I’m Christian, pro-life, and a transgender lesbian – Dana Pham
“Why, then, did God give them free will? Because free will, though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having.” – CS Lewis
I’m a Christian, and a transgender lesbian. Male-to-female, same-sex (female) attracted. How does that work? This is a follow-up on one of my blog posts available here. Just before I started my gender transition in 2009, I attended a service with the Metropolitan Community Church in Sydney. I had stopped attending Catholic Mass the year before. I didn’t come back to MCC, because it felt like a Church that was trying to carve out an LGBTQIA safe space in Christianity. Christianity is anything but a safe space for anyone, and it isn’t supposed to be a safe space. So you could say that I was spiritually, and religiously, lost for a long time, and guidance wasn’t available for this too-hard basketcase.
About three years ago, I started a political journey where I became more conservative and libertarian — today I call myself a conservatarian. Then about a year ago, I became a woman of complicated faith. My values and outlook became Christian-based again, though I strongly disagreed with many Catholic teachings, and still do. Specifically, I started to appreciate stories from some parts of the Holy Bible, whereas others parts I found to be downright wrong. I refused to pray, but didn’t mind sitting in a prayer.
Until this year, I remained strongly skeptical of organised religion. I believed the Church subversively teaches you to fear your own free will and decision-making. Specifically, you apparently have to seek approval from an omnipotent being who, at the same time gave you, ironically, your free will? Life is not really life if you’re too frightened to make a decision, let alone commit to it. From what I can tell, indecisiveness, or decidophobia, cripples many people in the Church. Coined by Princeton philosopher Walter Kaufmann, the term is exactly what it sounds like: a paralysing fear of making decisions, disguised in the Church as meekness or being unassuming. Although Kaufmann focused on decidophobia’s philosophical implications, he theorised that conformity stems from a universal fear of making difficult decisions. It must be awful to live in such fear of decisions or commitment.
It was about a year ago that I chose life, and reject fear and indecision. Specifically, I respected God and His guidance, but I refused to allow Him to manipulate my free will, and was clear in my mind that He had no say on my decisions unless I chose to allow Him to have His say. Hence I called myself a free woman of complicated faith.
Today, I don’t call my faith complicated, I call it Christian. But I haven’t come back to follow the crowd. It’s true that growing up, in receipt of Catholic education at school and at church before every Sunday Mass, I genuinely believed that homosexuality was wrong. It was what I was brought up to believe, amongst other things. This was, of course, before my gender dysphoria started to eat my time and mind at age 11. My gender dysphoria experience is detailed here.
Are homosexual acts sinful? Is transitioning genders wrong in God’s eye? Deuteronomy 22:5 from the Bible states that, “A woman must not wear men’s clothing, nor a man wear women’s clothing, for the Lord your God detests anyone who does this”. It should be contextually noted that Deuteronomy chapters 12–26 make up the laws given to the non-Christian Israelites toward the end of their 40 years in the wilderness but before entering the promised land. These laws includes the condoning of slavery and the death penalty, amongst other laws that today we would not consider to be Christian. Yet the use of Deuteronomy 22:5 to argue against gender transition is treated as the exception to the rule, for reasons I’ve yet to hear explained logically.
The truth is that Deuteronomy 22:5 was a prohibition against engaging in heathen practices. Pagan worship practice at the time involved men dressing as women and vice versa, so God was simply warning them to avoid those pagan practices, because it could enable practices such as the worship of pagan idols. In other words, God isn’t concerned about clothes or gender identity, but the attitude of your heart. Specifically, according to 1 Samuel 16:7, “The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart”. It must take a lot of faith to think that verse 5 so clearly applies to transgender people today, and yet the other verses apply to no one else.
Then there’s Genesis 1:27, which states that, “God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them”, for the ultimate purpose of union and procreation. But God doesn’t have arms and legs like we do. He obviously made most of us categorically male and female as a convenient way to keep human beings around generation after generation. However, “his own image” is not a reference to our physical bodies. As human beings, we are not clones of each other, and each of us are unique, hence the semi-colon in “he created them; male and female”.
God’s overarching plan for humanity may have well been that for man and woman to enter into faithful, exclusive and lifelong union, but that wasn’t the only plan. If it was the only plan, the Bible would be as thin as a rail, and the world would be a very boring place, antithetical to people’s need for (inter)personal growth. Personal growth that would honour God’s plan for them. Not every woman is able to bear children for example, and there’s neuroscientific studies, besides similar studies pointing to the natural occurrence of homosexuality, to show that trans people’s brains are wired to their gender identity rather than their ‘biological sex’. I am not God’s mistake, rather, I worship with my spirit, which was made in the image of God.
God has a plan for everyone, and it’s not the same for everyone. Otherwise the vow of celibacy wouldn’t exist, amongst other nuances, that contradict God’s union plan for man and woman. We’re all sinners, and it is through sin and moving beyond sin do we grow. God’s plan for you is for you to understand between you and God. By extension, the Bible may be Holy, but it is Holy to the extent that they’re written, collated and handed down by people in accordance with their individual understandings of their plans with God. That is a series of complex snapshots that collectively reflect the authors’ historical and intellectual underpinnings.
It’s worth noting, for example in the same-sex marriage debate context, that we tend to forget that marriage is Biblically understood to be a covenant involving God and spouse, not a modern Western-style contract. Contracts protect ourselves because contracts are inherently fragile, and covenants go beyond the fragility of contracts.
If the Bible is to be treated as a guide, as it has been, rather than literally, with contexts that may or may not apply today depending on the circumstances, then said treatment should be consistent, and thereby inclusive of interpretations. By the same token, the Bible isn’t wrong overall. It’s a great compilation of books actually, with powerful stories that have both Christian and secular meaning. It’s just that it needs to be read with the intellectual rigour and suitable application intent of today, consistently.
It’s also worth noting that ‘homosexual’ has not always been referenced in the Bible. Originally the word ‘arsenokoitai’ showed up in two different verses of the Bible, but it was not translated to mean ‘homosexual’ until after World War II. ‘Arsenokoitai’ actually refers to “abusers of themselves with mankind” in the context of pederasty, hardly a reference to consenting adult homosexuality. Then there’s ‘malakoi’, paired in context with ‘arsenokoitai’ in 1 Corinthians 6:9–10, unintentionally a possible reference to transwomen at one point. Realistically, ‘malakoi’ is a reference to what was considered undesirable traits associated with women, femininity, or non-masculinity. Again, nothing to do with homosexuality.
Above all, being a Christian isn’t about sin-avoidance, but about being truly alive in Christ. God’s grace is above the Law, and God wants you to live an authentic life of who you are, spreading his love through your actions. God is more interested in how much love you give rather than how much sin you’ve avoided. When Jesus came he made it clear that He is the fulfillment of the Law and his standard is love. All the commandments are summed up and fulfilled in the two new commandments: love God and love your neighbour. It’s not about clothes or gender identity, rather, it’s about God loving us so much that God gave His only Son to cover us all with the “blood of forgiveness” so the Law would be fulfilled and complete.
At the end of the day, God’s plan for you is for you to understand between you and God. You should never allow anyone else to dictate what that plan is. The role that the Bible plays in helping you understand God’s plan for you is, likewise, between you and God. Granted, there’s one thing that I believe should have much less room for Biblical interpretation than others, and that is the human taking away of life. Besides the fact that the taking away of life is the ultimate form of playing God, all human lives are precious, since “God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them”.
All human lives are worthy of God’s love, which is why I cannot not be pro-life. I’ve written about my views on abortion previously here, but to be specific, I’m pro-life cradle to grave. I’ve attempted to end my life in the past. This is why euthanasia and assisted suicide should not be legalised. If the pro-choicers really cared, they’d support the introduction of right-to-try in Australia instead. But it’s also important to recognise that cherishing life as pro-lifers should not just be about the cradle and the grave, it should also be about (living) people between the cradle and the grave.
LGBTQIA people who are between the cradle and the grave, like everyone else, are human. I believe that it’s fair to say that in Christianity’s more recent history, for reasons highlighted in this blog post, LGBTQIA people don’t necessarily feel welcome in the Church. As Christians, and pro-lifers, if we cherish life, then we need to be reasonable in our interaction with LGBTQIA people. As a pro-life Christian, and a transgender lesbian, I don’t see why LGBTQIA people couldn’t have a place in the Church, just like everybody else.