His question about God’s love for him caught me by surprise. We never talked about religion. I was, admittedly, the “churchy” one in my group of friends — president of the Junior Usher Board and active in my church youth ministry. Yet even at the age of 17, devoid of theological training, I understood the core inquiry at the root of the question: Could this Christian God that I proclaimed loved us all so much accept Aaron even when so many of this God’s “followers” did not?
Citing “religious liberty” as a reason for denying one class of citizens bathroom access, equal housing, or services is a human rights violation.
That’s the finding of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, an independent, bipartisan agency that advises the president and Congress on civil rights matters. The commission issued a statement April 18 saying it “strongly condemns recent state laws passed, and proposals being considered, under the guise of so-called ‘religious liberty’ which target members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community for discrimination.”
After significant backlash from both activists and corporations, North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R) amended a state law that eliminated anti-discrimination protections for gay and transgender rights.
Meeting for a one-day emergency session last week, North Carolina’s General Assembly passed HB2, which has been widely criticized as the nation’s worst anti-LGBT bill. In supposed defense of the general welfare, conservative lawmakers moved to stop a Charlotte ordinance that would have allowed transgender citizens to use public restrooms of the gender with which they identify. But their call to “protect our women and children” echoes language of the white supremacy campaign that overthrew local governments in this state 120 years ago. Both then and now, the call to defend families against imagined predators is a crude power grab.
Was it the Hollywood threat to boycott Georgia or the NFL threat to withhold a Super Bowl?
Gov. Nathan Deal didn’t say as he vetoed a bill on March 28 that a chorus of major studios, sports leagues, and business leaders denounced as legalizing discrimination against gay people.
For those of us who live outside South Dakota, these issues may seem too far-removed to touch our lives in a meaningful way. But in the Bible we find that our neighbors continue to be our neighbors, regardless of how far away they live. As Christians, we are called to love and work for the good of our neighbor, and as followers of Jesus we are called to protect the most vulnerable. Surely there must be a way to ensure the safety of all of the children in South Dakota’s school system, and not just the majority.
Students at Biola University and Oklahoma Baptist University assembled Feb. 9 in order to protest their colleges’ requests to be exempt from Title IX requirements that prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. As many as 60 Christian schools have submitted similar requests since 2014, when the Justice Department announced that Title IX protections extended to transgender students.
As I spoke to other transgender Christians, I found that many expressed frustration with the lack of education on trans issues in their churches. They told me that even though trans people are being recognized in the media, real and relevant conversations are just not happening in the sanctuary or at Bible study. Maybe folks are worried about saying the wrong thing, or perhaps our churches don’t make space for discussion. Whatever the reason, we as Christians are called into fellowship with one another, and real fellowship takes education and communication. In that spirit, here are seven things that transgender people in your congregation wish you knew.
An influx of requests from Christian universities for the right to discriminate on the basis of gender identity have flooded the Department of Education. As many as sixty Christian schools have submitted requests for Title IX waivers since 2014, when the Department of Education announced their protections were inclusive of transgender students. Before this clarification, only a handful of universities had asked for such waivers in the 40-plus years since Title IX was established in 1972. But the decision to extend protections to transgender students has prompted dozens of Christian schools request these waivers.
Christians — particularly those of the more conservative variety — often oppose accommodations for transgender persons. But these believers are having a very important conversation in the wrong direction. When trying to understand transgender issues, Christians should start with the personal, not political. When Christians begin by committing to political goals rather than educating themselves on the complicated, sensitive nuances of this matter, they often come off looking privileged, mean, or just flat-out clueless.
But transgender issues are bigger than so-called bathroom bills and similar legislation. Society is beginning to see these issues as personal matters that affect the real lives of real people with real hurts.
A few Christians out there are, thankfully, trying to think deeply about transgender people. Mark Yarhouse is a professor at Regent University School of Psychology and Counseling and author of Understanding Gender Dysphoria: Navigating Transgender Issues in a Changing Culture. Megan DeFranza is a visiting researcher at Boston University’s School of Theology and author of Sex Difference in Christian Theology: Male, Female, and Intersex in the Image of God. Here we discuss the complexity of transgender issues often overlooked by Christians.