Exodus Asia Pacific



As the Christian mother of an adult son who believes he is really a woman, I have some thoughts with respect to how churches could better be responding to the transgender issue – an issue which has literally stormed the doors of our church fellowships, piggy-backing behind the homosexual marriage debate. With churches still floundering, disagreeing and even compromising over how to handle the homosexual issue, Christians have been caught largely unprepared for the momentum of this second cultural assault.

How has this happened? The transgender agenda follows in the wake of a widespread, insidious cultural attack on family and sexual issues for many decades now. As a consequence, society now readily accepts no-fault divorce, contraception, abortion, co-habitation and homosexuality. Transgenderism is the latest frontier (with other areas such as polyamory already jostling to be next in the queue). Society has been exerting pressure on the church to shed its outmoded ideas and to become ‘relevant’, and the church is collapsing under the pressure. Whereas the church once helped to shape the culture, the situation has now been reversed and is now absorbing the values of the culture around it.

How can the church remedy this situation? Is it possible to do so? There are probably many things that could be addressed to provide a fully comprehensive answer to these questions, but I don’t claim to address all of them here or, indeed, to have all of the answers. I’m only one of many concerned parents. But looking at the situation from the perspective of a Christian parent, dealing with this in my own family, I want to at least put forward some of the key thoughts that I have had over the past five years, as a possible starting point for churches to consider in being better able to address this issue, and equipping Christians to do so.

1. Churches need to teach Christians the true nature of truth – that truth is absolute.

It might seem odd starting with this point rather than point (2), but the nature of ‘truth’ is foundational to point (2). If we don’t get this right, we will go ‘off plumb’ at point (2).

Along with the eroding of traditional family values and sex roles in society, there has been a gradual undermining of ‘truth’ as an objective concept. Truth is now regarded as relative. Truth is what everyone decides for himself – each person defines ‘his’ or ‘her’ own reality – ‘That might be true for you but it’s not true for me.’ A person can be who or what they want to be, if they don’t like who they are.

Christians need to be restored to a correct understanding of ‘truth’ because it relates to something fundamentally basic to Christianity that Jesus said and taught about Himself. Jesus said, “I am the Truth.” He did not say, “I am a truth.” He did not claim to be one truth among many.

The transgender issue is part of the outworking of a gradual process of the undermining of this understanding of ‘truth’, replacing it with the idea that there are many ‘truths’ and that Christianity is just one of them, albeit the most hated one at the moment, it seems. Today when Christians claim to have the ‘truth’ – that Jesus is the only way to God - it is considered arrogant in the extreme. Unfortunately many Christians have also fallen victim to this illogical thinking.

Something is said to be true if it corresponds to reality - it corresponds to the world as it actually is. When we claim that something is ‘true,’ we mean that it is true for everybody, no matter what their personal feelings about the matter. When we claim something is true for one person and not another, we have redefined the word ‘true’.  ‘2+2’ will always equal ‘4’ for all people in all cultures at all times and in all places. There is no time that it will ever equal ‘5’. It cannot equal ‘6’ for me, ‘4’ for you and ‘8’ for someone else.

This understanding of ‘truth’ also applies to religion. Society believes that all religions are ‘true’ and valid, but that cannot be so, because they make contradictory claims about God.  They also have different understandings of the nature of Jesus. Christianity believes in the deity of Jesus, but Islam does not.  Only one position can be true - both could be wrong but they can’t both be true – Jesus is either divine, or He is not. In the same way, Jesus is the Truth, as He said, or He is not. When people try to convince us that all religions are ‘true’ and valid, it says something about how they regard religion – they see it as a lifestyle choice, rather than as something that is foundationally true for all people.

2. Churches need to return to Gospel foundations.

Once the meaning of ‘truth’ has been restored, at its simplest, churches need to get back to Christian basics. Many Christians are unable to articulate the foundational propositions of Christianity. The Gospel is Good News but the Good News can’t be properly understood if we are unaware that there is bad news and exactly what the bad news is – that we are sinners who have fallen short of the glory of a Holy God. The church today preaches much about the love of God, but little about the God who cannot overlook our sin, because He is also holy and just. It is only in having a correct understanding of our true nature that we can see the need for Good News.

So, returning for a moment to my first point about ‘truth’, if we think that truth is relative – something that we can pick and choose - we might dislike the idea of admitting we are sinners and prefer to choose a different ‘truth’. But if Jesus claims to be ‘the Truth, and we claim to be Christians, we will believe everything that Jesus says, not just the bits we like. Why be a Christian at all, if you think some of what Jesus says is not the truth? Can He be trusted at all if He only tells some truth? We need to be convinced that ‘truth’ exists and that the Gospel is the truth – otherwise we won’t be affected by its life changing salvation message.

3. Churches need to teach the true nature of love

This one is very simple – or it should be. If we love a person, we will warn him or her when they are heading into danger. Someone who truly loves another does not affirm the loved one in behaviours that are harmful. They do not agree with the lies the loved one believes, just to spare their feelings. If a person believes they will be a better person after jumping off a cliff, do we agree with them and let them go ahead with their plan because we don’t want to ‘hurt their feelings’? To be truly loving we must risk our relationship and speak the truth in love, telling them what they need to hear, not what they want to hear. To agree with a man that he is a woman is to participate with the person in their delusional behaviour. This is not love.

4. Churches need to teach the whole context of Matthew 7:1.

The fact that some churches are even considering accepting transgenderism because of the now pervasive idea that it is wrong to ‘judge’ anyone, is an indication of how far we have drifted from foundational Christian teaching. Matthew 7:1 is the passage often quoted to say that we shouldn’t judge others, but it is part of a larger context, which is often ignored. Far from telling us not to judge others, the context of the passage tells us the opposite – Jesus is telling us how to judge. He is telling us that we should not make judgements hypocritically – without looking to ourselves first. He is telling us to judge and exactly how to do it.

It is impossible to live without making judgments. Every time we make a choice, whether it’s what clothes to wear to what to have for breakfast, we are making a judgment, or a decision, or discriminating, if you like. To hold a particular opinion about any issue assumes that we have made a judgement about it after considering relevant factors. Even the person who believes that we shouldn’t judge is making a judgement. Those who say it is wrong to judge are expressing their judgement on this issue. If someone tells you that you shouldn’t judge, ask them why they are judging you – telling you what you should not do.

5. Churches and Christians need to be cautious when ranking sin

In one sense, all sins are equal in that they separate us from God. In another sense the Bible also speaks of different degrees of sin, in both Testaments. The New Testament refers to heavenly rewards allotted according to works. Jesus spoke of degrees of sin in His words to Pilate in John 19:11 – ‘He who delivered me over to you has the greater sin.’ The Old Testament also speaks of degrees of sin with the well known ‘eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth’ passage. The death penalty was mandated for some sins and not others. This is because God is just, and justice demands that punishment fits the crime. (For clarification, this is not about salvation by works – salvation is by faith in Christ alone, but heavenly rewards are certainly allotted according to the deeds done while in the body.)

In the current debate it can sometimes seem as if Christians rank sexual sin at the top of the list in terms of depravity. Certainly, Romans 1 says that God ‘gives people over’ to the depravity of sexual sin - one could not ask for a clearer declaration of God’s opinion on sexual sin than that. But even if we remain alert to the fact that we are sinners as well, we still have a tendency to see ourselves as morally better than others. It is why the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector is relevant (Luke 18). It is very easy to think in the same way as the Pharisee, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, robbers, evildoers, adulterers - or even like this tax collector.’ When we point to the person with transgender behaviours (or homosexual behaviours) are we saying, “Thank God, that I am not like him/her”? We have a tendency to rank everybody else’s sin as higher than our own on a scale of depravity.

However, the ‘transgender agenda’, along with the ‘homosexuality agenda’, are part of a larger destructive agenda to abolish marriage and family and in that sense it is very serious – it impacts the very foundations of society. So, yes, we need to take it seriously and put time and energy into fighting the current trends that would normalise this in our society. But we must beware the attitude of the Pharisee. The very fact that we automatically rank the sin of others as worse than our own is a guarantee that our assessment is likely not perfect. So while we are justified in the knowledge that God ranks sin, he does so according to a perfect standard of holiness.

6. Churches need to teach Christians how the words ‘gender’ and ‘sex’ are being used by the culture.

There has been a shift in the use of the words ‘gender’ and ‘sex’ by those who would push this issue to societal acceptance. The word ‘gender’ comes from the Latin ‘genus’ meaning birth, family or nation. Its earliest meanings in English were, ‘sort, genus, type or class of noun.’ The concept of ‘gender’ is used in some languages to differentiate nouns as masculine, feminine and neuter. With the understanding of ‘gender’ in this first sense, it was an easy transition for it to gradually become an alternative to the word ‘sex’ as applied to people.

However, since 1955 there has been an increasing push to differentiate the two, with ‘gender’ now meaning something that is malleable, or socially constructed, while ‘sex’ applies to the biological, external visible genitals a person is born with. Although people have differentiated male and female at birth since time began by observation of a baby’s genitals, it is now considered to be an ‘assigned’ status, while the person’s internal, subjective ‘feeling’ of gender, not visible to anybody, is considered to be the issue that determines the true ‘nature’ of the person. Subjective feeling now holds more sway than observable biological evidence.

7. Churches must help Christians to realise that science, medicine and genetics support the view that a person’s sex cannot be changed.

The long-standing findings of science in such fields as biology, genetics and medicine support the understanding that there is no biological foundation for transgenderism. While there may be some difference among psychologists, many still stand by the scientific evidence, agreeing that a man who thinks he is a woman trapped in a man’s body, or vice versa, is delusional. For years, everyone has known what it is to be male and female – not just the doctors. Even the common peasant knew whether their child was a boy or a girl.

There is no space in this article to refer to all experts who write on this issue from the common sense scientific understanding, but the note below mentions just a few to be getting on with. It is essential that you read widely on this issue and research your ‘experts’ as much as the material they write. There are many people writing on this issue, with questionable qualifications, I feel, given that the field is quite new with regards to research. If solid scientific findings in the area of biology and genetics contradict an ‘expert,’ then exercise diligence in assessing the information they provide.

8. Churches must help Christians become aware of the foundational issues behind Gender Identity Disorder.

Children often ‘grow out of’ gender identity issues over time, but persisting Gender Identity Disorder often has deep-seated roots in rejection, abuse, and/or trauma. People who experience GID also often talk about a need to belong, and of seeking identity and affirmation. I suspect that these things have been missing in the lives of people affected by this disorder – many have missed out on healthy sex role modelling or have not been affirmed as valuable persons in their natal sex. Many speak of other family members dressing them in the clothes of the opposite sex, causing confusion, or being told things such as “You’re too pretty to be a boy.”

Because of this, I try to be alert to how I use the term ‘transgender.’ I try not to use the term as a noun to describe someone, for example, “He/she is a transgender”. I also try not to use the word in the adjectival, descriptive sense to describe a person – “He/she is a transgender person/man/woman.” The word ‘is’ is the key word in these sentences – the word ‘is’ points to the nature of a person – to their very being.  Use of the word this way serves to affirm the person’s identity problem by agreeing with them that this is what they are. If we don’t believe that transgenderism is a genuine part of a person’s nature, then we shouldn’t use the word in a way that suggests otherwise. Instead, I try to use the word as the adjective it is, but linking it to the behaviour rather than the person – “He/she manifests transgender behaviour,” or “This person struggles with Gender Identity Disorder.” So when we deny that a person can be the opposite sex, and then say that they ‘are’ transgender we contradict ourselves and also affirm them in what they believe.

9. Churches must help Christians to understand that families dealing with this are grieving.

As a final point, the church must be aware of the grief that transgenderism brings to families. This issue affects grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, and siblings. It can also divide families, as people within a family can disagree about how to deal with it – some wanting to affirm the behaviour because they believe it is the loving thing to do, while others want to speak to the family member in love and in truth, while helping them to access support.

When my son told me that he no longer exists as my son, I wanted to curl up and die. It was as if he was dead – and it was as if he had murdered himself.  Others also tell me that my son is dead, but there has been no funeral, no burial, and no flowers. No one has visited me or called to ask me how I am. People didn’t drop by with casseroles or to pray with me. I struggled every morning for months to get out of bed to go to work. I just wanted to pull the covers over my head and stay there, but I didn’t miss a single day.

It was some time before I could share what was happening. But when I did begin to open up, I found little understanding and no pastoral help. People are either embarrassed, and quickly walk away, unsure what to say, or they are totally fine with it and tell me to embrace my son’s ‘true self.’ This has been one of the most isolating experiences of my life. But it has had an excellent outcome - I have had no recourse but to go directly to God – and only to Him. This is surely a good thing.

When my son told me that he was a ‘woman’ – that this was ‘his reality’ - it was an assault on ‘actual reality’. As I write this article it is his birthday. I experienced the pain and joy as he was born. I was there when the doctor held him up and told me that I had a son. This was reality. There were many witnesses to the truth, and the event has been recorded in many places. I remember all this, and he does not. Yet, I am expected to deny reality and accept his delusional version of reality. I now watch on as my son transforms himself into a parody of the person he truly is. Being divorced, I have also had to go through this alone. My former husband was abusive – he is now alienated from his son and is unaware of the current situation.

I am not in any way saying that a lack of love is behind the response of the churches, but rather a lack of knowledge about how to deal with the issue. People just don’t know how to respond. Dear Church, families need your hugs and your prayers, not your distance. If you don’t know what to say, then don’t say anything, but sit in the dust with us, as Job’s friends did before they got it so wrong. We want you to weep with us and pray with us. This has been my experience for 5 years and although I have many Christian friends who are aware of my circumstances, I am still waiting for that first hug from a Christian in response to what I am going through – still waiting for the first Christian to ask me if I am ok and how I am going. People are unaware that you are actually grieving - it is grief for the ‘death’ of a child who still lives, and there is no closure.

The pain does not lessen but God gives me what I need to get through each day, in His Word and His never failing presence. But I also recognise that my son’s pain is far greater than anything I am experiencing as a ‘bereaved’ mother. I know my identity in Christ but my son does not. On the surface, he seems content with his decision five years on, but there are signs that the struggle is still there – though he does his best to hide it. I cannot take that pain from him. It is a pain that can only be taken away at the foot of the cross.

NOTE: To read further on what the experts say about the transgender issue, here are a few places to start –

 Mayer, Lawrence S and McHugh, Paul R New Atlantis: A Journal of Technology and Society (Fall 2016 – “Sexuality and Gender: Findings from the Biological, Psychological and Social Sciences”). The article contains 373 footnotes involving some 200 peer-reviewed research studies on the issues.

Richard B. Corradi, M.D. is professor of psychiatry at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, Cleveland, Ohio “A Psychiatrist looks at Personal Identity, family Structure, and Identity Politics.”

See also the American College of Paediatricians website.