How should I feel about transgender people at my church?

The Bible tells us how to feel about all people

We view and treat them with compassion and agape love. Hatred has no place in the lives and hearts of any who profess Christ. We only need to answer two questions, and if we can answer these, we will know exactly how to feel about transgender people attending our churches.

  • Why is the transgender person attending my church? What are they looking for?
  • What is my church's policy about church membership or leadership for transgender people?

With the rare exceptions of true intersex people, those who are born with some or all characteristics of both sexes and can legitimately choose which sex they want to live as, we are all born as one of only two sexes, either male or female, each of us with greater or lesser degrees of estrogen or testosterone influencing our inclinations and appearance. 

It is unconscionable that the Christian community does not accept intersex people for who they are, many of whom hide it or gravitate to LGBTQ communities because they are largely rejected by mainstream culture and churches. 

But what about those who are not intersex, those who simply don't like the sex they were born with or who sincerely believe they were born in the wrong body? This is becoming an upfront and personal issue in churches and will likely only become more prevalent. Transwomen (biological males) are the most likely to attend church without hiding the fact that they are biological males who wish to look like, dress like, be addressed as, and be treated as, women. 

On the other hand, seeing transmen (biological females) in church, is not as common. Are they there? Most likely. There are various reasons why some women choose to hide the fact that they were born female. Gender bias is the age-old number one reason for this. I am not saying that this is still the case today, but I listened to one woman tell her story of why she lived as a man, and that was the reason she gave. 

She not only lived as a man and no one ever guessed the truth, but for ten years she was a loved and respected [supposed male] leader in her church. She said she grew up wanting to be a boy because her father bullied and abused the female members of her family, while treating the male members well. She equated weakness to female and strength to male. She attributed being strictly limited to female and almost limitless autonomy to male. She watched boys get preferential treatment because they were male. For these reasons she decided, early on, that she did not want to be a girl. But after ten years of lying to everyone in her church about who she was, they somehow found out the truth. Her church did not throw her out on her ear. She agreed to an extended hiatus from leadership while she and her church family worked out whatever needed to be worked out. According to her, it took a while. Today, years later, she still attends that same church, and has been reinstated as a Bible teacher and church leader. Only today, she leads as the biological woman she was born as. It was not a simple cut and dry process. And it took a great deal of time. And we can't even imagine the effort. But, in the end, love prevailed. She did not lose her beloved church family and they did not lose a precious sister and beloved leader. 

History is rife with stories of women who posed as men (historical transmen), because men had autonomy, freedom, and opportunity that women did not have (women still don't have these in complementarian churches and marriages). 

Some women posing as men don't want to simply be treated and addressed as males, they want everyone to believe they were born as males. They pass as males. They are not interested in having their transgender-status recognized and approved. With hormone therapies and surgeries, these women can be very successful at passing as biological males

So, how should we, as Believers, feel about church members who want to be recognized and accepted as transgender people?

I have no conflict with showing unbiased Christian love to all people, and that includes transgender people. But this does not extend to lying to them by telling them the Bible does not address transgenderism and that it is forbidden to God's people. 

If a transgender person asks me what the Bible says about it, I will tell them the truth. If they do not ask me, I will continue to treat them with love and respect, but I will keep my opinions about their lifestyle choices to myself. I will not gossip about them with other church members. That being said, I also will not sit under the ministry of a transgender person or of a non-transgender person who teaches that the God is Ok with it. I will find another group to worship and fellowship with. 

Sharing about an experience I had earlier in my ministry may be helpful here. I was called to street ministry for a season. For two years, I preached the Good News on the streets of Winter Haven, FL. I held Sunday church meetings in a local park for the homeless and hungry. Some began spontaneously calling me their pastor. The majority of people I met with (every Sunday), were active alcoholics and drug addicts. Though I never preached about the sin that was devastating their lives, many told me how deeply my ministry had impacted them for the good.  

Did I ever broach the subject of their sin? Yes.  I was forced to deal with those who wanted to come to my meetings high or drunk. They would come wanting to participate in leadership by preaching or praying. After dealing with this for a while, I wondered if I should even be holding meetings for this unruly group, most of whom lived open and obvious sinful lifestyles. Our outdoor church smelled like a brewery. It literally reeked of alcohol. 

My religiosities were challenged. 

As I struggled with knowing what I should do, I considered giving it up. I wasn't sure if it was even right to be worshipping with these people. You see, this wasn't a project for me. It was where I went to church every Sunday, and I worshipped with whoever came to join me. The Holy Spirit gave me a choice that forever changed my perspective and attitude. I was asked if I would stay and feed the flock God had given, or if I would give up, walk away, abandon them? 

I chose to stay and feed them. But I made on change. I told the group that everyone was welcome to attend my meetings, in any condition they were in (today, that would include transgender), but I told them that if they were drunk or high, I would not allow them to preach, pray, read the Bible to the group, or participate in any other way. And, because my group could become disruptive, I instructed them to quietly sit down and enjoy the ministry in word and song. That did it for them. After that, there was never a problem. Anyone who didn't like that policy just didn't come back, and there were a few who didn't. 

Another story along that line. Later, when I was praise and worship leader at a brick and mortar, traditional, church, our church drummer showed up drunk for practice one evening. I quietly drew him aside and told him I could not allow him to practice with us in that condition. He left offended. We did not see him in church again. About three years later, I received an email from him. He thanked me for what I had done three years earlier. He said it had been a wake-up call for him. He told me that he had since sobered up and married a wonderful godly woman, and that he had been called to preach and was currently in Bible college.

Yes, these stories do relate to Christian response to the transgender issue and how we should feel about transgender people attending our churches. Would to God our churches were filled with them!  

Most of the alcoholics and drug addicts that regularly attended my Sunday meetings had hungry hearts. They came to feed on the Word of God. The evidence of this, is that though I fed them physical food, I fed them spiritual food first, and the overwhelming majority came early for the spiritual food. 

What they did with the spiritual food was between them and God, but all hungry hearts were welcome in my church meetings, though participation and leadership was reserved for those who chose to forsake all and follow Jesus. I see no difference in applying the same policy to transgender people attending our churches, as I applied to those who attended my street meetings all those years ago. 

The Bible calls men trying to be women and women trying to be men ... sin. It is forbidden to God's people. The Bible calls a lot of things sin that Christian leaders should be gently and lovingly dealing with. Sin of every sort is becoming the cultural norm, and we must not lie to people about what the Bible says or does not say about any topic. God's love-letter to us, the Bible, forbids certain things to his followers, and transgenderism is one of them. 

That being said, there is never justification--ever--for treating anyone with hatred or disdain. 

Every human being is created in the image of God, is loved by our Creator, and is a soul for whom Christ died. Even if strong leadership (like what happened with my street ministry troublemakers and with the drummer in our church's praise and worship group) is called for, it should always be handled with gentleness, humility, compassion, and love

  • We should welcome all hungry hearts into our church meetings--including transgender people. 
  • Our churches should have policies of not lying to people about what the Bible says about transgenderism or any other issue. 
  • Our churches should have biblical policies in place about who can or cannot participate in certain ministries or church sponsored activities, become church members, or serve in leadership. 
  • Our churches should not have an across-the-board policy of refusing to allow transgender people to attend meetings. 

Everyone needs love. It is not a hard thing to love transgender people when we understand that true Christlike and biblical love does not mean we must accept every lifestyle or make everyone feel good about their choices. 

Love is being not afraid to tell life-giving truth. 

Jocelyn Andersen: My Statement of Life


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