I promised to address this since Dr. P, a medical practitioner and minister, brought it to our attention. I’m sure everyone knows I am not a medical doctor, have not studied genetics or biology and neither have I knowingly ministered to anyone who was born with physical impairments which may cause confusion as to appropriate sexual expression. Thus, this post will not address “feelings”, but rather sexual expression of persons born with medically verified gender abnormalities.
My noted deficiencies, however, don’t prevent me as a preacher of the gospel to search out what the Bible possibly says about such conditions and help instruct the contemporary church on dealing with these issues righteously. We are called to open our eyes and, with the Word of God as a guide, discuss these issues. People exist with all type of maladies, both spiritual and natural, and I am fully convinced that God has given us a word for them. But it does require carefully searching God’s truths.
The “world” is already ahead of us in openly discussing this issue and I can tell you that like most things, they have arrived at ungodly solutions.
Here’s Dr. P’s comment and question:
One question that I do have is inspired by what I’ve seen as a practitioner: What of trans-sexuals? You do not openly support homosexuality as defined in the modern genetic sense, but what of individuals who are born with ambiguous genitalia, hormonal imbalances, and external(plainly visible) features that suggest that they could be either male or female? Is their sexual orientation (even when there might not be any objective way to define them as male or female) wrong/right based on how they may LOOK?? What of a person born with BOTH male and female features?
First, let’s look at the various conditions individuals face in terms of determining their sex and sexuality.
1. People born with dual sex organs (hermaphrodites or intersexed)
2. People born with higher levels of xy chromosomes which do not specifically match their physical gender
3. People born with no sexual organs, but have a specific gender appearance
There may be more I am not aware of.
In the context of this discussion, let’s establish what is normal. Normal should be defined as the end result being a person with no physical abnormalities. The process of fertilization and sexual assignment God created is almost lottery like in terms of whether one is born male or female. Basically, the male sperm cells contain one of two types of sex chromosomes which are X or Y. The female’s eggs contain only the X sex chromosome. By design, it is the man’s sperm cell which determines the gender of an individual. If a sperm cell containing an X chromosome fertilizes an egg, the child will be female. If the sperm cell contains a Y chromosome the child will be a male. But sometimes, due to a number of possible actions, and a person’s gender is not so clear cut. No, God didnt make a mistake, but something did go wrong.
The major issue in the Christian context is are any of the mentioned genetic abnormalities sinful? If we can be honest, all abnormalities of life —even in nature— are the indirect result of sin’s devastating impact on all things. While abnormality itself is not sin, it is a reminder that sin has affected all things, but in time our hope is gain complete redemption from its effects. The apostle Paul seemed to be saying this in Romans 8:22:
For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.
To be clear, all persons, normal and abnormal are born sinners with overpowering desires to go against the will of God. Author Fred Johnson, Phd has written an excellent book called Toward Conformity to the Image of Christ. The book explores the broader incidences of genetic abnormalities as a result of what he calls “total depravity”. You can read it here.
Dr. P asked specifically about transsexuals (transgenders, transvestites, et al) so let’s revisist that briefly. None of these categories are to be included with those with genetic abnormalities, because they have surgically altered the genitals or changed their physical appearance to resemble the opposite gender. Transgenders have no real, observable physical abnormalities. In addition, there exists no credible empirical evidence that transgendered people are “born that way”. Their confusion exists overwhelmingly in their minds, thus it becomes a psychological issue, not a physical one. I’m quite sure progay/trans geneticists would argue that people without genetic training are clueless as how to determine what is a valid genetic abnormality. We do not purport to have such knowledge, but we are qualified to contest any science which conflicts with the teaching of scripture. This appears to be one of those situations. There’s a strong condemnation in scripture of altering one’s appearance to attract members of the same gender due to its ties to cultic idolatry and sexual perversion. Because scripture views psychological issues as source areas of potential sin or demonic influence, we must believe that these individuals can and should be delivered by the power of Christ. Post salvation counseling should be encouraged to resolve further emotional, relational and sexual issues. We covered some of the issues with the church and transgenderism in this post. You can also read about this gcm abberation of scripture which claims Jesus instructed the disciples to talk to a transsexual man.
But “intersexed” people do have real, observable physical abnormalites. I would not term this sexual orientation but sexual differentation. Orientation, as applied to homosexuality, is only perceived to be real, differentation is real. This does not exempt them from sin, nor does it exempt them from the need to receive Christ and be saved from sin. It does, however, present a complex set of unique issues that for the most part should be kept private (with professional guidance) as long as those lifestyle choices arent sinful.
For example if a person is born with dual, functioning genitalia, they cannot use either in fornication. They cannot use this abnormality as an occasion to have sexual relations with both male and female. They must choose a gender (whichever they feel most “comfortable” as) and live accordingly. If I am not mistaken hermaphadites can choose surgery to give them the gender they feel most comfortable as. Again, I am using this as an example to illustrate that such individuals cannot use their abnormalities as justification for sin no more than a person born with down syndrome’s can use it as justification to rob a bank.
How should the church treat such people?
The short answer is the same as it should treat all people. Im not aware of that many people who would announce to the church that they were born with one testicle or that although they appear as a woman, they actually were born with male genitalia. In my opinion this is an intensely private matter which the church should leave up to the individual to resolve in terms of lifestyle. If a person revealed this to their pastor because it is causing considerable emotional/psychological upheaval, the pastor should handle the situation with the utmost privacy and refer the individual to appropriate professionals.
Yes, the church is going to haveto deal with these issues, and I think the most important priority is to determine who is in what category (genetic, nongenetic) and apply the principles of scripture maturely.
Your comments, corrections and questions are welcome. Thanks to Dr. P for bringing this to our attention!
- Additional reading: FAQ Intersex Initative (FAQ page. good, but I am not endorsing all the information)