A new report is out on transgender health. It is the Report of the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey published by the National Center for Transgender Equality. The web-based survey had over 27,000 respondents from all 50 states, D.C., American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, and overseas U.S. military bases.
Let me highlight a couple of findings from the executive summary that have to do with family and faith.
- It was reported that over half (60%) of those who responded and who were out to their immediate family or family of origin indicated that their family was “generally supportive” of them as transgender. In contrast, 18% indicated that their family was “unsuppportive,” while 22% reported that their family wither “neither supportive nor unsupportive.”
- On psychological health, it was noted that 39% reported serious psychological distress the month prior to completing the survey, and 40% had attempted suicide at some point in their lives. This is much higher than the rate for the U.S. population, which the report puts at 4.6%.
- Having a family that was supportive was associated with being less likely to have negative health (e.g., attempting suicide) and economic concerns (e.g., homelessness).
- There were few questions on religion or religious faith. However, 19% of those who responded and who had been part of a religious community left that community due to rejection. Of those who left, 42% said they later found a more welcoming faith community.
Many social conservatives may see these findings as laying a foundation for various social and cultural changes they wish to oppose. I am not chiming in on that aspect of a report like this. That may very well be an important part of cultural engagement.
What I would like to see people of faith grapple with is how to respond in a more pastoral way to the experiences of transgender persons and how to position faith communities to respond in a dramatically changing cultural context. I have yet to see a fully-developed and thoughtful, Christian response. When I pitched my book to the editors at InterVarsity Press, I noted that the evangelical church is not prepared for a nuanced discussion of gender identity and transgender presentations.
Not much has changed in the year and a half since the book was first released.
I do see more Christian leaders and institutions asking questions about gender identity and transgender experiences. That is a start. But mostly I see a posture that will likely reflect more of a defense against an attack on institutions. This is more “culture war” than cultural engagement. More “defending turf” than coming alongside.