Toward understanding gender dysphoria

In a post entitled, “Higher Things—Quo Vadis?” which gave reference to me, on the site of The Brothers of John the Steadfast, it was stated that in my interview on Virtue in the Wasteland the doctrine of the Evangelical Lutheran Church and Natural Law were not affirmed. No references were given, though the article encourages its readers to listen to the podcast and judge for themselves.

Specific to my part, I have been in this discussion many times with LCMS pastors and lay folks who quote “male and female He created them” and rest their case. None of them have undertaken a serious study of gender dysphoria, intersex conditions, or their possible causes. Some of them have studied nothing, and some have read things like the CTCR document and perhaps a bit more. Speaking from general ignorance of a terribly complex topic, they have judged me as sinning, of rejecting God’s Law.

On many of my blog essays, I have written of my doctrinal stance, which has not changed since I was ordained twenty-one years ago. If anyone has found error in any of my writings on God’s Word, they have not made them known to me. The singular issue has been “male and female He created them,” which ends the discussion.

I uphold “male and female He created them.” I do not espouse the view which says that gender is a construct. I reject all notions about the body which are in disagreement with God’s Word.

I also uphold the Fall of Adam. I uphold our total brokenness. I uphold that the Fall means more than that we commit sins, but that our bodies do not fully work as the Lord created them, nor does the world work as it did before sin entered it.

We are prone to every sort of dysfunction.

It is to our brokenness that I appeal. My study of gender dysphoria led me to learn about intersex conditions and maladies caused by disruption to our endocrine system. There are several intersex conditions, and there are even more hormonal maladies. Diabetes and thyroid troubles are two common hormonal maladies.

I will speak to two conditions and then make a connection to gender dysphoria.

From the late 1950s to the early 1960s, thalidomide was prescribed to pregnant women to ease morning sickness. When thalidomide was administered early in the pregnancy, the fetus sometimes formed wrong, with some babies born with no arms or legs, or deformed ones. It is estimated that, worldwide, 20,000 to 100,000 babies were affected. Once they figured out what was causing it, they stopped giving the drug to pregnant women. It was learned that in some women the thalidomide disrupted the endocrine system, causing the deformities to the baby.

Autism is a malady which is mysterious in its origins. It is suspected that it might be caused by both the genetics of the parents and by environmental factors. It very likely is, as with the work of thalidomide, the result of the baby’s endocrine system having been disrupted in the womb.

I use these two conditions for comparison because the affects of both are obvious and easy to grasp. The results of endocrine system disruption to the sex hormones are not easy to grasp, unless one can actually see the malformation of one’s genitals.

Just because we cannot see something, or define something, does not lessen the reality of it. Indeed, the cause of autism remains profoundly mysterious. Despite that, no decent person rejects the reality of autism. No one would argue that the one with autism has nothing more than a mental illness. With gender dysphoria, the argument of my opponents is that it is merely a mental illness, often compared to how one suffers from bulimia.

The cause of gender dysphoria is mysterious. As with “thalidomide babies,” I believe mine can be traced to another drug, diethylstilbestrol, given during an eerily overlapping era, to mothers in danger of miscarrying. While, as with autism, no absolute connection has been made, there is much anecdotal evidence.

Diethylstilbestrol is but one of many drugs which have been determined to be endocrine disruptors, as have chemicals and plasticizers. When one wonders why there is so much gender dysphoria in our world these days, I point to these known endocrine disruptors.

While I do not insist on having all of the answers, I have learned much to give me enough confidence that my gender dysphoria is a condition just as real, just as physical, as to those who suffer autism and the deformities of the “thalidomide babies.”

But, with gender dysphoria—even if it is a real, physical intersex condition—traditional Christians, including LCMS Christians, will have grave difficulty with, and are prone not to listen to any discussion of, the remedy being transitioning medically with cross-sex hormones and surgeries, and transitioning socially, adapting to the clothes and name of the other sex.

I do not attach myself to “the transgender agenda.” Indeed, as a Christian, who holds a traditional reading of God’s Word, I am viewed with suspicion by many transgender folks because I am not on board with their entire docket. And then I am viewed with the same suspicion in the LCMS, with folks believing that I want to introduce the entire LGBTQ agenda into the church.

Not so.

I hate that I could not find a remedy that could keep me living as a male. I was constantly fearing that I would either kill myself or lose my sanity. I undertook both pastoral and secular counseling, from numerous pastors and two therapists, striving to remain male. Even as far as I have gone with transitioning, if something were to arise, to give me some confidence that I could have relative peace as a male, I would be interested in pursuing it.

I do not disagree with God’s Law. I disagree with how gender dysphoria is viewed. For many traditional Christians, when it comes to the sexes and “male and female He created them” it is as if the Fall could do nothing to touch this one aspect of our creation. Christians such as I, who are striving to be faithful to the Lord and  have a measure of temporal healing, are objects of condemnation instead of compassion.


19 thoughts on “Toward understanding gender dysphoria

  1. What do you think of the book, Understanding Gender Dysphoria: Navigating Transgender Issues in a Changing Culture (Christian Association for Psychological Studies Books), by Mark Yarhouse? I have not read it myself but have seen it referenced elsewhere as a resource, and therefore am considering purchasing it.


    1. I recently read it, David. Yarhouse is compassionate, with loads of experience with trans folks. Many will not like his understanding manner, as he recognizes as Christian trans folks he has gotten to know. I wish every pastor would read the book.


      1. Thanks for the recommendation. Just bought Understanding Gender Dysphoria: Navigating Transgender Issues in a Changing Culture to read while on vacation.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Great article Gina…. The drug DES was given to many pregnant women in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s to prevent miscarriages. When the medical group found out how dangerous the drug was, it was taken off the market. Many Doctors destroyed their own personal records so there was not a trace that they prescribed the drug to warn off potential lawsuits.

    Many DES babies where found to also be MTF transgender. All babies start out in the womb with a female brain. At 6 weeks, a male fetus receives what they call a testosterone wash to masculine the brain. If the fetus misses this important wash, it is left with a female brain despite having a male body. It was well known that the drug DES caused many males to miss that important wash.


  3. Bottom line is we should all treat others as we’d want to be treated. There isn’t a person on the planet without some quirks. Until we’ve walked in someone else’s shoes, we have no right to judge him or her. How you live your life should be of no concern to anyone as long as you’re not harming their freedoms. When preachers speak on behalf of God to condemn others, they’re only masking their own insecurities and hubris. Keep on living your authentic life, and if others have a problem with it, remember who has the problem!


  4. It’s quite scary to venture outside the comfortable “box” of one’s invested beliefs. There is a real, but unnecessary, fear of the so-called “slippery slope.” I think a larger issue for the “clergy” (a term I personally abhor but, as a no-longer-pastor, I recognize has meaning for others) is the simple fact that, for those whose “bread is buttered” by a very specific belief system, to change the beliefs is to lose the job. Most areas of employment do not have a doctrinal statement to sign. Doctrinal statements often become reasons, pressures, to not think deeply any longer. Fear of losing one’s employment makes it easy to dismiss the issues you raise. Just throw out a “God created male and female,” then go out to cash your paycheck with a clear (?) conscience.


    1. Oliver Wendell Holmes is quoted as saying, “For the simplicity that lies this side of complexity, I would not give a fig, but for the simplicity that lies on the other side of complexity, I would give my life.”

      Most conservative church-goers (and many, if not all, their leaders) spend their lives on this side of complexity, i.e., they bump up against difficult questions, uncomfortable questions, challenging questions, and they beat a hasty retreat saying: “But the Bible says…,” “but the pastor says….”.

      It’s so much “safer” on “this” side. To enter into the liminality of complexity is to experience discomfort, inner dissonance, and (sometimes) pure, unadulterated fear. It requires a community of like-minded people to endure this experience and to begin to emerge on the other side into authentic simplicity. This is what Richard Rohr describes as “the second half of life,” a time which recognizes, draws near, and embraces mysteries and ambiguities. For me, it also carries a residue of fear as the roots of conservatism have wound tightly around my heart and mind. BUT, I’ve come to far to go back, plus, it’s too beautiful on this side.


  5. In the situation of gender dysphoria, it’s more, “but the pastor says … ” than “but the Bible says ….” There are pastors who believe that the Gospel is for everyone, while there are other pastors who would say that the Gospel is for everyone but …. No, they don’t say this explicitly, but they firmly believe, preach, and teach this. They would not say that one who suffers from a form of cancer and who seeks a cure in the form of “mutilating the body” by surgery for tumor removal is sinning. But the fact that gender dysphoria has to do with sex means that it is treated differently than other diseases. The Gospel says, “Blessed is the man whose sins are forgiven.” We cannot afford to distort or limit that message.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I like your using “mutilating the body” to refer to removing a tumor. Who thinks of it that way? I suspect almost no one. Yet, for a trans person to have surgery . . . well, you know the rest.

      Excellent comments. Thank you.


  6. Rick, I always appreciate your insights. You are well-read and express your thoughts clearly and helpfully. I sometimes wonder if, by what you write, you think I am naive to things, that I don’t reckon that about which you write, perhaps because I don’t include those things in my pieces. Regardless of how you read me, your comments always expand and enlighten, so I thank you.

    I really appreciated your closing. When I think of who I was, the young, naive person who never wanted to leave his hometown, and who I became, having stretched my experience and my understanding of my fellow humans, I much prefer what I’ve become than what I might have remained, all narrow-minded prejudice and bigotry and so much more having been educated and experienced and compassioned out of me.


    1. I certainly don’t consider you naive to things, to anything in this sphere. I read to learn from you, then I write as I do because your writing stimulates thinking in me. Writing is a gift I’ve not been able to exercise for some time. At the same time, I certainly don’t want to come across as supercilious or demeaning. If I have done so, I ask your forgiveness. That is certainly not my intention.


  7. Thank you for this, Rick. I gladly forgive you.

    I appreciate your saying that you read my stuff in order to learn. That is the part that has been lacking in your comments, which were, more and more, leaving me feeling, to use your word, demeaned. If, on occasion, you were to begin your comments with something like, “This has opened my eyes to . . . ” or “Well done, Gina, and now I am thinking . . .” it would completely change how I receive your thoughts.

    Truly, Rick, I love your comments. You expand and enhance what I’ve written. I hope my hurt feelings do not hinder you from exercising your gift to write, an exercise which is a gift to me and, surely, to all who read your words.

    The Lord be with you, friend.


    1. Appreciate your straightforward statements. I understand and will take care to balance my comments. So glad you took the risk to challenge me. Otherwise I would have continued to bumble along and risk further harming you and our (at present) online conversations.


  8. Thank you, Rick. And, do know, I’ve not forgotten you. Between healing from my April surgery, and the setback I had with my voice, I’m only very recently feeling up to both sitting and chatting for any length of time. But, through the rest of July, I am watching my granddaughter all day. So, if you still want to get together, perhaps we can do that in August.


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