Is It a Sin to Have Sex-Change Surgery?

By Michael Brown Published on May 29, 2016

With all the uproar today over transgender issues, especially in the Church, there’s an important question that is not often asked, namely, “Is it a sin to have sex-change surgery?”

I can hear two immediate responses to the question.

The first represents “traditional” Christian thinking and says: “Of course it’s a sin! You’re mutilating or removing perfectly healthy body parts and trying to play God by changing who He made you to be. You don’t do this to the temple of the Holy Spirit.”

The second represents “progressive” Christian thinking and says: “How dare you call this a sin! And who made you the judge? This is actually life-saving surgery that has helped many of God’s precious children find wholeness. And it’s called gender-reassignment surgery, not sex-change surgery.”

Which view is right? And does the Word even address the question of sex-change surgery or, more broadly, the question of transgender identity?

Before probing these questions, it’s important to remember that we are talking about people and not just issues, and some of these people have suffered severe mental and emotional torment for years before deciding to have sex-change surgery, to the point that, in their minds, it was either sex-change surgery or suicide.

Those of us who never struggled with this cannot pretend to understand their agony, and to the extent we simply brand them “freaks” or “perverts” or “degenerates” is the extent to which we do not share the heart of God.

It’s also important to remember that some of these individuals profess a strong faith in Jesus and an absolute faith in the Scriptures, pointing out that they are not engaging in any forbidden sexual relationships. They are simply finding peace from mental torment and affirming what they believe to be their true identity.

So, what does the Word of God have to say about all this?

Let’s begin with stating the obvious: The Bible does not say anything specific about sex-change surgery (or about body-altering surgery in general).

What the Bible does say is that: 1) God created human beings male and female; 2) male-female distinctions are of foundational importance; 3) male-female distinctions should be celebrated. (When Paul taught that there is no male or female in Christ, he did not mean that there are no distinctions between the sexes. To the contrary, he often gave different instructions to men and women. What he meant was that there is full equality in Christ for men and women, slaves and free, Jews and Gentiles; see Galatians 3:28.)

And so, while we recognize that some people are born with biological or chromosomal abnormalities, generally identified as intersex, we don’t overthrow God’s intended order for their sake. Rather, with compassion, we view them as suffering from a handicap and we work with them to find the best way to achieve wholeness, which could include surgery to address a particular aspect of that handicap.

But that does not mean for a second that we embrace the contemporary war on gender, a war that denigrates gender distinctions as oppressive and constricting. Rather, we recognize that the war on gender is a war against God’s intended order for humanity.

Consequently, there is no scriptural support for people who want to live like “Sally [who] considers himself a gender outlaw, playing outside the traditional definitions of man and woman.”

Unfortunately, in its desire to affirm those on the fringes, LGBT activism often embraces an “anything goes” mentality in terms of sexual orientation and gender identity, affirming people like Tobi Hill-Meyer, self-described as “just about your average multiracial, pansexual, transracially inseminated queerspawn, genderqueer, transdyke, colonized mestiza, pornographer, activist, writer.”

Of course, Hill-Meyer is hardly claiming to be a born-again Christian, but under no circumstances do the Scriptures affirm this kind of gender-mocking mentality, nor is there a place for relationships described in the Village Voice as, “We are transgendered men (female-to-male, or FTM). My boyfriend is the mother of my child.”

As for the question of cross-dressing, Deuteronomy 22:5 is often cited: “A woman is not to wear male clothing, and a man is not to put on a woman’s garment, for everyone who does these things is detestable to the LORD your God” (Deut. 22:5, HCSB).

The fact that this practice is described as “detestable to the LORD your God” almost certainly means that it is on a different level than dietary laws or other ritual prohibitions, which were not sinful in themselves but were given to keep Israel separate from the nations. (For the Hebrew phrase “detestable to the LORD your God” in Deuteronomy, see 7:25; 12:31; 17:1; 18:12; 23:19; 25:16; 27:15.)*

But what exactly does the verse mean?

According to the IVP Bible Background Commentary, “Just as clothing served as a status marker in the ancient world, it also distinguished gender. … Most instances in which cross-dressing or transvestism are mentioned in ancient Near Eastern texts are cultic or legal in nature. … It may be this association with other religions that made transvestism an ‘abomination’ in Deuteronomy, but the issue may also be the blurring of gender distinctions.”

Of course, readers who identify as transgender would say they are not cross-dressing but are dressing in accord with their true gender identity. It is doubtful they would have fared well with that mentality in ancient Israel.

What about the question of sex-change surgery? Let’s approach this from a different angle.

What about those who suffer with BIID, Body Identity Integrity Disorder, sometimes referring to themselves as transabled? They are tormented by the presence of healthy limbs (or other body parts), finding peace only when that healthy body part is removed or disabled.

Is it a sin for them to have a healthy limb amputated or healthy eyes blinded, even if this is the only way for them to find peace?

When I asked two transgender activists on the Tyra Banks Show whether it was right for someone with BIID to amputate a healthy limb, they told me it was not. Yet one of these activists was a prominent male-to-female doctor famous for sex-change surgeries!

As Selwyn Duke noted, “Sure, it strikes us as the most horrid malpractice when a doctor amputates healthy body parts, such as a pair of legs. But, then, should we call it something else just because those healthy body parts are between the legs?”

On one of the more bizarre episodes on the Jerry Springer Show, a man who identifies as Sandra and who cut off his legs with a circular saw, was ridiculed by Springer and the crowd, not because he cross-dresses but because he cut off his legs. In contrast, his wife and daughter expressed little concern that he amputated his limbs. Instead, they were furious with him for destroying their lives by identifying as a woman.

As for “Sandra,” he was very happy with both of his decisions, now confined to a wheelchair and proudly wearing a dress.

How revealing that the audience had no problem with a biological male finding peace by living as a woman but ridiculed him for finding peace by amputating his limbs.

Returning, then, to the question of sex-change surgery, should we view it as we view chemotherapy, which is destructive in itself but can often effectively fight cancer? In that case, we would say it is not ideal but may be a life saver.

Obviously, God alone is the Judge, and only He knows exactly what is happening inside someone’s brain — be it a physical malfunction or an emotional malfunction — but I cannot possibly believe that God’s best solution for a biological and chromosomal female who identifies as a male is for her to have her breasts removed, her genitalia radically (and imperfectly) altered, and her body pumped with male hormones for the rest of her life.

At best, it would appear that such radical surgery is terribly misguided but perhaps done out of great duress.

At worst, it would be open sin against God.

But since the clear majority of those who identify as transgender have struggled with these issues for years, some since early childhood, and since many are doing something radical as a last alternative, desperately looking for peace and wholeness, we should not condemn them.

Instead, we should meet them where they are, recognizing that many still live in a fragile emotional state and suffer ongoing rejection from family and friends, we should help them affirm God’s intended male-female order, we should encourage them to repent of wrong actions where possible, and we should, with great longsuffering, stand by them as they seek wholeness within and without.

And if we are on the front lines of speaking out against transgender activism in our society — as I believe we should be — we should also be on the front lines of reaching out to transgender individuals with compassion, spending time on our knees praying for their wholeness too.

 

*I have not addressed the question of those who are born eunuchs (to use Jesus’ description in Matthew 19:12), since it refers to people who were without sexual capacity. While some who are intersex might fall in this category, it does not apply to the vast majority of those who identify as transgender.)

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  • brothergc

    very well written Dr Brown

  • JustChris1976

    Obviously it’s a great thing that medical science can help the very few people who really were born intersex. However, most trannies are just mentally disturbed people who foolishly think that surgery and hormone shots can turn an unhappy and insecure person into a secure and happy one. The real sinners are the surgeons and others who profit from this vile industry.

    • Puddleglumm

      Well said

    • 1Myles1

      Foolishness.

  • Charles Burge

    I’ll leave open the question of whether it’s a sin or not, but I’ll just add this. When someone’s perception does not correspond to objective reality, then it seems to me that the far more sensible approach is to change the perception, rather than try to impose a change on reality.

    • 1Myles1

      You are aware that sin is an imaginary disease requiring an imaginary cure,which some religious creep will sell you if you have enough money.

      • 6thinclass

        Who is buying into a deception?

        • 1Myles1

          Selling a fraud about “pie-in-the-sky when you die” to suckers who don’t know better and are getting cheated so leeches can get rich isn’t a deception?

          • 6thinclass

            You missed my point. If I am a sucker who believes that I will go to heaven because of my salvation through Jesus Christ, what do I lose if I’m wrong? What will you lose if you are wrong?

            And yes I believe that a sin is a sin is a sin…God loves the sinner but not the sin! IMHO, there is only one sin that God will not forgive.

            I believe that you are buying into a deception.

          • 1Myles1

            Since religion is a scam,based on lies and greed,and nobody benefits except the leeches how can you possibly condone pushing that evil on humanity?

      • davidrev17

        Friend, I have but one question: “SEZ WHO?” (And you will need to marshal the hard, objective evidence (i.e , scientific, historical, archaeological, anthropological etc.), thus affirming your subjective opinion. Thanks!

        • 1Myles1

          Any dictionary defines “sin” as a violation or transgression of “god’s law”. Since Popes sold indulgences to forgive the rich their “sins” and pad their own nests,the cure for “sin” can be bought.Since gods are imaginary,so are “sins”.

          • davidrev17

            Just classic evasion & equivocation from the atheistic crowd – meaning, you never even attempted to answer my very simple, point-blank question; whose own “a priori” and/or faith-based religious(less) worldview has been described by some of the most distinguished thinkers on this planet, as being “intellectually impoverished,” or “cognitively bankrupt.”

            Aside from that, what Pope’s have done in the past, (or still do), is light-years from what the Judeo-Christian Scriptures unequivocally teach; not to mention the still highly compelling historical FACTS undergirding/confirming Yeshua of Nazareth’s physical/bodily resurrection from the dead, “on the third day.” (BTW: that’s the same Yeshua of Nazareth that the Bible (as well as Jesus himself) has unmistakably identified, as having been the very Creator & Sustainer of this “contingently-existing” universe – in bodily form.)

            And “Facts are stubborn things…” my friend!

          • 1Myles1

            Facts are indeed stubborn things.No facts ever show any connection between any religion and morality or reality.Facts show that religion is a scam based on lies and greed.
            Facts show that jesus was nothing more than a character in a foolish book of fairy tales.Facts show that jesus never existed.Facts show that Nazareth never existed until one hundred years after the supposed death of your jesus.Facts show that the temple in Luxor,Egypt has one wall dedicated to the attributes of the god Horus.Facts show that Josephus,an admitted forger,could have travelled to Luxor Temple and copied the attributes.Like all the other sun gods,jesus has exactly the same attributes,from the virgin birth to the resurrection.
            Facts show that nothing of a supernatural nature has ever happened so either your god is lazy,or bashful,impotent or non-existent.Take your choice.All other gods and religions are in the same pickle.

            Sensible people rely on facts while the mentally ill;look in a mirror,rely on delusions.

          • davidrev17

            Hmmm….Just look how many times you said “facts show”; yet you never even once cited ANY FACT(S) – to back-up such unsubstantiated allegations at all??

            Then you make the additionally bizarre statement that: “nothing of a supernatural nature has EVER HAPPENED…” Come again? Surely you have NO idea whatsoever, about what you’ve just asserted my friend!

            However, since you, as a supremely rational/logical thinking person, have just affirmed that you et al. simply “rely on facts”; would you be kind enough to state the scientific fact(s) – from any-and-all scientific professional/technical peer-review journals – for the origin of this universe; the origin of “life” itself upon this biosphere; the emergence of @@@O sapiens’ consciousness (or mind itself), as well as the factually scientific answer to world-renowned physicist & astrobiologist, Dr. Paul Davies’ classic question:

            “Just how did nature go digital”???

            I have several more wholly enigmatic, and still unanswered questions just like the ones above, but those should do for now.

            And as for the existence of “objective moral laws,” in a GODLESS, thus purposeless/unguided EVOLUTIONARY-DRIVEN UNIVERSE, please consider the following state-of-the-UNscientific-art declaration, from two of materialistic/atheistic evolution’s finest minds:

            “Ethics is an illusion fobbed-off on us by our genes, to get us to cooperate.”

            — Harvard’s distinguished Dr. E.O. Wilson & FSU’S Dr. Michael Ruse, (1985).

            And please notice in their scientific article, the absolute LACK of ANY scientific evidence whatsoever, to support such counterfactual philosophical speculation. And the evidence is STILL non-existent my friend!

          • 1Myles1

            Consider the speed of light and the fact that all events observed by scientists is shown and verifiable for the last thirteen billion years and that nothing has happened that has no scientific and rational explanation,thus no god has ever done anything.
            If you want to dispute truth,go for it.
            Prove any of the millions of gods is real.
            Prove jesus existed.
            Prove the bible is not a book of sick fairy tales.

            Prove religion has any connection with reality or morality.
            Prove religion is not a fraud,designed to enable leeches to get rich without paying for their grand larceny.

            Prove something that denies anything I have stated.
            Denying facts are facts,just because they disagree with your viewpoint,doesn’t give you any supportable basis for anything.

          • davidrev17

            Just as I suspected. In all of that – you said absolutely nothing! Simply more of that mindless drivel, or tail-chasing empty-babbling, that’s so typical of those whose membership faithfully resides in the atheistic “Church of Darwin.” And the really tragic fact is, you can’t even “see” it….

          • 1Myles1

            Calling the truth mindless drivel only indicates that you will do or say anything rather than face reality.
            Reality requires facts while religion denies everything.

          • davidrev17

            “Truth”??? My friend, don’t you even realize that either from, or within your Godless universe – thus the worldview called “naturalism” – just what does one make of such a vacuously arcane subject, called “truth” anyway???

            (Before you answer, you may want to study the essay’s, “Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism” (EAAN) – some twenty-years in its rigorous formulation – by emeritus (retired) & world-renowned analytic, evangelical “Christian” professor of philosophy, Alvin Plantinga; or even the profoundly compelling essay, “Naturalism Is True: A Self-Contradictory Statement,” by Albrecht Moritz, (2010, revised 2015).

          • 1Myles1

            Consider your source.

          • davidrev17

            “Truth is in [the historical] Jesus” alone…my ONLY source for such; while atheistic-minded folks such as yourself, have, as their ONLY “source” for truth – absolutely nothing! “Facts are stubborn things…”

          • 1Myles1

            The historical jesus was a character in a foolish book of fairy tales.That is a great source for biblical truth(religious stupidity).
            Facts are stubborn things but no evidence point to the fact that jesus ever existed or his sadistic father either.Aren’t we lucky.

          • davidrev17

            Wow!! Talk about possessing a unique form of ignorant blind-faith??? If I just had faith in the Lord Jesus – like you so tenaciously & mindlessly retain in virtually NOthing, at all – then the Lord would obviously be willing to work marvels through me!

            And one last note: “make sure the one you’re following, knows where they’re going”!! (Surely you’re aware of what happens, “when the blind are leading the blind.”)

          • 1Myles1

            Faith only matters when the evidence shows how foolish you are.
            Evidence shows that jesus never existed except as a character in a book of fairy tales.Evidence shows that all gods are phoney and religion is an evil scam.

      • Dean Bruckner

        Sin is imaginary, and yet here you are trying to justify it with all the emotional and mental energy you can muster. Don’t you think it’s odd that we never get into these discussions about appendectomies or tonsillectomies, but only about abortions? Why is that?

        Hint: the conscience has a mind of its own.

      • Dean Bruckner

        The reality of evil and the depravity of man are the most empirically verifiable facts in the universe (Chesterton, I believe).

  • Puddleglumm

    As a Bible-believing Christian I don’t think there is any way around affirming that this is serious sin although it is certainly serious mental illness as well. While it is not unforgiveable, the consequences depending on how far one has gone with it could be life-long and devastating. I would simply go back to 1 Cor. 6:9-11….”such WERE some of you…”

    • Amy

      If u open your mind when reading the Bible it clearly says a woman has giving up her natural use and as for men likewise that means that all this lbgtq humans changed their naturality to something unnatural.

      • 1Myles1

        Religion is the mental illness.

        • jamson64

          Troll. Little more.

  • Noneya

    Studies have shown that 10 years after the surgery suicide rates skyrocket up to 20 times. I can love and pray for these individuals without standing by them. I don’t think they would want me to when I told them they are ill.

    • 1Myles1

      Not one reputable study has ever shown any results like that.

      • Noneya

        Nice addition hominem. “Not one reputable study.” Attacking the source is not refutation.

        • 1Myles1

          Now you stoop to defending garbage?

          • Noneya

            Ad hominem buffet is it?

          • jamson64

            You have nothing. Never.

  • Dean Bruckner

    The #1 question here is, “Whose body is it?” If you’re a Christian, the single answer is clear: it is the Lord’s, not mine. I have no rights in the matter, and my part is to accept his good and perfect will with thankfulness, trust and obedience. God made me who I am, and it is not for me to play God and try to recreate myself.

    • 1Myles1

      That is the same foolish excuse you use when you condemn women for having abortions.Are you mentally ill?

      • 6thinclass

        Condemnation does not apply to the person – it is applied to the sin (of abortion that you use as an example). Huge difference!

        • 1Myles1

          Explain that to the screaming fools outside women’s health clinics.

          • 6thinclass

            Fools? They are compassionately attempting to save a baby’s life. They are not condemning the person. The act of abortion will be forgiven when the person repents of the action.

          • 1Myles1

            When you get pregnant your opinion on abortion will matter,to you;no one else.Until then it is none of your business.Trying to interfere with women and their health care is sick and immoral.

          • 6thinclass

            Abortion is not ‘women’s health care’ – some might consider it birth control but there are better options for birth control. Murder is murder.

          • 1Myles1

            Refer to previous comment and remember that it is none of your business unless you happen to be pregnant.How many women do you want to die like in the 1950’s when religious immorality forbade abortions?
            Now the woman decides and everyone else can get stuffed.

          • Dean Bruckner

            The atomized individual, with connections and responsibilities to no one else, is the very picture of h3ll in C.S. Lewis’s book The Great Divorce. Congrats! You’ve just illustrated the validity of his insight yet again.

          • jamson64

            Tell me when you have an original thought.

  • Amy

    It’s a sin, point, blank period.

  • Romeo Lavilla Jr.

    It is a sin. And you cannot claim to be “whole” after cutting yourself up. God created only 2 genders. He never told us to add. He told us instead to go & multiply …….these 2 genders.

    • 1Myles1

      No god ever created anything because no gods exist or ever have.

      • Dean Bruckner

        If there were no God, there would be no atheists (attributed to Chesterton).

      • jamson64

        Really? That is all you have on a Christian site…lol.

  • Joseph Byon

    I’m in shock that Christian news website would would even ask such a question. Michael Brown gives long complicated answer to basically condone transgenders . Wow! This was my favorite source of Christian news. I can no longer be part of this. I am no longer coming to this website again. Bye.

  • jamson64

    Yes, it is a sin and anyone saying differently is enabling sin to the point that you might as well be doing it yourself.

  • Sandra Segarra

    I think they fall into the category of hypocrites: trying to convince people of something that they
    are not.

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