see us, and once we learn to respect ourselves then we have some chance of gaining respect from others.
The first problem is with social conditioning. Many today have no education about the character of God, but in times not long past `God' was used as a strong way of enforcing our way of looking at things. There was a natural ordering of things in which we learned that our British `liberal democracy' ruled the world, and that everyone else was really rather unfortunate, or if necessary perverse. It is the world of `All things bright and beautiful' simple and class ridden. A world that never existed unchallenged, but which has strong emotional chords which are regularly invoked by the family values lobby. From the youngest years then, and to a great degree still today, we are surrounded with assumptions about `who' we are as boy or girl, about how and what we play, and about our future role in society. Not to fit brings down sanctions from the earliest days of conscious memory. To challenge such a "God-given Order of Things" must make as ill or evil. If electric shocks don't work, then we must be perverse. In addition our existence complicates things which look as if they should be straightforward. In such a way guilt feelings and a low self-image can arise. The chains of society may be looser today, but they are still there. In particular there is still a feeling that, for a man to want femininity, is in some sense to lower himself in a way that does not apply in reverse.
Such feedings can be handled, To know that there is a physiological basis to the way we are can help to give perspective to us, and also helps those who can't visualize gender conflict (most of the human race). A religious faith can help us with the self-respect we need: once we know we are valued by God as we are then other problems can fail into place.
The second problem is more direct. As well as feeling guilty, there are the harmful results of being transgender. On the one hand it can tie up too much of our nervous energy into destructive thoughts and away from living our lives, and on the other it can spill over on to others and damage them.
A certain amount of inner turmoil can actually be good for us if it washes the cobwebs away. Stress, if it can be handled, enables us to rise above ourselves. But if we reinforce the same pattern of thoughts over and over again the results are not good. So you are TS? Will this be the central plank of the rest of this life? Are all your free thoughts focused on persuading the psychiatrist do approve you for the `op'? Or if TV are you investing too much of yourself into your other half, or using that other half to escape from reality? Trouble lies ahead.
Trouble not just for the transgendered person. A lack of care for others lays deep scars on the soul. How we treat those directly affected by our condition reflects back on us. "The measure you give will be the measure you receive" (St. Matthew 4 v24) If we behave unfeelingly or cruelly to those around us, if we lie, steal or connive against others, if we abandon responsibilities to others that we have accepted, the result may not leave us feeling guilty, but will burden us dawn with guilt itself, the real thing.
This is where our choices come into effect, and where our responsibility lies.
It is also where others have responsibility too. We have a duty to others, but they also have a duty to us. Love covers many sins. I find it necessary to remind the transgendered regularly that to love others as ourselves we must love ourselves. Everyone fails in their duty: it is an observable fact. The heart of Christianity is that God will forgive our sins, but that restitution may not be fully possible. Some hurt may be permanent, and it may not be our selfishness alone.
If guilt and guilt feelings may come between us and God, one other factor may also intrude: the Church itself. Members of churches have been programmed in the same way as we, but without any need do come to terms with personal gender identity. Just as in many of our lives there is ignorance, misunderstanding, and fear about what we feel or need, how much more do they apply to those for whom gender and sexual identity have never Been opposed. In a world that is so rapidly changing many come to the church seeking a social security. Bringing the challenge of the Gospel to such is hard, and the transgendered may be one challenge too far!
What are we to do? The answer is to live out our lives in the presence of God, to witness by what we are that we are human. The privilege God offers the whole human race is to come into his presence without fear. Jesus may be the circuit; all we must do is close the switch! A few minutes of quieting the mind deliberately into the presence of the Holy God, is to remind ourselves that our importance is not just for this body. In turn that gives the strength to write that letter, to cope with that rejection, to move on from that success.
With God's help it may well be possible to change the fear and ignorance of the world around us. And those of the church!
From previous experience I knew that time would be short, and so the following handout was prepared. I limited my direct comments to two points:
1) I found it offensive that God could be thought of as hating the transsexual. If he oversaw the person from within the womb (Psalm 139) and in St. Luke's version of the Lord's prayer opens with a word meaning Daddy, then he knows what we go through full well.
2) The early Old Testament saw God as a tribal god superior to those around, in firepower if nothing else (eg the plagues of Egypt, the overthrow of Dagon in the presence of the Ark of the Covenant). Later books such as Isaiah, and especially Jonah show God as the God of the whole world, and his people there to help others.
I noted that when times were tough or challenging the churches had a habit of reverting to tribalism We're right, you're wrong.
An interesting discussion followed. I noticed how much difference the attitude of the minister could make. One clergyman present hoped to get the transgender situation raised at next year's Lambeth Conference of the worldwide Anglican bishops.
I was glad that around half the delegates attended and many contributed to the discussion. I apologise that I had no time to note the many points that were raised.
The level of Christian commitment expressed by those at the conference seemed to be far above the national average. This precluded discussion from other points of view! The seminar ended with a few moments of silence and a benediction.
Citation: Horton, D., (1996), Does God Hate the Transsexual? GENDYS '96, The Fourth International Gender Dysphoria Conference, Manchester England.
Web page copyright GENDYS Network. Text copyright of the author. Last amended 24.06.06