What does the Bible say about transgender people: An in-depth look.
Let’s explore what the Bible says about transgender people, its general perspective on gender and identity, and common misinterpretations.
Many people wonder, “What does the Bible say about transgender people?” — from conservative Christians who want to point to “Biblical truths” about gender identity, biological sex, and men and women to LGBTQ+ and ally Christians who want to support diverse identities. But even though trans people have existed throughout history, the Bible doesn’t directly mention trans people because the term “transgender” wasn’t coined until the 1960s.
Despite this, the Bible does examine some issues having to do with gender identity, biological sex, and also men and women. Queer and progressive theologians spoke with LGBTQ Nation about some commonly misinterpreted Bible verses, verses that seem to affirm trans people, and different ways of understanding Christianity’s message to transgender people..
JB COMMENTS: Have you noticed how Jesus is always surrounded with men, and on those rare occasions, very few women and then, they are usually depicted as Mothers. Look at the way they adoringly look at him - all a bit gay...
Trans people have been kings and queens, fought in wars, and led the fight for LGBTQ+ rights, thriving despite widespread social oppression.
Understanding gender in the Bible
British theologian Rev. Jonathan Tallon says that some people point to Bible verses as proof that God created only two distinct genders and, because “God doesn’t make mistakes,” changing gender is “against God and God’s plan.”
But these empty slogans ignore the existence of transgender people as well as intersex individuals, those born “with a reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn’t seem to fit the typical definitions of female or male.”
Two such verses illustrate the narrow way that some Christians misinterpret the Bible and how history and modern perspectives can provide new insights into the ancient text.
Genesis 1:27 – So God is a man?… and he only created two genders ?
“So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”
Some people point to this verse, the first mention of gender in the Bible, as “proof” that God only created two genders — man and woman — and nothing in between. But this is a misinterpretation that ignores that most things in the world exist on a spectrum, says Dr. Justin Sabia-Tanis, Assistant Professor of Christian Ethics and Social Transformation at the United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities.
He points out that 500 species of fish change sex during their lifetimes, and these animals have been around a lot longer than humans have.
Dr. Sabia-Tanis tells LGBTQ Nation, “In the original Hebrew, the verbs used for God are both feminine and masculine; God is shown here as embracing more than one gender, so we know more complex things are happening with gender here.”
He also points out that, before creating humans, God created the day and night as well as water and land.
“Day transitions to the night at dusk; night becomes day at dawn — it’s not an on/off switch but a continual process,” Sabia-Tanis writes. “And then, in a similar way, the sky and the waters, and then the waters and the land, are separated. We know, however, there are many places in which both water and land mingle — wetlands, estuaries, beaches. And places where sky and water are one — clouds, the cycle of evaporation. The sky and the water, the water and the land has never been a binary system, but a cyclical, dynamic one.”
Deuteronomy 22:5 – Is God super-judgy about personal fashion choices?
“A woman shall not wear a man’s apparel, nor shall a man put on a woman’s garment; for whoever does such things is abhorrent to the Lord your God.”
This verse is the only one that directly references gender-based notions of clothing.
While the Bible honors many women of faith who act bravely, there are also many verses that dictate what men and women should do: how women should behave, how husbands and wives should treat each other, and how children should honor their mothers or fathers.
The Bible’s Old Testament contains 613 commandments known as Old Testament Law, ancient Biblical law, or Mosaic Law. These laws were created around 1393 to 1273 BC and were issued to regulate almost every aspect of Jewish life at a time when the Jewish people were still a group of ex-slaves struggling to survive in the desert. In fact, Biblical scholars have theorized that this specific law about clothing may have been established as a way to differentiate Jews from other religious cultures or as a way to ensure that the Jews’ gender-segregated society stayed truly segregated.
“This would prevent things like men and women engaging in various forms of forbidden sexual contact, women from entering the temple, men evading military service, women signing up for military service, and other behaviors perceived as contrary to the boundaries between the distinct parts of God’s created order,” three queer theologians told the Human Rights Campaign (HRC).
Mosaic Law also contains prohibitions against wearing clothes made of linen and wool; burning incense; eating pork, rabbit, and shellfish; charging interest on loans; and working on Saturdays. In fact, the Old Testament refers to each of these things as “abominations” and states that the latter two items should be punished by death. Other parts of the Old Testament say it’s okay to kill women who have pre-marital sex, to smear animal feces on the faces of lazy priests, and that it’s okay to own and beat slaves.
Of course, most contemporary Christians don’t follow these ancient Biblical laws because they don’t make any sense in modern-day life. As such, people who point to Deuteronomy 22:5 to demonize trans people and other “gender-nonconformists” should question why they’re willing to uphold this particular Biblical law while ignoring all the rest — it’s likely because they want a religious-based reason to punish people they disapprove of.
However, another verse in the Bible, Hebrews 8:13, explicitly states that people no longer need to follow ancient Biblical laws now that Jesus Christ established a new covenant between man and God. The verse states, “By calling this covenant ‘new,’ he has made the first one (Mosaic Law) obsolete; and what is obsolete and outdated will soon disappear.”
While the Bible literally says nothing about transgender people, biological sex, or gender dysphoria, there are still a handful of verses that show how the earliest Christians embraced marginalized people as well as eunuchs, people whose bodily changes subjected them to widespread oppression.
Galatians 3:28 – All are equal in the love of Christ
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.”
This verse appears in the apostle Paul’s letters to early Christian churches. In his letter, he angrily begins, “You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you?” He then asks church leaders who taught them to judge other Christians by their physical bodies and how well they follow laws rather than by their spirit or faith.
Paul says that ancient Biblical law was only put in place to help guide and protect people until Jesus arrived. But after Jesus arrived, one’s faith mattered more than one’s adherence to old laws.
Queer theologians told the HRC that when Paul says “there is neither male nor female,” that doesn’t mean that individual differences shouldn’t matter. Indeed, Paul’s other letters reveal that he considered personal differences important within the church. But Paul’s letter says that if we are all children of God, then that should be the basis for building a community together rather than discriminating against others based on nationality, race, social standing, class, or gender.
This sentiment is echoed in 2 Corinthians 4:7, a verse that compares the light of God inside of humans to “treasure in jars of clay.” Reflecting on this verse, queer-affirming Rev. Tallon asked LGBTQ Nation, “Which is more important: the clay jar or the treasure?”
“Yes, we need to take our physical bodies seriously – we follow an incarnate Christ. Our bodies are real. But so is what is going on inside us. Our minds are real too.” Rev. Tallon continues. “Your gender identity is how you think of (and feel about) yourself … Is making a commitment to Christ real, or just a feeling? Is having an identity in Christ real, or just psychology? To reduce biology to being the only reality is sub-Christian.”
Matthew 25:40 – We honor God by loving trans people
“And the King answering shall say to them, Verily, I say to you, Inasmuch as ye have done it to one of the least of these my brethren