As our culture increasingly lives according to transgender ideologies, there are obvious conflicts between a biblical worldview and the values that surround us. For Christ-followers, pursuing hearts with the gospel is our primary goal, but we also need to figure out how to live well with those who do not share our worldview.
This tension isn’t new, and the prophet Jeremiah addresses one like it with Israel. Captive in Babylon, Israel was surrounded by a pagan culture, but, rather than telling the Israelites to ignore the people around them, God tells them through Jeremiah to “seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare” (Jer. 29:7).
These words remind us that seeking the welfare of those around us is good, and they should encourage us to engage meaningfully with the wider culture on current issues. For many of us, that includes discussions about gender identity. Important questions about gender come up in conversation with our friends and acquaintances, our colleagues over lunch, and teachers and administrators at our children’s schools.
While gender clarity isn’t our greatest hope for our unbelieving neighbors, thinking and living by God’s created and intended design will help our society and the individuals in it to flourish. We are called to be agents of change in the world, but we should always do this with the desire for and movement toward heart transformation through the gospel.
Natural Law’s Lessons
One way we can intentionally have these dialogues is through the lens of natural law. Natural law—principles drawn from the created order—helps us identify the parts of gender expression that are socially constructed (like stereotypes), while confirming that male and female are biological and physical realities.
A natural-law perspective supports the ideas that our bodies express our sexuality, that our biological sex is rooted in chromosomal differences that cannot be changed by surgery, and that our feelings can often be a poor indicator of truth.
A natural-law approach is not the only way to discuss transgenderism with non-Christians, but it can help us communicate across worldviews. When your unbelieving coworker or atheist relative engages you on issues of transgenderism, it is possible to have a profitable dialogue.
Here are some ways to engage in these natural law discussions meaningfully.
A natural law approach is not the only way to discuss transgenderism with non-Christians, but it can help us communicate across worldviews.
1. Lead with compassion.
We must treat every person with respect and compassion. Every human being is made in God’s image, and while we will never convince our enemies of our viewpoint, we might persuade our friends.
Demonstrating compassion in our conversations begins with respect and kindness toward people who are struggling with gender identity, and it must extend to those who passionately support the LGBTQ movement. Our aim is not to win a debate, but to share truth with abundant grace. Our attitude and words toward people who see the world very differently should be filled with such great compassion that they may be surprised to learn we do not share their viewpoint. We can’t afford to get this wrong.
2. Humbly ask questions, and pursue answers together.
We can wholeheartedly agree with our unbelieving friends and neighbors that our goal is to help people experiencing gender dysphoria. The question is, how do we do that? Most people who support the transgender ideology do so because they have empathy for people who are truly suffering in a body that feels foreign to them.
However, there are good, research-supported reasons for opposing an affirmation-only approach to transgender issues. We may disagree on the way to best support someone with gender dysphoria, but not the goal itself.
There are good, research-supported reasons for opposing an affirmation-only approach to transgender issues.
If you have a good relationship with the person, suggest a book to read together. Why Gender Matters, Irreversible Damage (read our review) and The End of Gender are examples of books written by people who affirm parts of the LGBTQ movement but also find significant problems with transgender ideology.
These books can be particularly helpful for engaging with non-Christians because they are based on research on gender dysphoria, how men and women are different from one another, and biological reality. These researchers provide a perspective that is compassionate but also based on data that demonstrates natural-law principles.
Furthermore, asking questions can demonstrate your interest and care, while also encouraging consideration of other views. For example, we might ask: Is affirming someone’s internal feelings always the best way to demonstrate your support? Why would feelings be a better indicator of reality than someone’s body? Is it possible that an affirmation-only response could actually harm the person you are intending to help? If it’s possible to help someone we love to feel comfortable in their own skin, wouldn’t we at least try that first?
3. Identify shared values, and work from there.
Many people who support transgender ideology are frustrated by cultural stereotypes. This is a place we can easily find common ground with them. We can agree that stereotypes can be problematic and even harmful. Transgender ideology can actually reinforce the very stereotypes it claims to be dismantling.
Many people who support transgender ideology are frustrated by cultural stereotypes. This is a place we can easily find common ground with them.
For example, if a man has “feminine” interests, the response that fights against stereotypes would be to welcome and encourage his diverse interests while acknowledging that he can pursue them as a man. Being opposed to rigid stereotypes means refusing to use them as categorical boxes for what it means to be a man or a woman. A man can enjoy dancing and be sensitive; a woman can love fixing cars and be less emotionally expressive.
“Atypical” gender expression should not threaten or cause people to question their identity as male or female. Identifying places of shared values gives us a common ground to work from.
4. Commit to relationships.
Finally, it’s important to communicate that it’s possible to maintain healthy relationships with people whom we disagree—and that this is indeed our desire. If my ability to treat another human being with respect and kindness were contingent upon my full agreement about worldview or life decisions, then I would have very few friends.
Christ-followers shouldn’t shy away from difficult or controversial issues—even though changing others’ philosophical viewpoint is not our primary goal. We must be fully committed to both reaching hearts with the gospel and standing on truth in our wider culture. Nancy Pearcey wisely wrote, “Christians must find ways to make it clear that we are making claims about reality, not merely our subjective experience.”
The biblical view of sexuality isn’t right because my subjective experience claims it to be so; it’s right because God declares it and it reflects what is true in our world. Let’s find compelling and compassionate ways to discuss what is true in the world and encourage all to find their hope in Christ.