Growing up, I believed that I belonged to the most discriminated against group in the United States, not because I wore skirts or because I was homeschooled, but simply because I was a Bible believing Christian. I believed that our rights were being eroded year by year, that government crackdowns on religion were just around the corner, and that someday people like me would be thrown in prison for their beliefs. Part of the antagonists in this story were the gays, lesbians, and transgender individuals, whose ungodly lifestyles were celebrated and elevated to the heights of American society. The others, of course, were communists, socialists, atheists, and liberals. These were the individuals who were taking away our rights and wanted to throw us in jail.
A few months ago, I met a lovely transgender woman. She has not transitioned yet, and is still living life as a male, but in spite of her male body she has always felt inside that she was female. Over the past few months I’ve heard her both her excitement and her concerns about transitioning to live completely as a female. She’s excited because she feels like for the first time in her life she’ll be able to stop pretending and start being true to herself, but she’s also very concerned about the discrimination and bigotry she will quite likely face.
Yesterday was International Transgender Day of Rememberence, and seeing the articles that popped up in my news feed and in my facebook feed brought the challenges transgender individuals face to the top of my mind.
So far this year, seven transgender individuals have been killed in the United States, murdered and brutalized, solely because of their gender identity. To my knowledge, no Bible-believing Christian in America has been killed for his or her beliefs this year.
Were my friend to have a partner and children and then lose her partner, in many states in this country she would be deemed mentally unfit and her children would be taken from her. To my knowledge, no Bible-believing parent loses their children for the simple crime of believing in the Bible.
There is as yet no national law banning employment discrimination against transgender individuals, which means that my friend will likely face employment discrimination in the future, as do, studies show, 90% of transgender individuals. There is, however, a national law banning employment discrimination against Bible believing Christians, along with other religious groups.
Recently, a hospital several towns away from where I live was in the news for refusing to treat a transgender woman. I haven’t yet heard of a Bible believing Christian being denied health care for being a Bible believing Christian.
I think my point should be clear. I thought, growing up, that gays and transgender individuals were at the top of the pecking order and Bible believing Christians were at the bottom. I’m constantly surprised to realize how wrong I was.
As my upbringing would urge me to ask, what of the fact that gays seem to get more and more positive media coverage while Bible believing Christians are dismissed as neanderthal extremists? First, I think this portrayal is a bit extreme: the Duggars are extremely favorably portrayed in their TV show and Fox News is the most popular news channel in existence today. Second, I think if we’re talking about the popular perception of a group we should take a look at this study, conducted only a few years ago:
This group does not at all agree with my vision of American society:
Conservative Christians: 13.5%
Recent Immigrants: 12.5%
Sure, some people don’t like Bible believing Christians, but even more don’t like gays and atheists. But I also think it’s time to cut the drama and get to the heart of the matter. What does discrimination really mean? I don’t have the right to have everyone like me, and nor do Bible believing Christians or gays. But I don’t think “people disliking me” is what constitutes discrimination. It’s actions, not thoughts, that constitute discrimination. Here is how Wikipedia defines discrimination:
Discrimination is the prejudicial treatment of an individual based on their membership in a certain group or category. It involves the actual behaviors toward groups such as excluding or restricting members of one group from opportunities that are available to another group.
Are you denied treatment at a hospital because of the group you belong to? Discrimination. Do people on TV think your beliefs are strange? Not discrimination. Are you not allowed to get married because of the group you belong to? Discrimination. And so it goes. The reality is that I never faced any discrimination at all as a Bible believing Christian, but, unfortunately, my transgender friend likely will.
Note: When asked to point to discrimination against Bible believing Christians as a teen, I would have pointed to two things: Pastors arrested in Scandinavian countries for “hate speech” against gays because they simply called homosexuality a sin and Christian pharmacists who risk being fired for refusing to fill prescriptions for birth control. The problem with the first objection is that it is perfectly legal in the U.S. to call homosexuality a sin, and only speech that urges actual harm (for example, incites a riot) is classified as “hate speech.” As for the second, filling prescriptions is part of a pharmacist’s job, and if a pharmacist refuses to do his job, of course his employer can fire him. That’s not discrimination, it’s common sense. Moreover, many pharmacies (CVS and Target, for instance) do NOT require their pharmacists to fill orders for birth control if it violates their conscience.