By Alan Lamb (name changed to protect privacy)
If I never learned about pure, undistilled grace, I would have transitioned to a female and left the church.
My journey toward accepting grace began when I graduated high school and stood on the cusp of transitioning. For years I had the desire to dress, act, and behave like a woman—including finding a relationship with a man. I picked a college that was very LGBTQ+ affirming and was dead set on leaving the church and beginning the process of pursuing the desires of my heart.
Despite being a pastor’s kid, I’d become upset at the hypocrisy of Christians saying they were full of grace but not putting it into practice (especially concerning LGBTQ+ issues).
However, some Christians at the college I chose began inviting me to Christian events with groups they were involved in and—out of fear of loneliness—I accepted some of their requests.
I ended up in a ministry house not long after. At the ministry, I met a guy who asked to hear my full story and all its details. I’d been feeling awful holding all my desires inside so I let everything out: all I had done and all I wanted to do. Instead of the shaming and condemnation I expected, I was told that despite my past and present desires, God didn’t hate me and I was lovable by others and by God. He shared with me Romans 6:23: “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” I realized I wasn’t living the life I wanted to live and that though I still had desires that didn’t fit within Christian morality, I realized I wanted Christ more than I wanted to be a woman.
The thing that brought me to an acceptance of Biblical masculinity was not a poignantly laid out exegetical argument against transsexuality nor a fire and brimstone diatribe against homosexuality but a man who gave me the space to speak about my desires openly and let me know he and God loved me nevertheless.
Though exegetical discussions about LGBTQ+ issues are important for Christians to delineate what the Bible says about these topics, when engaging with individuals whose identity is often inexplicably tied to their gender, pastoral care should be at the forefront of our minds.
While I was in the midst of struggling privately with these desires, I desperately wanted to be dead; the only thing that stopped me was the love my dad showed me. And I’m not the only person who has had that thought. According to the American National Institute of Health, 41% of transgender people in the United States attempt suicide at least once in their lives. We need to be loving these people, not rebuking them.
If you want your church to love the trans person who walks through your door well I have three suggestions:
1. Let Them Know You Value Them Before Engaging in Discussion about Biblical Truth
In John 4, Jesus took a threefold approach in talking to the Samaritan woman at the well. First, he talked to her as an equal despite the culture of animosity between the Jews and Samaritans. Second, he expressed the gospel to her in simple terms, saying “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again.” Lastly, after she has acknowledged that she wants this living water, he tells her of her sins and that she needs to repent. I’ve heard it said by multiple people that we need to help people know they are welcome before we teach them how to believe and teach them how to believe before we teach them how to behave. This is especially true for the LGBTQ+ community.
2. Create Space for Grace
The worst part about dealing with gender dysphoria for me was the hiding. I was and am constantly afraid that if people knew about my desires that they would run away. In Andy Stanley’s book Deep and Wide, he expresses the problem of churches for church people this way: “It’s hard to extend grace to people who don’t seem to need it and it’s hard to admit you need it if you aren’t sure you’ll receive it.” Space for grace opens up when you are willing to show your brokenness to someone else and let them know we are all equally unprivileged, broken people at the foot of God but given the gift of grace despite that. Give them opportunities to talk to you and let them know you won’t run away.
3. Help Them Find Intimacy Outside Romantic Relationships
Unfortunately the only place to find intimacy in most churches in through a relationship with a significant other. While this might be easy for the straight couple called to marriage, there are many individuals who are not called to marriage at this moment (or ever) and that’s okay. In 1 Corinthians 7 Paul says that he wishes everyone could be single like him to be less distracted in ministry. If you aren’t creating a culture where intimacy can be found outside marriage, you are likely failing many individuals in your church.
As embarrassing as it is to now be steeped deeply in Christian circles and still deal with the desires to be a woman and have sex with men, denying that I have those desires only makes them worse. Instead, I’m now moving towards a place where I can channel those desires through the cross to be more effective in the way I love the people around me. I don’t deserve to be where I am but by the grace of God I learned of the grace of God. Christian leaders, I plead that you help others to find the same life-changing grace.
Check out Grace/Truth!
A small group learning experience designed to help Christians engage in conversations about faith, gender, and sexuality.