Learnings from a Baptist Minister (about transgender people)

Our blogging friend Michael Beyer at https://catchafallingstarbook.net/ guided me to an article penned by Baptist Minister Mark Wingfield which is posted on the Baptist Global News website. I found the article compelling and feel it is worth reading by all Christians and non-Christians. The article speaks for itself.

Seven things I’m learning about transgender persons

OpinionMark Wingfield | May 13, 2016

“I don’t know much about transgender issues, but I’m trying to learn.

How about you? How much do you really know about this subject beyond all the screaming headlines and concerns about who goes to the bathroom where?

The truth is that I don’t know any transgender persons — at least I don’t think I do. But with the help of a pediatrician friend and a geneticist friend, I’m listening and trying to learn. This is hard, though, because understanding the transgender experience seems so far outside what I have ever contemplated before. And the more I learn, the more theological questions I face as well. This is hard, even for a pastor.

Here’s some of what I’m learning from my friends who have experience as medical professionals dealing with real people and real families:

1. Even though LGBT gets lumped together in one tagline, the T is quite different than the LG and B. “Lesbian,” “gay” and “bisexual” describe sexual orientation. “Transgender” describes gender identity. These are not the same thing. Sexual orientation is about whom we feel an attraction to and want to mate with; gender identity is about whether we identify as male or female.

2. What you see is not always what you get. For the vast majority of humanity, the presence of male or female genitalia corresponds to whether a person is male or female. What you see is what you are. But for a small part of humanity (something less than 1 percent), the visible parts and the inner identity do not line up. For example, it is possible to be born with male genitalia but female chromosomes or vice versa. And now brain research has demonstrated that it also is possible to be born with female genitalia, female chromosomes but a male brain. Most of us hit the jackpot upon birth with all three factors lining up like cherries on a slot machine: Our anatomy, chromosomes and brain cells all correspond as either male or female. But some people are born with variations in one or two of these indicators.

3. Stuff happens at birth that most of us never know. It’s not an everyday occurrence but it’s also not infrequent that babies are born with ambiguous or incomplete sexual anatomy. In the past, surgeons often made the decision about whether this child would be a boy or a girl, based on what was the easiest surgical fix. Today, much more thought is given to these life-changing decisions.

4. Transgender persons are not “transvestites.” Far too many of us make this mix-up, in part because the words sound similar and we have no real knowledge of either. Cross-dressers, identified in slang as “transvestites,” are people (typically men) who are happy with their gender but derive pleasure from occasionally dressing like the opposite gender. Cross-dressing is about something other than gender identity.

5. Transgender persons are not pedophiles. The typical profile of a pedophile is an adult male who identifies as heterosexual and most likely even is married. There is zero statistical evidence to link transgender persons to pedophilia.

6. Transgender persons hate all the attention they’re getting. The typical transgender person wants desperately not to attract attention. All this publicity and talk of bathroom habits is highly disconcerting to people who have spent their lives trying not to stand out or become the center of attention.

7. Transgender persons are the product of nature much more than nurture. Debate the origins of homosexuality if you’d like and what role nature vs. nurture plays. But for those who are transgender, nature undeniably plays a primary role. According to medical science, chromosomal variances occur within moments of conception, and anatomical development happens within the nine months in the womb. There is no nature vs. nurture argument, except in cases of brain development, which is an emerging field of study.

This last point in particular raises the largest of theological questions. If Christians really believe every person is created in the image of God, how can we damn a baby who comes from the womb with gender dysphoria? My pediatrician friend puts it this way: ‘We must believe that even if some people got a lower dose of a chromosome, or an enzyme, or a hormonal effect, that does not mean that they got a lower dose of God’s image.’

I don’t know much about transgender issues, but I’m trying to learn — in part because I want to understand the way God has made us. For me, this is a theological quest as much as a biological inquiry or a political cause. How about you?”

I felt this was a sincere attempt to understand transgender people. I think it will speak to many folks who have been preyed upon by fear in this discussion opened up by the recent North Carolina law which generally discriminates against the LGBT community and specifically targets transgender requiring them to use the bathroom per their birth gender.
My wife and I attended a celebratory dinner for a friend’s daughter this past weekend. We sat at a table with a delightful, unmarried heterosexual couple. She oozed with Southern charm and wit and is a very attractive woman in her fifties. We traded stories about Charlotte (the city) and had a delightful time. My wife had met her before and shared with me later that this lovely woman used to be man and had an operation many years ago to align her physical gender with her internal make-up.
As the new law in North Carolina stands, this beautiful woman would be required to go in a men’s restroom. Even if she had not had such an operation, the identification as the opposite sex from a birth identification, should not preclude this woman from going into a woman’s restroom.

10 thoughts on “Learnings from a Baptist Minister (about transgender people)

  1. Thank you for sharing this very thoughtful article. I recently watched a TEDx talk by a young transgender female that was so interesting and enlightening. I wish more people would search out reliable, reasoned information about things they don’t understand so they can actually educate themselves rather than live in fear.

    • Janis, thanks for sharing. You are correct, there is so much misinformation and fear. I got an earful of this fear from someone I had not seen in years as we caught up. I did not want our renewed visit to end on a sour note, so I made comments like it is a shame our state is being talked about in such a negative way. Keith

  2. Coincidentally, I got a call from my transgender nephew (born female) while I was reading your post. His life has been hard at times, especially in high school, but now he and his girlfriend are buying a house and doing well. Our entire family has always been accepting and loving, but many others are not…I’m sad for a transgender child born into a rigid and righteous family. All of God’s children deserve love and acceptance. Aunt Fran

    • Thanks for your comment and support of your nephew, Aunt Fran. Your family does what one would hope and support your loved one. You are right to feel sad about those who don’t. One of the saddest conversations I overheard was a few years ago when my state of NC voted to reiterate that marriage was between a man and a woman. The books already said that, so the vote was unnecessary. It was later overturned as unconstitutional before the Supreme Court decision.

      The sad part was the next day, I was sitting in a hotel lobby and two lesbian activists were chatting in the seats nearby, discussing how sad they were with this law being voted in favor. One asked what the other’s mother said and she said we do not talk anymore that I have come out. This is that mother’s child and she disowned her daughter. I wanted to hug her.

  3. Pingback: Respect Award – Hummingbird Redemption

    • Truly. I was reading a book about rapes on college campuses written by two female victims, I think called “We Believe You.” They note that transgender people have a higher percentage of being raped than others on campus. These folks are ostracized almost every step of the way, so why would someone choose this path as some people believe?

  4. When I was a little girl I wanted to be a boy. I thought they had more fun, could do more. I tried to walk like boys. I made my voice deep like boys. But then puberty set in and I was happy being a girl. From what I understand from biology our sex doesn’t develop in the womb until the 3rd trimester. I maybe wrong but my point is we all were of no sex at one time. Maybe it takes longer then the womb to determine.

    From what I read it doesn’t matter to pedophiles if they rape and pre-pubert child because it’s not the genital that attracts them it’s the youthfulness, hairless.

    As I mentioned I wanted to be a boy but changed my mind. So this doctor I believe has a point. It may be possible that it takes longer to come to terms what sex we identify with.

    • Kim, you are right, we should not fear transgender people as they are just trying to figure out who they are. The predators tend to look like the every day person and have not and will not let bathroom laws get in the way of their menacing actions. Keith

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