Today is the National Transgender Day of Remembrance. It is a day set aside in November to remember people who have been killed for being transgender. “Transgender” is itself an umbrella term for the many ways people experience their gender identity in ways that do not match what most people experience. Under this umbrella are experiences of gender dysphoria, in which a person feels incongruence between their birth sex and their psychological sense of themselves as male or female.
There is much that could be said about people who are navigating their gender identity. It is not a very common condition at all and deserves some thoughtful reflection and pastoral sensitivity. It is often confused and coupled with the topic of homosexuality in ways that makes it difficult for many Christians to understand.
Out of respect for the day, I am going to post a video that was made from portions of the documentary about Gwen Araujo.
I first showed the story about Gwen Araujo to a group of students who were enrolled in a multicultural psychology course. I was guest lecturing on these issues, and I wanted them to have some exposure to the topic from a different perspective than they might otherwise have had. What I appreciated about it was how it tried to show the main character as a child and then through adolescence and into young adulthood. We went into other issues and reviewed research findings, etc., but the personal story should not be overlooked.
I think of people I have known–some clients and some personal friends and acquaintances. It has been important to me to think about the person as a child who experiences gender dysphoria as well as the challenges they would face at puberty and into and through their teen years. They are not choosing to experience this dysphoria; they find themselves facing this often at a young age. It is a very difficult experience to have and to try to navigate on one’s own and, today, in the context of a larger cultural atmosphere that can quickly detract from the kind of compassionate response that might otherwise be offered.
Part of what makes this difficult is that many in the church feel they are defending a biblical sexual ethic in the area of homosexuality, and it has been hard to separate these issues out in a way to engage in a thoughtful manner. This post is not intended to do that; I will get back to this topic at another time. I’ve been working on a book chapter on gender dysphoria, and I would be willing to share more of my thoughts in this area.
Today I wanted to acknowledge the day itself, the people who are navigating this difficult terrain, and the need for a thoughtful, faithful response from the church.