What is “transgendered?” Yes, I’m serious. I am a happily straight, married with children-type male Episcopalian who is caught up in the current (and agonizingly drawn out) debate about homosexuality in the Church. In short, I am not struggling with my sexuality, just everyone else’s, and have been making an honest effort at exegesis to make up my own mind. To this end I have read a great deal on the subject, including your site, Louie Crew’s pages, and others. But I keep coming across “transgendered” as the latest (after bisexual) addition to gay and lesbian and honestly am not sure what it means. Cross-dressers? I honestly don’t know and would appreciate your assistance.
Actually, I have a second question. So much of the rhetoric from the GLB side is “hey, look, we just want our monogamous, loving relationships blessed like the rest of you,” (this is what many Episcopal clergy argue when they push for same-gender union ceremonies). So, how can someone who is bisexual fit in? By definition a bisexual person would be looking for a three way relationship. I know the Bible doesn’t necessarily say anything against this, but come on. You’ll never convince the Baptists that it was Adam and Eve and Steve.
Actually you have asked a very good questions. Both of these questions raise serious problems and debates within the GLBT community, as well. To be perfectly frank I am not clear on all the issues and the ramifications as such. However, I will share with you my thoughts on the two issues.
First of all the term transgender is a relatively new term to most folks, yet the condition is not new. People who consider themselves transgender are those who find their gender identity is trapped inside the opposite gender. In other words a person who identifies as a woman but has a male body or visa-versa.
In medical history this can be a real physical problem. In some cases a baby is born with both male and female genitalia. In these cases the doctor, in consultation with the family and sometimes not, would through surgery determine the gender. Well, as you can imagine, since the baby can’t speak, mistakes are made and as the child reaches adulthood, begins to recognize the gender in which they were raised and have lived is not correct. Hence, through surgery they attempt to correct the problem. This is, as you might imagine, an incredibly complex and difficult process not to mention dangerous. These are just the obvious physical cases. There are those cases where the gender that one identifies with is not so obvious. Yet in all of these cases to make the gender switch it takes a psychologist and a medical doctor to make the determination that, in fact, a person has the wrong body for their gender identity. Once that determination is made the steps toward having the actual surgery are long and involved. It involves psychological counseling, living as the identified gender for a period of time and finally the surgery itself. Many folks that we meet and relate to are somewhere between living out the gender identity and the surgery. While these cases are rare there are far more of these situations than one would believe. Because this is an expensive process sometimes folks cannot go through with the surgery and end up living as the gender with which they identify.
While many of these folks do not identify as homosexual, our community, for the most part, has brought them into the process because society in general has made this issue a sexual issue. Society incorrectly sees a man wanting to be a woman or a woman wanting to be a man as an issue of homosexuality. Further there was no logical place, because of society’s view, for them to go. So over the years one who is a transgender began to do things within the scope of the gay community. It is through this association that the dialogue you are hearing and participating began. The truth of the matter is that is has very little to do with sexual preference and everything to do with gender identification.
However, with society’s view of this such as it is insurance companies will not, in many cases, cover the treatment, (the sex change process is VERY expensive). Often people are fired from their jobs because they are perceived as perverts. Still others are cut off from their families who believe the transgender person is totally screwed up.
Cross-dressers are those persons who are more comfortable in the dress and Style, and sometimes behaviors, of the opposite gender. There is no desire on their part to change their physical identification of their gender. The sexual orientation of these persons can either be homosexual or heterosexual.
Bisexuality by definition is a person who can and does identify sexually with either gender. This does not automatically mean they seek a three-way relationship. It simply means they are attracted and can be intimate in a sexual sense with both genders.
It is not a matter of convincing the Baptists to accept Adam, Eve and Steve, it is about treating all people as the children of God and making sure the opportunity for a full and abundant life is not blocked. Just as God, in the creation, has made a variety of colors, minds, and body types there is a variety of sexual attractions and relationships that speak deeply of the love God would have us to share with each other. A bisexual person has the right to fall in love and live in a committed relationship with whatever ever gender comes into their life.
I hope this helps. Please feel to write if you have more questions and or concerns.
Editor-in-Chief of Whosoever and Founding and Senior Pastor of Gentle Spirit Christian Church of Atlanta, where Whosoever Founder and Editor Emeritus Rev. Candace Chellew was ordained, Rev. Paul M. Turner grew up in suburban Chicago and was ordained by the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches in 1989. He and his husband Bill have lived in metro Atlanta since 1994.