Well-meaning Christians who don’t understand how someone can be transgender often quote the Bible to defend their dislike, disapproval or fear of someone who is transgender. It gives them a safe and what they feel is a Biblically based reason to justify how they feel about people who are transgender.
I’ll admit that there a few Christians out there (I know, I’m being kind) who just like to use the Bible to bully other people as if to let the world know just how holy they are – because they understand EXACTLY what God meant for every person in every situation. But those people are fortunately very few compared to the majority who would, if you asked them, admit that they simply don’t know everything.
But whether it be from trepidation or pomposity, there are a few verses in the Bible used by Christian to justify their belief that God disapproves of people who are transgender, we call them “clobber verses.” We call them that because they are usually used in a self-righteous way as if to beat down the “sinning” person into some sort of repentance.
So with that let’s dig into these verses a little…
Deuteronomy 22:5 A woman must not wear men’s clothing, nor a man wear women’s clothing, for the Lord your God detests anyone who does this.
Deuteronomy chapters 12-26 make up what is known as the Deuteronomic Code. These were laws (the New American Bible calls them “statutes and ordinances”) given to the Israelites toward the end of their 40 years in the wilderness but before entering the promised land. God was still teaching Israel how to be a nation of the Lord and not like surrounding nations. These were laws given to the Jewish nation people to set them apart. Here are some highlights:
[pullquote]If a man is found sleeping with another man’s wife, both the man who slept with her and the woman must die[/pullquote]
In chapter 12 slavery is acknowledged as normal.
Chapter 13 says if your spouse, sibling, son, daughter or even close friend tries to entice you to worship other gods, show them no mercy. YOU should put them to death. Stone them – and YOU throw the first stone!
Chapter 14 says you can’t eat pork (is life worth living without bacon?) Clams, scallops and oysters are out as well. 15 gives you the rules for having slaves. 17 says put to death others who worship other gods.
Chapter 19 tells Israel to create 3 cities where someone who has accidentally killed someone may safely go and live – in other words, no penalty for accidental death, just a safe place to live to avoid an avenging family member. But if someone commits a wrongdoing, then it’s “Life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, and foot for foot!” (New American Bible)
Chapter 21 demonstrates a man having more than one wife is not unusual.
But it’s chapter 22 verse 5 that everyone turns to and determines it MUST be taken at its face value in English, no ifs, ands or buts when it comes to addressing people who are transgender. After all, it seems so clear – when in fact it’s as clear for us today as all the preceding chapters I mentioned.
Again, from the New American Bible “A woman shall not wear a man’s garment, nor shall a man put on a woman’s clothing; for anyone who does such things is an abomination to the LORD, your God.”
People who see this verse as a prohibition of being transgender see it as a statement of fashion, about clothing. In fact, it was a prohibition of engaging in heathen practices.
Pagan WORSHIP practice at the time involved men dressing as women and women dressing as men, even in armor as warriors. God was warning them to avoid those pagan practices that were common in Syrian and other cultures. It was seen as immoral because it was felt it led to practices such as the worship of pagan idols. God isn’t concerned with the clothes that you wear but the attitude of your heart – THAT’S what the verse is about. This goes back to “You shall have no other gods before me.” (Exodus 20:3)
Deut. 22:5 is probably a better verse against
women in the military than it is
against people who are transgender if
you want to be that picky about your verses.
Most importantly this and the other verses were specific to the nation of Israel at that time. Also in this very chapter you read…
• Verse 8: “When you build a new house, make a parapet around your roof so that you may not bring the guilt of bloodshed on your house if someone falls from the roof.” I don’t personally know a single person who has a parapet around their roof (a parapet is a wall to prevent someone from falling off – or imagine a wall on a roof that you could shoot arrows from and hide behind.) Most of the western world is guilty of this.
• Verse 11: “Do not wear clothes of wool and linen woven together.” If we applied this literally to today’s world we’d be throwing out all those wool-blend clothes and protesting all the God-hating companies that made them.
• Verse 12: “Make tassels on the four corners of the cloak you wear.” If we take this at face value, we once again are in violation of God’s law. This was meant to remind the Jewish people to follow His commandments and in particular for the men to stay away from prostitutes which their “own heart and own eyes are inclined.” (NKJV)
[pullquote class =”left”]Do not wear clothes of wool and linen woven together[/pullquote]
Verses 13-30 are filled with so much, but some highlights are:
• Verse 22: “If a man is found sleeping with another man’s wife, both the man who slept with her and the woman must die.” I know I’ve never heard of this being followed in a church but I likewise KNOW that people within churches have committed adultery, the churches knew about it and DIDN’T have them killed, again violating God’s law if we are to take it word for word.
• Verse 28-29: “If a man happens to meet a virgin who is not pledged to be married and rapes her and they are discovered, he shall pay her father fifty shekels of silver. He must marry the young woman, for he has violated her. He can never divorce her as long as he lives.” So today, if a man rapes a virgin, he MUST give dad about $400, MARRY the woman and they can never divorce (I suppose even if he goes to prison for life.) Any of you go to a church that would enforce that?
• Verse 30 again is saying a man can have multiple wives (saying a son cannot marry his father’s wife – not calling her his “mother” implies the woman is not the son’s mother.)
It takes a lot of “faith” in your own interpretation of the Bible to think that verse 5 so clearly applies to transgender people today, and yet the other verses apply to NO ONE today.
And while people claim that what you wear is so important, I’ll remind you of 1 Samuel 16:7 (b) in the NIV: “The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
Genesis 1:27 So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.
This is the other favorite verse of those wanting to find Biblical justification for opposing people who are transgender and the verse that inspired the title of this post.
The author (generally believed to be Moses who either wrote or compiled it) starts with a simple statement: “So God created man(kind) in his own image.” Then he says it again reversing the word order to emphasize it: “in the image of God he created them.”
And then, the writer describes the singular, fundamental difference in his creation; “male and female he created them.”
[pullquote]My point is that God doesn’t have arms and legs like we do[/pullquote]
The Hebrew word for male is pronounced zā-ḵār. The Hebrew word for female is ū·nə·qê·ḇāh. Both of these words refer to the biological makeup of the individual. It’s not specific to humans. The same words are used in Genesis 7 where in the story of the flood, Noah was to bring in a pair of each animal and “every kind of bird, male and female…”
My point is that God doesn’t have arms and legs like we do, nor does He have wings or beaks like birds or a tail like a horse. There is no scripture that hints that birds, frogs or any other animals were made in the image of God. Only humans. He made us male and female because it’s a pretty convenient way to keep all the species around generation after generation.
And when He made us male and female, He also wired us differently – literally. As you know our brains are divided into two hemispheres. One difference is that men have more connections within each hemisphere. Women, however, have more connections BETWEEN hemispheres.
Brains between men and women differ structurally as I mentioned previously, but also chemically and hormonally.
Men and women THINK differently. Perhaps you remember the book “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus”. It’s true. Men and women react differently, interact differently, talk differently, have different emotional needs.
So when Genesis speaks of how we were created in His image, it’s not talking about our physical bodies. God doesn’t have boobs. We are ALL created in the image of God. There are different aspects of God that are more common in men, and other aspects that are more common in women. Yet we are not clones of each other. Each one of us is unique. It’s what makes the world go around.
When you look closely at the structure of that verse, you can see that “image” doesn’t refer to male and female. In almost every translation of the Bible, you will see after the phrase “in the image of God he created them” you will see either a semi-colon, a colon or a period, followed by a separate thought or even sentence “He created them male and female.”
[pullquote class =”left”]You’re created every bit in the image of God, not a lesser amount[/pullquote]
It was part of God’s perfect plan that as biological men and women we would, of course, have a sense of ourselves being in line with our physical bodies. But just as other unusual things can occur while we’re in our mother’s womb, there are a small few who unfortunately don’t have their wiring match their body. Brains of people who are transgender are different. It’s not something that you can just re-wire.
You’re created every bit in the image of God, not a lesser amount. But how you relate to other people, how you relate to the world, how you see yourself – again, how you’re wired.
People who think it’s a mental health issue that can be resolved with therapy alone are mostly wrong in that they think psychology is the answer. Some think it’s a spiritual issue and prayer is the answer. They too are wrong.
I’ll grant you that there are a few who perhaps due to some emotional or physical abuse (or both) when they were young seek asylum as the opposite gender. Others are, in fact, simply homosexual and “being” the opposite gender is the only way to make it seem “right.” Clearly, these folks are suffering from some confusion and can be helped because they weren’t wired transgender from birth.
Being transgender is not a sexual sin because it’s not about sex, it’s not a choice, it’s about identity. The WHO you are, HOW you were made, not what you look like.
Colossians 3:5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.
More examples of verses referring to “sexual immorality” are Hebrews 13:4, 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5, Matthew 5:28, Galatians 5:19, Ephesians 5:5, Colossians 3:5, etc.
Throughout the Bible, sexual immorality is seen as an action, be it a physical action such as adultery or a thought such as lust (which Jesus said is committing adultery in one’s heart.) It is talking about sexual relations between unmarried people, because God created sex to be a holy thing between two people.
The Greek word for “sexual immorality” is πορνεία (porneia), from which we get the word pornography. The King James translates it as fornication.
[pullquote]Sexual immorality doesn’t include being transgender just because you might think it’s weird and you don’t understand[/pullquote]
Sexual immorality doesn’t include being transgender just because you might think it’s weird and you don’t understand. That’s ok, it IS weird (as in different) and you don’t have to understand. Being transgender isn’t about sex and has nothing to do with sexual immorality described in the Bible.
[Just a side note, I live in Austin, Texas and the city’s slogan is “Keep Austin Weird”. It’s about maintaining the uniqueness of the city – which is why it’s such a great place to live.]
Being left-handed is weird and no one understands why it happens, yet virtually no one (anymore) thinks it’s a sin or immoral. Perhaps surprisingly to you, it used to be a common BIBLICALLY based belief that being left-handed was immoral.
Early Christians got this idea from Matthew 25:31-33 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.”
From THAT verse, the early Church actually believed that being left-handed was immoral, that God didn’t want anything to do with left-handed people.
Remember I said virtually no one considers being left-handed immoral or a sin? Well, as hard as it is to believe and even MORE surprisingly, there are still Christians today who think that left-handed people are going to hell. I know, in 2018! I just shake my head in disbelief too. I found a Baptist church online and I’m not kidding, they believe it! It’s almost like reading something from The Babylon Bee (a Christian satire site,) but unfortunately, this church is serious. I’m sure these people would accuse the rest of us (who don’t condemn left-handed people to hell) of giving in to modern culture, allowing others to rebel again “traditional societal norms” and ignoring the “clear” instruction in God’s word. I mean, it’s right there in black and white, right?
God doesn’t have boobs. He doesn’t have flesh and blood arms and legs and toes and a nose. Jesus was God in the flesh, but God is spirit and we must worship him in spirit and truth (John 4:24.)
When God made us in His image, that image was in spirit, and in flesh he made us (perfectly – in the garden) male and female. But perfection ended when we sinned and thought we could be like God and know good from evil (Gen. 3:5-6)
People who are transgender are in every way made in the image of God. Christians who are transgender worship with their spirit, that spirit made in the image of God.
And yes, with the rare exception of someone born intersex we are born with a clear male or a female body. But being transgender we soon learn at an early age that who we know we are, our gender, is not in line with our body. It’s easier to force a left-handed person to live right-handed than it is to force a truly transgender person to live in a body that’s in conflict with their identity. It’s an internal form of torture that can’t successfully be “lived-with” via therapy. I know.
[pullquote class =”left”]People who are transgender are in every way made in the image of God[/pullquote]
When it comes to people who are transgender, I think it might, unfortunately, take another 80-100 years for a full turnover of the human race, but by then even the Church will one day look back at the Church of the early 2,000’s and realize how wrong we were to associate being transgender with sinful, immoral behavior and to not fully welcome those people into fellowship.
In the meantime, as Christians who ARE transgender, all we can do is be Christ’s representative to the rest of the world, INCLUDING Christians who don’t understand or like Christians like ourselves.
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