Recently two different comparisons between the experiences of transgender individuals and others have rattled me both emotionally and spiritually. First, I read a comparison of Caitlyn Jenner to Rachel Dolezal. Rachel is the woman who while biologically white claimed to be black. Then, I heard a comparison between the transgender experience and Body Integrity Identity Disorder, in which an individual feels like one or more of their limbs don’t belong to them and so wants to cut the offending body part off. Obviously, these comparisons made sense to someone or they would not have been made. But, the more I thought about them the more each comparison disturbed me.
Had Rachel Dolezal stated from the beginning that she, “identifies as black” she might have received more empathy. However, Dolezal knowingly started and perpetuated a deception which resulted in her own financial and professional gain. She lied about who her biological father is, even posting a picture of herself with a black man she claimed was her father. Further more, she made accusations of child abuse inflicted by her parents and sexual assault at the hands of her adopted brother. I do not know whether or not these assertions are legitimate however, the natural barrier they created between her biological family and herself, a barrier others initially respected due to the sensitive subject matter, was obviously to her advantage. At any rate, it was not until after her deception was revealed that Dolezal began using language which leads to the comparison to Jenner, stating on the Today show, “I identify as black.”
Those who make the Jenner comparison know, or can assume, the public will be angry about Dolezal’s deception and thereby making the comparison plants doubt about the legitimacy of the transgender experience in the minds of others. The problem with the comparison is Dolezal claimed to be black. She lied about who her biological father is and fabricated stories about her upbringing to perpetuate the lie. For her, it is not (or at least was not originally) a question of having the inside and the outside at odds with one another and wanting the two to line up, which is the case with transgender individuals. Dolezal attempted to pass off her biology as something it was not and never talked about the inside until her falsehood was exposed. Those making the comparison of Dolezal to Jenner are calling a baseball and an orange fruit because both are round. but the comparison doesn’t make the baseball–or in this case the comparison–palatable.
The second analogy is even more disturbing to me than the first. And, ignorance and an attempt to vilify the transgender individual is at its root. I don’t deny these are harsh words. Yet, when we breakdown the argument the truth is revealed. Body Integrity Identity Disorder is a mental illness. One does not need to frequent pentecostal circles for long to understand that for some people a horde of demons stands behind every mental illness. The devil and his minion are responsible and the cure is repentance. What can be more “sick” than wanting to cut off your own–healthy–body part, leaving yourself physically maimed for life and potentially dependent on others for your physical care? Connecting the dots of the analogy–transgender people want to get rid of certain body parts they must be “sick” and since we know the real problem is demonic, transgender people just need Jesus and repentance–and a healthy dose of brainwashing. ARGH!
Once again calling a baseball fruit doesn’t make it edible. To begin with, transgender people are not allowed to transition medically from what their biology suggests is their gender to what their mental/emotional state says is their gender without undergoing therapy. Secondly, transgender people who seek to transition do so in order to live fuller, more authentic lives. They are not disabling themselves; they are enabling themselves. Their decision will not make them dependent on the physical care of others nor will it qualify them for special services, such as handicapped parking. Like a deaf person receiving a cochlear implant, the goal is to compensate for a defect of birth and improve one’s overall well-being. Finally, repentance means turning away from sin. Sin is always a matter of choice no matter how deeply under a demon we become. Being transgender is not a matter of choice. It is a matter of identity–of BEING.
Transgender people long for their physical state to align with their emotional/mental state. If this alignment could happen by changing their mental/emotional state transgender people would do so–BUT IT CANNOT. Here in lies the part of this issue which is most disturbing to me as a Christian. I have listen to dozens if not hundreds of sermons in my lifetime focused on denying the flesh, not allowing our bodies to control our minds. Standing before us are literal physical examples of this huge spiritual concept and what is our response–we insist the physical be given priority when it comes to determining a person’s gender. Then we call every other alternative sin. Jesus called the Pharisees hypocrites and vipers who shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces by saddling them with unnecessary burdens of thinking, behavior, and appearance. In this issue, we sadly stand alongside the Pharisees. Repentance may be necessary, but not by transgender people.