The Transgender Moment
"A lot of parents are allowing their children to switch identities from the sex that God created them to live," Chambers says. "That only sets kids up to be even more confused."
Call for Compassion
Jerry Leach, director of Reality Resources, a ministry in Lexington, Kentucky, to people dealing with gender confusion, shares Chambers's point of view. Leach says, "Rather than cutting tissue by invasive surgery and starting a new life, which for the most part doesn't work, people need to find help psychiatrically."
Leach has become the referral point person for several national Christian organizations on this topic. "The essence of who you are in your genetics, anatomy, chromosomes, and DNA does not suddenly change by surgical amputation."
Surgery or no surgery, there is no quick fix for transgendered people. Chambers says those who wrestle with such feelings don't start out with a desire to be involved in sinful behavior. It's merely a response to what they feel is natural.
"It's a psychological, emotional struggle that needs compassion," Chambers says. "It's an identity issue. At its core, there is absolute confusion about who someone is created to be."
Leach says, "This is a psychological and emotional malady. It's not like taking an appendix out."
Leach, 65, says only the sympathy of trusted Christian friends helped him emerge from his own conflict.
Sexual identity struggles consumed Leach beginning in early boyhood. His parents told him they wished he had been a girl and that they had planned to name him Jennifer. His mother made him wear dresses. His father told him he looked better as a female. The pattern of cross-dressing, applying lipstick and mascara, and wearing fingernail polish and pantyhose became a secret obsession years into his adult life. While some men who gazed at scantily clad females were overcome with lust, Leach had a different problem: jealousy. He wished he inhabited those bodies himself.
With God's help, Leach has learned to avoid occasions of temptation, including shopping for dresses with Charlene, his wife of 46 years.
Leach hoped marriage would make his gender-confused feelings go away, but it didn't. In 1989, after taking female hormones for 18 months, Leach scheduled sex reassignment surgery. But two weeks before the operation, he says he sensed God telling him to stop his covert double life.
Ultimately, Leach understood that God knit together his male body, as outlined in Psalm 139:1516.
"God planned for me to be a man before I had ever been created," Leach says. "There was not a woman inside my body longing to be expressed. There is no human condition outside the redemptive circle of God's love and power."
The challenge before conservative evangelicals is persuading transgendered people, their families, and faith-based advocates that gender identity disorder is not beyond the reach of God's grace, compassionate church-based care, and professional help.
John W. Kennedy, a CT consulting editor, is a journalist in Springfield, Missouri. He is news editor of TPE magazine and a former CT news editor.
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"Walking a Fine Line," also posted today, is about how pastors deal with transgender issues.
More articles on sexuality and gender are in our full-coverage section.