By Jojo Ruba
This is the second of two parts. For Part 1, see “Unchanging Truths in Transitioning Times.”
It was a question I never expected to hear in my lifetime. After speaking at a Christian youth event, a young man asked me how to talk with a classmate who came out as transgendered. Every morning, he would decide what gender he was going to be for the day and dress accordingly. “What should I say to my classmate?” the Christian student asked.
I wanted to give a simple answer, something he could easily follow. When I first started researching the issue, I thought the answer was straightforward: a man should be encouraged to be a man while a woman should be encouraged to be a woman.
But the issue has quickly become a dividing line where Christians are accused of being on the wrong side of history. We’re told that gender is not a binary (male and female), but is instead a spectrum between the two. Moreover, we’re told that our biological sex has little or no role in determining our gender identity. Gender identity is based solely or mostly on how we feel. Therefore, the only way we can support a gender-confused person is to support his or her gender confusion. Anyone who suggests that gender confusion should be treated is now viewed as “transphobic” and hateful. It’s come to a point where even counseling a gender-confused child to accept his or her biological sex is now illegal in Ontario.
The most important part of engaging this issue is that we have to redeem the idea of love. We have to show and tell others how the biblical view of sex and sexuality is also the most loving and compassionate view. Here are a few tips that have helped me effectively engage on the topic and show this love:
1. Model what it means to truly love our neighbours as ourselves. Jesus intentionally used the word “neighbour” when He said:
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets. (Matthew 22:37-40 NASB)
Neighbours are those who are near us, who we know about and who know us. If you can, earn the right to share your views on this topic by treating them as you want to be treated when you are sharing a heartfelt need.
Remember, most advocates of transgenderism are advocating it because they believe what they are doing is good. They genuinely believe that we ought to be welcoming of every person and the way to do that is to support the person, even when that person denies basic facts about reality, such as their biology.
That means when we engage, we should acknowledge this good motivation and affirm it. We can say, for example, that we too want to be welcoming of everyone and then demonstrate this by welcoming transgendered people into our churches and schools and homes, just as we welcome everyone else.
2. Show the difference between a person and their gender identity. The key, though, is that we welcome everyone equally. We welcome everyone, regardless of their problems or hang-ups. But that doesn’t mean we accept everything they do. In the same way, we don’t have to accept a worldview that rejects basic biology even if we accept the people who believe that.
One simple way to do this is with the use of pronouns. I’ve struggled with what pronoun to use when referring to a transgendered person. I’ve always felt that by using the pronoun that doesn’t correspond to a transgendered person’s biology, I would be capitulating to their worldview. But if I refuse to use their chosen pronoun, I would likely never earn the right in their eyes to explain what I believe to that person. That’s why I’ve chosen to use their preferred pronoun so I can earn the right to explain that I don’t affirm their worldview.
Just as when we are confused about an issue, it’s important that we hear from people who speak truth with grace. We want people we can trust to tell us things we may not want to hear, but that we need to hear. If we can find space to be honest with transgendered people, we will also have the space to speak into their lives.
3. Learn when we can’t compromise. Building that common ground and finding that trusted space can only be done effectively when we as believers know what we can’t compromise. Remember, biblical truth isn’t just a set of rules. Rather the Bible provides guidelines given to us by a loving God who wants our best. We can’t compromise God’s word because through it, we learn of God’s love.
And one of those good gifts that we shouldn’t compromise is the gift of a male or female gender identity that reflects who God is.
This might mean that when a transgendered child joins our Christian school, we don’t make all bathrooms gender-neutral. Neither does it mean we don’t provide single-stall bathroom that anyone can use. By making all bathrooms gender-neutral, we capitulate to the worldview that gender is a social construct. But making a single-stall bathroom available for all, including legitimate reasons such as for a disabled person or a family with small children who need help in the bathroom, would not compromise our beliefs about gender.
4. Tell a better story. We can’t expect non-Christians to understand everything Christians believe, but we can explain to them that the Christian message is the most hopeful, life-affirming worldview because every person can find their worth and value in what Jesus did for us on the cross. That means we need to show that transgenderism isn’t the solution for a gender-confused person. Rather, the solution is celebrating the God-given identity they have, since God didn’t make a mistake when He made them. It is this truth, that we have dignity and worth in Christ, that has transformed lives and cultures for the better throughout history and put an end to practices such as slavery and child sacrifice.
Though we can’t expect our society to be Christian, we must continue to share our faith as a positive force to help make our country better.