To a Christian Thinking of Transitioning

Ashleigh Hull
Articles 4 mins
Found in: Identity

Dear Christian,

To state the obvious, I don’t know you. I don’t know your story, your experience, your pain, your joys, or how you’ve come to a place where the title of this article resonates with you. That makes it hard for me to offer you any specific counsel. But I do care. I care about you, your story and your experience, and I’d like to offer four pieces of advice that I hope will be helpful to you.1

#1 – Find wise counsellors

I wish I did know you. I wish that I could come alongside you and walk through this with you, so you’d know you’re not alone in it. My first piece of advice aims to secure that for you.

That first piece of advice is this – find someone (or several someones) who love you and who love Jesus. Ideally, find people who know him better than you do.

You need people who can journey and wrestle alongside you. 

You need people who can journey and wrestle alongside you. That's the case for everything in the Christian life, and questions around gender are no different. Proverbs puts it simply – ‘Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counsellors there is safety’ (Proverbs 11:14). Making our decisions alone is unwise and even arrogant. We don’t know everything! We often can’t see past our own biases or assumptions. Inviting other people into our decision-making process means we can make wiser decisions. By inviting others in, we’re acknowledging that we don’t know everything, and we’re seeking to learn from the experience, insight and perspectives of others. So find yourself an abundance of counsellors, and invite them into these questions with you.

We can of course learn a lot from people who aren’t following Jesus. But when we put our faith in Jesus, we become a ‘new creation’ (2 Corinthians 5:17) – God has ‘delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son’ (Colossians 1:13). We are not who we were. Our worldview, motivations and goals are now all at odds with those of this world. So as you are seeking your abundance of counsellors, ensure that they are Christians – people whose perspectives and aspirations are shaped by God and his Scriptures, rather than by the world you no longer belong to.

#2 – Listen to all sides

Secondly, make sure you’ve heard all sides of this conversation. Our socials and browsers are coded to figure out what we like and want to hear and then to give us more of that. So while you may think that you’re hearing a full and balanced view on gender, trans experience, transitioning, and so on, it might actually only be a small segment of the whole picture.

I would encourage you to actively seek out the kinds of things you might not want to hear. Listen to the stories of detransitioners or of people who experience gender dysphoria and have chosen not to transition. Listen to medical experts on the details, side effects, long-term effects (if any are known) and reversibility of medical interventions. Read the things you’ve been told are dangerous to read. After all, how can you make an informed decision if you’re missing half the information?

In case that idea horrifies you, let’s pause for a brief tangent. We live in a culture where we’re told that if someone disagrees with you, they hate you – and that it’s actually dangerous to engage with the viewpoints of those people.

But consider Jesus, who counted amongst his closest friends a Zealot (a violent opposer of the occupying Romans) and a tax collector (who worked for those Romans, taking money from his own people). Hardly the makings of a peaceful, disagreement-free coexistence! Consider that Jesus shared meals with Pharisees, the religious elite of the day (see e.g. Luke 7:36), but also with ‘tax collectors and sinners’ who were shunned by that elite (see e.g. Matthew 9:10-11).

For the Christian, disagreement does not have to mean separation.

Jesus clearly didn’t think the way we do. He didn’t see disagreement as something that means we should automatically separate ourselves from others. The gospel is a story of reconciliation – where God ‘reconciled us to himself through Christ’ (2 Corinthians 5:18) and also to one another, ‘creating in himself one new man in the place of the two’ (Ephesians 2:15). The people of God are meant to be diverse – different backgrounds, perspectives and views – yet united as one in Christ. For the Christian, disagreement does not have to mean separation.

So, returning from our tangent – bring Jesus’ example into this context. Emulate him by listening to and valuing other voices, even those that disagree with you or don’t say what you’d like to hear. Weigh and question what they’re saying, for sure, but be willing to learn – be willing even to be wrong.

Here's some recommendations to get you started. For a Christian perspective on gender and transgender, try Preston Sprinkle’s Embodied: Transgender Identities, the Church, and What the Bible Has to Say (David C. Cook, 2021). For some information on medical transition, have a look at Stats for Gender.

#3 – Ask God what he thinks

Thirdly, make sure you’ve asked God what he thinks. God cares about your gender and how you feel about it. God cares about everything about you – every experience, thought and feeling that you have. And that’s not a distant, slightly-baffled-but-here-for-you kind of care – it's a deeply invested, heart-intertwined, knowing-you-intimately kind of care. Jesus lived as a human. He understands how we feel. He is interested and invested in it all.

But his understanding of our feelings and experiences doesn’t automatically mean that he also affirms and approves of everything we do in response to them. Let's use my two-year-old niece as an example. When she is frustrated, perhaps because she can’t hold the big knife or eat the chocolate or because she doesn't want to go to bed, I care deeply about how she feels. I understand her frustration because I too have been thwarted in doing what I want to do by other people over the course of my life. I understand. I empathise. I care that she’s hurting. But that doesn’t mean I approve of the course of action she wants to take. It doesn’t mean I give her the knife or chocolate, or let her stay up as late as she likes, or stand aside to let her unleash her frustration on her little brother. That’s not because I’m a no-fun auntie, or because I like messing with her. It’s because I really love her, and I know better than she does what is best for her, what is going to be good for her body and her character.

Knowing that he loves you deeply and knows better than you do what is truly good for you, take the time to ask him what he thinks you should do.

It’s the same with God. He cares, so very deeply, about how you feel. Your joys thrill him. Your wounds pain him. But don’t assume that he therefore approves of whatever course of action you might take.

Instead, knowing that he loves you deeply and knows better than you do what is truly good for you, take the time to ask him what he thinks you should do. We do this primarily by going to the Bible. God can speak in other ways, of course, but our feelings, experiences and prophetic insights must always be weighed against Scripture.

So, perhaps sitting with that person who loves you and loves Jesus, dig into the Bible. See what God has to say there about being human, about identity, about the body, about sex and gender, about value and worth, about how life now relates to the life to come. These are some big, important topics. It’s OK to take your time with them. God’s not in a rush.

If you'd like a book that might help you in conversations about the body, try Sam Allberry's What God Has to Say About Our Bodies (Crossway, 2021). Or for conversations about identity, go for Andrew Bunt's Finding Your Best Identity (IVP, 2022).

#4 – Check your heart

My final piece of advice is to ask yourself this question – what am I hoping that transitioning will do for me?

Transitioning is held up in our society as the cure. The magic fix. Do this, and the problem goes away. Do this, and you will find happiness and be able to live your best life.

And some people do report that transitioning helps them – I'm not denying those stories. While it's important to note that there isn't much evidence of long-term positive outcomes, and there is the possibility of negative side effects,2 some people do report that transitioning eases their dysphoria and removes a barrier to them enjoying life. But as Christians, we need to have a wider angle and longer-term view of life. We know that our ultimate purpose, meaning, satisfaction and joy are found in only one place – and that place is not gender transition.

When we look to anything but Jesus for our purpose and fulfilment, life goes a bit sideways. 

When we look to anything but Jesus for our purpose and fulfilment – and I do mean anything, whether it’s transitioning or work or the approval of others or parenthood or accolades or anything else – life goes a bit sideways. There will still be some good times and happiness, to be sure, but we’re missing the real thing. We’re missing the point.

Jesus is the point, the centre, the purpose, the reason, the joy, the treasure, the prize. Jesus knows us better than we know ourselves and loves us more than we love ourselves. Jesus is the only one we can look to for a true, lasting peace or satisfaction.

And so the question to carefully, honestly ask is – what are you hoping that transitioning will do for you? Have you put transitioning (or anything else) in the place of Jesus? Is it the thing that you are looking to to save you, to give you the meaning or wholeness you feel the lack of?

And if your answer is yes, I would urge you, put Jesus back in his rightful place. Acknowledge him as Lord of all creation, including you. Submit to his goodness, his wisdom, his ways. And then live your life – face this question of transitioning – out of that place.

So, dear beloved Christian, those are the four pieces of advice I would give you. Seek out wise counsellors who will love you well and love Jesus even more. Dare to listen to more sides of the conversation. Take the time to search the Scriptures and ask God what he thinks. And check your heart – what are you hoping that transitioning will do for you?

I hope that we do meet one day. And when we do, I look forward to hearing your story, and praising our God together with you for all the good that he has done in the midst of it.

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  1. A note on language: ‘Transitioning’ refers to the steps someone might take to more closely align to the gender with which they identify. This might involve social transition (e.g. name, pronouns, clothing), hormonal transition, and/or surgical transition. For more resources on gender and transgender, see here.
  2. See Stats for Gender for some of the data here.