Transgender in the Church

Another day, another crazy fundamentalist saying abhorrent things about gay men and women. First, there was the pastor who advocated physically abusing young children who seemed too effeminate. Now, another has said we should cordon gay people into camps ringed by electrified fences.

I honestly have no idea what to say about this. It should be obvious how unChristian these comments are – such hatred and violence have no place among the followers of Jesus, no matter how wrong one feels homosexuality is. I think most everyone knows that, Christian or not. These comments are so extreme, I hesitate even mentioning them because I fear giving these twisted people the publicity they clearly crave. I see that same hesitation among people like Alise Wright, who frequently stands up for gay people on her blog, and Justin Lee, who lives in the uncomfortable margin between homosexuality and Christianity.

So rather than spend my morning turning exquisite phrases of outrage, allow me to focus on something positive. This weekend, I read an amazing story from The Washington Post‘s Petula Dvorak about a transgender 5-year-old. Yes, you read that correctly.

As early as age 2, Kathryn told her parents she was a boy and refused to wear or do anything associated with girls.

Kathryn didn’t even want to be around other little girls, let alone acknowledge that she biologically is one.

Jean tried to put her daughter’s behavior to rest. She sat down with a toddler-version of an anatomy book and showed Kathryn, by then 3, the cartoonish drawings of a naked boy and girl.

“See? You’re a girl. You have girl parts,” Jean told her big-eyed daughter. “You’ve always been a girl.”

Kathryn looked up at her mom, incomprehension clouding her round face.

“When did you change me?” the child asked.

The story is long but well worth the read. In the end, Kathryn’s parents agreed to begin treating Kathryn like a boy, cutting her hair, letting her pick out boy-related motifs for her room, changing her name to Tyler and referring to her as “he.”

I cannot imagine how much courage it took to make those decisions. The family goes to church regularly, and if Christians have been generally hostile to the “LGB” part of the LGBT acronym, our reaction to the transgendered has been somewhere between fear and loathing. Yet here is a 3-year-old, convinced she should not be a girl. All of the arguments about choice and being happy with the way God made you collapse – or they should.

So Tyler’s family took him to church and explained to their congregation that Kathryn should now be called Tyler and treated like a boy.

How would your church respond to that?

Tyler made his public debut at Sunday school at their Presbyterian church.

The teenagers who help out in class laughed that it took Kathryn’s parents so long to figure out they had a Tyler.

The pastor there was so supportive of the family that she invited a panel from a transgender support group to come just before services one Sunday in January and explain what Tyler and his family were going through. The room was packed.

“We’re so happy to be here. They usually put us in the basement,” said Catherine Hyde, the leader of the group and the parent of a transgender teenager with a tough story.

That’s right. Their church invited a transgender support group to talk to the congregation about what it was like to be the parents of a transgendered child – and the congregation came to listen!

It’s easy to focus on the negative, the sensational, the hateful words of ignorant fundamentalist pastors. And sometimes those things need to be focused on and condemned for the unChristian bigotry they are. But there are many, many kind, caring, warm-hearted members of the church who simply want greater understanding about the tough choices their brothers and sisters face. Let’s not forget to celebrate those people, who are doing no more than simply being Jesus.

8 thoughts on “Transgender in the Church”

  1. I absolutely agree that it’s important to include positive stories as well! I’ve been focusing on a lot of negative lately, and I needed to read this. It’s easy to get bogged down in the profoundly bad (and the past month has had some bad for my LGBT brothers & sisters), but it’s important to see the ways that the Church is showing love as well. Thank you for this story!

  2. Thanks for this. It’s a blessed relief to read about people getting it right, to remind myself that a great many people are out there just, y’know, quietly being awesome.

  3. All of the comments above supporting homosexuals
    and any other immorality, I have not read one Scripture
    in God’s Sovereign Word to support your claims.
    God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah because of its
    wickedness in these sins

    1. The sin of Sodom was violating hospitality rules by threatening harm to guests whom Lot had taken into his home, and were therefore (according to the ethics of the time) sacrosanct and under his protection.

      If this church didn’t welcome Tyler, as he is, wouldn’t it be violating those same sacred hospitality rules?

  4. When a child behaves like this it is because the parents or grandparents warped them. It could be sexual abuse. It could be that the grandmother wanted a granddaughter but got a boy and so she dresses him in dresses when mom isn’t around and brainwashes him into thinking he’s a girl. In any case it is nurture not nature. People ingrain their perversions into kids. Rather than supporting this sort of warping of children, a rational person would want to end it.

    1. That of course brings up the obvious question of how to end it. The best thing is not to condemn the child obviously. But it also is not to play along. If you don’t condemn the child who thinks they are the opposite of their sex — but also don’t play along, the child will see that this sort of foolishness may be cute to mommy and granny but not everyone buys into it. Eventually the child will realize they’ve been duped by mommy and granny and will grow out of it. I know this is true, because I have a cousin who was warped this way by my grandmother. By the silly views expressed here he would have been labeled “transgender” at the age of 3, but by the age of 5 he grew out of it. When he wore granny’s high heels around and paraded them around for the family he saw that mommy and granny laughed and thought it was so cute, but none of the men did (although nobody said anything) he must have seen the looks on their faces. And so he grew out of it, without anybody even having to say a word or try to argue him into believing he was a boy.

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