2013 Rally for Transgender Equality in Washington, D.C.
2013 Rally for Transgender Equality in Washington, D.C. Photo by Ted Eytan, via Wikimedia Commons.

Why transgender issues are Humanist issues

Today’s guest column is written by Brynn Tannehill, a writer, advocate, veteran, and Director of Advocacy at SPART*A, a national LGBT Service-members organization.

2013 Rally for Transgender Equality in Washington, D.C.

2013 Rally for Transgender Equality in Washington, D.C. Photo by Ted Eytan, via Wikimedia Commons.

Two of the core principles of Humanism are the value of the individual and rational, evidenced-based thinking. Our culture is failing miserably at both when it comes to the transgender community—which is why Humanist voices are greatly needed.

Hostility towards transgender people usually comes from a literalistic reading of two biblical verses, which then gives people justification for denying gender identity. When anti-transgender justifications come from pockets of atheists, they also ignore the evidence that contradicts their perspective. This denial of identity effectively “un-persons” transgender people.

The individuals and groups that attempt to push their religious or secular anti-transgender ideas on everyone else in turn reject over 120 peer reviewed journal articles showing the biological origins of gender identity. As a result, they continue to push transgender people towards discredited reparative therapies—which are no more successful at changing gender identity than sexual orientation, because the two have similar and related biological origins.

The anti-scientific propaganda talking points against transgender people are legion. There are myths about transgender youth that are rarely challenged. People who reject what science and evidence say about gender identity often resort to misusing, misquoting, or misrepresenting actual research to deny transgender people access to medically necessary care. The level of misinformation and innate hostility regarding transgender people requires both a lack of empathy, and willful ignorance of scientific consensus.

To be clear: every major medical, psychological, and psychiatric professional organization in America recognizes that gender identity exists, that transgender people exist, and that access to medical care is vital. The American Psychiatric Association emphasizes a gender identity different than the sex you were assigned at birth is not a mental illness, stating: “It is important to note gender nonconformity is not in itself a mental illness.”

Instead of relying on the overwhelming consensus of all the available evidence, those who wish us harm trot out one or two highly biased researchers, whose work has long been discredited for poor design and lack of reproducibility.

Another critical area in which Humanism fails the transgender community is the wholesale cultural dehumanization of transgender people.

Clobber verses like Deuteronomy 22:5—“A woman shall not wear a man's garment, nor shall a man put on a woman's cloak, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord your God”—are used by biblical literalists to paint transgender people as something God hates. (They then conveniently forget that the next verse in Deuteronomy forbids taking birds out of their nests.)

The consequences of labeling people as “abominations” or “mentally ill” results in cultural narratives and that are frightening in their breadth.

Perhaps the most damaging narrative is that transgender people are perverts and pedophiles. This lie is common, was also used against lesbians and gays, and is pushed by public figures like the Duggars of TLC’s “19 Kids and Counting.”

The statistical effects of a dehumanizing approach to transgender people are horrific. The suicide attempt rate runs at 41 percent for adults, and 57 percent for transgender youth living in non-supportive homes. Access to medically necessary health care is routinely blocked by those who reject the scientific evidence, even though it has been shown to reduce attempt rates by up to 84 percent (Murad 2010, De Cuypere 2006, Kuiper 1988, Gorton 2011, Clements-Nolle 2006). Transgender people also experience staggering levels of poverty, despite being highly educated.

Nowhere, though, is the effect of dehumanization seen more clearly than in statistics surrounding violence against transgender women, particularly transgender women of color. According to 2012 statistics from the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, most anti-LGBT hate crimes murders (54 percent) were against transgender women, and 87 percent of those women were people of color (TWOC).

In relative terms this means that transgender women as a whole are four times more likely to be killed in a hate crime than a gay man, and TWOC are 32 times more likely. Most frighteningly, transgender women weren’t more likely to be attacked than gay men— but they were far more likely to be hospitalized or killed when they were.

In short: when we are attacked, whatever part of the attacker’s mind that tells them to stop before they kill a person is countered by the barrage of messages that transgender women are sexual predators, pedophiles, perverts, deviants, and abominations.

This is why the transgender community needs the voices and values of Humanists; we are not seen as human, and it is literally killing us.

Brynn Tannehill

Brynn Tannehill. Photo courtesy of Tannehill.

Brynn Tannehill is a writer, advocate, veteran, and Director of Advocacy at SPART*A, a national LGBT Service-members organization. She began transitioning in 2010, and has since written over 100 LGBT related articles. Brynn serves on the board of directors with PFLAG Dayton and Equality Ohio and frequently speaks on transgender issues, including giving the keynote addresses at the Pittsburgh TransPride Conference and the Louisville Transgender Day of Remembrance Observance. She was named to the Trans 100 List in 2014. Brynn and her partner Janis currently live in Ohio with their three children.

Comments

  1. “The anti-scientific propaganda talking points against transgender people are legion.”

    The important explanation for gender confused sodomy that you left out is keyed to that word “legion”. (See Mark 5:1-20, esp. v9) I don’t see any indication that gender confusion is mental illness, as the Bible says clear enough that sodomy and being an effeminate male is a sin that saved people do not commit (1Cor. 6:9), and there is a presence of unclean spirits working in children of disobedience. (Eph 2:1)

  2. Correction: Please revise the King James Bible reference in last sentence from Eph. 2:1 to Eph. 2:2.

  3. Ted, you seem to be unaware of what transgender looks like in real life. Being transgender does not make someone gay. I know transgender people who are not interested in sex at all.

    To understand a little better, can I suggest you watch the video at the top of this link, about a transman (born female) in the US military:
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/for-transgender-service-members-concept-of-dont-ask-dont-tell-remains-a-reality/2014/04/26/c0597936-ccb6-11e3-93eb-6c0037dde2ad_story.html

    Your hard heart is revealed in the verses you have chosen. Looking at 1 Corinthians chapter 13, how do you see your words fitting in that passage?

    Transgender is a completely separate issue to sodomy, but transgender is exceedingly similar to what the Bible refers to as a eunuch.

    There is not a single bible verse that says that being an effeminate male is a sin. On the contrary there are several Bible verses which affirm eunuchs, who were most certainly “effeminate male”. Do you really know what a eunuch is, Ted?

    Isaiah affirmed eunuchs in Isaiah 56:3-8, the same passage in which he said us Gentiles are acceptable to God, too.

    Stephen baptised a eunuch (Acts 8:38). Being castrated and effeminate was no impediment to being baptised.

    Jesus, himself, said that it’s good for us to live like a eunuch, if we’re called to that kind of life (Matthew 19:12).

  4. You’re absurd. One only need to look at the pic of the sodomite who penned the article destroys your assertions. Biblical eunuchs (Mat. 19:12), whether an XXY male “which were so born from their mother’s womb”, one emasculated by men or by accident, or one that is abstaining from wedlock, is not an effeminate man. Castration alone does not make a man effeminate. You need look no farther than at the Brynn Tannehill abomination pictured in the article to see what effeminate looks like. You can see what it acts like when a dude acts like a chick. Simple as that. It can also refer to persons in general who are guilty of addiction to sins of the flesh, according to Vine’s Bible dictionary.

    As for accusations of me being unloving for calling sin the abhorrent abomination that it is, sitting in your comfort zone attempting to justify sin and making sinners feel comfortable in their sins, while failing to warn them of the wrath of God to come for their sins (which Jesus did, Mat. 4:17) is as diabolically unloving as anyone can be. What does it cost you to be so loving? My Lord died for us while we were yet in complete rebellion against God, and that is the godly definition of love (Jn. 15:13). Quite the contrast to the squishy “follow my heart” nonsense that heathens practice, with their alarmingly high divorce rates and frequency of adultery and fornications, sacrificially cheap and self-serving in every respect.

    “There is not a single bible verse that says that being an effeminate male is a sin.” False. I cited one. Perhaps you aren’t using the King James Bible or other faithful English translation of the preserved manuscripts, such as the Geneva Bible?

  5. Fortunately not all Ted’s think the same way…

    As pointed out in the article, the ones in the medical profession, taking care of people every day, recognize the humanity of all beings, including people who are gender non-conforming and transgender.

    This recognition will continue to spread across society as more people are able to receive medically supervised care and express their identity and comfortable societal role. It has been a long time coming; we are happy to speed it along.

    People who continue to use inaccurate terms and silly labels to try and categorize others simply support the assertions in the article through their inhuman points of view. Fortunately, though, they will receive great medical care because they are human beings, too.

    Keep up the great work, Brynn.

  6. Ted, you didn’t go back and read 1 Corinthians chapter 13, did you?

    I’m guessing you didn’t watch the video at the top of my link, or else you’d know I was talking about Landon Wilson, who is a “chick” who acts like a “dude” to use your delightful phraseology:
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/for-transgender-service-members-concept-of-dont-ask-dont-tell-remains-a-reality/2014/04/26/c0597936-ccb6-11e3-93eb-6c0037dde2ad_story.html#sthash.ulq4RwBM.dpuf

    I’m not sure why you mention “Brynn Tannehill” at all, I guess the adverts you get on that page are different to the ones I get.

    I have read the Bible through cover-to-cover in 5 different translations, NIV, AMP, NKJV, CEV, MSG. My apologies if that doesn’t meet your standards!

    You clearly believe that your opinions ring with divine truth. From the tone of your response, I know there is no point arguing with you. You have embraced PRIDE over LOVE.

    “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.”
    — Ephesians 2:8-9 (KJV)

    When you call someone an abomination, you sound very pious, but I know that you do not have love in your heart. Calling someone an abomination is causing harm.

    “for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.”
    — Matthew 12:34 (KVJ)

    “Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.”
    — Romans 13:10 (KJV)

    Castration does not make a man a sodomite, but it does feminise them. It has done so down through all the ages, which is the reason why such men were excluded from participation in the religious life of the Ancient Jews (Deuteronomy 23:1).

    No, I do not live in some comfort zone. I live on the front-line, loving my neighbour even if my Christian sisters and brothers hate and revile them. I know what it feels like to be excluded, rejected and suffer prejudice. I know what it feels like to be spat upon, and to look death in the eye and be glad if it happened. What do you know of pain, Ted?

    “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”
    — John 13:35 (KJV)

  7. Ted, there is a difference between calling someone’s action an abomination and calling the person themselves an abomination.

    You have obviously made great sacrifices to pursue your beliefs. Why do you resent others who question making that sacrifice before taking the leap of faith? From my perspective it’s prudence and wisdom which creates the caution, although I don’t know how you would view it.

    You mention the importance of an accurate translation. I agree that translation is complicated and accuracy (especially for the most important text in your life) is crucial to true understanding.

    I question whether earlier translations are more accurate simply for being older, especially because the English language has changed significantly over the past fifty years, (let alone several hundred years). Since word meanings have changed, it may be more difficult for a modern speaker to get at the original meaning of the text (which they are unable to read) when reading a very old translation.

    The Geneva Bible which you laud had several significant flaws.

    Matthew 5:9 read “Blessed are the placemakers, for they shall be called children of God”.

    Worse, Luke 21 has “Christ condemneth the poor widow” instead of Christ commending the poor widow.

    For some people over the course of history, this translation was the only access they had to scripture, so the flaws are significant to the history of salvation, even if they have been corrected in modern times.

    But if we are going to discuss abominations, we should be perfectly clear about them. Jesus came not to abolish the law, but to fulfill it. Eating shellfish is an abomination, as is eating pork, any animal fat or blood as well as trimming hair and beards [for both men and women–and yes, Ted, some of us ladies get rather elegant beards if we don’t trim them = ) ]

    Paul changed the teaching of Jesus to make the gospel easier for gentiles to accept. [The adult male circumcision was turning many prosperous men off, much more than never being able to eat pork.] Understandable, considering he was trying to get as many Christians as possible for the return of Christ, which he expected in his lifetime.

    [You’re Biblically literate, so references and verbatim quotations would just be overkill.]

    Christ urged his followers to remove the plank from their own eye before pointing out the splinter in someone else’s. Considering how much of the law you have neglected (wearing mixed fibers, I’m sure), there’s quite a bit of work left to do. Be a light to the world, practice before you presume to preach.

  8. Someday, some of you unter-fundamentalists will actually understand your bible. Maybe you’ll even learn some facts. It’s even possible that your very hard hearts will learn something called compassion, rather than mistaking your hardness of heart for that which you derisively label as “love”.

    “You need look no farther than at the Brynn Tannehill abomination pictured in the article to see what effeminate looks like.” so much for love the sinner hate the sin, which is unbiblical in any case. But hello to slander and reviling.

    “Quite the contrast to the squishy “follow my heart” nonsense that heathens practice, with their alarmingly high divorce rates and frequency of adultery and fornications, sacrificially cheap and self-serving in every respect.” Funny how the states with the highest degrees of religiosity are the same states with the highest degrees of divorce and teenage pregnancy. not to mention that pesky or reviling and slandering. The same is also true throughout the world. This abstract of a summary of hundreds of studies gets you some real facts, as opposed to made-up ones.

    http://www.pitzer.edu/academics/faculty/zuckerman/Zuckerman_on_Atheism.pdf

    as for the complete lack of compassion you demonstrate throughout your screeds? Well, that’s merely informed by your lack of facts. You may consider yourself saved. I suspect your god, however, is much greater than you are.

  9. And thank the great Ted that not all Teds see themselves as some old testament prophet, raving about other people’s alleged sins.

  10. This is a very important article. I wish the Christian literalists (when it suits their issue) could and would walk a mile in the shoes of all the people they pillory. I challenge them to imagine, and act, for just one day what it would be like to have one physical gender, but to have an internal identity and personality that is 100% opposite – and that’s the easy situation. There are other situations in which people are born with mixed physical sexual organs – and are sometimes assigned a sex at birth, followed up with surgery that cannot possible have been done knowing what the person’s internal compass is. I pray God give us all more compassion and a lot less condemnation. Peace to all this Thanksgiving weekend.

  11. Why, when 99.9% of the gender confusion comes from sodomite males, do you want to focus on a woman who wants to be a man? Because that’s what liberals do to overthrow decency. When lobbying for abortion, the pro-abortion harpies will magnify the hard case of a rape or incest and argue that as need for unrestricted abortion on demand. The end game is murder on demand as a safeguard against the unintended inconvenient consequences for serial adulteries and fornications. But I say let’s look at the typical gender confused effeminate, namely the author of the article I am commenting on and I assume you are as well, “Why Transgender Issues Are Humanist Issues” written by the man “Brynn” Tannehill as a guest in Chris Stedman’s “Fathiest” column.

    By your advocating for this issue you are advocating for continued descent into further depravity. It doesn’t end well. See the ending verses of Lev 18 and complemented in Romans 1 for what is happening to this country and where the filth advocates are taking us. The Bible says love covers the multitude of sins, and that love is the shed blood of Jesus for your sins, not for you to continue in them but to repent of them and follow him. You may choose to have compassion for sodomites, that’s fine and godly, but without reproof, or worse yet to affirm their sinfulness, your motives are vain and ultimately useless, and you should expect to be held liable for your part in them.

  12. “Ted, there is a difference between calling someone’s action an abomination and calling the person themselves an abomination. ”
    Lauren,
    Revelation 21:8 of the King James says the abominable will be cast into the lake of fire.

    “You have obviously made great sacrifices to pursue your beliefs. Why do you resent others who question making that sacrifice before taking the leap of faith? ”

    God sacrificed his only begotten Son, for my gain. Whatever I have lost is as dung to me now, as Paul said. So no, I have not made any great sacrifices. And who am I resenting for taking a leap of faith?

    Regarding translations, my belief is in divine preservation carried out by those who love Jesus. (John 14:23) Thus, the Received Text (RT), literally translated by those who tremble at God’s Word are able to produce faithful translations. While you mention a couple of spelling errors in the Geneva, they are easy to spot because they don’t line up with other Scripture and we can check it (as well as the King James) against the original Greek. If you study defenses of the King James, you will find mainly that among those doing the work of the “modern” translations (based on the Westcott & Hort work) were unsaved, did not believe it to be inspired, and introduced all sorts of doctrinal problems in going about their work. The link on my username has an article about some of these. There’s also an article at that site entitled “Is the King James Bible Hard To Understand?” It’s not, but it helps to have a version with uncommon words defined however.

    “But if we are going to discuss abominations, we should be perfectly clear about them. Jesus came not to abolish the law, but to fulfill it. Eating shellfish is an abomination, as is eating pork, any animal fat or blood as well as trimming hair and beards [for both men and women–and yes, Ted, some of us ladies get rather elegant beards if we don’t trim them = ) ] “-Lauren Beck

    You should go back and review those verses in context. Eating shellfish is declared to be an abomination to the children of Israel, whereas sodomy and other such moral affronts are an abomination to God. This is typical of the failed attempt to make the law against sodomy equivalent to the dietary laws, which don’t apply to the New Testament Christian anyway unless he is convicted about it or has a “weak” brother who is.

    “Paul changed the teaching of Jesus to make the gospel easier for gentiles to accept.”

    You are so far off here I’m not sure if you are really so ignorant or really a wolf. Paul also says in the passage “Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?…For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day.” Acts 15:10,21) The law as a schoolmaster is what brings the sinner to Christ. And as for the edifications beyond Acts 15:20, those came then to the new churches by prophesying which we now have in the written epistles. Paul did not change the teachings of Jesus, not one jot nor one tittle.

    [The adult male circumcision was turning many prosperous men off, much more than never being able to eat pork.]
    This statement is stunning for it’s lack of understanding to the point of near sacrilege. God has never changed his message, especially not to pragmatically lure more “prosperous” men to the faith. (1Cor 1:29!!!) Romans 2:29 says why physical circumcision is not required. If you are merely ignorant of the matter, you’d do well to study Romans 2-3 regarding circumcision, Galatians regarding the law as applies to the NT believers, and 2 Cor 2 concerning the relationship of Jesus to the law. Mainly the law was the aura that shined from behind the veil that covered Jesus until his arrival and ministry. Men are not justified by it, but condemned by it, and can be saved by faith in him who fulfilled it.

    “Understandable, considering he was trying to get as many Christians as possible for the return of Christ, which he expected in his lifetime. ”

    The message was never compromised for the sake of numbers. That message he preached was the Gospel, pure, preached, and foolishness to those who were lost. 1 Cor 1-2.

    “Christ urged his followers to remove the plank from their own eye before pointing out the splinter in someone else’s. Considering how much of the law you have neglected (wearing mixed fibers, I’m sure), there’s quite a bit of work left to do. ”

    Again, you indicate a troubling lack of discernment. The plank vs. speck “judge not” command means don’t judge hypocritically. The mixing of fibers is an OT teaching which I interpret (as always) in light of the new. The NT says “put ye on the Lord Jesus” and “put ye off the old man of the flesh”. Don’t mix the two “garments”. I still have the dead old man of sin to deal with, and you can probably see how the two shouldn’t be worn together. I wouldn’t go downtown shooting pool and drinking beer while handing out Bible tracts and trying to be an evangelist. It’d be a hypocritical mixing of two threads in what should be a pure garment. And the pool-shooting beer drinking garment should be left to hang where he was nailed when I became born again.

    Now let’s look at a verse that speaks directly to the sin under question: Sodomy and of men trying sexually to be women:

    “What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.” Romans 6:15.

  13. thank you chris and brynn for bringing this topic about those of us who are transgender to light, in a kind, thoughtful and loving way…

    it is an issue on many different levels. yes, it is a “humanist issue”. it is a very “real issue” that “time” magazine featured exclusively on their cover earlier this year about transgender awareness and visibility. it is at a “turning point”…

    most of all we are people who just want to live our authentic lives. we are caring, we have feelings and most of all we are just asking for respect.

    many of us knew we were different early in our lives. it was who we were from birth. now we are stepping forward proudly, knowing that being transgender is not an abomination. it is who we are.

    we are a part of this world. just wanting to be accepted to live our lives just like you. nothing more, nothing less.

    a few in the religious community may condemn us for who we are. not all… many that i know who follow their faith accept us with open arms. i personally have felt their warmth and love. that is the “god” that i know…

    i am proud of who i am as transgender woman, knowing so many who have been with me on my journey. “family and friends”. “transgender sisters and brothers”. “co-workers and those that i may meet with a smile and simple conversation during the day”. most of all it is “real love”… “the real world”…

    love and peace,
    carla

  14. Transgender issues are definitely “imperfection” issues since we inherited imperfection and sin from our sinful parents (Romans 12:5), Adam and Eve… 🙁

    Those issues will be non-existent in the new world ahead of us on earth, fully cleansed of all bad influences and systems when God’s kingdom or heavenly government gets rid of the sin and imperfection we inherited from Adam and Eve. 😀 (Revelation. 2-:1-4)

  15. Man’s ways are of the Lord, so how can we understand our own ways?…..Proverbs 20:24

    A simple way of declaring who is responsible for LGBT’s.

  16. This kind of ignorance, of which you seem inordinately proud in your (so-called) Christian rush to exclude and condemn other people, shows a great deal of EVERYTHING that your lord and master condemned..

    A brief– and I mean 30 second– internet search on “intersex” shows a wealth of information on the subject– none of which coincides with your opinions on the subject. More reviling and slander from the professionally ignorant.

    But please, keep talking. People who are kind and decent, who value knowledge and compassion, see you for who you are.

  17. 3 out of 4 transsexuals are male-to-female (MTF)
    1 out of 4 transsexuals are female-to-male (FTM)
    http://tgmentalhealth.com/tag/prevalence/

    Women in Western culture frequently wear masculine clothes, with no fear whatsoever that Deuteronomy 22:5 will be enforced against them, even in church! Maybe that is why there are fewer FTM transsexuals.

  18. I appreciate this article immensely. It has provided a wealth of evidence based information about trans related issues. Definitely a useful resource.

    Wrt Ted #1, its a shame that a hateful, religious bigot has been allowed to spew his bile. His dehumanizing words should not be given a platform. To do so gives the impression he has something worth discussing. He does not. He is religious bigotry personified.

  19. Kind and decent sodomites?Abomination by any other name.

Leave a Comment