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How should churches deal with gender dysphoria?

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How should churches deal with gender dysphoria?
Posted on February 9, 2021  - By Dr. Scott Shiffer

How should churches deal with gender dysphoria, considering that it’s quite a sensitive issue — not to mention, children as small as fives years old are asking for a sex change today?

Gender dysphoria is a feeling of distress that people may experience when they do not identify with the gender assigned to them at birth. It is thought that the cause of gender dysphoria often begins in the developmental stages of pregnancy. When this is the case, children from a very young age feel that their physical body does not match their mental gender identity. 

The result is that younger children will often refuse to wear the clothes associated with their biological gender, play games typically associated with their biological gender, and prefer playing with children of the opposite sex.

For many children, these are just a set of phases they go through. For teenagers and young adults, the feeling doesn’t go away and they begin to only feel comfortable when they can hide physical signs of their biological gender; they may even have feelings of removing those physical signs through medical procedures.

In addition to the issues surrounding transgender identity, two other conditions are worth noting: congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH), and intersex conditions or hermaphroditism. In CAH, biological females are born with more testosterone and, as a result, their genitals at birth may cause them to be identified as males. Intersex children are born with genitalia of both genders. Today, it is recommended that people who are born with both male and female genitalia be allowed to choose their own gender identity as they age.

While some issues related to gender dysphoria are a result of CAH or intersex conditions, many of the instances associated with the condition today are not a result of chromosomal or biological defects.

Real concerns

Issues related to gender confusion have mostly been ignored in the church or written off as a refusal of social norms.

The Bible discusses the creation of man and woman, it talks about laws and rules for eunuchs (men who have been castrated), and it talks about wearing clothing appropriate for members of the opposite sex. The Bible does not directly address the issue of being a transgender person. It does state that in God’s original plan for humanity that He created two genders — male and female. The Bible also contains passages affirming that God creates people in the womb and that people are born into sin. 

The Bible states that, in God’s original plan for humanity, He created two genders

All people are created in the image of God, but God’s image in humanity is broken. We are born into a fallen world where things are not always as they should be. If the world was perfect, everyone would be born just as they should be, but because of sin and the curse of sin over all of creation, some people are not born as they should be (hence, CAH and intersex conditions).

If these conditions are real, it makes sense that other conditions such as transgenderism are also real concerns. In some cases, these real concerns are a result of chromosomal or biological conditions; in other cases, the issue has more to do with the immaterial make-up of a person — the soul.

Transgender issues have been hyped up in media — and especially in social media — over the last 2-3 years. As a result, many young people have rushed to the conclusion that they do not identify with their biological gender. At a time when they are still learning who they are, how to control their hormones, how to find a place in the world, and how to fit in with an ever-changing society, they are bombarded with mixed messages about sexuality and gender roles. This has caused many to assume that they have gender dysphoria when, in reality, they do not.

Our cultures have long misunderstood the difference between masculine/feminine and male/female. People can be female and have traditionally masculine traits. People can be male and have traditionally feminine traits. Being a more masculine or feminine person does not determine gender. Biological sex and gender are typically in correlation even when a person displays more masculine or feminine traits. 

Our cultures have long misunderstood the difference between masculine/feminine and male/female

The role of the church

In the Bible, some gender roles are defined. Men are to be spiritual leaders. They are to respect their wives and they are to sacrifice themselves for their wives. Wives are to respect their husbands and they are to honor their husbands in how they carry themselves. The church should continue teaching people how to live godly lives that bring honour to the name of Christ and provide opportunities for people to grow in character. 

The church should also encourage parents to be patient with their children as they guide them into responsible adulthood. Parents should not force gender transition onto children or implant ideas that add to the confusion. If a child truly has gender dysphoria, it will become more evident closer to adulthood. 

The church should love people with gender dysphoria and do what they can to care for, support, and show them the love of Christ. When it comes to children asking for sex changes, the experts agree that many children are just going through phases of adolescence and do not have actual gender dysphoria. The church should not support the changing of a child’s gender at a young age.

We live in a fallen world where all things are not as they should be, but we have hope in a Lord who is making all things right and, in time, He will correct all wrongs when He returns, bringing His eternal kingdom.

Dr. Scott Shiffer

About Dr. Scott Shiffer

Dr. Scott Shiffer has a Ph.D. in Christian Theology from the B.H. Carroll Theological Institute and has been teaching religion classes since 2006. He leads Faith and Culture Now, an organization to help believers think biblically about culture in America. Scott has given numerous presentations, including one at Oxford. He has spoken at church retreats, youth retreats, conferences, and has taught discipleship classes for many years. Scott is married and has four children. He has a heart for helping believers draw closer to God and for aiding them as they are faced with new challenges every day.



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