One of the most vexing questions for transgender and cisgender Christians is how God views transgender individuals. Both inclusionists and fundamentalists turn to the Bible for support; however, the passages that support inclusion are rarely addressed in sermons or in the media. Below you will find the passages that argue for inclusion and the interpretations that support inclusion, not just by individuals or local churches but also by entire denominations.
So God created humanity in God’s own image, in the image of God, God created humanity; male and female God created them. — Genesis 1:27
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female: for you are all one in Christ Jesus. — Galatians 3:28
Let not the eunuch say, “Behold, I am a dry tree.” For thus says YAHWEH: “To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose the things that please me and hold fast my covenant, I will give in my house and within my walls a monument and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name which shall not be cut off.”— Isaiah 56:3-5
For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to receive this, let him receive it. — Matthew 19:21
Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this scripture [Isaiah 56:3-5] he told him the good news of Jesus. And as they went along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What is to prevent my being baptized?” And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him. — Acts 8:35-38
A Note on Language
When the various books of the Bible were written across the cultural and temporal timespan they cover, there was not a word for transsexual or transgender. The word eunuch, however, included three categories, only one of which was what we understand as a modern day eunuch. The other categories included under this umbrella-term were men who chose celibacy and birth-assigned males who dressed and lived as women (in other words, trans individuals).
A Note on Formatting
Anything directly quoted will appear in italics and any commentary from me will be in plain-face. My aim here is to pull multiple sources together for a unified look. All material referenced is cited and linked to.
Site Reference 1 (Presbyterian, Reformed)
http://www.whosoever.org/v2Issue2/starchild.html [from Whosoever, an online magazine for queer Christians]
This Biblical commentary on Isaiah 56:4, Matthew 19:21, and Acts 8:35-38 (along with other passages) specifically addresses the idea of transgender individuals in a context of Christianity and explains why the Presbyterian, Reformed church feels their inclusion by the Church is part of God’s plan.
- We see this new inclusion and celebration in the unfolding of Salvation History in Acts. Before the marvelous stories of the enfolding of the Samaritans and of the Gentiles into the Church we have the wonderful little story of the Ethiopian Eunuch. It is interesting that when he meets Philip, the Eunuch, most likely a Jew who probably knew that Deuteronomy excluded him from the covenant, was reading the prophet Isaiah, which envisions the inclusion of eunuchs. Unlike Peter, who needed a vision from heaven to cross the boundary of including Gentiles, Philip needed no prodding to know that the Spirit was calling him to include eunuchs in the Kingdom of God. Philip proclaims the Good News, the eunuch believes and is received into the family of faith immediately by Baptism. Thus the first boundary that was broken down in our Baptism in Christ was not one of religious differences or race, but one of unusual gender conditions.
- Sin, of course, does enter the story and it wrecks havoc with this mutual enjoyment. But the story of our redemption is a story of returning us to our original blessings. The goal of the Christian life is not for us to feel alienated from our True Selves, from one another, from all creation, and from God, but instead to be restored to a state of connection and the original sense of “rightness”. Transsexuals, in seeing that the relationship between their persons and their bodies is incongruent and in seeking to create a congruency where one didn’t exist before, are in a real sense fulfilling the mandate of Genesis is [sic – *in] a way that people without Gender Issues are not capable of doing. Transssexuals are people who are able to continue the task of creation and to take up the task of subduing the earth to make it fruitful within their own bodies. In a real sense, then, Transsexuals have a direct and powerful connection to the creation as creatures made in the image of God, for this connection is within their own beings!
- If God calls us to be farmers, shop-keepers, house-wives, lawyers, craftsmen, pastors, laborers, or whatever, God expects us to find fulfillment in that calling. If something stands in the way of that inner fulfillment and satisfaction, it stands in the way of our ability to serve God and God’s world well in our calling. A sense of Vocation would drive us to remove whatever barriers make it difficult for us to fulfill our calling. If Gender Dysphoria keeps one from being who they truly are and fitting into the reality around them, then it keeps them from serving God to the best of their ability. Vocation then demands that the individual do whatever they can to change this Gender Dysphoria. We now know that the body’s gender can be changed to fit the mind’s gender, but the opposite cannot be done. [emphasis added]
- So these two Reformed doctrines, Creation and Vocation, not only support people with unusual gender conditions having a freedom within the Church to change their outward gender, but in a sense they teach us that such folk are actually engaged in a sacred and holy task when they undertake such a difficult passage. Rather than attempt to see this passage as something shameful and guilty, we must see it as children of God taking seriously God’s creation of them as creatures who are made in the image of God being therefore co-creators with God and see it as children of God taking seriously God’s calling of them to ruthlessly remove any hindrances to their being whom God desires them to be so they may serve God to their fullest.
Site Reference 2 (Transsexual Road Map > Spirtuality)
Written by trans women for trans women, this section of the Road Map explains how transgender individuals have an accepted place within Christianity.
- See the section Passages from Scripture for a commentary on Deuteronomy 22:5. Read it in its entirety as it is too logical, contextual, and supportable to paraphrase.
- Isaiah 56:4-5
In contradiction to the rules against eunuchs in Deuteronomy stands this passage from Isaiah:
“For thus says the Lord: to the eunuchs who keep my sabbaths [sic],
This passage from Isaiah supercedes the Deuteronomic passage; it can be interpreted as a new covenant between God and gender non-conforming persons that replaces the old covenant of judgement with one of acceptance, inclusion, and blessing.
3. Matthew 19:12
This passage has Jesus addressing the topic of eunuchs after speaking to the crowd about marriage and divorce laws.
For there are some eunuchs, who were so born from their mother’s womb: and there are some eunuchs, who were made eunuchs by men: and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the Kingdom of Heaven’s sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.
Many interpretations of this passage have arisen. Some believe it is a discussion of voluntary celibacy, but the fact that Christ mentions people born that way indicates to me a birth condition. Some have also interpreted this to mean gays, which doesn’t seem out of the question. However, I think the most literal interpretation would include intersexed (born that way) and transsexual persons (made that way). Regardless of interpretation, the main point is that anyone able to receive the Kingdom of Heaven may do so.
4. Mark 9:43-47
This passage speaks in opposition to those Christians who feel the “body augmenting” of transsexuals goes against the idea of your body as “God’s temple” (I Corinthians 5:19). In it, Jesus speaks rather bluntly about altering one’s body to avoid sin. Here, I apply the idea of sin as defined to me by a United Methodist bishop: sin is that which interrupts or stands in the way of forming a relationship with God. For me, this meant that hormonal and surgical intervention was a necessary step as my body pre-transition stood between me and a right relationship with God. Physical transition was the removal of self-hatred (a sin because we are made in God’s image) that held me back from seeing God as loving and desiring of a relationship with me as opposed to cruel and abusive for misaligning my selfhood and my body.
If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell.
Many interpretations of this passage have arisen as well. While it is rarely taken as a literal exhortation, it does seem to say that your bodily form does not matter, and that altering it will not exclude you from entering heaven.
Site Reference 3 (Episcopal)
This site is a recounting of the Episcopal church’s choice to allow transgender individuals to participate in church life and to, also, allow their ordination.
- [T]he House of Deputies—one of the two Houses in The Episcopal Church’s bicameral system of governance – passed resolutions D019 and D002. D019 garuntees trans* individuals access to the life and governance of the church – so, for instance, it clarifies that transgender people can be Eucharistic ministers, vestry members, retreat attendees or leaders, etc and D002 allows trans* individuals to serve as ordained leaders in the church.
- A Deputy from Alabama (yes, that’s right, Ala-Bible-belt-bama) quoted Isaiah 56:4-5 and said: These were a people that formerly had not been allowed access to the assembly. They had been a people cut off—unwelcome because of what we might refer to as their gender identity and expression—but now they were welcomed. We must name what God has named.
Site Reference 4 (A Sermon for Transgender Day of Remembrance)
I’ll leave you with this quote from a sermon delivered by Fr. Shay Kearns, a trans man who is also the first ordained transgender priest in the Old Catholic Church. Father Kearns is a writer, speaker, and theologian, and co-founder of Queer Theology (along with Brian Gerald Murphy). It is taken from the the sermon he gave on his seminary’s first TDoR service during which he addressed Isaiah 56:3-5. I think this sums it all up:
Some scholars have said that the eunuch is the closest biblical example we have to modern transpeople [sic]. Whatever the case, eunuchs were outcasts from society. They were denied a place in the holy assembly. They were looked down upon and despised. And yet here God is saying that they will be given a name that is better than sons and daughters. Friends, this is good news to transgender and gender non-conforming people. We know what it means to have names chosen for us that don’t fit, or to be called names that are hurtful. We also know what it means to choose names for ourselves that represent all of who we are. And we honor one another by using those chosen names even when others refuse to.
But to have an everlasting name; one that will not be cut off; this is hope for those of us who feel like outcasts. This monument is hope to those who have been killed and to those who worry they will be forgotten. This passage brings me great comfort: to know that I am a beloved son of God and that God gives me an everlasting name, even if my family rejects me, even if the church doesn’t want me, there is a place for me in God’s eyes. This isn’t just some cheap hope. I don’t offer it as a placebo, to say that we should stop fighting for our place at the table, our place in society and the church. Instead I offer it as a raft in the ocean for when the fight gets too hard. I offer it in response to the fearful hallelujah. I offer it because it’s the best I have to offer. We are beloved children of the Universe and no one can take that away from us. We are beloved children. We are beloved.