Is There Any Document Prepared By The Biblical Research Institute Regarding Sex Change Surgery?
SEX CHANGE SURGERY - A CURRENT POSITION BRI Ethics Committee, October 2014
The rise of transgender issues to social prominence raises important questions for the Seventh-day Adventist Church. In particular, the question of sex-change surgery (also called sex reassignment surgery) challenges the Church with sensitive questions. Although the transgender question is important, the scope of this document is limited to provide some guidance regarding sex change surgery. We acknowledge that questions related to sex change surgery are not merely clinical, but involve human beings who are experiencing deep emotional distress as they try to grapple with their personal gender identity. These people need our love, prayers, support, and guidance.
There are two areas of questions for believers in reference to sex change surgery. The first is whether those who are already members of the church but experience gender identity tensions should have sex change surgery? The second regards those who first have had sex-change surgery and then come to Christ and the Church.
BELIEVERS AND SEX CHANGE SURGERY
Gender identification usually aligns with one’s birth sex. Sometimes, however, genetic, chromosomal, hormonal, and intrauterine influences may result in ambiguity of anatomical sexual differentiation. In these situations anatomical development of genitalia can result in a spectrum of disorders spanning the gamut from definitely female to overtly male. Those born with ambiguous genitalia may well benefit from corrective surgical treatment.
There is another group of persons whose anatomical gender identity is clearly male or female but who identify with the opposite gender of their biological sex. Such individuals sometimes request surgical intervention to change their genitalia into that approximating the opposite sex. They are the focus of the following considerations.
1. While the struggles and challenges of those identifying as transgender have some elements in common with the struggles of all human beings, we recognize the uniqueness of their existential situation and the limitation of our knowledge in such issues.
2. As Christians we look to the Word of God for guidance. First, from a biblical perspective the human being is a psychosomatic unity. This means that sexual identity cannot be entirely independent from one’s body as is frequently asserted. In fact, in Scripture, our gender identity is, to a significant extent, determined by our birth sex with God being the author of gender identity (Gen 1:27; 5:1, 2; Mark 10:6; Ps 139:13, 14). Second, the Bible reminds us that each person with his/her mind and psyche is part of the creation that is corrupted by sin (Rom 3:9; 7:17; 8:20- 23; Jer 17:9; Gal 5:17) and needs to be renewed by God (Rom 12:2). Our emotions, feelings, and perceptions are not fully reliable indicators of God’s designs, ideals, and truth (Prov 14:12; 16:25). We need guidance from God, through Scripture, to determine what is in our best interests (2 Tim 3:16).
3. A human is meant to be an undivided sexual entity. The claim that some individuals experience a psychological sexual identity incompatible with their biological sex reveals a serious type of psychological dichotomy. Such psychological disturbance or brokenness is an expression of the damaging effects of sin on humans. It remains unclear, however, if this disturbance or brokenness can be overcome through
4. So far, sex change surgeries are irreversible. Persons undergoing these procedures have to use hormones for the rest of their lives, which indicates that an integrated sexual identity is not achieved through surgery. Surgery does not solve the problem completely. What aggravates the situation is that while surgery is irreversible, people may change psychologically as they grow and mature, seeking again a new identity.
5. In some cases, sex-change surgery may be motivated by a sophisticated desire for homosexual activity. Undergoing sex-change surgery in order to satisfy the homosexual urge to have sex with a person of the same sex would violate the ethical and moral biblical principle of sexual activity being limited to heterosexual marriage.
6. The Scriptures call humans to manage their emotions and passions by bringing them under the Lordship of Christ (Gal 5:24; James 4:7). Sexual drives and identities are not to be satisfied on the ground that, since they are considered to be normal or natural, we should let nature run its course. Sin and evil have corrupted human nature including gender identity and sexuality. While self-discipline is indispensable in bringing both into harmony with biblical values and principles, God has promised the Holy Spirit to help us face our sinful impulses and our attraction to sin.
7. Since surgery does not solve the situation, a person is more likely to find wholeness and healing by learning to live with his or her sexual condition of a real or perceived dichotomy in sexual identity while leaning on the Lord for constant help.
For these reasons the BRI Ethics Committee strongly cautions against such a radical and irreversible procedure and urges pastors and church members to demonstrate care and regard toward those who struggle with this challenging issue. Should individuals seek to use sex-change surgery as a way of circumventing biblical principles addressing human sexuality and the proper way to satisfy such desires, they would be acting against God’s revealed will. The Church must remain loyal to its commitment to the will of the risen Lord as revealed in the Scriptures and therefore display love for all.
NEW CONVERTS WITH PRE-CONVERSION SEXCHANGE SURGERY
The situation becomes even more complex in the case of persons who underwent sex change surgery before coming to know Jesus as their personal Savior and Lord. How should the Church deal with them when they ask to become members of the community of believers? To answer this crucial question we make the following recommendations:
1. That we treat these persons with love and respect, demonstrating our serious interest in their wellbeing. Those involved in the conversation should do their utmost to avoid aggravating the new converts’ emotional condition. Adding pain to persons who have been hurting most of their life is not an expression of Christian love.
2. That we recognize that God called them to salvation in the state in which they were found by Him, lacking wholeness, and that they accepted the call to salvation.
3. That we do not coerce these persons to reverse their surgery. It could be argued that although the Lord finds us in a state of fragmentation, He wants to transform and restore us and that therefore new believers should begin a process of medical reversal that will take them back as close as possible to their pre-surgery physical condition. Such an attempt would create significant problems because complete surgical reversal remains impossible, and even a partial reversal may seriously endanger the health of the persons involved.
4. That we do not deny church membership to persons that have undergone sex change surgery but are committed to the Lord and his will. The only thing that we can biblically require is what the Bible requires from all of us: to allow the Spirit of the Lord to bring inner healing to us and to live a life of moral and sexual purity while looking forward to the moment when the Lord will restore wholeness to all of us.1
The irreversible nature of sex-change surgery, the fact that the Lord touched the hearts of transgender persons and accepted them as His children, as well as the recognition that all of our bodies have not yet been redeemed (Rom 8:23), makes us very cautious when interacting with them. Our respect and care for these persons follows Christ’s example of serving others while being fully committed to God and His revealed will.
1 For a discussion of the issue of transgender and marriage see the related BRI Ethics Committee’s opinion.