Coming So Close…But Missing By A Mile?

A therapist’s professional critique of Mark Yarhouse’s “Understanding The Transgender Phenomenon” 

By Lisa Maurel, LMFT

Published on Sep. 28, 2015 @ 18:00 ET

Lisa Maurel

Lisa Maurel, MFT

Most of us enjoy the privilege of feeling fairly “comfortable” with our assigned sex and the associated gender roles expected of us.  Even if we feel that our personal experience of gender, does not “fit” within the socially proscribed conventions of gender, we can usually find a comfortable way of being; albeit female born people have more latitude in this regard, than those with a male gender assignment.  If our gender identity and our assigned sex match up in the way society dictates they should, we are cisgender;1 and “the odds are, forever in our favor.”2  For transgender3 and gender diverse people, this is not the case. Gender touches everything in our social, relational, and physical world. Within a binary (Male/Female) system of gender, there is no simple way for a gender diverse person to avoid experiencing painful exclusion and erasure . And one cannot simply set aside gender identity.  It is not an appendage. It is an integrated aspect of being. For gender diverse people, the journey  to live out one’s gender identity is a very personal saga that is often made more painful and complex. The dominant cisgender culture invalidates,  ignores, sensationalizes, and dehumanizes  gender diverse people.

Emergent media and political attention to the realities and disparities experienced by transgender people is opening a new chapter in understanding gender to be a complex and pervasive aspect of daily life. A small but growing faction of socially progressive communities, such as On Level Ground, have begun to claim space in the conversation. And mainstream evangelicalism cannot ignore it. Many traditions will simply refuse to examine their beliefs. But those who will find that the greatest challenge in understanding   “the transgender phenomenon” is this: the willingness to give up what we are comfortable and familiar with, in order to make space for what we don’t know or understand.  The willingness to confront cis- gender 4 hegemony, which is often reified in our theology, our politics, our ways of living, is simply an extension of the quest for an ethically conscious way of living, which is at the heart of the teachings of Jesus.

This summer, Mark Yarhouse, a published researcher, and apologist for conversion therapy,  authored an article on “The Transgender Phenomenon” for Christianity Today, in an attempt to introduce evangelical readers to gender diversity; in order to  “provide a way forward” for the evangelical church. Did Yarhouse succeed?5 I think that my trans* friend Jocelyn said it best:  “nothing like coming so close, but missing by a mile.”6

Evangelical churches can be dangerous places for queer people and their families.7 As a therapist working with gender and sexual minorities, I can attest to the lifelong trauma that can result from religious based rejection8 and the impossible dissonance that it creates within the psyches of queer evangelicals.9 The result of this dissonance is an often lifelong process of reconciling the contradictions derived from rigid dogma with the lived experience of being. For some, this means a painful process of exile while others find creative ways of integration and wholeness. In my experience, those who have come to appreciate their transgender identity as a spiritual gift, rather than an indictment of their depravity, are able to find a fuller and more reconciled relationship with themselves and their histories. This is an especially long journey for those who come from evangelical and socially conservative religious backgrounds, who often survive, by repressing, hiding, denying themselves for fear of rejection or alienation. While the advances in LGBT rights are making things better for many kids, this may put more pressure on LGBT youth growing up within traditional religious systems. Family rejection is the strongest indicator of poor health outcomes for LGBTQ youth, therefore, it is essential that we find ways to engage in dialogue that helps families understand and support their gender diverse children in a culturally competent way.  Simply by acknowledging the reality of gender diversity in our dialogues, we can make the evangelical community a safer place for gender diverse people. Before we can have healthy dialogue about gender diversity, we must be prepared to examine our own biases, blind spots, and fears.

“The Transgender Phenomenon”  written by Mark Yarhouse, published on Christianity Today’s website is remarkable in its attempt to bring a normalizing lens to transgender experience, as evidenced in the introduction. However, the failure to fully call for an inclusive approach to transgender people illustrates the all too common reluctance to relinquish privilege and to venture into confronting cisgenderist views. This failure will no doubt lead to the continuation and reification of beliefs and harmful attitudes and practices in the churches, counseling centers, and educational institutions, where gender diverse people of all ages, are being born, growing up, living, worshipping, loving, and dying.

Unfortunately, what Yarhouse presents  is simply a case for cisgender10 centered tolerance rather than radical inclusion; a dressed up version of “love the sinner, hate the sin.” This commentary will serve to highlight my criticisms of the Yarhouse article, while offering an alternative understanding for those seeking to create more inclusive and psychologically healthy spaces within evangelicalism. My hope is to widen the circle of compassion and inclusion in a way that may inspire  readers to meet gender diversity in themselves and others with reverence, wonder, and awe.

Blind Spots

I was hopeful as I read the article because he goes to some lengths to increase understanding of the experience of gender dysphoria, which would be the basis for empathy and inclusion. However, Yarhouse leaves many harmful beliefs and assumptions unanswered and unchallenged and the result is that readers are left with harmful misinformation. Left unchallenged, these beliefs and assumptions perpetuate rejecting attitudes that increase the mental health risks (suicidality, increased substance use, and high risk behaviors) of LGBTQ children, teens, and adults. Despite the focus on gender identity, there are related implications for all gender and sexual minorities (LGBTQ) as gender diversity and “non-conformity” is often related to homophobia and heterosexism.11

Yarhouse perpetuates these  harmful assumptions which have the potential to further religious based rejection which is  linked to poor psychological outcomes and trauma in LGBTQ people.  

Three harmful assumptions that Yarhouse makes include:

  • essentialism: The reductionistic notion that anatomical sex is the root of gender identity and has a singular anatomical determination rather than a complex interplay of biology, psychology, and anatomy.
  • cissexism: The classification of any expression other than cis-gendered as “less than” or “pathological” and by extension, the pathologization of gender diversity.
  • cisgenderism: Cis-genderism is the phenomenon of structural and endemic privilege12 that is afforded to cisgender people, resulting in the marginalization and oppression of transgender people through conscious and unconscious, structural and personal prejudice and discrimination.

Yarhouse states that his proposed intention is to offer a “uniquely Christian response” to those who find themselves coping with gender dysphoria. Yarhouse uses three lenses as theological frameworks within which to discuss an evangelical response. I found that the first two, the Integrity Lens, and the Disability Lens, are both highly reductionistic and result in the erasure of transgender identities while the diversity lens holds the highest possibility for affirmation and inclusion. Unfortunately, Yarhouse does not use his expertise as a clinician to confront the cisgenderist assumptions within evangelicalism, nor convey the traumatizing impact of erasure and religiously backed rejection.13 By leaving the first two lenses to stand as equally appropriate options for the reader to consider and by failing to point out their potential for harm, Yarhouse does his readers a disservice.

“The Integrity Lens”

Yarhouse begins by looking at gender  with the  “integrity lens”, stating:  

The integrity lens views sex and gender and, therefore, gender identity in terms of what theologian Robert Gagnon refers to as “the sacred integrity of maleness or femaleness stamped on one’s body.” Cross-gender identification is a concern because it threatens to dishonor the creational order of male and female. …Even if we concede that some of the Old Testament prohibitions were related to avoiding pagan practices, nonetheless, from beginning to end, Scripture reflects the importance of male-female complementarity set forth in creation (Gen. 2:21–24).

The blind spot of Essentialism, as espoused here, has two big problems. First, this view does not account for the diversity of gender. For example, there are over 70 chromosomal and genetic variants which can produce anatomical development that is not typical. 14 Secondly, essentialism only considers the anatomical understanding of sex. This invalidates the experience of integrated gender identity (mind, soul, body)  that is part of all of our experiences of gender.  In this way,  the experiences and identities of transgender and intersex  people are invalidated. 15

Yarhouse extends essentialism and seems to conclude that those who do not conform to this binary view of gender cannot possibly reflect the image of God, stating:

The theological foundation of the integrity lens raises the same kind of concerns about cross-gender identification as it raises about homosexuality. Same-sex sexual behavior is sin in part because it doesn’t “merge or join two persons into an integrated sexual whole,” writes Gagnon. “Essential maleness” and “essential femaleness” are not brought together as intended from creation. When extended to transsexuality and cross-gender identification, the theological concerns rest in what Gagnon calls the “denial of the integrity of one’s own sex and an overt attempt at marring the sacred image of maleness or femaleness formed by God.”

and concluding…

The integrity lens most clearly reflects the biblical witness about sex and gender.

The heart of the integrity lens, as Yarhouse explains it, excludes the integrity of sexuality and gender experiences that do not conform to a heterosexual and cisgender expression; which is a bias evident in the body of  his  work; therefore, he does not deconstruct or even challenge this exclusion.

Yarhouse goes on to make the observation that

…some Christians do not put gender dysphoria in the same category as homosexuality. They may have reservations about more invasive procedures; however, they do not put gender dysphoria or trying to manage dysphoria in the same class of behaviors that Scripture deems immoral.

Yarhouse therefore makes the distinction between experiencing gender dysphoria and the behaviors associated with managing gender dysphoria. He does not clarify what he means by “invasive procedures” but instead alludes to these as being worthy of rancor and insinuates that the reader, or anyone relating to the transgendered person, should be in a position to judge or affirm these procedures. Like the common evangelical treatment of homosexuality, the emphasis is on behavior which is deemed sinful; leaving room for the reader using this lens to accept transgender experience as long as it remains unexpressed.

This is the crux of the double bind for gender and sexual minorities pressed between the impossible dissonance that results. How do I reconcile my personally lived internal integrity (who I am) and the demand to deny who I am? Who must I be to be worthy of respect, love and belonging? Harmful in and of itself, this belief system rooted in essentialism, is often pressed out to more dangerous extremes which result in the notion that transgender people cannot, in their full expression, be welcomed without exception. The mandate to cure such individuals, is not far behind.

The fact that Yarhouse puts forth the integrity lens, referencing Gagnon, and fails to challenge its damaging assumptions including essentialism and heteronormativity is a tremendous disservice to anyone wanting to seriously consider the issue. Yarhouse would not have to go far to point out that the evangelical church is already facing the limitations of the essentialist view, and its need to evolve, on many fronts.  

Religious communities have had to take a more inclusive approach to people they once would have exiled for living outside of this narrow gender script. Rates of divorce, single parenthood, non-monogamy, are no lower within the religious community than the larger culture. But patriarchy is persistent. The integrity lens that Yarhouse alludes to is not an uncommon understanding within evangelical circles and is often unchallenged. The exclusion of women in leadership and church polity which persists in evangelical circles is, in my opinion, an example of the misogyny which lies at the root of homophobia and transphobia; two prejudices while not exclusive to the religious community, certainly find justification in the Yarhouse piece which utilizes the limiting integrity lens, as well as a second, equally damaging and patronizing approach to understanding transgender identity:  The Disability Lens.

“The Disability Lens”

This lens views gender dysphoria as a result of living in a fallen world, but not a direct result of moral choice.  Those drawn to the disability lens may value the sacredness of male and female differences; this is implied in calling gender dysphoria a disability. But the disability lens also makes room for supportive care and interventions that allow for cross-gender identification in a way the integrity lens does not.

Yarhouse uses the “disability lens” as a way for those who want to be more supportive of gender diversity to do so, while maintaining a theological justification for their “support”. The “Disability lens” makes room for some acceptance of gender diverse people through the explanation that trans* folks are not to be blamed for their dilemma.16 This is not a helpful argument for inclusion; especially when the attendant observations privilege the comfort, and opinions of the non-trans* person about how the trans* person should/can justifiably work out their lived identity.  The Diversity approach to understanding transgenderism leans heavily upon the essentialist notion of gender which is rooted in inclusion of cisgenderist expressions and exclusion and stigmatizing anything outside of the binary idea. The implications of this thinking also make way for attempting to “cure” or “change” those who do not fit the ideal.

The essentialist notion of a gender binary ideal is central to a very dangerous practice of “conversion therapy” or “sexual orientation change efforts”17 targeted at “curing” LGBTQ people. Former proponents  of Conversion Therapy are now publically opposed to the practice and efforts are underway to ban the practice nationwide. These practices persist18 despite the evidence that they cause harm, and are not effective.19 Tragically, this ideology has been exported to countries such as Uganda via Evangelicals like Scott Lively, and are being used as justification for the criminalization of homosexuality which has resulted in the imprisonment, death, and displacement of LGBTQ refugees fleeing persecution at home while facing mistreatment in detention centers around the world.20

I hope the reader will pause and reflect on the gravity of this fact: people around the world are facing death and persecution for who they are. That beliefs, have consequences. This is why every major mental health organization has recognized conversion therapy as ineffective and harmful. Conversion therapy for minors is currently banned for licensed mental health providers  in California, Oregon, Illinois, New Jersey and the District of Columbia, and new legislation classifying it as fraud is being considered nationwide for anyone who charges for these “services” to clients of all ages.

Rather than give readers a way in which they can justify a kind of acceptance (or pity) towards transgender people, I suggest that perhaps the disability lies in the inability (or refusal) to comprehend gender from a holistic space that incorporates the body, the mind, and the soul.

The danger of this view is especially salient for a professional working with transgender clients.

I believe there are strengths in all three lenses. Because I am a psychologist who makes diagnoses and provides treatment to people experiencing gender dysphoria, I see value in a disability lens that sees gender dysphoria as a reflection of a fallen world in which the condition itself is not a moral choice.

If a therapist aligns with the view that someone’s transgender experience is inherently undesirable and even a “disability” they are certain to reify the transphobia and internalized shame that drives the pain of being trans*. This results in labeling a person “disordered” in their gender, rather than placing the larger social framework of cisgender privilege in the crosshairs of social critique. While I’m glad to see that Yarhouse is creating some psychological room for the reader to consider a non-condemning approach, I am concerned about how this lens could perpetuate harm.

“The Diversity Lens”

The Diversity Lens as Yarhouse describes it, offers the most hope for an inclusive approach to transgender people among evangelicals:

…sees the reality of transgender persons as something to be celebrated, honored, or revered. Our society is rapidly moving in this direction. Those drawn to this cite historical examples in which departures from a clear male-or-female presentation have been held in high esteem, such as the Fa’afafine of Samoan Polynesian culture. …it answers questions about identity- “Who am I” and “of which community am I a part”. It answers the desire for persons with gender dysphoria to be accepted and to find purpose in their lives.

This paragraph, in my view, holds the most possibility for inclusion and the dismantling of rejecting practices often found within religious communities.

Christianity has been evolving in its practice and tradition as it examines its teachings and historical relationship to society. This evolution includes issues such as racism, slavery, misogyny,21 the raising and disciplining of children and today most recognizably in the matter of marriage equality and inclusion of LGBTQ people. The diversity view has been an integral part of the changes we have seen on these fronts.  

However, Yarhouse recapitulates the problematic essentialism and cisgenderism of the earlier models when he says:

Even as Christians affirm the disability lens, we should also let the integrity lens inform our pastoral care. That lens represents a genuine concern for the integrity of sex and gender, and the ways in which maleness and femaleness help us understand the nature of the church and even the gospel. When it comes to support, many evangelical communities may be tempted to respond to transgender persons by shouting “Integrity!….The disability lens may lead us to shout, “Compassion!” and the diversity lens may lead us to shout “Celebrate!”.  But both of these lenses suggest that the creational goodness of maleness and femaleness can’t be discarded – or that no meaning is to be found in the marks of our suffering.

This is exactly the place where Yarhouse returns to the essentialist integrity model which protects the heteronormative and cisgender ideal privilege and failing to fully explore what a diversity lens could offer: a fully developed theology of gender diversity. What is missing, is a larger and more comprehensive idea of gender diversity as a fulfillment of the integrity question, rather than a failure to honor the sacredness of gender. Transgender identities do not “discard” the “goodness of maleness and femaleness”. It is our notion of the binary categories of maleness/femaleness as either/or, that fail to capture the diversity found in the human experience. The gender spectrum is not a failure to fulfill the divine, it is a reflection of the divine.

The apostle Paul gave his first witness to a transgender person. A circumcised eunuch would not necessarily have the self understanding of a modern day transgender woman, but the fact that the first evangelist chose a eunuch as their first convert, is not insignificant. Diversity. This lens holds the best possible chance to implement the teachings of Jesus. But it requires that we give up a cisgender, binary view of gender and sexuality for a more holistic and sacred appreciation of diversity as an expression of God.

When we fully realize the beauty and diversity of human sexuality and gender, we will be closer to the teachings of Jesus and the lived principles of love, grace, and mercy. To perpetuate the integrity and disability lens, is to justify rejection and condemnation, which leads to despair and hopelessness. To give up these viewpoints requires a willingness to wrestle with what we may not yet understand or feel comfortable with. But to do so will enlarge our hearts and make our communities safer and more inclusive.

Conclusion

We know from both anecdotal and research documentation, that rejection is correlated to poor health outcomes for LGBTQ people. Evangelicals who want to examine their attitudes, beliefs and practices with regards to gender diversity will have to wrestle with the assumptions and privileges afforded to cisgender people and the related justifications for exclusion that so often go unchallenged. The Yarhouse article has some merit as it approaches the subject with respect, and makes an attempt to create psychological space to consider an array of approaches to the matter. While the article fails to confront assumed cissexism and homophobia, it offers a step forward.  In my view, much more is needed.

The Integrity lens which Yarhouse proposes in approaching the “transgender phenomenon” actually reifies the essentialist and binary understanding of gender that fails to comprehend the scientifically verifiable diversity of gender and perpetuates rejection. Maintaining the Disability lens may facilitate a more compassionate response to the transgender and gender nonconforming person, but still directly implies that they are still less than or inferior.  The Diversity lens, however, offers the most comprehensive and psychologically healthy outcome for transgender and gender nonconforming people through a Both/And perspective. When applied in the theological context, this model offers an inclusive way of being with gender diversity that could pave the way for improved mental health outcomes for all gender diverse people within evangelical communities.22

Serious progress for transgender people will require the willingness of all cisgender people to do three things: become aware of their privilege, become aware of gender diversity, and be willing to create space for it. This requires a willingness to be challenged, perhaps be uncomfortable, and to de-center cisgenderism from our approach to the discussion, while listening to the lives of transgender people themselves,23 and centering their experience at the heart of our understanding. While important, it is not enough to just listen. We must act. This process will be required of all communities, regardless of culture, ethnicity, religion, or economic standing. The issues that come forward as most challenging in these communities will vary depending upon the way these social constructs intersect. There are trans* folks who have economic resources, but lack the acceptance of their family and are at risk of homelessness or poverty. There are folks who enjoy the acceptance of their employer, but lack the legal protection needed to insure their economic well being or access to appropriate health care. Attention must be paid to the particular barriers to inclusion, safety, and provision for gender diverse folks that arise in any given context. If we listen to the experiences and needs of gender diverse people, we will be guided by what they need; rather than by what we are willing to give. To do so, we must deconstruct our own assumptions while making space for a larger, more spacious understanding of gender diversity. This, in my view, would be a beautiful way forward.


Suggested Resources:

Trans bodies, Trans Selves A Resource for the Transgender Community

Trans Bodies, Trans Selves is a revolutionary resource-a comprehensive, reader-friendly guide for transgender people, with each chapter written by transgender or genderqueer authors.

Transgender Emergence

Transgender Emergence: Therapeutic Guidelines for Working with Gender-Variant People and Their Families views assessment and treatment through a nonpathologizing lens that honors human diversity and acknowledges the role of oppression in the developmental process of gender identity formation.

Support HR2450: The Therapeutic Fraud  Prevention Act

Short video for professionals on why the ban is necessary for consumer protection and professional excellence.

SoulForce

Soulforce’s goal is to turn this world upside down and inside out in the name of justice and equity for folks across all marginalized racial, sexual, and gender identities. We seek to do the kind of collective activism that makes our souls burst as we free ourselves from spiritual violence.

Family Acceptance Project

Caitlin Ryan, Ph.D. who is the project director states: “family acceptance protects against suicidal thoughts and behaviors, depression and substance abuse offer a gateway to hope for LGBT youth and families that struggle with how to balance deeply held religious and personal values with love for their LGBT children”.

On Level Ground

There are too few places for gracious conversation about the things that matter to us most deeply. Our churches, our families, and our selves are being broken in the crossfire. Cultural tensions continue to rise, along with rates of suicide, homelessness, and general absolution of faith. Each of us — whether gay, straight, old, young, religious or post-faith — have something at stake in the dialogue about faith, gender, and sexuality. Rather than choosing sides for debate, is there another way to move beyond what seems like an inevitable stalemate?

Acknowledgements:

Thanks to my colleagues who contributed editorial suggestions and support in the writing of this article: Heath Adam Ackley, Ph.D.,  Jennifer Alquiguay, Ph.D., James Guay, MFT, Jeffrey Hoffman, editor.

About the Author:

Lisa Maurel, MFT is an experienced LGBTQ affirmative therapist, consultant, lecturer and media expert on relationship issues, mental health, and affirmative therapy for queer people and family systems. Lisa has over 20 years of  clinical training and professional experience in family systems, psychodynamic psychotherapy, mindfulness, and feminist systems of thought. Lisa attended a private Catholic High School, Abilene Christian University and Fuller Theological Seminary before she was conscious of her lesbian identity.  This experience informs her approach to clinical work, professional advocacy and community involvement that promotes the principles of dialogue, education, collaboration, and integration as  a means of addressing social problems and conflicts within the personal and communal context. For more information about her practice or her speaking schedule, contact her at lisa@genderpath.com or visit her webpage www.genderpath.com.

 

  1. The term cisgender refers to the experience of an agreement between one’s assigned sex and gender identity. Cis-genderism is the phenomenon of structural and endemic privilege that is afforded to cis-gender people, resulting in the marginalization and oppression of transgender people through conscious and unconscious, structural and personal prejudice and discrimination.
  2.  Ross, G. (Director) (2012). The hunger games. Motion picture. Lions Gate Home Entertainment.
  3.  Transgender is an umbrella term which incorporates a wide range of gender diverse (non-cisgender) identities which do not conform to a gender binary (Male/Female). Transgender identities result from a dissonance between anatomical/assigned sex and gender identity.  Terms are personal and evolving and not all people who are gender diverse will embrace or use the term transgender. Other terms include: queer, gender gifted, affirmed male, affirmed female. Transgender identity is not sexual orientation. Transgender people can be straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, asexual or pansexual.
  4.   The term cisgender refers to the experience of an agreement between one’s assigned sex and gender identity. Cis-genderism is the phenomenon of structural and endemic privilege that is afforded to cisgender people, resulting in the marginalization and oppression of transgender people through conscious and unconscious, structural and personal  prejudice and discrimination.
  5.  Yarhouse, M. (2015, June) Understanding the Transgender Phenomenon. Retrieved from www.christianitytoday.com.
  6. Mark Yarhouse is the author of  the debunked 2007 study that purported to prove that conversion therapy works and is not harmful. The APA noted that the findings were not scientifically verifiable in their 2009 report on Appropriate Responses to Sexual Orientation Change Efforts.
  7. I use the term queer as an affirmative and inclusive term that honors all gender and sexual identities which fall under the umbrella of transgender, lesbian, gay, bisexual, intersex, questioning people and have a shared experience to some degree of exclusion on the basis of gender non-conformity; either through expression, gender roles, or romantic and sexual partners.
  8. Homelessness among youth demonstrates the danger of rejection. While LGBTQ youth make up 5% of their demographic, they account for 50% of homeless youth.
  9. First, let me say that I am a native to evangelical culture and lived the first 32 years of my life embedded within the evangelical community, prior to my coming out as lesbian.. This includes a Catholic High School Education, evangelical undergraduate education and a masters program at an evangelical seminary . Second, I am a cisgender person with a feminine of center gender experience. Labels fail to fully convey our personal lived experience, but these labels will give the reader some orientation to my perspective. Finally, I am indebted to the hundreds of therapy clients who have shared their gender journeys with me. I owe everything I think I understand about transgender identity and the issue at hand, to the clients, colleagues and friends who have shared their experiences with me as transgender and gender diverse people. I do not speak for them, rather, I have taken in their experiences and been forever astonished at the complexity of gender and sexuality as both a personal and a social experience. In gratitude for their confidences and the enlightenment it has brought into my work, I hope to use my voice for those who will not be heard or would be harmed in their speaking.
  10. Since most people are cisgender, having a gender identity which resonates with their assigned sex; recognition of gender diversity and the attendant social changes this entails requires a conscious and intentional willingness to go outside of one’s awareness to make change; rather than to simply “tolerate” the other with no meaningful change.
  11. Homophobia is the fear and dread of non-straight identities, behaviors, expressions, and relationships. Heterosexism is the institutional privileging of straight identities, behaviors, expressions, and relationships and the marginalization, erasure, condemnation, and punishment of non-straight identities, behaviors, expressions, and relationships through individual, collective, societal and structural means. Similar to institutionalized racism, classicism, sexism.
  12. Cisgender Privilege comes in many forms as highlighted here by ItsPronouncedMetrosexual.
  13. Rejection by family is the strongest predictor of health outcomes for LGBTQ youth. And religiously motivated rejection is one of the behaviors identified in the landmark research by Caitlyn Ryan and the Family Acceptance Project. An LGBTQ teen’s risk of suicide, drug and alcohol abuse, and homelessness increase exponentially in the wake of family rejection. For example, LGBTQ youth are twice as likely to attempt suicide as Non-LGBTQ youth. LGBTQ youth who come from rejecting homes are twice as likely as those from accepting homes to attempt. Transgender and gender diverse youth are particularly vulnerable suffering from higher risks of homelessness, suicide, drug and alcohol addiction and illegal survivor behaviors such as survival sex.
  14. “Intersex” is a general term used for a variety of conditions in which a person is born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn’t seem to fit the typical definitions of female or male. Pulled from www.isna.org on June 27, 2015
  15. Serano, J. (2009, June 12). Psychology, Sexualization and Trans-Invalidations. Keynote lecture presented at the 8th Annual Philadelphia Trans-Health Conference. Retrieved from http://www.juliaserano.com/av/Serano-TransInvalidations.pdf.
  16.  While some trans* folks take comfort in the idea that they were “born in the wrong body”; many do not. I understand that this evolving self understanding and collective consciousness about transness and the gender spectrum is ongoing within the trans* community.
  17.  APA Task Force on Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation. (2009). Report of the Task Force on Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
  18.  The Association for Certified Biblical Counselors asserts that  every speaker at their upcoming conference on “Transgender Confusion and Transformational Christianity” has agreed that no “human being could possess a gender other than the one indicated by their biological sex”. One wonders how they might determine the gender identity of children who are born with vaginas, but grow a  penis upon puberty; due to a rare genetic disorder that occurs with great frequency in the Dominican Republic and  Papua New Guinea.
  19.  Authored by California Senator Ted Lieu, HR2450 or the Therapeutic Fraud Prevention Act is now in the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade, and  would ban conversion therapy nationally, even for unlicensed providers.
  20.  An example of essentialist thinking is that of Barristor Andrew Bird, who argued that a detainee who was applying for asylum after the murder of her partner could not be a lesbian because she has children. “You can’t be a heterosexual one day and a lesbian the next day”. Pulled from “This is what happens in Detention Centers if You are Lesbian or Gay” June 23, 2015 Buzzfeed.com. 
  21. Misogyny lies at the heart of this theological understanding of sexuality and gender.  Misogyny is the dislike, contempt, and/or ingrained prejudice against women and girls and is often expressed in sexual discrimination, devaluing of women, violence against women, and sexual objectification. It is the elevation and privileging of (cisgender/straight) maleness and the subjugation, silencing and devaluing of femaleness. Strict gender role organization and enforcement can be found in evangelical culture in the form of dress codes, body shaming, purity teachings, and other forms of regulation of the female body under the (male) authority of the church and or family.  Conformity to narrowly scripted gender roles has historically been a primary organizing factor in communal and familial life while being reified by the leadership through teaching, polity and community life.
  22. Coming out is a personal and family life event that is as impactful as a birth, a marriage, a death, or a divorce. Family rites, rituals and traditions that support developmental milestones are missing for many LGBTQ youth and for those within evangelical communities, staying closeted can be a matter of psychological survival. Parents within evangelicalism will turn to their pastors for support. When pastors can support parents and their families during this time, rejecting behaviors can be reduced; having a positive and life long impact on the wellbeing of that child. Even when parents are not comfortable with “acceptance”, they can still make changes in their responses that have a long-term impact.
  23.  Reminiscent of Ari Lev’s discussion of Listening to Gender Narratives in Transgender Emergence.

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