“Some men have vaginas and some women have penises,” congregations have been told in a Church of Scotland resource urging greater sensitivity towards transgender people.
The 30-page booklet, a copy of which was delivered to every Scottish church on Tuesday, asks ministers to consider using gender-neutral language for God as part of a range of measures to make their congregation more inclusive for individuals who identify as transgender.
Testimony featured in Diverse Gender Identities and Pastoral Care includes the demand for a “21st century” update to the “patriarchal” Scriptures, and complaints that “Christian culture” makes life hard for “gender nonconforming” individuals.
“I struggle with the wording of the Lord’s Prayer because I see God as my parent not my father,” writes Andrew, stating that: “God is genderless to me: it’s not father God it is parent God.”
“The Scriptures are very patriarchal; we need to update them for the 21st century,” adds the churchgoer, who was born female but identifies as a man.
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Playwright Jo Clifford, who describes having been called an “abomination” and an “affront to decency” by “traditional conservative Christians”, asserts in one of the booklet’s essays that “some men have vaginas and some women have penises”.
The Rev Norman Smith, Convener of the Mission and Discipleship Council of the Church of Scotland, said the guide “is aimed at better facilitating pastoral care at a local level by giving people the space to talk about their faith and share the impact of the Church community on their lives”.
“It is not intended to make any kind of statement regarding the Church’s wider relationship with the transgender community, nor does it provide a theological explanation or understanding of transgender issues,” he added.
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“I believe that God created us all so that means he created me to be this way,” writes Kaden, who was born female but identifies as a ‘demi-boy’.
Telling readers about life as a transgender person, the 18-year-old reported looking forward to taking testosterone so as to “masculinise my facial features like getting rid of the fat in my cheeks”.
Theology student Iona, who identifies as “an androgyne … somewhere on the spectrum between male and female”, complains that “Christian culture all around us tells us that being trans is wrong”.
“Up until I left home I identified with the female gender assigned to me at birth”, the 21-year-old confessed, explaining that she started to question her identity at university, where she began “reading Queer Theology and Trans Theology” after meeting new people “who had more progressive … understandings of the Bible”.
“Even just the very existence of conversion therapy is a clear sign that people believe being trans to be wrong,” added Iona.
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Until recently, so-called conversion therapy was usually understood to refer to the practice of seeking to change, through counselling, an individual’s attraction to the same sex. This was banned in Britain in 2015.
But in October last year, NHS England and NHS Scotland signed an update of the 2015 memorandum of understanding which adds “gender identity” to the ban on conversion therapy.
Campaigners and experts warn that the new rules compel doctors to facilitate medical transition when presented with a person who wants to change sex, as it effectively bars professionals from exploring any possible ulterior reason the patient feels unhappy in his or her body.