Here are several talks featured at Q Ideas this week. The first is a talk I gave at Q Denver titled, What is Gender Dysphoria? I try to explain the phenomenon, as well as provide a little background information on theories of etiology, prevalence, and management strategies.
The second talk is by Melinda Selmys, who shares about her own experiences with gender dyshporia.
After we both spoke, Gabe Lyons invited us to join him for a time to Q & A from the audience. This was a helpful opportunity to reflect further on gender dysphoria:
To give you a little background on Q Ideas, here is a description from their website:
Q was birthed out of Gabe Lyons’ vision to see Christians, especially leaders, recover a vision for their historic responsibility to renew and restore cultures. Inspired by Chuck Colson’s statement, “Christians are called to redeem entire cultures, not just individuals,” Gabe set out to reintroduce Christians to what had seemed missing in recent decades from an American expression of Christian faithfulness; valuing both personal and cultural renewal, not one over the other. Re-educating Christians to this orthodox and unifying concept has become central to the vision of Q.
Together, we explore topics that fall into four broad themes: culture, future, church, and gospel. Q facilitates the investigation of deeper engagement and responsibility in each of these areas. As we continue to work through these ideas on a deeper level, so grows our commitment to equipping innovators, social entrepreneurs, entertainers, artists, church-shapers, futurists, scientists, educators, historians, environmentalists, and everyday people to do extraordinary things. At Q Ideas, you’ll see a broad spectrum of content represented in our small group curriculum, essays, videos, blog articles, and podcasts. These are all contributed and commissioned to shed light on unique areas of culture and the church.
The best available research suggests that between 20 and 40 percent of homeless youth identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. When youth come out (or their sexuality is discovered against their will), some families reject them, pushing them onto the streets, where they are often even more vulnerable to prejudice and abuse than other homeless youth. They will also encounter a legal system which can be more focused on punishing and imprisoning the homeless than on helping them to get off the streets. And as rising social and peer acceptance has emboldened teens to come out at a younger age, more youth are over-estimating their parents’ readiness to deal with revelations about their sexuality, with tragic—even life-threatening—consequences.
This is a problem which Christian parents and pastors need to understand and take much more seriously, since it is, in part, an unintended consequence of Christian activism for traditional marriage. Moreover, since Christian ministries often provide food, clothing, and shelter to the homeless, how they approach homeless LGBT persons will have a big effect on whether their ministry draws people toward Christ, or pushes them away.
In order to provide better perspective on these pressing issues, we recently spoke with Kelley Cutler, a Catholic social worker and advocate on homelessness who has worked in San Francisco for over a decade. She shared some of her insights about homelessness, how it affects LGBT youth, and how Christians can respond.
Theologues recently hosted a podcast to discuss gender dysphoria with Melinda Selmys and Mark Yarhouse.
In spring of 2015, Bruce Jenner announced to the world that he would become Caitlyn Jenner and the conversation about gender and transgender issues exploded into our culture. How do we approach these issues? When real biology and psychology are involved, how do we approach it?
Zach spoke with Melinda Selmys (writer and author of Sexual Authenticity: An Intimate Reflection on Homosexuality and Catholicism and blogs at Catholic Authenticity) and Mark Yarhouse (psychologist and author of Understanding Gender Dysphoria: Navigating Transgender Issues in a Changing Culture) about approaching gender dysphoria, sexual reassignment, gender expression in children and how Christians can approach these issues in a changing culture.
We highly recommend this episode to anyone who wants to know more about transgender issues and the pastoral way to approach this issue while keeping a consistent Christian ethic which upholds God’s created order while loving people where they are.
Melinda also recommends her second book “Sexual Authenticity: More Thoughts” and we recommend her Theologues article, Is There a Place for Transgender in the Church?
Go over to Theologues to listen to the full podcast.
I have an article up at Christianity Today titled, “Understanding the Transgender Phenomenon,” where I introduce three contrasting lenses through which people see and respond to gender dysphoria and related matters. I also discuss the importance of not equating gender congruence with spiritual maturity:
We can be sensitive, though, not to treat as synonymous management of gender dysphoria and faithfulness. Some may live a gender identity that reflects their biological sex, depending on their discomfort. Others may benefit from space to find ways to identify with aspects of the opposite sex, as a way to manage extreme discomfort. And of course, no matter the level of discomfort someone with gender dysphoria experiences (or the degree to which someone identifies with the opposite sex), the church will always encourage a personal relationship with Christ and faithfulness to grow in Christlikeness.
Those interested in the topics of gender dysphoria and the experiences of transgender persons, including Christian transgender persons, might be interested in the book, Understanding Gender Dysphoria.
Over at Theologues, Melinda Selmys asks the question, “Is There a Place for the Transgender in the Church?“
Photo by Jeffrey Beall/flickr. Cropped.
I am a Christian, and I experience gender dysphoria. I’m not transgender—I identify as a woman—but I experience a strong sense of discord between my female body and my interior sense of self, my gender identity.
For many Christians, transgender rights seem like the next wave of assault on traditional marriage and biblical sexuality. The idea that anyone would want to alter their “God-given” sexuality, using hormones, surgery or other means to become a member of the opposite sex, seems grotesque. More alarmingly, it seems to fly in the face of Biblical wisdom, which describes the creation of man: “male and female He created them.” (Gen. 1:27)
Trans people constitute a very small minority of the human population, so it’s easy for a discourse to develop that is concerned solely with political or philosophical considerations. I’m not going to claim that those aspects of the question aren’t important. There is a rich biblical tradition surrounding sexuality and gender; questions about how men and women ought to conduct themselves have concerned Christian writers since St. Paul. This tradition cannot merely be dismissed. Problems arise, however, when the tradition is discussed without reference to the real human beings involved.
Read the whole essay at Theologues.
A primary emphasis at Spiritual Friendship is the experience of navigating sexual identity in light of one’s Christian identity. Another topic that is often a part of cultural discussions of sex and gender is Gender Dysphoria. It is not the same thing as sexual identity, but the topic of Gender Dysphoria and the increased visibility of gender variant persons has raised questions related to how Christians engage a most complex topic and be Christ in a meaningful way to those who are navigating gender identity concerns.
I was recently invited to speak on the topic of Gender Dysphoria at Calvin College in the context of the Sexuality Series held there. The talk is based on a book that is forthcoming from InterVarsity Press Academic. In this talk I define key terms, discuss prevalence and presentation, as well as some of the discussions surrounding etiology and resolutions. I also introduce three competing frameworks people rely upon in these discussions: the integrity framework, the disability framework, and the diversity framework. These are presented with reference to an integrated framework that may be useful to Christians interested in meaningful engagement and care.
In any case, here is the link to the recent talk, Understanding Gender Dysphoria: Navigating Transgender Issues in a Changing Culture.
Mark Yarhouse is Professor of Psychology and the Hughes Endowed Chair at Regent University in Virginia Beach, VA, where he directs the Institute for the Study of Sexual Identity. He can be found on Twitter@markyarhouse.
Early Sunday morning a young transwoman, Leelah Alcorn, left a suicide note on Tumblr before walking out in front of a truck. She believed that she would never be able to successfully transition, that she would never be able to live a full life as a woman, that it was impossible for her to live a full life as a man.
Leelah’s mother posted that her “son” had gone for a walk and been hit by a truck. It’s a post that has been reposted, reblogged, tweeted and proliferated all over the internet, and there’s been a lot of hatred poured out on Leelah’s parents. As is often the case in teen suicides, Leelah blamed her parents for her unhappiness. I don’t know whether this is justified in most cases or not. I know that I when I was a suicidal teenager, my parents really had nothing to do with it: I was clinically depressed, and not interested in seeking help.
Leelah, however, was interested in seeking help. As is too often the case in LGBTQ suicides, her parents’ religious beliefs prevented her from being able to access that help. She was taken to counselors, but only to ones who wanted to forward a particular ideological agenda in conformity with her parents’ beliefs. According to Leelah’s suicide note, her parents isolated her from her friends, removed her from school, and prevented her from having access to any network of support from outside of the house.
In my previous piece, I described my experience trying to change my orientation. As promised, in this post I will discuss some practical insights, many of which extend beyond the ex-gay context in which I learned them.
The most immediate insight is directly about sexual orientation change efforts: change in orientation is not something we should promise. Hope in orientation change can be false hope. This is true even for someone who is willing to put great effort into trying to become straight and, more importantly, dealing with the sorts of issues often claimed to be behind a homosexual or bisexual orientation. It is important that we be honest.
Putting my hope into orientation change had less fallout for me than it had for many others. As a man who was already attracted to women, changing my orientation was never quite about being able to function in a marriage. Remaining attracted to the same sex did not have any particular implication about celibacy; it merely meant that I could not be as normal as I wanted and that I would face negative attitudes from some conservative Christians. I was able to come to an acceptance of this reality. However, other people do experience significant hurt. As I alluded to in the first part, even parents may be unnecessarily hurt when they take the blame for their children’s orientation.
One of the most significant books I’ve read recently (or just anytime, period) that has to do with gay Christian whatnot is Sarah Coakley’s new God, Sexuality, and the Self: An Essay ‘On the Trinity’. You can read a very short version of some of its main lines of argument here, and, if you’re interested, you can read my take on the book over at First Things for low price of $1.99 (or why not subscribe?)!
Joshua Gonnerman has already mentioned Coakley’s project here at SF, but I wanted to mention it one more time and draw your attention to a new review of it from Beth Felker Jones. I mention this because I think Felker Jones’ critique of Coakley’s book is especially relevant for the conversations we’re having here at SF.
I wrote recently on being gender-queer, and I promised that I write about transsexuality.
Before I do that, I want to give some idea of where I’m coming from on this issue. I recently wrote a paper on transgender and transsexual issues, and how trans identities relate to the traditional Catholic teaching on essential sexual complementarity. The paper was 5000 words long. I could have written four times that. As the foundation for writing I talked to trans people, read their writings, and listened to the stories that they had to tell about themselves rather than just approaching their experience through the filter of the “experts.” I’ve seen my own experience presented by experts often enough to know that there is often something missing in an allegedly “objective” account, and that the something missing is usually the heart of the human person.