Whenever I hear Christians discuss their feelings about transgender men and women, the conversation usually finds its way back to Genesis. This usually happens after they have failed to articulate their protest in a way they feel is effective. The retreat to Genesis serves as their safe space. After all, ‘who can argue with the original design?’
“Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness,” (Genesis 1:26)
“So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:27)
“God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” (Genesis 1:28)
It is on these scriptures where Christians build the foundation for their arguments against transgender men and women. That argument sounds like this: “It was not good for man to be alone so God created woman for him (Genesis 2:20-22). God gave them both the command to procreate and fill the earth. This is God’s original design. It is how the system is designed to work. Men and women have babies and the earth is filled in accordance with God’s will.”
Putting aside the patriarchy in the first part of the argument and the obvious anti-gay implications, there are many other issues here.
1) Men and Women are both made in God’s image.
The way the scripture reads, both male and female find God as their source. When God says “our image” it suggests God is both. Gender reassignment only offers one of two options: To become male or female. Neither is different from God. Even if that difference may be different from how that person began life, they have not made a modification that changes them into something other than God’s image.
What is odd about the Christian objection to this is the perception that any deviation from the original design is bad. This standard seems to only apply to members of the LGBTQIA+ community and only for sexual orientation and gender identity.
Cis gender heterosexual Christians deviate from the original design all the time. If I were to rigidly adhere to the original design, I would not wear corrective lenses. They are something I wear because I acknowledge a flaw in my original design. I believe I am supposed to have clear vision. I do not. I should not have to miss the action on the movie screen or be unsure if the cashier gave me the correct change out of reverence for God. For me, wearing corrective lenses sufficiently addresses my desire to improve. If I decide to have corrective laser surgery, I will. In the process, I will be surgically modifying the original design. I’m fine with that. Christians are fine with me doing that! But if a man or woman wants to surgically change their original design, it is not ok in the Christian mind. There is no argument to be made if the premise is the idea that we cannot change our bodies from the original design out of obligation to retain the purity of the original design.
2) Humans have done an exceptional job at populating the earth.
In 2016, the Earth’s population was 7.4 billion and climbing. Population trends estimate that by 2045, that number could climb to 9 billion. UN researchers suggest “a flattening of population growth is not going to happen soon without rapid fertility declines—or a reduction in the number of children per mother.“
We are in no danger of failing to meet the first part of the command in Genesis 1:28. In fact, we may be overachieving. In 2016, UNICEF estimated the number of orphans in the world was 140 million. 140 million children were without loving parents to adopt them. It seems these children need all the help they can get should a loving parent want to adopt. Trans or otherwise. The point is, the command to fill the earth in Genesis 1:28 is not as relevant as it once was. We are doing an outstanding job! This cannot be an argument to use against transgender men and women.
Genesis 1:28 didn’t have just the one command to fill the earth. It also said “subdue it. Rule over [it]” If the person was born a male and identifies or lives as a female, they are still the same human God created. If that person was qualified to rule, they do not lose that ability.
3) We all make life decisions
Humans have done such a good job at filling the earth that many Christians have opted to have a tubal ligation or a vasectomy. These Christians have opted to surgically alter themselves in direct opposition to the the Genesis 1:28 command. In many cases, this is done after they have had children but God did not place a cap on the number of children required to fill the earth. These decisions are usually made as a lifestyle choice. Either that Christian does not believe they can afford to provide a child with a certain level of living, they have a preference regarding the ‘right’ number of children, or they believe more children will present a financial hardship. None of these reasons are different from the kinds of reasons anyone uses to modify their bodies. In virtually every case, it is a lifestyle choice.
While I might argue, changing the original design in a way that defies God’s command is a clear sin, I do not argue this and neither do the Christians who make these choices. In their minds, it is perfectly acceptable to modify their bodies if they believed the modification would improve their quality of life.
Running to Genesis to make an argument Genesis doesn’t support does not absolve the Christian from following directions given in the latter half of the Bible. When Jesus says in Mark 12:31 “Love your neighbor as yourself.” he means, treat others the way you want to be treated. You want the liberty to make decisions about your body based on the life you envision for yourself. Love everyone else the same way.
Our faith has been used by so many to oppress instead of liberate. We view the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, Manifest Destiny, and American chattel slavery as blights powered by a gross misunderstanding of the values of our faith. It is easy to see the perpetrators of those events as evil. It seems it is also just as easy to miss the evil we perpetrate in the name of God.
There are people to be loved. They are entitled to just as much love as we believe we deserve. Love them. All.
According to Jesus, “there is no commandment greater” (Mark 12:31)