2. Literature Review
3. Theoretical Frames: Cisgenderism and Transmisogyny in the Gender Structure
4. Methodology and Data
5. Ungodly Genders
5.1. Ex-Gay Transfigurations at the Individual Level: From Religious to Reparative Discourses
Gender refers to the … essence of who we are as human beings. It is a mysterious God-given assignment. A most sacred trust and responsibility. The scriptures make it clear … that God makes us male and female. In the design of our Creator, our gender is not in question. It’s written clearly in the basic genetical structure and chromosome xx or xy. It is not to be mistaken for the physiological or anatomical hardware that defines one’s sexual identity. In the moment of conception … gender is a ‘done deal’. The … physiological formations are simply the compliant bodily response to the Divine Assignment.
In this narrative, “transsexuality”—transfemininity, in particular—epitomizes evil: Lucifer-as-transwoman, whose pride in “his” feminine beauty overtakes “his” wisdom. Accepting one’s place in God’s “unalterable” gender order quintessentially defines one’s cosmic purpose. To defy this Mandate is not merely sinful; it is demonic, worthy of God’s wrath and eternal exile. Descriptions of transfemininity as haughty and narcissistic are common in these texts (Heyer 2013; Leach 2001; Leggiere 2004; Van den Aardweg 1986; Wenman 2017). Perhaps it is worse for a transgender woman to elevate herself above God, or a “male” to relinquish his status.So many have asked me to site [sic] Biblical examples of God’s view toward transsexuality. Though the word Transsexual was coined by a secular authority in the Twentieth Century, the behavior of the transsexual is nothing new. It’s [sic] foundational beginnings are recorded in Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28—where Lucifer, a created archangel … became proud and lifted up because of his own beauty and corrupted his wisdom for the sake of his splendor; profaning himself by the multitude of his own iniquities and enormous guilt. (Ezek 28:17–18) … It was already quite plain what God’s intent for him was to be. But he became puffed up in his own self-bentness, no longer satisfied to keep his God-proscribed place. Ponder it: the devil used to be an angel … who thought he had a better idea than God for what his real purpose should be in the universe.(See Isaiah 14:12–16)
For Moberly (1986), transsexuality is not a “true” cross-gender identity, but rather the “radical absence” and most extreme form of “disidentificaton”. People with same-sex desires may or may not exhibit cross-gender behavior or be transsexual. Same-sex desire, in itself, is serious, but less so than transsexuality. Transsexuals may or may not experience same-sex desire. Transsexuality is part of the “homosexual continuum” because of the severity of detachment, not sexual desire.… this process accounts not merely for the whole of the homosexual spectrum, but also for … the transsexual …. Transsexualism is not … a rationalization of homosexuality. It marks the extreme end of the homosexual spectrum, but precisely because the same-sex deficit is so marked, it is proper to speak of actual gender dislocation. Most homosexuals do not wish for gender reassignment, because … the deficit is not so marked. There [is] … overlap … some homosexuals may suffer from a marked degree of same-sex deficit, whether or not this … expresses itself in a demand for gender reassignment … not all homosexuals are transsexuals …. (T)ranssexualism in both sexes has the same psychodynamic structure as homosexuality. The difference is essentially one of degree, not of kind. Transsexualism is the most marked degree.
For Moberly, transsexualism is “radically incomplete psychological growth, stemming from … psychological wounds of very early childhood. What we are speaking of is not ‘craziness,’ but the suffering of little children” (pp. 14–15). This ontology lays bare the theological implications of sexual behavior for everyone on the homosexual spectrum, especially transsexuals:[It] … is not intrinsically sexual. The issue is … growth and development to psychological maturity … the true point of comparison for homosexuality is not sexual pair-bonding, but the parent-child relationship … the end result of this process of growth is heterosexuality, understood as the capacity for relating to people as a psychologically complete member of one’s own sex.
Sexual sin is contrary to God’s intention, but homosexuality, although often an occasion for sexual sin, is essentially a state of incomplete development. It is the incompletion that is contrary to God’s will here. Homosexual acts are prohibited, not because they repudiate the man-woman relationship, but because sexual expression is not appropriate to pre-adult relationships.
5.2. The Interactional Level: Compulsory Cisgendering and the Incitement to Invalidate
Robert Gagnon (2015), a Presbyterian theologian on the RHN Board, agrees, defending the congruence of reparative therapy and Christianity. Former NARTH officer Arthur Goldberg (2008), founder of a Jewish ministry closed by consumer fraud litigation, argues it is compatible with Judaism. RHN and FOCUS Board member Albert Mohler, President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, supports reparative therapy but warns: “We cannot … allow ourselves to mistake a medical definition for a moral and spiritual reality (Mohler 2011, p. 84). “Therapy will never save us …. only Christ can do that” (p. 167). In the movement, there are several approaches in addition to “reparative” therapy (Cox 2009). Some focus on changing gender/sexual orientation; others focus on behavior. Some are exclusively pastoral; others use clinical techniques. These include 12-step and addiction models (Blackwell 2005), “gender-affirmative” therapy (Byrd and Olsen 2002; Goldberg 2007), “gender wholeness” therapy (Matheson 2013), “healing prayer” (Payne 1991), “reintegrative therapy” (Long 2018), trademarked by Nicolosi’s son, Joseph Nicolosi, Jr., and others. NARTH psychologist George Rekers (also a Baptist minister and a founder of FOCUS and FRC) published an article that NARTH’s official journal reprinted, referencing a “study” of a doctor who diagnosed a transsexual woman as possessed by evil spirits and cured her by exorcism. Rekers (1986, p. 29) cites the exorcism study as preliminary evidence of the “positive therapeutic effects of religious conversion for curing transsexualism” and urges further research. Regardless of the method, universally endorsed among them are two truths: God is the source of healing, and “transgenderism” is ungodly.For John …. Candi represented not only his gender-identity confusion, but a fantasy alternative to the difficult challenge of becoming a man. When he gave into the identity of Candi, he relinquished his manhood. Religion’s power to heal … comes from its ability to ground one’s authentic identity … in a source outside the self … the transcendent reality of Christ … the living Christ dwelling within us is … the perfect cure for narcissism and self-deception …. Christ and Candi could not coexist within the same soul. When Christ came in, Candi went out. It had to be, simple as that …. The principles of reparative therapy are quite compatible with Christian theology …. The vocabulary is different, but they explain the same phenomenon: healing”.(Nicolosi quoted in Paulk 1998, pp. xii–xiii)
Some (Blackwell 2008; Roberts 2016) encourage believers to build relationships with transgender people and to use their chosen names, at least until they have cultivated enough trust to then speak “truth” to them. At the institutional level, movement discourses incite believers to “respond” as citizens to the dangers that “transgender ideology” and people pose to society.How do I, as a Christian, respond to this disturbed person? Certainly not condemning, not to make them feel bad …. Also, I have a commitment to not collude with your delusion. I’m not going to call you Mary, okay? Your name is Tony. It was Tony a month ago, and you’re still Tony, okay? I may spare you the stress of me insisting ‘You are Tony’. I’ll say ‘Hi, how are you?’ But I have to make a decision. And each individual has to make a decision. If I am grounded in the natural law, which is compatible with Christianity, and Judaism … then how do I respond to this person with compassion, but not to collude with their delusion? And that’s a decision, a boundary, that has to be found with each individual.
5.3. Institutional Erasures: The Social Death of Transgender People
Movement leaders denounce “revisionist theologies” that sanctify gender variance as heretical (and sometimes Gnostic) threats to Church doctrine, and as ruinous for souls and human civilization itself (Brown 2016; Dallas 2008; Focus on the Family 2015; Leach 2001; Mohler 2015).Jenner’s transition [has] given … [society] permission … to embrace transgenderism [and] … actively promote it … progressives are … jumping onto the transgender shuttle pod … parents are … starting to spot the metaphorical mothership … It’s in their homes … implanted alien DNA in their children’s bloodstream.
Foster names several institutional “forces of confusion” that conspire with Satan, the “wealthy and powerful LGBT movement”, the “wealthy and powerful professional guilds”, the “media … government, education, the AMA, public schools, colleges … the false church and a deceived public”. In response, the movement has developed, over decades, a coalition of professional networks (religious, legal, educational, and scientific) to rally against this Goliath.There is a war of the worlds going on in the shadows of our everyday awareness—an unseen battle between the Creator God (YHWH) with His army of heavenly beings and Satan with his fallen angels and demonic hosts. Nowhere is this battle more pronounced today than in the rise of the transgender movement. It is the front lines in Satan’s scheme to deface and destroy the image of God that is stamped onto our personhood, sexuality, marriages, children, and families.
I would like NARTH members to work more closely with the legal community … we need you to fight the battle in court … submit expert declarations … publish sound research … critically analyze others’ research … locate, and understand the significance of … medical research. Now more than ever, courts rely heavily on journal articles to aid them in rendering a decision. We will not be able to continue to protect children and families without your help …. if Lambda Legal and others … sue you for engaging in reparative therapy, we will be there to defend you—armed with … research on SSA and GID …. If we hope … to protect children and families … and the right of doctors to engage in reparative therapy and to treat GID as a mental disorder … then the legal and medical communities must join together … toward this common goal (p. 8) …. Working together, we can … protect the rights of patients to receive, and your right to offer, reparative therapy. [We] need to … jointly demand respect for an equality and diversity of viewpoints on the origins, causes and treatments for SSA and GID (p. 30).
Dobson is more alarmed by what he imagines—deceptive “men” preying on women and children—than actual harms perpetrated daily by cisgender men. As Nussbaum (2010) has shown, projective harm is often a more powerful weapon than actual harm in formulating the law. Dobson endorsed candidate Trump, who bragged in 2005 about “getting away with” walking in on naked beauty pageant contestants (some as teenagers). Dobson also endorsed Senate candidate Roy Moore, accused of sexually assaulting teenage girls. FOCUS President Jim Daly blogged (Daly 2012): “Why This School is OK with a Man Exposing Himself to Young Girls”. Jerry Boykin, Vice President of FRC, said at a LC conference (SPLC 2016):If you are a married man with any gumption, surely you will defend your wife’s privacy and security... Would you remain passive if a strange-looking man, dressed like a woman, has been peering over toilet cubicles to watch your wife … ? What should be done to the pervert who was watching … women and girls in their stalls? If you are a dad I pray you will protect your little girls from men who walk in unannounced, unzip their pants and urinate in front of them …. 100 years ago, someone might have been shot. Where is today’s manhood? God help us!
Boykin also endorsed candidate Trump. FRC’s legal arm, ADF, is the source of most of the state-level anti-trans legislation in the US (O’Hara 2017). Projecting imaginary predation and encouraging violence against transgender women is troublesome enough. In 2013, PJI (which submitted a legal brief opposing California’s 2014 law requiring public schools to allow students to use the bathroom according to their gender identity) falsely claimed that a transgender girl was harassing other girls in the restroom (Ford 2013). These narratives “culturally criminalize” (Mogul et al. 2011) transgender girls and women. In 2009, Circuit Judge Neil Gorsuch dismissed a transgender woman’s claim that she was denied access to the women’s restroom at work and lost her job. Gorsuch ruled that the employer’s “safety concerns” were legitimate. These narratives also conceal the actual harm these groups encourage and perpetrate directly. PJI attorney Brad Dacus spoke at the 2017 RHN conference and said he was encouraged about the future of the Supreme Court “for ministries like yours” after he heard Justice Kennedy would retire next summer. He detailed legal advice he gave to two families with transgender children, and a private Christian school. He begins with a call he received from a pastor in San Diego:Where are the Christians of America today?... They should be flocking to the city council to say ‘No, you’re not going to let a man go in my daughter’s bathroom, just because he feels like a man today … Where are the Christians that are standing up to [this] kind of evil? … I’ll tell you what. The first man that walks in my daughter’s bathroom, he ain’t gonna have to worry about a surgery.
He called me because they were concerned about a visit from a social worker involving a 13-year-old girl who said she is going to be a boy. The pastor said ‘Someone from church said we should call you’. I said ‘Thank you, Lord. Well, what are you going to say?’ ‘We’re going to say we’re Christians. We believe what the Bible says. We think this is a sin … we’re going to get counseling … ’ And I said ‘Okay. You just lost your child.... This is what you are going to say: You are very appreciative of that social worker’s efforts to bring tolerance and sensitivity to families like theirs and that you have 100% unconditional love for your child no matter [what]...’ And there’s some truth in here, okay? People will say ‘That’s not really Christian’. And I say, well, what about Moses’ mom? They knocked on her door. Did she say, ‘Oh yeah, you caught me. It’s in the basket … down the river to the right’. No. She didn’t do that. She said ‘There’s no baby here... Why? Because you want to prevent the greater evil, having a child taken. So we want to be wise and discerning. We gave that counsel. They have their daughter. We had another case up in Sacramento. A man calls me and says, ‘My daughter is coming out, she’s 15. Counselor’s coming tomorrow. What should I say?’ Exact same problem. I gave the counsel and they went away. Then I said, ‘You need to have that child … in a private Christian school, start some counseling’. And he said, ‘What if the … school says they won’t do anything? What if they won’t let her in?’ I said, ‘What school are you thinking about?’ and he said such and such …. I said ‘You may be surprised’. What he wasn’t aware of is that, by God’s sovereign grace, in three days I was scheduled to address that … school and the Church’s board … on how to deal with these issues … I said [to the board] ‘Let me talk about a … hypothetical … a girl who’s 15 … ’ Anyway … I talked to them and the Holy Spirit moved. They told me … ‘I’m really glad we have legal counsel and … we really need to be reaching out and ministering.’
6. Conclusions, Limitations, and Directions for Further Research
Conflicts of Interest
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“Transgenderism” denotes its increasing usage in anti-trans discourses. The term was once widely used neutrally; however, scholars today generally view this term as pejorative.
See Robinson and Spivey (2015, p. 897) for a review of the movement’s global reach and impact. “Although conservative Christianity appears to be losing the culture wars over gender and sexuality in Europe and North America, the ex-gay movement continues to flourish there and … in other regions of the world as well, not only in countries that deny them civil and human rights, but also in progressive countries that provide legal protection for sexual and gender minorities (such as South Africa)”.
We employ and apply concepts such as cisgenderism, transmisogyny, and the “cisgendering of reality” in our analysis; however, we do not claim to extend any of these conceptually.
Because the restoration and prevention processes are similar to and detailed in depth elsewhere, the interactional section is shorter than the individual and institutional sections.
In the US, state laws that ban licensed practitioners from “sexual orientation change efforts” on minors also prohibit attempts to change gender identity and/or expression. For clarity, we use “SOGIE change efforts” to denote attempts to change sexual orientation, gender identity, and/or gender expression.
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