Recommended Resources on Transgender
Transgender is one of the most prominent topics in cultural discussion and debate at the moment. It’s also one of the most complicated. Christians who want to partake in the conversation well must engage with theology, biology, psychology, philosophy and politics, all the while keeping in mind that this it is ultimately a topic about people created and loved by God many of whom are experiencing considerable distress. While society has moved very fast, Christians have been somewhat slower to understand and respond well. There are, however, a growing number of useful resources. Here are my top recommendations.
The resources are divided up into several categories, with top recommendations provided for each. I have indicated the level of each resource using the following classifications: Basic (B), Intermediate (I), and Advanced (A). I should note that while I have found all of these resources helpful, I would not necessarily endorse all that they say and/or how they say it.
The first step to responding to any topic well is to understand it properly. With a complex topic like transgender this is not an easy task.
Nicholas Teich, Transgender 101: A Simple Guide to a Complex Issue (B)
A basic introduction from a secular writer. Teich introduces the concept of transgender and then looks at topics such as coming out as trans, different forms of transitioning, the history of transgender, discrimination and other types of transgender such as genderqueer and drag queens. Helpful for understanding transgender from a secular perspective.
Az Hakeem (ed.), Trans: Exploring Gender Identity and Gender Dysphoria (I)
A fascinating book consisting of contributions from medical professionals, academics and transgender individuals and providing a detailed introduction to the various forms of gender dysphoria and both psychological and physiological approaches to managing it, as well as insights into the life experience of trans people and transgender politics. Especially helpful in its attempt to acknowledge the diversity of experiences under the transgender/gender dysphoria umbrella and the variety of approaches which can then be taken.
These resources offer a general Christian response to the topic or tackle one of the big practical questions.
Vaughan Roberts, Transgender (B)
A very short (80 page) introduction to the topic and the key elements of a Christian response, focusing in on how the Bible’s big story should shape our response.
Andrew Walker, God and the Transgender Debate: What Does the Bible Actually Say About Gender Identity? (I)
Probably the best popular-level overall treatment of the topic currently available. Walker covers most of the key elements of the conversation including the right heart response, what the Bible says, how the church should respond and the big practical questions. There is a particularly helpful chapter on talking to children about gender.
Mark Yarhouse, Understanding Gender Dysphoria: Navigating Transgender Issues in a Changing Culture (I)
Yarhouse is a professor of psychology who draws upon his professional experience and understanding in order to help produce a Christian response. This is a helpful resource for understanding gender dysphoria (e.g. symptoms, prevalence, management techniques etc.) While his theological response is helpful, I would not fully endorse all his conclusions. Lectures on the topic by Yarhouse are also easy to find online.
Evangelical Alliance, ‘Transformed’
A booklet and videos designed to help the church begin to think about the topic and how Christians should think and respond to it. A helpful (and free!) resource.
Brian Seagraves & Hunter Leavine, Gender: A Conversation Guide for Parents and Pastors (B)
As the book itself explains: ‘Rather be too early than too late. We obviously want to be age-appropriate with children, but we also need to be proactive, not reactive. The nature of this guide is to help you start the conversation with your children before others do.’ Brief (less than 80 pages) but helpful, with chapters focussed on under 7s, 7-11s, and 12s+, as well as basic intros to the key issues and common objections.
Gregory Coles, ‘What Pronouns Should Christians Use for Transgender People?’ (Pastoral Paper 11 at The Centre for Faith, Sexuality & Gender) (I)
The best, most-thorough Christian response I have found on this key question. Coles makes a compelling case for ‘pronoun accommodation’ arguing from the nature of how language works.
You can also find my take on a Christian response to transgender in a session at Newday 2019 here.
The Bible and Transgender
Preston Sprinkle, ‘A Biblical Conversation About Transgender Identities’ (Pastoral Paper 12 at The Centre for Faith, Sexuality & Gender) (I)
A brief paper seeking ‘to understand what the Bible says about the categories of male and female as they relate to questions about transgender (and non-binary) identities’. Faithful exegesis, clear line of argument, and all with wonderful Christian compassion.
Robert Smith, ‘Responding to the Transgender Revolution’ (A)
Smith introduces key terms and explores contemporary gender theory before a thorough biblical and theological exploration concluding with some brief reflections on the practical impact of his findings. While there are places where I would want to use different language, it offers a helpful analysis of cultural thinking and a good theological treatment of the topic.
Evaluations of Affirming Approaches
The dominant view in society (at least by prominence even if not by number of supporters) is that those who experience gender dysphoria and/or who identify as transgender should transition (whether just socially or also medically) to live in line with gender identity. This is a serious enough suggestion that it deserves thorough examination.
Ryan Anderson, When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment (I)
An evaluation of the affirming approach to transgender which draws from research in biology, psychology and philosophy and provides good evidence to question the wisdom of transitioning as the best path for those with gender dysphoria. Includes a helpful chapter on ‘Childhood Dysphoria and Desistance’.
Mark Yarhouse & Julia Sadusky, ’A Christian Survey of Sex Reassignment Surgery and Hormone Therapy’ (Pastoral Paper 10 at The Centre for Faith, Sexuality & Gender) (I)
It is hard to find reliable research on the effectiveness of medical interventions designed to alleviate gender dysphoria. This paper does a good job of summarising the current state of research. Yarhouse and Sadusky summarise and evaluate the research which has been published, as well as briefly discussing the experience of detransitioners, trends among teenagers identifying as trans, and alternative management strategies for dysphoria.
The Bigger Cultural Picture
While transgender is a distinct topic to sexuality, much of the underpinning for the secular approach to trans is the same as that for secular views on sexuality and therefore my top recommendations here are the same as those I have previously given on sexuality.
Glynn Harrison, A Better Story: God, Sex & Human Flourishing (I)
Harrison analyses the sexual revolution and what underpins modern secular views on sexuality and gender. He reveals the problems with the secular view and presents the better story which Christianity can offer.
Nancy Pearcey, Love Thy Body: Answering Hard Questions About Life and Sexuality (A)
Love Thy Body exposes and critiques the secular worldview which rejects the body and prioritises the true, inner self. Pearcey includes a chapter on how this worldview is seen in secular views on trans. See a summary here.
Tim Keller on Identity (I)
At Living Out’s Identity in Christ conference last year, Tim Keller taught on the understanding of identity that often underpins secular understandings of trans and gave a Christian response to this understanding. Incredibly helpful for understanding how things are viewed in our culture and how the gospel offers a better way. You can find session summaries and a link to the videos here.