- October 14, 2015
Post submitted by HRC Religion and Faith Program Assistant Justin Davis
Conservative evangelical Christians have long been at the forefront of opposition to LGBT equality. Their voices have consistently remained some of the loudest critics of marriage equality and anti-discrimination protections, and they have too often consistently suggested that embracing LGBT identity and Christian faith are mutually exclusive.
As the LGBT movement continues to witness legal victories and change hearts and minds, these anti-equality leaders appear desperate to find new targets for their bigotry and are, therefore, increasingly taking aim at the transgender community.
Last Monday, the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors in conjunction with the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood hosted a one-day conference on “Transgender Confusion and Transformational Christianity,” which they touted as the first ever evangelical conference on transgender people.
Since I grew up in a conservative evangelical environment and went through years of reparative therapy myself, I decided to attend the conference. As a staff member of HRC’s Religion & Faith Program, I thought it was important to be present to hear any developing messaging and theology around gender identity and transgender people.
More than a thousand attendees, mostly biblical counselors, met at the fundamentalist Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, where speakers advocated what they described as “biblical” gender roles and strict parenting as a means of preventing and responding to “gender confusion” in children. Presenters, including Southern’s president, Dr. Al Mohler, said that parents should not support or encourage their gender non-conforming or transgender child under any condition.
At the heart of this conversation was the contention that anything outside the realm of traditional gender expression or traditional marriage and sexuality was sinful and something that needed to be changed. While Mohler made a point to distinguish between sexual orientation and gender identity, he and the other speakers returned again and again to the idea that all LGBT identities are “distorting” gender.
In many ways, attending this conference was like stepping back in time to an era when LGBT people were widely labeled as disordered and diseased and in need of “fixing,” ideas to which proponents of the dangerous and widely debunked practice of so-called “conversion” or “reparative” therapy continue to hold fast.
Nonetheless, the speakers at this conference–none of whom were professional therapists or medical providers––dusted off the same tired arguments they have long used against same-sex couples to attack transgender people, going against the accepted wisdom of every major medical organization.
Despite continued use of ideas and language that stigmatize LGBT people, incremental change seems to be occurring even among Southern Baptists. The Association of Certified Biblical Counselors denounced conversion therapy in November of 2014 and Mohler did likewise just last week.
"The Christian Church has sinned against the LGBT community by responding to this challenge in a superficial way,” Mohler said. “It's not something that is so simple as converting from homosexual to heterosexual, and from our Gospel-centered theological understanding that would not be sufficient."
Despite their rhetoric, I and other LGBT Christians know that faith and transgender identity are in no way in conflict and that parents, families and friends who support their transgender loved ones and affirm their identities are demonstrating the same kind of unconditional love and acceptance shown by Christ himself. We look forward to a day when our fellow evangelicals can join us in embracing LGBT people of faith and stop asking us to choose between who we are, whom we love and what we believe.
For more information on HRC’s religion and faith work, visit hrc.org/topics/religion-faith.