Is There Any Document Regarding Marriage Of A Person Who Has Experienced Sex Change?

The question whether marriage should be considered by transgender people, who have experienced sex change surgery,1 or whether it should be discouraged by the Adventist Church is a delicate question.2 Oftentimes the affected persons have suffered emotionally and spiritually due to their feeling of gender incongruity and rejection by others. So they need all our love and respect.

(1) The Bible teaches clearly that according to God’s plan and design only one male and one female are joined together in marriage. In strongest term Jesus upheld heterosexual marriage and ruled out polygamy as well as sexual relations of homosexuals. These biblical norms are binding for humanity at all times and under all circumstances. Therefore, they need to be adhered to when pondering marriage of transgender people.

(2) The Biblical Research Institute Ethics Committee currently works with the assumption that a male to female surgically changed transgender person should be considered female and a female to male surgically changed transgender person male, even though the new state is not perfect as constant dependence on hormone therapy indicates. If a transgender person has not had a sex change surgery, the committee would consider that person to be male or female according to his/her biological sex, even if that person has adopted a first name associated with the sex opposite of his/her biological sex.

(3) This would mean that a marriage between a non-transgender male and a transgender male or between a non-transgender female and a transgender female would be understood as a homosexual relationship,3 prohibited by Scripture.

(4) A transgender person may be attracted to the same sex but may dislike sexual relations, for instance, as a male with another male and therefore may seek sex change surgery, which would open the way to have sex with a male now as a female. Such behavior appears to be a sophisticated form of homosexual behavior that would also militate against the biblical perspective of homosexuality.

(5) Regarding the question of whether a surgically changed transgender person should attempt to have reversed the prior surgery, we do not expect persons who have undergone sex-change surgery to attempt to revert to their former state, because presently sex-change surgery is irreversible. Under this assumption it would theoretically be possible for a transgender female to marry a male and a transgender male a female, unless the sex-change surgery was undertaken for homosexual desires. Yet even if marriage would be potentially possible, we believe that transgender persons that have had a sex change surgery should abstain from seeking it.

(6) A marriage between a transgender person and a non-transgender person can be a tremendous challenge, especially if total transparency is lacking. The non-transgender partner would need to know that the future spouse originally had the same biological sex that the other partner still has. Some partners might be able to live with such a situation, while others may find it challenging or impossible to live in a marriage relationship with a transgender person. In addition, the issues of sexual relations and having children would need to be raised between the partners that want to marry. For instance, a male to female transgender cannot bear children naturally.

(7) Even if both partners were transgender persons, reasons for getting married, issues of sexuality, having children, forming a family, etc. would militate against such a marriage.

(8) As much as heterosexual marriage of non-transgender partners is a blessing, it also means work and adjustment of the partners to each other. This does not end after an initial period of a few months or even several years but continues as long as a marriage exists. Today some heterosexual marriages are ending in divorce even after thirty or forty years, because the spouses can no longer stand each other’s idiosyncrasies and standard behavioral attitudes. If this is true for marriages that are entered in by persons who have not had their gender identities compromised in any way, this is even a greater challenge for persons that come to a marriage relationship with strong psychological burdens as a consequence of feeling trapped in the body of the other sex. Marriage is not a way to bring psychological healing to individuals struggling with gender identity issues.

For these reasons we would strongly caution people against a transgender marriage. However, even if the Church would not approve of a couple’s choice to marry, the local pastor should still minister to those entrusted to his care.

1 Other designations are sex reassignment surgery, gender reassignment surgery, sex affirmation surgery, gender confirmation surgery or sex realignment surgery.

2 For the question whether the BRI Ethics Committee would recommend or discourage same sex surgery see the statement on sex change surgery.

3 See the two official statements of the Adventist Church on homosexuality: statements/article/go/0/homosexuality/vitality/service/ and article/go/0/same-sex-unions/beliefs/en/