Recently, transgenderism has come to the forefront of controversial identity politics in America. Many transgender individuals feel “victimized” by Christians, most likely because of a misunderstanding of what Christians 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 the Orthodox Church’s treatment of transgenderism.
The Church’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.
Moreover, 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 parameters. Therefore, because transgenderism goes against the parameters set by God, it is unacceptable to Orthodox Christians.
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 with his feelings of dysphoria every day.
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).
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.