“A New Creation:” Christianity and trans* rights

“A New Creation:” Christianity and trans* rights September 6, 2012

Before I start this blog post, some definitions for anyone not familiar with trans* issues!

According to wikipedia, “transgender is the state of one’s gender identity (self-identification as woman, man, neither or both) not matching one’s assigned sex (identification by others as male, female or intersex based on physical/genetic sex).” A transgender person is someone who doesn’t believe the gender they were assigned at birth accurately describes them. 

Gender identity is different than sexual orientation. Some trans* people are gay. Some are straight. Some are bisexual.

Also, everyone has a gender identity. Sometimes we cis people don’t even think about how we identify, either as a man or a woman, but we do. We make choices every day that tell the world “this is my gender!” This is a concept I admit I haven’t fully grasped yet, but it’s important to remember that trans* people aren’t the only ones with a gender identity.

If you are not transgender, you are cisgender. Your doctor said “it’s a girl!” when you were born, and you’re okay with calling yourself a woman today, etc. A cis person has a great deal of privilege over trans* people, a list of which can be found here.

Also, a special thanks to Anarchist Reverend for reading this post and giving me some pointers and correcting some of the problems in first draft!

Until about a year and a half ago, I knew next to nothing about trans* people. I’d been taught growing up that God created us male and female and that there were people in the world who were rebelling against God’s creation, trying to be something they were not–men trying to be women, women trying to be men. These people were to be feared by Christians because they broke God’s intended mold for manhood and womanhood.

What I’d learned was wrong.

In fact, the more I listened to the stories of real trans* people (the first stories I ever heard were actually on an episode of MTV’s True Lifenow I have a couple of trans* friends and twitter followers and I’m still in the process of listening and learning), the more I realized that if Christians really believed what we say we believe about Christ, then the Church would be at the forefront of the trans* rights movement. The Church is not at the forefront, obviously. The Church either ignores trans* people completely or perpetuates ignorance and hatred toward them.  The more I learn about trans* people, though (and I’m new at this and still have much to learn and much privilege to face), the more convinced I am that the Church’s treatment of trans* people shows that the Church doesn’t truly believe the theology that they teach.  

If anyone be in Christ that person is a new creation…

Christians believe that God’s intention for the world was perfection. Perfect harmony, perfect souls, perfect bodies.

So God created humanity in his/her own image,
in the image of God he/she created them;
male and female he/she created them

And God saw all that God had made, and it was very good.

Of course, you know the rest of the story. Humans and nature did not live up to be all God intended them to be. People made mistakes, hated and killed one another. Nature produced disease and deformities and death. But deep down, we know what we were meant to be, and we strive toward that. We try to love, we try to fix injustices. We try to cure disease and prevent untimely death. We use technology, from eye-glasses to prosthetic limbs, to help us do the things we were meant to do and be the people we were meant to be.

In Christ, we are given hope in this striving toward our intended state of perfection. We are given a chance to become a new creation–to let the parts of us that hold us back from perfection die away and to claim new life in Jesus. Life that brings us closer to God and all that God wants us to be. Though we know this “new life” is incomplete, we continue to strive for a future when we will be made perfect.

Some will say we are crazy for doing this, but we do it because we believe that in Christ’s death we are all called to “die” to our old selves and be raised again into newness of life: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come. The old has gone, the new is here!”

The problem with so many Christians is that we refuse to apply this to anything tangible. In our intangible, eschatological version of Christianity, our new bodies and new souls come to us in some otherworldly realm outside of reality.

But we’re told that the new creation is here. We’re to live as if our future perfection has already arrived. We’re to be a part of a new kingdom in which we all live as the people we were created to be.

So why do so many Christians respond with hatred when trans* people move toward wholeness? Why do so many Christians try to imprison people in their “old lives,” and deny them the freedom of becoming a new creation? 

Is our theology so weak that it can only change our lives, our names, our bodies, and our destinies in heaven? Or is the Kingdom here, on earth as it is in heaven? Is Christ sitting up in heaven, helpless to transform us here on earth? Or can we start today to become the people that we know, deep down, we were meant to be?

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • This is a brilliant and beautiful Christian reflection on transgender identity. Thank you! Would you mind if I re-posted it and/or linked to it on my blog?

  • Thanks for writing this- I had not thought of it from this perspective. I am also trying to educate myself about transgender issues.

  • I’d take out the comma between intangible and eschatological. Authentic Christian eschatology–the kind that isn’t all about escaping “the world” because it is EVIL and bodies suck–is pretty much precisely what you’re talking about here.

    Thanks for this reflection and for sharing your process with us.

    • good point! so many Christians take eschatology and make it something intangible when really, our future starts here and now.

  • One more reason I love being an Episcopalian: the ordination of transgender persons was overwhelmingly approved at General Convention this summer. I got to sing in a volunteer choir at a celebratory Eucharist, which was beautiful and encouraging and talked a lot about education and openness. It was a very moving experience.

    If you happen to have a spare half hour (since, you know, life isn’t busy), I’d highly recommend watching this video (part 1 and part 2) from Integrity USA (the org that hosted the Eucharist) — it includes all of Bishop Gene Robinson’s sermon/teaching from the service, and is definitely worth hearing.

  • Yeah, I would have to agree with southcarolinaboy refnsiug to answer a question is not rude, especially if the question is personal and inappropriate. Asking such a personal question in the first place is rude, in my opinion. HOW the question is answered (or not answered) can become rude and my impression is that southcarolinaboy is not intending to be rude, just private. When I receive inappropriate questions, I sometimes say, That’s not really an appropriate question, or sometimes I’ll say, I won’t discuss my own personal medical treatments, but I can tell you that some trans people take hormones and some do not etc. I can still offer general information without talking about myself and my private medical information. However, I don’t think that every trans person should feel obligated to answer questions of non-trans people, no matter how curious or well-meaning they are when they ask. Some trans people don’t mind answering questions, and that’s great, but it’s not our responsibility to educate people. There is all sorts of information out there on the internet, at the library, the bookstore, on TV where people can get information about trans people. That’s my opinion about it anyway.