Evangelical Alliance Press Release of 14th. May about Transsexual people.

Response from Revd. David Horton


Issue 11
August 2000

David Horton's book Changing Channels is now out of print but may be bought on line as a pdf from

I confess a certain dismay at the way this release has been handled. Partly it is the delay in the practical guide, and partly the fact that a number of areas appear to be based on less than the full experience and research available. I suppose I am also somewhat upset that, as an evangelical working in this area since 1987, with a Grove Booklet on the subject area brought out in 1994 (reviewed by Michael Saward in Anvil), neither I nor the 3 or 4 other ministers I know who are working in this area were used. It seems instead, to follow some of the American material put out, for example by Parakaleo Ministries. There are a lot of positive aspects to that work but it does ignore quite a lot of recent research. I am left saddened that it will permit genuine concerns to be written off by the wider community as uninformed prejudice.

I offer a few comments on the release.

Para "In a detailed report . . ."

Are you aware of the safeguards built into the Harry Benjamin guidelines that were reviewed again last year? They include assessment over time by two relevantly experienced psychiatrists, and an extended period before treatment, including changeover, before hormone or surgical intervention is agreed. The original guidelines I believe date from 1968 and are used in most countries. The first surgery of course goes back around seventy years to Lily Elbe in 1930 or 31.

Para "In rejecting calls . . ."

Isn't this shooting us in the foot? If potential harm is limited, and individual good substantial, isn't it rather like saying it is wrong to do good on the Sabbath. There is obvious debate about what treatment is appropriate, but I have come across a number of suicides by those refused treatment over the years, and the damage that does to society is enormous. The term 'deception' implies conclusions about what is happening, which I touch on below.

Until 1980, in this country transsexuals could have all personal documents changed, and an unknown number did marry - there was a test case last year as I recall. Additionally most European Union countries have criteria under which documentation change is accepted, and such people have the full legal rights in this country which are currently denied to British nationals - except for those who establish residency overseas and so change documentation in the adopted country before moving back here. Thus there are perhaps several hundred transsexuals in this country with full civil rights and something like 5,000 post-operative people without.

Sentence "A difficulty with transsexuality .."

The problem is that a consensus is coming about that it is not a state of mind alone, but actually has a physiological component. This was the view adopted by the courts in the North- West Lancashire Health Authority case last year which, along with other court cases has caused the working party to be set up.

There is quite a lot of evidence that this is a prenatal endocrine problem based around the SRY gene and the Testes Determining Factor. The extreme is the 'Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome' with around 1 in 40,000 males not conditioned by the precursor androgens, and who thus develop as stereotypical females but without ovaries and vagina and who could not even be identified as male until recently. This Brain Sex approach seems to fit many transsexuals. There are other lines of evidence. I attend the International Gender Dysphoria Conferences every two years at Manchester University, and there have been a number of other areas examined. As examples: Sophia Siedlberg's work on chaos theory with regard to genes; Mike Haslam on the female response of transsexuals to the estrogen provocation test; David de Lyon on natural sex-change and role reversal in the animal kingdom (as well as from the effects of the estrogen pill and the seventy or so estrogen-like substances in wide use in our society and in our water supplies), post-mortem brain structure analysis by researchers at the Free University of Amsterdam; and some, as yet unpublished work on the differentiated results of MRI scans, while speaking, between male and female, but with transsexual people showing intermediate or 'other' sex results ('a female mind trapped in a male body!').

To many of those working in this area, the fact that this is a world- wide phenomena going back at least to Biblical times, precludes it being merely a cultural response. Eg the rabbinical Mishneh Torah addresses the problems of the intersex states 'androgene' and 'tumtum' as follows: 'does not dress like a woman and does not have hair cut like a man, if such a person did this that person is not held to be at fault'

Questions about what is the necessary degree of transsexuality and treatment to permit the changing of documents is something that has been determined in many other countries already. In practice most choose surgery as the changeover point, and in fact in this country most documents can already be changed over once living 'full-time' in the opposite gender role as long as the application is medically supported.

There are a number of questions posed about the nature of a man and a woman. In particular, is chromosomal sex (XY, XXY, XX, XYY etc.) the exclusive means of determination? The press release presumes this is the case - 'fraudulently duped into marrying someone of the same biological sex.' - whereas some transsexuals claim that they are just women with an unusual birth defect that has now been corrected. My experience suggests that very few transsexuals deceive their partners about this issue. The major problem is that social hostility prevents a young person discovering why they are different, and many thus marry in the hope that this will correct matters. This is all too common in the people I come across, whereas I know of exactly one case in ten years where deception may have been attempted.

Para "The report questions.. "

Everyone involved in this area would agree that radical surgery is an unsatisfactory solution. However, there is no convincing evidence accumulated from the 1950s through to the present that any other method works! The only 'cure' of which I am aware was where the so-called 'transsexual' had been severely abused as a child by two male relatives. With a great deal of counselling and care he was eventually able to come to terms with being of the same sex as his tormentors. The Gender Trust attempted a survey of its membership to see whether this was a relevant factor. I believe 8 (of 500) members responded, so it was dropped. Certainly the normal profile, with gender dysphoria being experienced from around the age of 4, does not seem amenable to treatment. I know one person who suffered complete mental collapse after suppressing his feelings for thirty-four years, and a number who have pushed it away for shorter periods. It is very frustrating - I believe that the power of God is able to heal and transform and yet in this area I do not see less drastic resolutions working. This is one reason I have come to believe that it is a prenatal variation like, but more drastic than, left-handedness.

Para "But while.. "

If you remove the right to documentary privacy, employment protection (which was granted to a large degree last year by the inclusion of transsexuality within the Sex Discrimination Act), the possibility of a normal family life and the only moderately successful treatment for the condition, then what civil rights are left?

Para "The submission . . . "

Did the Policy Commission consult a range of pre- and post- operative people, the psychiatrists and counsellors who specialise in this area and representatives of partners and children's support groups? On the Christian front how about the CSR at Church House, Westminster which I know to have been interested in this area for about ten years? My telephone and e-mails over the last few days seem to suggest not.

As I expressed above, the absence of the guide is a major problem for me, as is the secrecy element. There is so little work in this area that it would be nice to have something appropriate to use.

Para. "That report . . ."

There seems to be a higher proportion of Christian believers among transsexuals than the general population, not unreasonable when the condition pushes the person to look for answers to meaning and existence. A straw poll of client-attenders at the 1994 Gender Dysphoria Conference which I carried out, produced nearly 25% who claimed regular church attendance. Many were actively involved, some in leadership roles: Churchwardens, PCC members and Deanery Synod reps in the CofE, for example. Since 'Changing Channels' was published I have been contacted by over 40 transgendered ministers. I discovered this last week that three are EA members.

I have also found that evangelicals seem to have a worse reception, which saddens me. It was my failure when first confronted on my doorstep by such a person which led me to become involved in this whole area. Sadly, society as a whole seems to show more willingness to suspend judgement than we manage. If it is a sin to be this way then that is fair enough, although I know people who have repented, sought deliverance, and still been thrown out. If it is a prenatal variation then ultimately it will have to be accommodated in some pastorally sensitive way. I hope the guide will provide a useful basis for thinking this through. A Christian viewpoint is desperately needed, provided it is biblical and thorough.

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