I Understand, Do You?

Over the past ccouple of weeks I’ve had some interesting conversations with evangelical leaders who wanted to glean information about the transgender experience.  Before the conversations ended, both either subtly or directly let it be known that their “belief about Scripture” stops them from accepting LGBTQ people as they are.  Both were confident I would understand.

I do understand. I believe it is also very important for them to understand.  When they say, “I hope you respect that my reading of scripture demands that I not accept gay relationships or people who transition genders,” they are saying, “My system of beliefs is actually more important than the flesh and blood humans I encounter who exhibit in their lives not one bit of measurable evidence that they are living anything other than whole and good lives.”

Gay relationships are every bit as healthy and strong as straight relationships. Transgender people are every bit as healthy as their cisgender counterparts.  Both have been confirmed by a plethora of peer reviewed studies.

So if you choose to reject LGBTQ people, you are doing so not because of any evidence-based empirical data.  You are doing so because of your interpretation of a particular set of 2,000 year-old instructions that you are choosing to accept over flesh and blood humans.

You have every right to do this.  But it is important to be honest about what you are doing.  You are accepting a specific hermeneutic that has been rejected by half of the world’s Christians, and you are following a specific exegetical understanding of a handful of passages that is disputed by many who hold to your own hermeneutic.

I really don’t think this is about the Bible.  This is about an unfortunate tendency of our species to create enemies that don’t exist.  The Pulitzer-Prize winning sociobiologist Edward O. Wilson and anthropologist and philosopher René Girard have written extensively about this.  Humans create scapegoats who must be driven from the tribe, and enemies who must be defeated for the supposed welfare of the tribe. The scapegoats and enemies do not have to be a genuine threat.  They just have to be named as a threat.

Consider today’s landscape.  Evangelicals are heavily involved in a number of initiatives to stop transgender people from using the appropriate restroom.  Even after North Carolina’s HB2 law was rescinded, they keep introducing similar bills in additional state legislatures, mostly in the south.

It is important to note that not a single transgender person has ever been arrested or convicted for being in a women’s restroom for nefarious purposes.  On the other hand, the facts are clear about a very real threat that does very much exist.

Between 1987 and 2007 the three largest companies that insure Protestant churches paid out 7,095 claims for sexual assault by church leaders, one assault for every 24 churches in America.  Over 99 percent of the offenders were male.

Again, to be perfectly clear, no transgender person has ever been arrested or convicted of assault in a women’s restroom, but thousands of pastors and church leaders have been guilty of assaulting their own parishioners.  These are the facts.

But none of this is about facts.  It never has been.  The evangelical tribe believes it needs an enemy, and at the moment transgender people are the enemy du jour.  Before the LGBTQ population, it was the divorced, Roman Catholics, the Irish, the Italians, the Scots-Irish, those who opposed slavery, those who believed the earth revolves around the sun, and so on and so on, back to the prejudice against first century believers who had not been circumcised.  This is what tribes do.

So one more time, just to be clear.  When you choose to say to a perfectly healthy and whole LGBTQ person, “I’m sorry, but my Christian faith stops me from accepting you as you are,” you are choosing a tribal belief system over a living and breathing human being. You have chosen an idea, and a vague one at that, over a person.

I enjoyed my meetings with you.  You seem like fine people.  I do appreciate your interest in meeting with me, and your desire to understand the transgender experience.  I would also like you to understand how puzzlingly dehumanizing your words are to me, the person you have chosen to judge unfavorably out of loyalty to your belief system.

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