It’s great that you can still be friends with them.
Maybe you should be taking a boy with you.
Isn’t that weird?
Just under five years ago, I became friends with a chick at college who is now a dude I’m still friends with. Bryson and I bonded over his posters of Obama and Matchbox Twenty hanging in his college room during the first week that we moved in. We remained firm friends who went to the movies, ate chocolate, studied and enjoyed each other’s company.
However, towards the middle of second semester, Bryson disappeared from college. No one knew where he was, and I was worried. I called everyday with no answer. Until, at a fateful 2am, Bryson appeared online and replied to my message. Bryson told me that he was struggling with his gender identity and that at least some part of him wanted to be a guy. He felt confused and just didn’t know what to do. He apologised profusely for telling me.
How did I respond?
I didn’t run around and quote the Bible. I didn’t tell Bryson that he was going to hell. I didn’t line up my pitchfork.
Why…? Christians are called to love others in the midst of their pain and suffering. What my friend needed was someone to listen. I had spent three months worried about him, and he had being going through tough stuff alone.
What he needed was a friend. A friend who didn’t dismiss the significance of his suffering because it wasn’t something the Christian community sees as God’s plan.
A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity. ~ Proverbs 17:17
But you did tell him he’s a big trans* sinner, right?
Not that day, nor the days that followed after.
Christians need to be aware that being transgender and transitioning is a highly emotionally driven decision. Unhelpfully, I had people telling me it was great that I could still be friends with him. As if someone being trans* is a reason to stop being friends.
If Christians were to stop talking to anyone we thought were sinners, we’d talk to no-one… including ourselves.
As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God…” – Romans 3: 10-11
I still remember having a rather sad friend who was sitting on my floor [slightly intoxicated] telling me how much he hated himself. To tell Bryson that his choice is wrong, when my faith is not his own, would be for me to tell him I’d prefer the alternative path he was heading down before transitioning.
I prefer an alive Bryson to a dead friend. An all too real alternative that Christians should not forget.
A few years later we talked about identity and how my identity was in Christ; not the way others perceived me. This didn’t lead from a conversation where I presumed that Bryson had made a decision to transition into a dude, because he simply wanted others to see him that way – but one about what made us, “us,” and where we believed our identity came from.
Christians also need to realise that the decisions that we would make are different to that a non-Christian makes. We believe in living lives for God, and should not begrudge and belittle non-Christians for not doing the same. Bryson knows the Gospel and has his own views on life.
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. – Colossians 3:1-3
As Christians, we are called to be witnesses of Christ and to show his love.
If you actually want someone to believe that God is loving whilst being friends with someone who is trans*, then the best way to do that is to actually be a friend.
Save any recommendations for when they bring it up or decide to be a Christian. People who are trans* deserve to have such a large decision dealt with appropriately, rather than someone steamrolling them with advice that is not appropriate for where they’re at. Gender dysphoria is a legitimate psychological issue which is handled differently by each person much like the depression and anxiety that manifests alongside it. Words carry weight, and need to be spoken thoughtfully.
Let’s be clear. I love my friend regardless of the pronouns he uses, the clothes he wears and the legal documents he changed. And you should love him too.
What if I come across someone who’s trans*?
- Don’t run away, dodge them or ignore them. Say hi.
- Get to know them.
- Be aware that those who are trans* may have been burnt by other Christians.
- When they are comfortable, ask questions to understand not to argue.
- Use the pronouns they identify by. This is something loving to do. Much like not calling your friends names that they don’t like. Apologise for when you forget.
- Don’t just view them as someone to convert.
Today, Bryson has changed a lot from the chick I met in my first year. He has a new name, his ID card now matches his face, and he’s had a chest reconstruction. He’s much happier and we still go to the movies, eat chocolate and enjoy each other’s company. We talk about Christianity, we talk about transgender identity and we understand that we are two different people who still like Obama and Matchbox Twenty.
I would encourage you to listen, learn and love. Speak graciously and wisely. Pray honestly. And don’t disregard the trans* community, their feelings, their struggles and their choices, because loving them first is the most loving thing to do.