Those seeking spiritual care from Lead Them Home are 50% self-identified SSA strugglers and 50% self-identified LGBT+ persons, both Christian and non-Christian. Of LGBT+ persons, roughly 30% are transgender who experience moderate to high gender dysphoria.
Gender dysphoria is an internal discomfort, anxiety or pain associated with one’s gender or certain aspects of one’s gender.
For such persons, there can be a “trigger” around personal pronouns. The world refers to them as one gender even though they internally feel like or aligned toward the opposite gender. Years of being called a personal pronoun that does not match your internal gender identity can be exhausting. It can wear down a person’s sense of value and acceptance.
No wonder opening the Bible can be such a struggle! There are, in particular, countless He’s in scripture (referring to God). Lead Them Home has noted that for many “T” individuals, they shut down and pull away from scripture because personal pronouns trigger dysphoria.
Many pastoral counselors try to “talk at” this problem by attempting to negotiate the “T” client out of their discomfort. While the intentions are kind, it gets translated as “you do not understand me.” Importantly, transgender persons encounter this within both religious and secular circles.
Making the Scriptures Accessible to Your “T” Loved Ones
Lead Them Home began seeking a way to help make the scriptures more accessible to our many “T” friends. With a thoughtful and compassionate approach, we find the creativity needed to bridge the gap between the “scripture dysphoric” trigger and God’s promises.
Here is one approach that fully honors God’s Word while making the scriptures more accessible.
First: we must all realize that “all” people can get triggered by God’s Word.
In one recent situation, a young “T” friend was reading Psalm 23 and suddenly stopped: “These male pronouns are making me very uncomfortable.”
Suddenly, a single word in the prior psalm jumped out: dominion. (Psalm 22:8) For someone who has been sexually abused or raped, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, this word can “trigger” them to feel pain or fear. They too could close the Bible and detach from scripture.
The majority of us could experience this on much less tragic terms. The point is that “T” people are NOT the only people triggered by language in scripture. This is important to convey.
Second: while the first point is a fact, you can never rest on that point alone to relieve discomfort.
It may be helpful, but their “experience” remains very REAL. The difficulty they face must be honored — rather than questioned or minimized.
Third: to address this discomfort, you can ask your friend to close their eyes as you read scripture for them.
It works like this: ask the person which name of God they feel most secure with. You might assume it will be Father and discover this is not the best name. For some, it’s not just the masculine that triggers discomfort, but also the paternal elements. Rather than suggest options, ask them what they prefer.
Let’s say your friend says “God” is the best option they can come up with. Now, return to Psalm 23: “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. My God makes me lie down in green pastures, leads me beside still waters, restores my soul, and guides me in paths of righteousness.” Continue in this manner and God’s Word becomes digestible — even comforting — minus the trigger.
Some might protest: “How far could this adjusting of God’s Word go?” To that is it worth honoring the sincere concern and responding: “Only to words that continue to glorify God!” It is no harm to the scriptures to turn “He” into “My God.” To the contrary, it can enhance glory to God — and personalize God’s love for people!
In the past, many well-meaning pastoral counselors have attempted to talk “T” individuals out of their discomfort. We might have moralized their resistance to reading God’s Word. We might have minimized or questioned whether their experience is “real.” One pastor recently told a young person: “You are not transgender. You just need to take every thought captive.”
I agree — “all of us” must take every thought captive. But we must enter the reality of others’ lives rather than pretend they are faking it. To experience “T” feelings is a very real human experience. Community will produce comfort only when we creatively and compassionately dwell with people where they are and make God’s Word accessible to them. After all, that is what Jesus does for us…
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