In the case of transgender people the questions currently under debate are whether it is right for them to:
- live as members of the sex that is opposite to the sex of their bodies;
- claim that the their true sex is male even though they are biologically female, or female even though they are biologically male;
- claim that their true identity is neither male nor female, but is something else such as androgene, intergender, or pangender.
From an orthodox Christian viewpoint these are not things that should be affirmed.
Scripture, reason and the Christian tradition teach us that in his goodness and wisdom God made human beings as a unity of body and soul. Rocks are purely material, angels are purely spiritual, but human beings are a unity of a material body and an immaterial soul. This unity means that we are our bodies and our bodies are us, which is why it makes sense to say I got up in the morning, I ate and drank, and I went to bed at night. All these are actions of the single self who is both body and soul.
It is as this unity of body and soul that we are either male or female. To be male or female is to have certain bodily characteristics that are designed to enable us to fulfil God’s command to ‘be fruitful and multiply’ (Genesis 1:28) by playing a particular role in the procreation and nurture of children.
Although death leads to a separation of the body and the soul, so fundamental are our bodies to who we are that God will resurrect our bodies at the end of time so that we will exist for all eternity as the male and female human beings God created us to be (see 1 Corinthians 15)….
At the root of the problems with the paper is a failure to take sex seriously. The bishops fail to recognise that a person’s sex, given by God and determined by their biology, is a fundamental part of who people are. We cannot escape our sex and, because it is a gift given to us by God, we should not wish to escape from it, however psychologically troubling it may be for us. Developing rites that suggest that people can escape their sex, and that it is right for them to do so, is thus completely the wrong direction for the Church of England to go in.
What the Church of England needs to do instead is (a) to produce clear teaching explaining the nature of our sexual identity and why this is a good gift from God and (b) to develop the resources which are at the moment sadly lacking to help clergy and others provide transgender people with effective pastoral care that will help them to live as the people God created them to be.