Transgender Individuals, Bible Believing Christians, and Discrimination

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:

Atheist: 39.6%

Muslims: 26.3%

Homosexuals: 22.6%

Hispanics: 20%

Conservative Christians: 13.5%

Recent Immigrants: 12.5%

Jews: 7.6%

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.

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About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • Anonymous

    I think it's really interesting that you would have pointed to Scandinavia for examples of discrimination. Is it because there was a specific case while you were growing up? Or is it more to do with the fact that these things really weren't occurring in the US? Was Scandinavia viewed as some sort of assault to Christianity because of things like that, plus their larger non-religious population? (I totally realize that this is not the point of your post, which I totally agree with btw, but inquiring minds and a disturbing interest in Sweden want to know)

  • Libby Anne

    There was a case involving a pastor in Sweden being jailed for calling homosexuality a sin when I was in high school. I just looked it up, and turns out that he was acquitted. Here is an article on him from a Christian news site. And no, these things really weren't occurring in the U.S., nor have they yet. And actually yes, Scandinavia WAS held up as a sort of boogey man, both in its "godless" socialism (which we were told was causing society to crumble – "it's only a matter of time") and in terms of its "discrimination" against Bible believing Christians. We were horrified by Sweden's ban on spanking and by the persecution of homeschoolers, all of which constituted discrimination against Bible believing Christians, of course.

  • Anonymous

    Such a good post. Nicely done!

  • Cecilia

    As swede who at one time studied law, I would like to point out that it is not in fact illegal in Sweden to simply say that homosexuality is a sin. There is a law against hate speech though, which is defined as deliberately threathening violence towards, or expressing contempt for, a group based on race, colour, nationality, ethniticity, religion or sexuality in a public setting. The law doesn't prohibit a reasonable discussion, nor does it prevent anyone from expressing their opinions in the private sphere. When trying someone for hate speech, the court is also obligated to consider the context and all the circumstances surrounding the offending statement, and to make an assessment of whether the potential damage done is great enough that it warrants a litmitation of the freedom of speech in that particular case. Not an easy task. Åke Green (the pastor Libby referred to) was charged with hate speech since he invited the press to a sermon (making it public) in which he spoke about homosexuality as a cancer on the body of society, something many people felt was a sublte way of inciting violence towards the gay community. After all, you remove a cancerous tumour from a body if you can, don't you? In the end Green was aquitted by the Supreme Court. I think most swedes agreed with that decision, including me. I also think most of us think Green is a complete asshole…

  • Anonymous

    You realize that yesterday was the Transgender Day of Remembrance, right?

  • Anonymous

    Here's a good piece from the Huffington Post: seems like kind of a big oversight, not mentioning it on the day after when you're writing a post that discusses trans people who have been murdered this year? And, yeah, the idea that Christians – who belong to the dominant religious faith in the Western world – are oppressed because they're Christians is ridiculous.

  • Libby Anne

    Anonymous – Yes, I realized that, that's what brought it to the top of my mind. I have amended my post to reflect that. :-)

  • Anonymous

    Great article. As genderqueer this issues atract me specially. Also, that data on atheism always gives me a shock since in my country, even if it's very religious, atheist aren't that hated or missunderstood.

  • Anonymous
  • Elin

    I was going to point out the same thing Cecilia did about the Åke Green case, but see no need to say the same thing. I second the asshole part as well…

  • Libby Anne

    Weirdly, I really don't remember the acquittal. All I remember is "godless Scandinavian people persecuting Christians, oh no! We will be next!" Which I suppose, is how rhetoric based on fear like this works anyway.

  • shadowspring

    I have never been discriminated against by a professor because of my faith, unless you count the biology prof who put one question on the final that could be considered anti-Christian, but only because of the sarcasm and attitude that he had used when teaching in class. Anyway, it didn't affect my grade by much at all, a two point question that was arguably a grey area.Fast forward thirty years and it is a different story. At the community college I attend I have had 25% and 15% respectively taken off of papers- with no plausible reason for the big change from the 100% the teacher gave my writing before. The big difference? I took a less than extreme pro-life position, and came out in favor of stem cell research. I also argued for a lot more compassion and logic on the discussion forum concerning abortion. In addition to that, I had to read two papers about how much superior the Christian world view is to any secular professor in an intercultural communications class!In fact, no one ever called me nasty names when I was a fundamentalist, but fundamentalists have called me lots of nasty names, and even issued veiled death threats when I convincingly advocate for a pro-woman position on abortion.Yet I used to share the same paranoia Libby was taught. W. T . F.

  • Anonymous

    I love your blog!

  • Libby Anne

    Shadowspring – My first year of college, I made creationist comments in class, made it clear that I thought homosexuality was wrong in a multicultural class, talked about God quite a bit in a humanities class, etc. And I got all As. I also got scholarships – even though the paper I wrote was a fundamentalist doom and gloom about the state of society. I honestly expected to be discriminated against for my beliefs in college…and I wasn't. Fortunately, I have yet to be discriminated against for my (lack of) beliefs today, which may be in part due to the fact that I'm in grad school now, which could be chalked up to grad school being more liberal, but even grad school I have had several fellow grad students who went to Pensacola or Liberty and have gotten not only good grades but actually coveted graduate assistantship positions. So yeah, not really seeing the discrimination here either.

  • Taxidriver42

    As with many of your posts, I too relate to this. The question that I can't get away from though is why? Why do "Bible believing Christians" feel persecuted? I've considered the idea that it is expected because of warnings in the Bible that it will come, but that seems too simple. Or perhaps it is that humans have a tendency to fall into a poor-me/I want pity kind of mindset. Any ideas?

  • Cecilia

    Could it be that the leadership in these more extreme religious groups encourage this paranoia in order to keep the members together and away from society at large? A group of people who genuinely believe that the world is out to get them will not want to join that world, and will probably feel the need to stick together no matter what problems they have amongst themselves. I'm not saying that these church leaders don't believe that they are being persecuted, but if they notice that the kind of rhetoric that focuses on this is helpful in keeping the group together, they are obviously going to use it more often.

  • Anonymous

    Shadowspring, is there a way you can complain to the dean/department chair, etc. about your wingnut professor? S/he should not be taking points off your paper because you disagree with him/her.

  • Discrimination Lawyer Boston

    A group of people who genuinely believe that the world is out to get them will not want to join that world, and will probably feel the need to stick together no matter what problems they have amongst themselves.