Transgender prejudice in the LCMS?

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The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) is the church body in which I was a minister for eighteen years, the church body to which Julie and I returned in April after nine months in the more progressive ELCA. I needed to return to the LCMS so that I might have a voice in it.

Last week, an essay was posted to the LCMS website regarding the current bathroom debate. I exchanged several messages with its author, Kim Schave, in which we were able to agree on nothing except our common hope in Jesus Christ. Three times, I posted comments to the blog. Each one was not approved and they were deleted. My attempt was unsuccessful to get this critique to her, before I posted it.

Her essay is here:

Entitled, “Male and Female He Created Them,” quoting Genesis 5:2 in the King James Version, the essay is subtitled “Protecting the Vulnerable in the Transgender Public Facilities Debate.” I found the piece to be a haphazardly assembled series of thoughts. The author told me, “The point of my post was to offer consolation to Christians who have been mocked, ridiculed and insulted for holding fast to the Holy Word of God in this debate over new policies being pushed on us by the LGBT lobby—policies that put the rest of the population at risk.”

I appreciate the desire to console Christians who are often derided, even hated, when their goal is to be true to God’s Word and to protect people. What I do not appreciate is information presented in a way which displays biases, and too often is superficial and incorrect.

Mrs. Schave begins with a series of questions, beginning with, “Have you been called a bigot?” and concluding with, “Have you noticed how the argument has been twisted to claim that we are afraid of those identifying as transgender as the demographic we fear will exploit those in public restrooms and changing areas?” She then proceeds with a series of statistics and news citations which, because of the way she presents the information, the very likely possibility is created that “those identifying as transgender” will indeed be the demographic Christians fear.

She begins her third paragraph: “It is estimated that up to 0.3% of the U.S. population identifies as transgender, roughly 700,000 individuals. It is also interesting to note that there are 747,048 registered sex offenders nationwide in the U.S.” How is this interesting? How do these two categories have anything to do with each other? I suggested to her that by placing these two statistics together she gives the impression that there is a correlation between trans people and sex offenders. She replied, “My intention with quoting the statistics together had nothing to do with linking the two groups and everything to do with demonstrating that there are similar numbers of folks desiring to be protected in the transgender community as there are criminals who have sexually violated others.” So what? It means nothing that these numbers are similar, but placing them together might put an errant, prejudiced thought into the mind of the reader.

The next sentence begins, “While the prevalence of sexual violence among the transgender population is disconcerting…” Following the link she provided, the cited page clearly says that transgender people experience “shockingly high levels of sexual abuse and assault” against them. Why didn’t Mrs. Schave write, “While the prevalence of sexual violence AGAINST,” rather than “AMONG”? Writing “among” makes it sound as if trans people have a propensity for committing sexual abuse and assault.

This immediately follows the previous sentences which cite how many U. S. trans people and registered sex offenders there are. The impression is vivid: trans people are sex offenders. I asked her to correct all of this. It remains.

This sets the tone for the entire essay. How can the reader continue without a bias against transgender people? I do not contend that it was the author’s intention to create a bias. Regardless of intention, the bias has been created.

After citing numerous news stories about perverts in public places, Mrs. Schave moves to a brief discussion of gender dysphoria, beginning with this: “The medical community has thus far not completely caved to the LGBT lobbyists.” She then discusses how gender dysphoria is listed in the Diagnostic Manual as a disorder, adding “much like other mental disorders” without justifying her addition, and then neglects to outline why gender dysphoria needs to be categorized as a disorder so that those who transition, who often desire or require medical care, might qualify for health insurance benefits, which, more and more, cover these things in the manner they insure any viable condition.

The balance of the essay discusses Scripture and a Christian’s response to these matters. She writes, “When we despise the very way in which He lovingly formed us, we sin against Him.” When she mentions the oft-cited Deuteronomy 22:5 against “transvestism,”—now always called crossdressing—and insists that all people are made “male and female” as Genesis 5:2 teaches, she ignores intersex conditions as if they do not exist.

When Mrs. Schave writes, “Given the fall of mankind in Genesis 3 when sin entered the world, it is not a surprise that our view of the sexes would be corrupted,” she forgets that way more than “our view of the sexes” has been corrupted, but our very sexes have been corrupted, just as every aspect of the human condition has been corrupted. There are many intersex conditions, including hermaphroditism, ambiguous genitalia, chromosomal variations, and endocrine disruption.

If I had been created solely male or female, I would not be a transgender person. Mine is a physical condition from the womb as real as for the one inflicted with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, as ever-present as for the one dealing with Multiple Sclerosis, as physically debilitating as for the one undergoing treatment for a life-threatening disease.

Deuteronomy 22:5 does not apply to me (and one wonders why a multitude of verses surrounding it are ignored by the modern church while this one is regularly used) because I am not a male pretending to be a female, or seeking to get my sexual kicks, or trying to deceive anyone. My brain, where my endocrine system was disrupted and malformed, left me with a female identity. After a lifetime of battling myself and my finally becoming suicidal, transitioning to living as a female is for me viable medical treatment.

After citing an LCMS document on gender dysphoria, Mrs. Schave writes, “Indeed it is possible as a Christian to oppose these new understandings being foisted upon us of practices long considered sinful, yet treat those we encounter who struggle with such inclinations with dignity and respect.”

I wrote to her, “Please, learn about this topic before writing about it, before condemning me as a sinner for something you know nothing about—the same way blacks and whites were condemned as sinners when they married each other, but now it’s okay by God’s Word— the same way people with depression were condemned as sinners because they didn’t rejoice in the good life the Lord gave them, but now we know they have a real, physical malady—the same way people were condemned as ‘playing God’ when the first heart transplants were performed, but now these surgeries are accepted by all.”

This summarizes much of why I long to educate in the LCMS. Mixed-race marriages, depression, and heart transplants are but three things Christians once condemned and, without the Word of God changing, now are accepted. What caused the change? Education. Understanding. New and more information about previously unknown things. Yes, even cultural shifts. Gender dysphoria and being transgender is akin to where we were fifty years ago with the three cited issues.

I find my church body sorely lacking in humility. Church leaders are regularly writing about transgender issues as if they possess the final word on it. They argue as if this is cut and dried, strictly applying theology and morality, yet one of the LCMS’ own theologians, my seminary classmate, Rev. Scott Stiegemeyer, wrote last year in our alma mater’s scholarly publication that this is not a condition which is cured by theology and repentance, and it is an intersex condition.

Mrs. Schave concludes her essay, “Often times it feels as though the battle is lost. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:57).” I agree with her on both our victory in Christ and our continuing struggle. I often feel that my battle is lost in trying to educate Christians, and especially the LCMS which is beloved to me.

The Lord has taught me that to whom much has been entrusted, much more will be asked (Luke 12:48). I trust that He has led me to this day, to fight the good fight of the faith, to rely on the pure Gospel of forgiveness, life, and salvation in Jesus Christ, and to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves (Proverbs 31:8), which, among others, would be we transgender persons.

I stand with Kim Schave in our faith in Jesus Christ. I also stand with her in my concern for children and others who need protection. I desire calm conversation in the bathroom debate, with no one foisting an agenda on another. Finally, in all of this, let us speak truthfully, without prejudice, caring for our neighbor as much as we care for ourselves.