Demarcus, a 16-year-old high school Sophomore, began seeing me because of depression, anxiety, and cutting behaviors.
Demarcus didn’t have any sort of relationship with his father and had been basically raised by his mother, his maternal grandmother, and his two aunts. After a string of boyfriends, his mother in a quest to change began attending a local Christian church. Demarcus and his two sisters enjoyed attending, and his mother began dating one of the youth group leaders. Demarcus liked the youth group leader and felt comfortable around him, and as his mother and this guy continued to get serious, Demarcus began spending more time around him. To make a long story short, mom’s boyfriend ended up abusing Demarcus sexually, physically, and emotionally.
Demarcus was having a hard time with school. He didn’t have any friends and tended to keep to himself. He struggled to fall asleep and stay asleep. And when he did sleep, he had nightmares about monsters attacking him. While he was awake, he also began to have flashbacks and was very jumpy, easily frightened, irritable, and moody. To say that he was dealing with a lot of trauma was an understatement.
It took a while for Demarcus to trust me and begin to open up to me. He shared that this abuse destroyed him on many different levels. He already didn’t trust others, and now he wasn’t too sure about Christians—but the way it really shook him was that it made him question his own gender. I can still recall how nervous he was when he finally admitted to me that he was questioning his maleness.
He had begun to have a panic attack in the session, because he tried to share the truth with me. After getting him calmed down, he insisted that he needed to tell me, because this was weighing on his heart and mind, so he told me. As I sat quiet and still, letting what he told me sink in, I opened my mouth to affirm and encourage him for sharing such a sensitive and important issue with me, but he interrupted me, and jumped up off the couch, and (crying and hysterical) shouted at the top of his lungs:
“I know, you hate me, don’t you?! I hate me! I know that my mom and that God hates me–because I’m a freak! I’m broken! That’s why my dad didn’t want me. I don’t want to feel this way! I don’t know why I feel this way, but I just know that me being me isn’t working. Maybe I’m supposed to be a different me. A she instead of a he.”
A Complex, Sensitive Issue
More than twenty-five years ago I did a lot of specialized study and research on the topic of gender dysphoria, and I have been keeping up with the research ever since. This very complex issue evokes strong feelings from all sides, so I’m not going to give you my personal opinion. I’ll stick to what the Bible and science have to say about it. Also, I just want to be honest and let you know that this is not a comprehensive exploration of this subject. I’ve been studying this issue for over 25 years and I still don’t understand it all—I’m just trying to give you the Cliff’s Notes version.
Which Opinion is Right?
The difference between the biblical view of sexuality and the secular view grows wider every day. Social media and the entertainment industry now celebrate “gender fluidity” as a less “judgy” way of thinking than the biblical view. The trend has grown quickly, with transgender-identified celebrities making headlines. Transgender-identified people compete—and even win—in beauty pageants, sports teams, and use public restrooms of their non-biological sex. To make things more complicated, parents are increasingly allowing their underage children to chemically and surgically alter their bodies.
A generation ago Christians faced backlash for proclaiming that living out a gay identity is not God’s plan. However, today, many Christians struggle to figure out what their response should be to gender identity issues. For one thing, the term “gender” no longer means only male or female. Instead, gender now takes into account identity and expression. According to healthline.com there are 68 terms that describe gender. However, the Bible clearly states:
“So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. Then God blessed them and said, ‘Be fruitful and multiply’ ” (Genesis 1:27, 28a, NLT). Therefore, the Biblical perspective on gender and sex takes into account not only the creation of a biological man and a biological woman, but also love, marriage, commitment, and reproduction.
According to Merriam-Webster, the word “dysphoria” is a term for a state of feeling very unhappy, uneasy, or dissatisfied. Gender dysphoria, then, is the feeling that the biological sex you were born with doesn’t match your emotional and psychological identity. Certain factors tend to coincide with gender dysphoria. The following conditions are found in greater numbers within the trans population: low self esteem, anxiety, depression, lack of identity, eating disorders, personality disorders, self-injury behaviors, autism spectrum disorder, sexual trauma, gender trauma.
What if I’m Confused? Know that your story and experiences are important and worthy of being heard and respected as you bravely share them. Your feelings and experiences are also quite challenging, no doubt. Don’t go this alone or under the sickening burden of shame that the devil tries to heap on us. There’s power in letting it out! “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed” (James 5:16a, NLT). Find a safe place to slowly and patiently unwind your story. Know the truth that Jesus loves you deeply and unconditionally and He’s not judging you at all—remember: He died to save you! (John 3:16, 17).
As you obediently embark on this path with Jesus, you will need a support team with resources at each of these three levels:
• Body: a trustworthy, Christian doctor who can address any physical problems such as brain chemistry, depression, anxiety, or endocrine (aka your hormones) problems.
• Mind: a professional Christian counselor who can help you find healing from any trauma you may have experienced.
• Spirit: build relationships with a pastor and several spiritual friends who can mentor you and just do life with you as you travel into a deeper friendship with God.
Remember that your body was purposefully designed. Check out some things the Bible says about the human body.
- We reflect the image of our Creator. (Genesis 1:27). Being made in His image separates us and the purpose of human sexuality from all other creatures, elevating our status and imprinting us with His likeness.
- Our bodies are not our own. (1 Corinthians 6:19, 20). Imagine receiving an original, priceless painting. Would you even consider getting your paints out and changing it? To alter healthy sexual organs denies that you are God’s masterpiece and embraces the lie that your value and identity come from your appearance, preferences, and sexuality.
- Sexual sin is spiritually devastating. (1 Corinthians 6:18).) Changing appearance, genitalia, or hormones doesn’t actually change a person’s sex. It also doesn’t change God’s standards or His original design for your life. The biological sex God granted is coded into our DNA and every cell of our God-designed bodies. It’s a denial of Him and this reality to reject our body in this fundamental way.
- Your body was created to be a temple of the Holy Spirit. (1 Corinthians 6:19).) Just as God gave King Solomon specific instructions for every detail of the temple’s construction, He also purposefully designed every detail of our bodies. He is our God. We are not our own gods to do with ourselves as we wish.
Saturate your mind with the truth. Your mind is the home of your thoughts, emotions, memories, and imagination. Brain science and research clearly confirms what the Bible has always said: “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect” (Romans 12:2, NLT).
Daily taking time to purposefully renew your mind, causes you to grow in Christ over time. God’s intent for your sexuality reflects in you, as you consistently cling to these key points:
- A serious perspective of the Bible. God’s Word provides principles for everything believers might encounter. It explains His purposes in creation, including the human body and its two distinct sexes. Creationism is foundational to the other truths of Scripture. When you believe a loving Father created you with care and purpose, your identity has a more secure foundation.
- A serious perspective of God’s purposeful design for creation. The creation account in the Bible (Genesis 1:1-27) is a story of God separating many things—chief among them was humanity into two distinct biological sexes.
- A serious perspective of the sacred and intentional design for sex. God separated male from female, among other reasons, so that they could be purposefully joined (Genesis 2:24). Once He formed Eve, He immediately declared that her and Adam’s union was to occur within the lifelong bond of marriage (Mark 10: 6-9).
Nurture an intimate friendship with God. The human spirit is the center of your desires, tendencies, affections, and identity. It is the deep well from which recovery springs. Many people get stuck at the level of the mind, asking “Why?” This prevents them from going deeper, repenting, and uniting with Christ. We all want to understand why we do and feel things, but the truth is that you don’t have to fully understand your inner conflict in order to surrender it to God. If you are a Christian who struggles with your gender identity, start with these important steps:
1. Allow yourself to accept God’s presence right where you are instead of trying to fix your behaviors first. Even if you can’t find rest in your sexuality yet, find rest in God’s love for you, and know that He has an amazing plan for your life (Jeremiah 29:11).
2. Find a church home with a serious perspective of the Bible. Live in real community with other Christians who will come to know and care for you. “Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2, NLT).
3. Ask the Holy Spirit to convince you that God intentionally made you male or female (Psalm 139: 13-18) and that your body at birth is His blessing and work.
Be Patient with Yourself and Others
Finally, please bear with well-meaning people who don’t yet understand your journey. When you reflect on discussions with family members and friends about your gender identity, keep in mind that you have been dealing with this issue for a while, and you are further along in the understanding and acceptance journey than they are. “Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love” (Ephesians 4:2, NLT).b As I said before: this is a very complex issue and everyone, on either side of the issue, has strong feelings about it. So be kind, understanding, and loving, first, to yourself and then to others.
Omar’s Podcast Uncovering Truth