Today sees the publication of Transgender by Vaughan Roberts. It’s a short guide that combines great pastoral sensitivity with biblical clarity. Vaughan is Rector of St. Ebbe’s Church in Oxford.
The first chapter describes the phenomenon of transgender in its many guises, inviting us to feel the pain of those involved. Many teenagers grow out of such feelings, but not all. Vaughan encourages to steer between a response of ‘Yuk’ and a response of ‘Yes’. In chapter two Vaughan sets transgender in the wider cultural context of individualism and the prioritising of authenticity. The result of these trends is that, instead of attempting to correct someone’s gender identity so it corresponds to their biological sex, the assumption is now that we should correct a person’s biological sex to correspond to their gender identity.
Vaughan then views the issues through the biblical framework of creation, fall and redemption. True freedom is found not through radical independence, but through being who we are. The result of being left to invent our identities is a deep insecurity and fluidity. But in reality our identity is given to us in creation. We are made embodied and sexual. As a result of the fall, however, we are now all disordered. Some people have disordered bodies which, in the case of gender, includes a small minority with intersex conditions. More common are disordered minds. This includes phenomena like depression and anxiety. But it can also include gender dysphoria. These are not necessarily a direct result of an individual’s own sin. But they are the result of humanity’s rebellion against sin. We are now all in some way or other broken people in a broken world. Vaughan draws on his own experience of same-sex attraction to illustrate this point. The gospel is the good news of redemption through Christ in a new creation. Before the day when our bodies will be redeemed, we are to resist desires contrary to God’s will. ‘That means that those who experience gender dysphoria should resist feelings that encourage them to see themselves as anything other than the sex of their birth.’ (61) Though this may be difficult, this will lead to a greater experience of freedom and a secure identity. Vaughan ends with a chapter entitled ‘Wisdom’ where he address a series of ‘What if …?’ scenarios including advice to parents, friends and churches.
At 64 pages this is not designed to be a definitive account of the topic. But Vaughan packs in a tremendous amount of content which is pastorally sensitive and biblically robust. It can readily be read at one sitting and so serves a great primer for Christians confused by the cultural trends or individuals struggling with gender dysphoria.