• The Gender Recognition Act 2004 allows a biologically normal man to become a woman in law and visa versa. This means a man can apply for a Gender Recognition Certificate and then obtain a new birth certificate stating he was born a woman.
  • Under the Act a man can become a woman “for all purposes” in law. He could then legally marry another man, because in law the couple would be of opposite sexes.
  • The Act makes it a criminal offence for anyone in an official capacity (including church leaders and Christian employers) to disclose the true sex of a person with a gender recognition certificate. The offence is punishable by a fine of up to £5,000. In March 2005, the Government agreed to bring in secondary legislation creating partial exemptions for church officials.
  • The Act greatly increases the likelihood of hostile litigation by transsexuals against churches.

Biblical arguments

Transsexuals are people who are biologically normal, but who believe themselves to be members of the opposite sex – they say they are ‘trapped in the wrong body’. And so a male-to-female transsexual will assume the identity of a woman. Often transsexuals undergo a ‘sex change’ operation. The Gender Recognition Act 2004 provides many legal rights for transsexuals.

Three fundamental premises lie behind the Act: one, human psychological states rather than human bodily nature can determine a person’s gender; two, it is right for a surgeon to deform a healthy body in the interests of a psychological disorder; and, three, the State should validate psychosocial confusions having precedence over unambiguous biological sex. Christians say these premises are wrong from biblical teaching, and also church tradition and common sense reason. First, the Bible teaches that a human person is a mind-body whole. So the body determines personhood, not just the mind.

The first Christian heresy was to deny that “Jesus Christ has come in the flesh” (1 John 4:2). Genesis 1:27 records: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” Biblical Christians hold that ‘sex change’ surgery desecrates a body made in the image of God. And the Bible teaches that the State should validate what is right and not what is wrong (Romans 13:3). 

Secondly, the Church of England’s 2003 discussion document also equated transsexualism with the ancient heresy of Gnosticism.1 Both see the body as unimportant and the mind as all important. Gnosticism was strongly condemned by early Christian theologians such as Irenaeus (c 130 -200 AD) and Tertullian (c 155 -220 AD).2 Thirdly, the philosopher, Sir Peter Strawson, also holds that a person must have “bothstates of consciousness and corporeal characteristics… [so] the orthodox have wisely insisted on the resurrection of the body”.3

It is therefore wrong to determine a person’s gender because their mind cannot accept their body. As the Bishop of Winchester has stated: “When the bill passes into law, for me the words woman and man will no longer mean what they have always meant and the government will have introduced marriage between two people of the same sex.”4

Churches try to care for transsexuals and to speak to them about the Gospel. The Christian response to a transsexual, as with any other person, should be prayer, care and counsel as for any with psychological difficulties and where necessary repentance and faith in Jesus Christ (Acts 20:21). There will, of course, be differences in the pastoral approaches that are taken. However, when it comes to deciding who should join ladies’ prayer meetings or be leaders, who should use the ladies’ lavatories or take Holy Communion, surely individual churches should have the freedom to decide this themselves? Surely the law should not leave churches wide-open to legal actions in secular courts over such matters?

The theologian Oliver O’Donovan (Regius Professor of Moral and Pastoral Theology at the University of Oxford) has argued: “If I claim to have a ‘real sex’, which may be at war with the sex of my body and is at least in a rather uncertain relationship to it, I am shrinking from the glad acceptance of myself as a physical as well as a spiritual being, and seeking self-knowledge in a kind of Gnostic withdrawal from material creation.”5

Key arguments

  • Transsexuals are men and women who are biologically normal, but who believe themselves to be members of the opposite sex. This feeling of being ‘trapped in the wrong body’ may lead to a transsexual demanding what is often called a ‘sex change’. This involves the use of hormones and surgery to change their appearance and sexual characteristics.
  • The problem, however, is psychological: the evidence supports this view overwhelmingly.6 A painful operation cannot solve the mental dysfunction. Many transsexuals regret their decision to live in the opposite sex. A Home Office report on transsexualism stated: “Many people revert to their biological sex after living for some time in the opposite sex…”7
  • Doctors from the NHS Portman Clinic, an internationally acclaimed centre for ‘sex change’ treatment, have stated “…what many patients find is that they are left with a mutilated body, but the internal conflicts remain.”8
  • Gender ideology claims that gender is socially constructed – your biological sex does not determine your gender.
  • Gender reassignment only changes the outside, not the inside. In fact it is not possible to change sex. People are born either male of female. The objective fact is that the XY or XX chromosomal/genetic pattern is set at conception. It does not make sense to say “I have the right to change sex”. It cannot be done. It would be like Parliament passing an Act to decree that all pregnancies in future will be by men not women.
  1. 1Some Issues in Human Sexuality – A Guide to the Debate, discussion document from the House of Bishops’ Group on Issues in Human Sexuality, Church House, 2003, page 249
  2. 2Berkhof, L, The History of Christian Doctrines, The Banner of Truth Trust, 2002, pages 45-51 and 62-63; Elwell, W A (Ed.), Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, Paternoster Press, 1999, pages 444-447, 569 and 1078-1079
  3. 3Strawson, P F, Individuals – An Essay in Descriptive Metaphysics, Methuen, 1959, pages 104, 116
  4. 4The Sunday Times, 29 February 2004
  5. 5O ‘Donovan, O, Transsexualism and Christian Marriage, Grove Booklet on Ethics, 1982, page 11  
  6. 6‘Transsexualism’ in Atkinson, D J and Field, D H (Eds) New Dictionary of Christian Ethics and Pastoral Theology, IVP, 1985, page 22
  7. 7Report of the Interdepartmental Working Group on Transsexual People, Home Office, April 2000, page 25, para. 5.1
  8. 8The Daily Telegraph, 15 July 2002