I have been reflecting extensively about the current hot button issue of transgender bathroom usage. I have also spent time conversing with friends in the LGBT community to see what their understanding of the situation is. In addition to this, I have prayed for understanding as to how I, as a follower of Christ, can be both Biblical and loving about an issue that is very complex and deeply personal to so many people. I still don’t know how I feel or what I think entirely about the plight of the LGBT community in terms of my faith, particularly transgender, issues. I have far more questions than answers.
Before reading the rest of this, please take a moment and read Ephesians 4.
Here are some conclusions that I have worked through. I’m still in the process of understanding, so please understand that I am not making sweeping proclamations about how every person should think or behave. I am merely sharing my own personal journey toward understanding and walking out my faith.
- Kindness is absolutely necessary and non-negotiable when expressing one’s viewpoint on any issue. This becomes increasingly crucial when the issue could make or break how an entire group of people will come to view Christ in light of the way His followers portray Him. This does not mean that one must agree with an issue that goes against one’s beliefs. Quite the opposite.
In Ephesians 4, Paul challenges the body of Christ to seek unity and maturity as well as to live set apart and unlike the world. This passage completely embodies the way that we can and should approach contemporary issues. Verse 14 says, “Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming,” which is a clear call to live by the principles of Christ, even when Christian culture has come to accept, and in some cases even embrace, all kinds of sin as the norm. This is clear in the scripture. We are not to reflect the culture of the day. We are to reflect Christ in all we do. Most of the people I know really believe this and try their best to live out their interpretation of this instruction.
The part where many of us fail, myself frequently included, is found in the very next verse, “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.” This catches me in the heart every time I read it. This is a challenge to not only speak the truth, but also to do it in a loving and mature way. If you are like me, and you feel that part of your gift is for speaking truth even in times when people do not want to hear it, you know how easy it can be to get swept up into your own ego and assume that the view you have of an issue is the only way to view it. This hurts people. A prophetic gift is something that should always require us to prayerfully discern how, when, and with whom we are sharing that truth in order to be both obedient to the Holy Spirit and loving. Read the whole passage. Read the whole book. It’s clear that Paul has been through this as well, and he gives wonderful and sound advice on how to do this very thing.
- We should not toss around hurtful issues for political gain or profit. I can imagine the collective inner response to this point. It falls somewhere on the spectrum of “Oh no she didn’t,” and “I’m so glad I don’t do that.” I do believe that for many, the issue of transgender restroom use truly strikes fear or anger into the hearts of people who want to protect others. I do not for a moment doubt that this is coming from a place of love. I do, however, believe that both sides of the issue have been duped, and everyone suffers because of this deception.
I hate to sound flippant about this, but I’m just going to be real: chances are that you or your children have at some point used a public restroom alongside a transgender person. I would also go so far as to say that there is a likelihood that someone you have met is transgender, and you didn’t even know it. This has never truly been made into an issue because it has never needed to be one. A transgender female (someone who has transitioned from male to female) would look awfully suspicious wearing a dress and walking into a men’s room. Likewise, a heavily muscular, bearded transgender male (someone who has transitioned from female to male) would be assailed by security upon entry into the women’s restroom. That said, the recent anger from both liberals and conservatives about the issue points to something far more sinister than sexual deviance or having non-traditional issues forced upon our culture. It points to a heart issue.
In this passage, Paul refers to this as the futility of the thinking of the Gentiles, stating in verses 18 and 19, “They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed.” It would be easy to apply this verse to mean that transgender people have hardened their hearts, are becoming insensitive to the needs of others, and have indulged in sensuality and impurity. While this may seem to be the whole of the truth, it is ignoring a part of the issue that is less about “them” and more about “us.”
I believe that the deception of the world can come from many directions, and it affects both the body of Christ and the rest of the world. In this case, I believe that supporters on both sides of the issue have been slowly and methodically deceived into believing that this is an issue of morality, safety, and justice, when the truth is that this is an issue being used to manipulate emotions in order to further political aspirations and greed. We have been deceived if we only see it on the surface and do not dive deeply into the issue to consider who raised it and why it was raised.
As I said earlier, this is not a new issue. It has, however, been generally ignored due to our own lack of information or passive acceptance. The reason that this issue has come into the light is that people on both sides are desperate for their views on transgender people to be made into the norm. I would love to believe that this is an ideological desperation, but I can’t. I believe that this is almost certainly meant to further political gains for the two main parties in the United States. The use of scare tactics, twisted statistics, and calls of equality are all meant to get everyone riled up and angry at each other. When we fall prey to this manipulation, we are no longer speaking the truth in love. We are speaking partial truths in greed. We are indulging in impurity in our vulgar rhetoric and in greed with our desire for power for the party to which we are most aligned. This leads to a much more unsettling line of thought.
- This applies to ALL sin, including the ones that affect us personally. It is incredibly easy for believers to form strong opinions and stances on issues that will never affect us as individuals. Likely, most believers will never know the agony of wrestling with your sexual orientation in light of what you know to be the Biblical truth. Most of us do not question our gender. We don’t have to. We are confident of who we are. Because of this, we can easily crystallize our opinions on these issues and take a hard stance, defending it to the grave. We do not have to challenge our beliefs or the way that we present our beliefs because it is not our issue. But what if we did?
At the end of this passage, Paul challenges us, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Uh oh. Those are my toes he is stepping on now. Now this is an issue that I have to actually wrestle with. Perhaps we take grace for granted, and we think that because it’s just gossip, just sex outside of marriage, just pornography, just envy, just road rage, or just being insensitive to the needs of the hurting, it can’t be as bad as something we think of as gross or unwholesome. Sin is unwholesome to Jesus. It should be unwholesome to us, and it is if we are listening to the Holy Spirit convicting us in our daily lives. I say “our” because this is my own issue as well.
I have to submit every part of myself to Christ every day, trusting that He will work out what is best for His Kingdom through my life. More often than not, this is unsuccessful. I mess up all the time. Despite the fact that we all strive for this and fail, I encourage you to ask yourself: Do I trust God enough to submit my finances? Do I trust God enough to submit my ambition? Do you trust God enough to submit my sex life? Do I trust God enough to submit my anger? Do I trust God enough to submit my need to be correct?
I’m not any closer to answers on the topic of transgender bathroom rights, but I’m definitely closer to realizing how much I need God’s grace and forgiveness and how much I need to show those things to others in every way that I can.