By Rev. Andries Coetzee
As yet another legislative session moves toward a close this month, we are again watching elected leaders exploit LGBTQ people for political gain and try to write discrimination into state law.
As a Christian pastor, my heart aches to see people targeted and exploited because they express their God-given identity. But this year, I am particularly shaken by especially cruel bills targeting transgender youth and their families amid the isolation of a pandemic and an increase in hate crimes against our transgender siblings.
The intensity of the heartache is palpable in pastoral relationships with parents and children, expressing their deepest fear for their safety and mental and spiritual well-being. It is saddening that our elected officials will further isolate transgender children and their families when access to social support is greatly diminished due to COVID-19.
Some bills would effectively ban transgender students from participating in school sports, treating them like outcasts at school. Others would criminalize age-appropriate, gender-affirming health care for transgender teens. One bill would even brand parents who consent to this medically recommended care as criminal abusers for simply loving and supporting their transgender child.
Here’s what I believe: We are all God’s children and created in the image of the divine, gay or so-called straight, transgender or cisgender.
In Galatians 3:28, Paul asserts that there are no male or female, but all are one in Christ Jesus. From this oneness in Christ’s Body, we all are extended the grace to find our path in this life. That elected leaders would seek to turn transgender youth and their families into political punching bags is contrary to Acts 10:15 that states: “What God has made clean, you must not call profane” (NRSV). Such behavior is a violation of God’s Spirit that is within each person and thus against God.
Supporters of these bills grossly mischaracterize what this care is. But it is actually crafted thoroughly and thoughtfully in consultation among medical experts, parents and guardians, and transgender youth. Withholding this care, the American Medical Association has warned, “can have tragic health consequences, both mental and physical.”
Even so, I have heard lawmakers justify these bills by pointing to their “Christian faith perspective.” The author of one bill argued on the Senate floor that providing gender-affirming care to transgender children meant trying to “reverse” God’s creation.
That is not my Christian faith perspective. I am always wary of elected leaders who claim to know God’s will and use that as a justification for passing laws about people whose lives they don’t understand and who will suffer for it.
Transgender children are not a threat to God, neither to our society nor to you. In fact, we can learn a lot from them as they embody the costly act of cultivating and expressing the person God created us to be. Thus, for us as churches, transgender youth help us live more fully into being a reflection of the church as Christ’s Body.
And, for us as a nation, they help us embrace the American motto: E Pluribus Unum — out of many one.
I know it can be hard for some people to understand what it means to be transgender, especially if they have never met someone who is. But I hope we can all agree that transgender people, and especially youth, deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, just like everyone else.
Indeed, my religious faith teaches that we should treat others as we wish to be treated, and through this Golden Rule of love, we find unity with all people of consciousness. Transgender children, like all children, have the best chance to thrive when they are supported and can receive the health care they need. These bills would take that possibility away from them in Texas.
As people of conscience, the opportunity is before us to hold our elected officials accountable. Now is not the time to play politics with our children or families but to face the multiple crises we have, including the COVID-19 pandemic and the winter storm recovery.
Cover photo: Kai Shappley of Pearland, Texas, left, and Adri Perez of El Paso held a banner in support of transgender rights at the Texas Capitol in April. (Photo courtesy of Kimberly Shappley)