Austen Crowder

Focus on the Family gives away free books!

Filed By Austen Crowder | March 17, 2009 1:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Fundie Watch, Marriage Equality, Politics, Transgender & Intersex

Or: Doctor Dobson's Dead Fish Handshake

File this one under "surreal, messed-up Focus rhetoric."

I could go on for a country mile about Focus on the Family's positions on gay marriage, reparative therapy, and the social degradation created by LGB issues. I thought, of course, that the page on transgenderism would be more of the same: hellfire and brimstone, calls to action by concerned church members, hope for healing for all gender-confused individuals, with plenty of warm-fuzzies for the Love Won Out crowd. Yet FotF's perspective on transgendered people is as schizophrenic as it is compassionate; its politics and its principles just Do Not Mix.

Sure, their scare-quote laden definition of transgender activism defines us as a single beam in the sinful House of Gay:

Today we in the West are confronted by a spirit of "transgender" activism - flowing out of the gay rights movement - that says gender no longer matters, that the distinctives of male and female are merely social constructs and that the sexes are interchangeable.". . Gains afforded to one group will necessarily come at the expense of another. Specifically, those who hold to a biblically orthodox view on homosexual or transgender behavior will increasingly find their voices marginalized and then eventually banned from the public arena.

So far, I'm with them. Right. I'm really putting a kink in on their idea of male and female, I should be a father-figure, yadda yadda yadda. It's old hat. But this?

While God's intent for sexuality and gender is being turned upside down, we must remember that those who struggle with their gender identity have lived lives of great pain, confusion and rejection. And, just as Jesus went out of his way to reach the outcasts of society, we're called to humbly share His love embodied in the Gospel, to lift them up in prayer and to allow the Holy Spirit to bring about conviction, healing and transformation.

Go ahead. Read that paragraph again. I'll wait.

That's right: Focus on the Family, one of the most anti-gay of anti-gay groups on the scene today, just called on Christians to pray for the Holy Spirit to bring conviction, healing, and transformation - transformation for a transgendered person. And to think that FotF is actually recognizing our pain and rejection instead of tossing us aside like a used toy... well, it threw me for a loop.

These are the same people who pull gems like this:

Because "transgenderism" violates God's intentional design for sex and sexuality, we believe that this is a cultural and theological battle that we must engage and win... Ironically, the same activists who tell us that "sexual orientation" can't be changed want us now to believe that somehow "gender" can be changed!

Crouching Tranny, Hiddin Faggot. Yes. Been there, heard that. But transformation? With such a statement, you would think that the "next steps" page would contain some sort of further education: some sort of link we distraught transgendered people could follow that would shed light on the situation. Fie and thither! Let's look:

Popular questions on this topic:

  • Do you believe homosexuality is inherited?
  • What is the responsibility of the Christian who struggles with same-sex attraction?
  • What should be the attitude of Christians toward those who are gay?

Related Resources

  • Coming Out of Homosexuality
  • You Don't Have To Be Gay
  • Into the Promised Land
  • 101 Frequently Asked Questions About Homosexuality
  • Love Won Out

You guessed it: not one of the so-called "next steps" on their position statement refer to transgenderism. This is supposed to be the lobbying body behind such hits as Florida's "Bathroom Bill." This is the group calling us transsexuals dirty perverts and pedophilia-driven predators. Yet despite the danger we pose they can't even be bothered to offer ways to fix us? One of these things is not like the other.

Being the ever-curious woman that I am, I contacted Focus on the Family with my questions about their transgenderism position statement. Focus on the Family sent me a book: Transsexuality.

Kiddies, this is where we step through the looking glass and into some funky, alternate dimension full of talking rabbits and happy-time mushrooms.

The book came without any "sign up for Focus newsletters and Ex-Gay ministries" strings attached; instead, they sent the book with a purpose-stating note: "This should clarify Focus on the Family's position on transgenderism."

Fair enough, I think. I'm open to the Marketplace of Ideas.

Ten pages in, I realize that the book was written from an Anglican perspective. Now, I've attended Christ Church Cathedral in beautiful Downtown Indianapolis for a while now, and I'm not exactly sure if an Anglican perspective was the best decision for an anti-TG position book, especially considering the organization that sent it along to me. Sure, there's a bit of a rift in the church right now concerning liberal issues, but even still this is a bit... well, a bit much. No big deal, I say to myself. There has to be some juicy meat in this book somewhere.

I know! The primary aims of the book should show some perspective! I started there:

1. Assisting Christians to respond more effectively to media and interest groups seeking to promote transsexuality as a valid alternative lifestyle by providing an informed resource tool.
2. Assisting Christians in relating pastorally, socially and sensitively to transsexual people whilst uphold biblical standards both of morality and compassion.
3. Affirming and supporting Christians who are actively involved in ministering to those who seek pastoral support as they consider coping with, moving towards, or moving away from, a transsexual lifestyle.
4. Affirming and supporting Christian families where a member has adopted a transsexual lifestyle.
5. Providing a basis for relevant input at Parliamentary level to the legislative and opinion-forming processes.

Wait. Where's the bathroom clause? Where's the "protect kids from sexual predators" aim? Dr. Dobson, are you reading the same book I'm reading?

I'll save you reading most of the first, second, and third chapters. Chapter one discusses the terminology and issues surrounding transgenderism. Chapter two discusses the historical context of TG and the Christian Church -- including the slam dunk quote "To date the evangelical Christian community has not seriously attempted to respond to the issues raised by transsexuality." Long story short, TG people exist, and Christians need to pay attention.

Chapter three goes into detail about the Christian response to transgenderism treatments, and contains many of the traditional arguments against hormone therapy, SRS, and radical plastic surgery. Yet the chapter ends like a limp rag: "We remain convinced that re-adoption of original gender roles, though difficult, is certainly possible for some transsexuals." Note the use of the word "possible." Not "necessary," nor "preferable," nor "probable." Possible. Carbon monoxide poisoning is possible, too, but you don't see everyone jumping out of their cars.

The justification behind that Bathroom Bill sure is getting weaker and weaker, Dr. Dobson.

Chapter four is mostly dedicated to law in Great Britain, and as such isn't worth mentioning here. However, it is, shall we say, queer that a book provided by FotF would allow discussion of transgender marriages in the light of same-sex marriage. Notable quote:

There is also something faintly distasteful about requiring a sort of mutilating operation with infertility implications to take place before an individual is granted what they want, especially given that we clearly acknowledge the desire (the psychological identification) to be the critical factor in allowing a change.

At least the Anglican perspective takes a look at present-day law instead of, you know, sticking stoically to cherry-picked Biblical passages.

Chapters Six and Seven accurately represents FotF's position, but does not reflect its policy. These chapters discuss the necessity of gender separation, and how physical evidence must be used as evidence of mental gender. This is done to protect society as a whole.

Their argument, as much as I may not like it, is valid: by accepting our social construction of gender, Christians must, by default, surrender their view of body and soul as intrinsically linked. Yet the book avoids directly calling transgenderism a social ill that must be rectified, and even describes pastoral emergencies in which hormone therapy or SRS may be justified.

The book soon brings home the bacon. Sure, it discusses methods that pastors can use to lead church members away from transsexuality. Yes, it does suggest that it is the pastor's responsibility to gently lead the transgendered person away from transition and back to a life restricted by rigidly defined male and female roles. Yet the methodology actually allows transgender people to come to these conclusions on their own, one way or the other. Yes, the church is attempting to stop people from transitioning, but at the same time they will not force a change.

The book does discuss how transgenderism isn't an ideal outcome. However, it does not banish the outcome of transition to "completely unacceptable," and that stands in direct opposition to FotF's view on the subject. Where FotF attempts to make LGBT lifestyles so uncomfortable that people will seek to leave it, this book attempts to lead trans people slowly away from their decision, and leaves open the possibility that, in some cases, transition is necessary.

So what was a curious girl supposed to do? I asked more questions.

FotF responded by putting me in touch with an Ex-Trans ministry. Natch. The book was a dead fish handshake, a soft-pedaled attempt to get me in the door. I felt like the car buyer enticed by the smell of new-car air fresheners to the man in the pinstripe suit that kicked tires and fast-talked me into signing the papers.

I haven't talked to Focus since.

Leave a comment

We want to know your opinion on this issue! While arguing about an opinion or idea is encouraged, personal attacks will not be tolerated. Please be respectful of others.

The editorial team will delete a comment that is off-topic, abusive, exceptionally incoherent, includes a slur or is soliciting and/or advertising. Repeated violations of the policy will result in revocation of your user account. Please keep in mind that this is our online home; ill-mannered house guests will be shown the door.

Angela Brightfeather | March 20, 2009 10:52 AM

Dear Amber,

In your quest for some new found middle ground between FoftF and the Transgender Community, you are traveling in a field of wheat where many paths have already been carved out.

The details are interesting, but the end of your quest for some acceptable middle ground, ends the same way it has ended for thousands of Trans people over the last 50 years. It's a dead end and at the end of that dead end there is a battle going on that has to be fought whether you want to fight it or not. Sorry, but peace is no longer an option.

I find that the intellectual approach to our situation concerning abuses, injustices, intolerances and discrimination against Transgender people by groups like FoftF may have gotten more detailed over the years, but still end up in the same place. It appears to be us or them and on the "us" side of it, since we live in a democracy we must use the term "equal" to the full extent that it is intended under the law, which is a far cry from where we are today. If this were not so, then we would not even be writing back and forth about this today.

But the fact that this is well stompted on territory that has seen the feet of many, many Transgender victims within their own churches after being discarded and evicted from them, should indicate that the war is on and that amicable middle ground just is not available and has not been available for many years. Thus the need for concerted and judicious activism is most necessary to gain any ground towards equal rights. Any attempt to search for bigots who are not bigots any longer within the Christian sea of holiness and moral rightiousness, is akin to trying to catch fish in a lake of sulfuric acid. You not only will not catch any fish, but your line is going to melt before your eyes due to the poisious water.

If there is any possible middle ground on this it is in the area of education and acceptance of the right of each opinion to exist, as you have already noted to some degree. The only problem with that is, FoftF don't think they need to be educated and instead refer you to some older version of yourself who has started their own Church of Revisionist Therapy Conversion for the Betterment of all Transgender People. In other words, a nut job. (Sorry for the harshness of that but anyone who is Transgender and thinks that they are no longer, has had some serious frontal lobotmy work as far as I'm concerned.)

So in the end, your rejection of this excercise in futility is 100% correct. The only problem is that you wasted your time in the research, when you could have been carrying on the war on another front, had you just asked them two questions to start. Why does the Creator keep on making Transgender people and what is the Creator's purpose in doing so?

See if those questions are in their little guide book to our community.

It's Focus on the Family. You can't trust them further than you can throw them. I say, piss on them.