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Recently, transgenderism has come to the forefront of identity politics in America. Many transgender individuals feel “victimized” by Christians, most likely because of a misunderstanding of what we actually believe when it comes to human sexuality and sin. In this post, we clear up a bit of this confusion, and focus in on Orthodox Christianity’s treatment of transgenderism.

Orthodox Christianity’s position on sex and gender

Contrary to popular secular opinion, sex and gender are not separate things. The perspective that they are the same is fairly new, becoming prominent only during and after the 1950s with the advent of modern gender and feminism theory. For millennia, societies functioned with two modes of humanity: male and female.

In the beginning, God created man with these two modes (Genesis 1:27) and created them to be in communion with one another, just as the Persons of the Holy Trinity are in communion. God appropriates male and female as perfect companions for one another in marriage (Genesis 2:24), and as Christians we must exercise our love and sexuality within these boundaries. Therefore, because transgenderism goes against the parameters set by God, it is unacceptable to Orthodox Christianity.

Yes, we concede there are very rare cases in which God creates humans who are born intersex. However, these cases have little to no bearing on the current transgender movement, which focuses more on society’s acceptance and “tolerance” of a sinful lifestyle. We focus on said lifestyle moving forward.

Is it a sin to be transgender?

This question is not as simple as it sounds. Let’s look at two different examples:


1. Ever since he was seven years old, Matt didn’t feel like a boy. He experienced life as a girl and wanted to live life as that sex/gender, not the one which God created him. He struggled with these feelings every day, and wondered if they would ever go away. Because he knew God loved him, Matt decided not to “transition” to being a woman. Instead, he continued to struggle toward holiness every day, denying himself.


2. Ever since she was seven years old, Gina didn’t feel like a girl. She experienced life as a boy and wanted to live life as that sex/gender, not the one which God created her. She struggled with these feelings every day, and wondered if they would ever go away. Eventually, she decided to “transition,” and after hormone therapy and sexual reassignment surgery, she “became” a man and went by the name, “Kyle.”



Of these two individuals, which committed a sin? If you said the second, you would be right. It is not a sin to experience gender dysphoria (or same sex attraction, etc.). The sin lies in acting upon those feelings and desires, and going against the Divine order established by God. Those who think and act this way need our love and our help in accepting the reality of who they are. We are not putty that may be remade into whatever we feel — even if we feel it very deeply. Our bodies are not our own, but God’s, and they are holy (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

Conclusion

With respect to transgenderism, the Orthodox Church’s position is rather cut and dry: Divine Providence does not make mistakes. There is a purpose to all circumstances in our life, even difficult and seemingly permanent ones, like gender dysphoria. Whatever we may feel, our maleness or femaleness is a biological, psychological and spiritual fact, rooted in our very being.

It is important to note that the Orthodox Church never condemns or hates people. She condemns actions, specifically those that go against the commandments of God. With spiritual guidance, anyone can find the love of Christ and seek true repentance for their sins. Wherever there is repentance, there is salvation. Even in the case of mutilation of the human body associated with a fair number of transgender individuals, they, too, can find peace.

Read More: Abstinence: The Orthodox Approach to Spiritual Purity >>

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8 Responses

  1. It was pointed out some time ago that trans apologists are at odds with homosexual apologists. The person arguing homosexuality is normal will say God made me this way, God doesn’t make mistakes so I need not change. The trans person says God made me this way, God DOES make mistakes, so I HAVE to change, correct what God did wrong. The two groups form a fundamental threat to each other. If one is right the other can’t possibly be. It’s surprising they can coexist in the same parade, marching as they do in opposite directions. The Orthodox position is (I think) God doesn’t make mistakes, we do, and both groups are wrong. Very popular in the culture, of course.

    1. Hi Bob,

      Christ is in our midst!

      What an astute observation! You are correct in summarizing the Orthodox position. God does not make mistakes in the way He creates us. And if we suffer from same sex attraction or gender dysphoria, we can compare that to the man born blind or those possessed by demons. God created them that way for a reason, most likely to serve as an example to others who seek to attain theosis (salvation) by battling against the vices that plague us. It is in our selfishness to satisfy these perverse desires that we fall into sin.

      Unfortunately, both groups are indeed becoming popular in secular culture. As Christians, we must not allow this to anger us, but instead see it as an opportunity to evangelize, live the life Christ asks us to live, and be an example to those who suffer from these conditions.

      God bless!

      1. Are you saying that if someone is born blind and there is a medical development that offers sight, that the person should not get eye surgery??

        1. John,

          Christ is in our midst. Thank you for your question; this is an important clarification that needs to be made. While we used blindness as a comparison for being an example to others before Christ, that equivalence does not necessarily translate over when it comes to receiving treatment. Correcting eye sight (in most cases) does not involve mutilation of the body, which is the temple of the Holy Spirit and is actively involved in the process of salvation. However, treatments for gender dysphoria involve hormone therapy and sexual reassignment surgery (among other things) that attempt to fundamentally change the base nature of that human person. Therefore, while a blind person would technically be able to receive surgical treatment for his condition, someone suffering from gender dysphoria could not without the risk of endangering his soul.

          However, that does not mean someone who pursues these treatments is automatically damned. God will accept all who come to Him in genuine repentance for their sins. Even the sin of mutilating oneself and attempting to change one’s sex/gender can be forgiven, if we truly want and seek that forgiveness. We hope this answered your question!

  2. Thank you for your thoughts and interest in this area. It is a complex issue and not an easy one. The crucial aspect of these issues, is that one be “pastored” well towards the goal of simply living one’s life to the best of one’s ability. As a teacher, we had priestly visits who spoke to staff about the dangers of “homophobia” and so I developed a professional attitude of acceptance towards all gays. I am not the judge, God will judge. My job was to make sure that the young student developed a love for life and to live one’s life to the full. After years of working in a Catholic school, I found most people to be hateful and at times it was intolerable to keep working in a Christian setting. It was on the advice of an orthodox priest who also worked there for short while that I leave such an environment. Through it all, I learned compassion, especially towards youth, who revealed to me that they were gay. What I found remarkable about my experience, was the incredible love that parents had for their teenagers. Parents simply pray for leaders who will minister to their youth with love and acceptance.

    1. Hi Mary,

      Christ is in our midst!

      Thank you for sharing your story with us. You are absolutely correct: having a loving spiritual father makes all the difference. It is most unfortunate that the people you interacted with were hateful and intolerable. Because of this, so many in the LGBT community do not properly understand how God feels about them. We must remember to adorn ourselves with compassion when we approach anyone struggling with same sex attraction or gender dysphoria. We have to meet them where they are, let them know God loves them and wants them to be in communion with Him, and engage in fruitful conversation.

      God bless!

  3. I have always felt uncomfortable in my body. I wish I were born male. I would like much smaller hips , thighs and breasts. I am old now and thankful that the opportunity was not available to me for sexual reassignment. I can live with my body . What I have more trouble with is attire and appearance and role. I hate and am truly miserable in anything but jeans and t-shirts ( clean of course). Fortunately for me the small parish I attend while perhaps originally scandalized by my attire (I am a late in life convert) has come to accept me. I also sport a recent short hair style. I have interests that until recently have been assigned more to men.

    I am too old now and have lived such a sinful life that the issue is fairly moot. But I have wished for as long as I have been a part of the Orthodox Church that I could be or could have been an altar server. I have and had no aspirations higher than this- that is no wish to become a priest.

    Also I struggle with the language of the Bible sometimes. Everything seemingly addressed to the “ brethren”.

    What is your response to these difficulties?

    Respectfully

    1. Kristi,

      Christ is in our midst! You mentioned having trouble with attire, appearance, and role. While we would encourage you to wear the nicest things possible within your budget when worshiping the Lord, the rest is superficial in the face of your greater purpose: to repent of your sins, seek God, and attain communion with Him. One step at a time, with the Lord’s help, you can attain salvation. We are grateful that the Lord placed you in a parish that accepts you, and we are thankful He has shown you the knowledge of the Truth.

      As far as your desire to be an altar server, there is nothing wrong with wishing this. A young woman in our parish often says, had he been born a male, she would have wanted to be a priest. Dwelling or acting on this wish would be the sin. If this wish saddens or depresses you, take it to your spiritual father, as well as to the Lord in prayer. And perhaps see if there are other ways you can help the parish – by baking holy bread for the offering, for example. This can help you channel that desire to serve Our Lord’s Church and use it in a way that benefits your spiritual growth.

      And to your final point, “brethren” is a gender-neutral term in the Bible. It includes all brothers and sisters in Christ, and in many instances, has been translated to mean the same. It includes you, just as it does all of God’s children.

      We hope this response was edifying for you. God bless!

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