Culture At Large

Transgender identity and Target bathrooms

Jenna Brandsen

Target recently shocked many of its customers with this statement: “We welcome transgender team members and guests to use the restroom or fitting room facility that corresponds with their gender identity.”

For many, this was not a welcomed announcement. Some 10 days later, over 1 million people had signed on to an online boycott of Target that had been called for by a conservative Christian activist organization.

Signing a petition and boycotting Target isn’t the only way Christians have chosen to speak out when it comes to Target’s announcement. In comments I’ve seen on social media and conversations I’ve overheard, Christians have called transgender people “disgusting” and “dangerous.” Parents have declared that they would never knowingly let their children interact with a transgender person.

Let me be clear: I’m not here to either affirm or denounce Target’s policy. I’m much more concerned with how Christ followers are reacting to other human beings — and in the name of Jesus at that.

And so I have two questions. Maybe they can help us process the fallout of Target’s decision, as well as prepare us for the next big controversy regarding transgender identity, which is sure to arrive any day.

Question one is: what do I know about humans? Question two is: what do I know about God? I ask these particular questions because I believe that what we know about God informs what we know about ourselves as His followers.

I know a lot of things about humans and human nature. It helps that I am human, and a greatly fallible one at that. In this case, I’m reminded that humans, tainted with sin, are fearful. We fear what we do not know. And many of us do not know what it is like to be a person who has gender dysphoria. Many of us do not know what it is like to be an outcast of society as a result.

We’re in great danger of not only falling into fear, but also reacting out of it.

Since many of us may not be able to imagine being anything other than what we are — a cisgender man or woman — if we’re not careful, we’re in great danger of not only falling into fear, but also reacting out of it. And unfortunately, a lot of our reactions as Christians sound hateful and ignorant.

Question two. Now, there’s infinitely more to know about God than humans, which makes me realize just how little I understand about Him. What I do know about God comes from who He has revealed Himself to be in Scripture, in the person of Jesus and in the ways He continues to affirm that through the Spirit in the world today.

I won’t pretend that it’s a mind-blowing knowledge drop to say that the God I know is for, and not against, the marginalized person. That theme runs consistent through Scripture. He loves those who are outcast and is attentive to them. In this case, that means the transgender man or woman seeking to use a bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity.

As Christians, we follow a Christ who lived in love — not fear — toward the one whom everyone else deemed unlovable. Every person you see walking down the street, regardless of the labels we use to describe ourselves, is created and deeply loved by our God.

That’s what I know about humans and that’s what I know about God. The church is in a time of new questions and territories. The truth of the matter is that there aren’t going to be easy answers. But the way to move forward must be one that honors the Christ we follow. Can we be Christians who stop reacting in fear and start responding with the light of the One who created and deeply loves us all?

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