jennifer hanigan

a pinch of this and a dollop of that

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Dear Christianity Today: No. Just no.

Christianity Today has published an article about transgender people, and now I have some words.

Let us begin with the title, “How the Transgender Narrative Perpetuates Stereotypes.” Yes, they are actually arguing that transgender people bear some responsibility for the continuation of unbiblical stereotypes about men and women.

Transgender people. The very people who are saying hey, gender seems far more complicated than we used to think and maybe we should rethink things. Perpetuating gender stereotypes.


I could go line-by-line and pick apart this article but I have homework to do, so I’m going to stick to two main points.

1. Anti-LGBTQ+ Christians cannot use complementarianism (the idea that men and women, by virtue of their physical sex, have different roles in family, church, and society) to support their claim that same-sex relationships are wrong, while simultaneously saying that transgender people would not feel conflict between their physical sex and their internal sense of self if they understood that your physical sex does not restrict you to certain sets of behaviors. Those two things cannot simultaneously be true!

2. Over and over the article references chromosomal sex as a binary thing. We are understanding now more than ever that it really is not. In actuality, people may have more than two sex-determining chromosomes (XXY, for instance). And in addition to that, we’re now finding out that chromosomes can be turned on and off, and their behavior changed, by other factors. Gender has, in fact, never been binary. It has never been simplistic. Very little about this world is!

Do the rigid gender roles promoted by both church and society cause conflict in people? Absolutely. I have known people who were secure in their understanding of their own gender, but who felt they did not fit into the space the world allowed for them based on that gender (actually, now that I think about it, I would fall into that category). But that is in no way the same thing as understanding that your sense of self and your physical body don’t match up the way they ought, the way others expect them to.

The Bible is silent on this issue, except to say that in the future, in our resurrected bodies, there will be no gender. Christians need to stop viewing things they don’t understand as things that need to be fought against. Now, as I am not transgender myself, I recommend reading these stories of transgender Christians in their own words.

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Sorry Not Sorry

There’s this odd phenomenon I’ve discovered, and I’m not sure if it has a name, or how to describe it, but it’s making me tired.

Somehow, my sexuality is seen as an inconvenience and a burden…not to me, but to those around me. And I’m guilty of thinking like this, as well.

For instance, several people at my parents’ church have told me I ought to be on the worship team. I know they meant this as a compliment, but it left me scrambling for something polite to say, some way to explain, without making them feel badly, that their church won’t allow me to do so because I like women, and if they knew I liked women, they probably wouldn’t be making this suggestion anyway. It left me in the position of having to apologize for being queer, or fumble for vague excuses (which is what I did).

I’ve worried that women might be uncomfortable around me, and whether I should still hug them, or sit next to them. I have been concerned about all the women who’ve ever been naked around me and whether they might be angry that they weren’t warned I was queer.

I’ve been told again and again that I’ve caused problems in the church-that-used-to-be-mine, that there’s division and unhappiness there since I came out, and since I was kicked out. As if it’s my fault that there are gay Christians and the church doesn’t know how to love them. As if it’s my fault that they dealt with that by kicking me out. As if it’s my fault that some people are unhappy that I was kicked out. I’ve been told the church might die…because of me and my queerness.

The other day I was confronted by one of the dozens of people I’ve let go from my life because they continue to support this church, which is not only not loving people as it is called to do, but which won’t allow me through the doors on a Sunday morning. This person seemed to think that I was indebted to her because she still “loved” me after she knew I was queer.

If you think me being bisexual is in any way equivalent to you and your church (because let’s be real, the church is the people whose butts are in the pews) oppressing and harming me and people like me, I don’t want you in my life. I don’t know what that is, but it isn’t love.

And being queer is nothing to be sorry for.

So I’m done being apologetic about it, though I might have to remind myself from time to time. There are many things in my life I have had, and will have, to apologize for, but being queer is not one of them. If it makes you uncomfortable, that’s gonna be your problem, not mine. If you feel guilty or have your beliefs challenged or whatever happens when you encounter me, you’ll just have to deal with it. It’s not my job to make you feel better about how you see or treat me. And I’m too tired to keep trying, anyway.

Remember the friend who wrote a guest post? I was expressing my frustrations with the well-meaning people at my parents’ church to her, and she said, “Jesus likes you. So should your church.” And she was right. So last Sunday I tried a new one, one that I knew to be affirming of LGBTQ+ people. The music director there happens to know me, and know I’m queer, and when he saw me, he said, “It’s good to see you! We have a choir, you know!” And it was all I could do not to break down in tears. I probably won’t sing, because of things like homework, but not because of who I am.

If there’s any apologizing that needs to be done, it’s by those who have treated me so badly that an invitation to join a choir has become something to cry over. And I won’t apologize for not holding my breath.