is the president of the Council on Biblical Manhood & Womanhood, a professor of theology and church history at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Boyce College, the author of Risky Gospel, and coeditor of Designed for Joy (Crossway).
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Dear Dr. Strachan~
I am writing regarding your essay, https://answersingenesis.org/family/gender/transgender-identity-wishing-away-gods-design/, which was published on the Answers in Genesis website on July 24, 2016.
I am a traditional Christian, a long-time reader who deeply appreciates AiG, a transgender person, and a former minister of eighteen years in the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS). That I am no longer in the ministry is only due to my inability to continue to serve and is not a reflection on my doctrine. I continue to espouse the doctrine as believed, taught, and confessed in the LCMS, to which I vowed on the day of my ordination, June 23, 1996.
Several concerns arose as I read your piece. I will begin at your fourth point as to how Christians should proceed. You wrote, “It will involve the recognition that sin has corrupted us in every fiber of our being (Isaiah 64:6).”
I agree with the statement. Indeed, I agree with much of your essay regarding the differences in the sexes, how God originally created us, and how the non-Christian world-view sees things, along with its rebellion against God’s Word.
Regarding our corruption, however, you did not take this far enough. You ignored that the corruption of our being includes conditions of the body, maladies of every sort, which include a variety of intersex conditions.
Because you did not include a discussion of intersex conditions, do you see them to be as real as cancerous tumors and Alzheimer’s and broken bones? Are you familiar with them, which exist in each essential aspect of our being—in our flesh, in our chromosomes, and in our hormones?
There are several intersex conditions of the genitals. At times, the male genitals are up inside the body, making it appear that mother has given birth to a female and the child is reared that way. And, at times, females are born with their genitals external and penis-looking, causing them to be identified and reared as males.
These situations might go undiagnosed until the age of puberty. Sometimes, when the individuals are young, he or she will protest being reared as the sex in which they were identified at birth. Regardless of when the intersex condition is discovered, these people had not been correctly identified at birth.
If, at any age—before the teen years, during the years of puberty, or later in life—these people find it would be better for them to outwardly change how they live—to the world, it would appear that they are transitioning from one sex to the other but, truly, they would only be “changing” to how they in fact are—would you agree or disagree with their outwardly changing? To their remaining in the wrongly identified sex? If this is a Christian person, is the answer different?
There are a number of intersex conditions of the chromosomes. In one, Swyer Syndrome, people who are externally female have XY chromosomes, instead of the appropriate XX. Sometimes, these women do not know of the condition until puberty or when desiring to get pregnant and are unable.
I have been told, especially by my former brother pastors in the LCMS, that because I am a genetic male—clearly I am; I fathered five children—it means I am a male, period. If DNA and chromosomes are the ultimate determiners of our being, would not a woman with Swyer Syndrome have to begin living as a male in order to align with God’s design?
That, of course, sounds preposterous. She has a female body and had built a life as a woman. But, this situation begs the question: Are we going to play by a consistent rule? Or, because of the fall into sin and the corruption of our being, which includes many variations of intersex conditions, can there be a consistent rule when an intersex condition exists?
This brings me to intersex conditions of the hormones or, properly speaking, the endocrine system. Where genitals can be spied with the eye, and chromosomes identified with a test, the endocrine system is more mysterious. Yes, hormone levels are easy to read from a blood test, but how the various hormones affect a person is not a black-and-white proposition.
There have been identified more than two dozen specific disorders of the endocrine system, which affect us in many and various ways. We know of chemicals, pharmaceuticals, and plasticisers which are endocrine disruptors, the culprits behind the maladies which have been identified.
That there are endocrine disruptors is undeniable. In the LCMS, and among many church bodies, that endocrine disruption can result in a true, physical intersex condition is largely denied. Since vast numbers of people with gender dysphoria do not have intersex conditions of the genitals or chromosomes, those who deny endocrine disruption as the cause of gender dysphoria have no where else to go with gender dysphoria than to label it a mental illness—one which is akin to anorexia nervosa, but not one of the many forms of depression, since anorexia has not been found to have a physical origin and many depressions have.
When a Christian lands here, transitioning will not be an acceptable course of action and, in the end, will be sinful. But, if a Christian can recognize gender dysphoria as having a root physical cause—the person whose endocrine system has been disrupted truly has a physical, male/female internal competition—then transitioning can be an acceptable remedy.
I will not make this letter so long as to be unreadable, so I will direct you to my blog for some of the many ways in which I have addressed my situation: eilerspizza.wordpress.com. For now, it is pertinent to discuss how going on hormone replacement therapy (HRT) eased my dysphoria. Because I continually worked hard not to transition, I removed myself from HRT three times. Each time, after about a month off HRT, I returned to terrible gender dysphoria. And, each time I resumed taking it, after a number of weeks my dysphoria disappeared. This, finally, allowed me to reckon that I did, in fact, have a physical malady, and I was not simply mentally ill or a despicable sinner.
Moving on, you wrote, “‘Transgender’ ideology is grounded in the idea that the body isn’t an essential part of our being (a viewpoint known as essentialism). Our ‘gender identity’ is fluid, a social construct that can change.” You are correct in that this view is widely held. You are incorrect to include all of us in espousing it. I do not. Please, do not dump all of us into the same heap.
I hold a traditional biblical world-view. I believe God created the world in six, regular-length days, that Jonah was swallowed by a fish, and every last thing I could mention which jibes with a traditional reading of Scripture.
My ultimate concern with essays such as yours is the proclamation of the Gospel. Specific to this, my concern is the proclamation of the Gospel to people like me, whether or not we transition, who confess that we are completely fallen and fractured people, and that we rely solely on the completed work of Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.
If I were not a theologian, your essay—and the essays and sermons of many of my former brother pastors in the LCMS and across much of Christendom—would leave me finding that I am unsavable. Too big of a sinner. So offensive to the Lord that He would never bestow His gracious favor upon me. In need of cleaning up my act before I could have a chance with God.
Yet, Dr. Strachan, you know that every human is in the same cemetery before the Holy Spirit begins His work in us, freely giving us faith in Christ that we might be cleansed of our sins, saved from death, devil, and damnation, and enlivened with eternal life and on our way to a resurrection just as Christ was raised never to die again. I am the chief of sinners. You are the chief of sinners. Neither of us was saved by righteous acts we performed, but by God’s grace as a gift.
Regarding the resurrection, I know that I will be raised in glory as a male, finally shed of my intersex malady and of everything which now afflicts me because of the sinful nature I inherited from Adam, just as every Christian does who hates the effects of sin which plague us during this pilgrimage.
I worked so hard not to be transgender, taking advantage of deep pastoral care and therapy. Since I found that transitioning eased my dysphoria and I am successfully and happily living as a female, I am determined to glorify my Lord Jesus, shining my little light so that others might see my good deeds and praise my Father who is in heaven. If you scan the titles on my blog, you will see that I am striving to do that in my writing, just as it is my joy to do for the sake of my family and my slice of the world to be a little Christ during this pilgrimage.
I hope this proved helpful. I am always available and open to discussion.
The Lord be with you.