Wednesday, September 4, 2019

An Epiphany: Transgenderism, The Church, and New Bodies

"But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself."
Philippians 3:20-21

I recently experienced an epiphany regarding the new bodies we are promised in scripture.  It was not a monumental epiphany nor should it have taken me this long to reach it, but it does represent a divergence from what is often relayed in modern church thought.  Another way of looking at things.

The epiphany focused on our new bodies and the transgender community.

I make it no secret that I have become more liberal in a lot of ways as I have aged, and that includes in my views regarding the church, the LGBTQ community, and faith.  It's still an area I struggle in; I still struggle with the concepts of sin and sex, understanding both sides of the issues, seeing where our translations may fail us and where societal implications play a role, and coming to my own personal understandings.  I do know for certain that how we've treated that community is not Christlike and that is an area that we must do better in.

I also try to look at these issues a little more detached.  To try and understand from a different perspective.   For example, when you look at homosexuality and observe the practice across the animal kingdom, one could surmise that there is perhaps a biological purpose for the drive.  Could it act as a form of population control, removing a pair from contributing to the furthering of the species?

I've struggled in trying to understand transgenderism from the same perspective.  Perhaps that is due to there being many different issues wrapped up in transgenderism:  gender norms, social expectations, gender dismorphism,  We can see there is definitely a biological component.  Body dismorphism that occurs throughout a persons life.  The concrete knowledge that a person was born in the wrong body, the wrong gender.  There are countless stories of people who can tell harrowing tales of knowing all their lives that their gender was wrong.

But with that knowledge, my question has generally centered on whether the exterior changes were the most appropriate treatment for an internal issue.  What is the root of the issue - is it biochemical?  Is it neurological?  Is surgery just masking the root issue or is it truly the best solution?

Regardless of that answer, I know that this is a community that again needs to be treated with more kindness and compassion by the Christian community.  By referring to them by the name that they ask to be called.  To use the pronoun that they prefer.  Those are basic acts of kindness and compassion.  The least that we can do.

We can also seek to understand their struggle.

It is from that perspective that my epiphany developed.

What if transgenderism, that level of body dismorphism, stems from the difference in the gender of the soul and the physical body?

Put another way, what if the root of transgenderism stems from the soul crying out to be housed in the correct gender?

What if we could recognize the physical sex of a transgender person as an earthly corruption instead of the default setting?

I came to this from a study of the new, perfect bodies that believers receive in their resurrection.  Their bodies for glory.

What if the new body of a transgender person matches the gender they identify with, as opposed to the gender of their physical shell?

The traditional current church view of the transgender issue would be to treat it as going against the natural order.  That the sex that we are born into here on earth is what God intended and so any attempt to alter it or deny it is to go against God's plan.

That is a very interesting way to view our earthly bodies.  One which seems to be unique to this particular issue.

Throughout scripture, our earthly bodies described as "perishable," "mortal," "earthly," "dishonorable," "weak," "lowly," and "natural." (1 Cor. 15:42-44, 48, and 54; Phil. 3:21)  Our flesh is corrupt.  And has been corrupted.

Beyond recognizing our bent towards sin and away from God, we recognize this with a lot of physical imperfections.  From genetic diseases to disabilities, we treat them as something that will be corrected and will no longer exist in Heaven.

We even extend this view to certain mental issues.  To schizophrenia, to depression, to manic-depressive, and so on, we view these mental illnesses as something that is an earthly corruption.  Something we deal with here, but will have no longer in heaven.

We know and believe this because of the descriptions of our new bodies.  Our new bodies described as "imperishable," "immortal," "of heaven," "glorious," "powerful," and "spiritual."

We know the bodies will be like our earthly bodies.  We will eat, we will drink, we will go about normal activities like farming, fishing, building, and other regular jobs.  We will walk on streets of gold, not float.

We also know our bodies will be healed; we have verses that are a comfort to those who need healing.  Isaiah 35:6 indicates the lame will leap like a deer.  The blind will see, the deaf will hear, the mind will know, and the stammer will be removed.

What we do not know is what these bodies will look like.  I think we all just assume that we will look like ourselves at our physical peak, but we have no such indication in scripture.  Colossians 3:9 through 11 can be read to indicate we will no longer have racial or cultural distinctions.  That would indicate a broader change of our current forms.

So with an issue that implicates a difference of the internal and the external, why do we assume that the internal one is the earthly corruption?  Why do we assume the physical form is correct and the mental difference is the problem?

If the soul exists separate from the body, if the soul is the perfect, imperishable form that is truly the essence of who we are, why would we not assume the physical form is the one that is incorrect?  That the transgendered person's inclination is correct?  That their conviction that they are trapped in the wrong gender is their soul crying out to be recognized?

If this is the case, wouldn't that greatly change how we treat this community?  How we act towards them?  The assumptions we make about them?  How we seek to help them as they struggle with their identity?

And even more, isn't that how we should be acting regardless?

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