Nitori is Not Going to Hell For Wanting to Wear a Bra, Part II: A Christian Response to Gender Dysphoria

Last week, I dove into gender dysphoria, explaining what it is and hopefully helping fellow Christians understand that individuals who are confused regarding their gender or who don’t identify with traditional gender roles are just as in need of love and grace as anyone else – they’re not some suddenly created outcast group that God doesn’t care about. We, too, should, must care for them.

But how do we care for them if we think they’re constantly living in sin? Or are we approaching them from the entirely wrong angle?

Mark Yarhouse, referred to in my last article as really developing my outlook on this issue, tells of three frameworks regarding gender incongruence. Most evangelical Christians might fit into the first, which identifies people who see gender dyphoria as simply wrong. Others might see gender incongruence as a disability (Nitori’s sister, for instance, says about her brother, “He’s sick.).” And finally, there are those that would celebrate it and even to a radical extent, try to wholly deconstruct sex and gender.

Instead, an integrated approach, Yarhouse suggests, makes most sense when approaching the issue. It also allows us, I think, to break our own walls of hypocrisy and pride and to graciously approach individuals on the transgender spectrum with love.

But how does such an approach work within a Christian perspective? I think we can see part of that answer in Hourou Musuko, where the main characters are looking to establish relationships and community with people that understand them. Unfortunately, gender dysphoria mixes with teenage angst to make it difficult for Takatsuki and Nitori. Neither is particularly happy as they struggle with their gender identities.

Indeed, gender dysphoria by definition is a struggle, a wrestling with feelings – often very heavy and painful ones – that one’s sex doesn’t match his or her gender. It reminds me of other conditions that we might deal with, like anxiety or depression. When we’re overcome by these conditions, are we sinning? Are we more specifically dealing with the repercussions of the fall?

Perhaps this lack of connection between gender and sex isn’t always willful rebellion, cultural influence, or any type of choice, but a mismatch resulting from the condition our world suffers from – sin. An imperfect world leads to imperfect conditions, such as the feeling that one doesn’t belong in his or her body. Then, having feelings of gender incongruence might instead be approached with empathy, since we all live in this imperfect world.

And with that in mind, we should engage these folks with the gospel message as we would anyone else. They are no more or less in need of grace than anyone. But we must be careful to not hoist our biases and expectations on them as we minister. We must treat them similarly as we do others. We can’t flip the message for this group and expect transformation before salvation, when the latter must always precede the first.

If we have a heart for the lost, for those dying without Christ, we must approach transgender individuals and those working through gender dysphoria with the gospel, as much as any other group. But first, we need to earn our way into the debate, demonstrating compassion, kindness, and caring. Otherwise, we’ll never be given a chance by a individuals that already often feel lonely, maligned, or hated.

 

Instead, these individuals will find their “truth” from other sources. Note that the church plays a minor role in Hourou Musuko as a place Saori occasionally attends. But it’s not pictured as a house of grace (or anything much, really). Imagine if Saori, who already cares about Nitori, was armed with gospel truth from her church, what kind of impact could she, after having been transformed, have made on Nitori! Instead, he and Takatsuki receive love and wisdom outside of the church in the form of older friends, a man and his transgender wife, who almost certainly aren’t Christian and can offer mere acceptance (as comforting as that might be) without the answer all our hearts need.

Are Christians driving gender dysphoric individuals away because of their lack of compassion? Maybe. We’re certainly not making it easy for them to walk into the doors of our church when they’re already encountering so many other difficulties.

Ultimately, we need to see the transgender community and those who have gender dysphoria as sinners – they are sinners, just as we all are. And in the same way, they need God’s amazing grace. They need Christians who act like Saori, engaging them in truthful conversation and understanding their feelings, and like Takatsuki, who thinks of Nitori and offers him a hoodie in episode one, clothing him when he’s at his most vulnerable.

And then…maybe then we can have a voice in the conversation. We can honestly dig into scriptural truths and the choices individuals have in regards to their gender dysphoria. And with that voice, we can help these men and women seek God through the difficulty journey they’ll certainly take, as true brothers or sisters in Christ.

 

TWWK

Husband. Dad. Occasionally Korean. Enjoys Star Wars, ASOIAF, and Meg Ryan movies. Tweets before proofreading. Ghibli. Oregairuuuuu. Jesus is King.

18 thoughts on “Nitori is Not Going to Hell For Wanting to Wear a Bra, Part II: A Christian Response to Gender Dysphoria

  1. As someone who lives with gender dysphoria I would just like to thank you for being so level headed and reasonable about such a controversial topic. Too many Christians are far too quick to jump the gun and start firing off about how disgusting and depraved transgender people are. As someone who is transgender and has had multiple cases of people going off on me about how I’m going to hell before they even let me finish explaining anything about my testimony, it’s just refreshing to see someone finally have an open mind about this stuff. Good articles though. I really enjoyed reading them.

    1. Thank you for your encouraging words, and thank you for your kindness. I think the way Christians treat individuals with gender dysphoria is indicative of how deep we’re sunk into the culture around us – often church culture – rather than in the culture of Christ. I’m slowly learning and I try to shake off the shackles of worldly things (even those disguised as “Christian” things), and I hope that this post will help some others do the same!

  2. I’ve thought about something very similar for a while. I’ve been writing a short story in my head where a conservative protagonist has to grapple with her female friend’s confession of love and romantic desires for her, with the twin issues, beyond mere theological concerns, being that 1) the protagonist is emotionally in no state for a relationship for reasons of her own, and 2) said friend’s attractions are, in this setting, a contrast between her legitimate admiration of Protagonist’s morals and character [“I love you because I think you’re the best person I know, not because you’re hot or I’m desirous”] and an implicit indictment of the repugnant–in this story, often violent–society that surrounds them.

    As in the scenario you mentioned, my point is that it would be easy to say, “Your desires are wrong because X,” whether a person appeals to the Bible or even to medicine ( http://apps.who.int/classifications/icd10/browse/2014/en#!/F64.0 ), but regardless of the outcome or approach, is there a deeper underlying need that isn’t being addressed? We need to care for people as people and to love them in the midst of their honest needs, regardless of whether we are supposed to answer their desires in the specific way they ask for or not. I think those are two completely separate issues, as you are implying here. It’s like telling a child who’s legitimately curious about how adult relationships are supposed to work, “Don’t look at porn–it’s dirty,” without actually helping him grow his character and use his intellect to the best of his ability.

    “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt (i.e., moral distinction — see Matthew 5:13), so that you may know how to answer everyone.” ~ Colossians 4:5-6, NIV

    Thanks so much for this wonderful series of posts on subjects like these!

    1. Thank you for that comparison with your story – what a great example to illustrate this idea. Loving means looking beneath the surface, relating to someone, treating them as an individual that God loves as well, rather than immediately coming to judgment. It’s what we must do – and it’s one of the hardest things TO do, unfortunately.

  3. I feel for those who question their gender. I’ve struggled with it myself, and I don’t like talking about it. What I’ve found best is the gospel message that Christ forgives all sinners, no matter what the sin. He calls us to repent and believe this good news. And that’s the message we must continue to bring to the world.

    1. Thanks for sharing, Tommy. It’s a deeply uncomfortable, but as you say, the gospel message is for all as we trust God as savior and repent to him as LORD.

  4. Something that certainly resonates with me through all this are the words of Romans on how God ‘gives people over’ to certain things. It is indeed because of the sin of this world, and the sins of people, that all manner of ‘sinful’ states of being – such as gender dysphoria – exist and spread. That just reinforces why it’s not issues of gender or sexuality that Christians should target in unbelievers – it’s the very presence of sin, and the need for the gospel.

    The hardest part, for me, isn’t talking with transgenders; it’s being confronted with the growing mindset in the Church that because God loves trangenders just as much as he does anyone, gender dysphoria is a non-issue for believers. Unless God changes (and Malachi says he doesn’t), he still ‘detests’ people dressing in the other gender’s clothes – his forgiveness doesn’t change the fact that it’s a perversion of his will in the first place. And regardless, ‘gender identity’ shouldn’t be an issue for people in the Church – we’re called to find our identity through Christ, in whose salvation there is neither male nor female. But saying those things often leads to people telling me I’m not being a ‘loving Christian’. I guess, in those cases, that the root of the problem is a misunderstanding of love itself.

    We’re wrong if we’re not extending our compassion to transgenders; but we’re also wrong if we think we’re doing so by supporting their condition in the body of Christ. If someone truly has been saved by the grace of God, then the spirit will be working in them to help them cast off sinful chains no matter how tight and natural they feel. We need to work with that, and be in for the long haul, to show our love of God in our love of others by putting what pleases our Lord first.

    1. My hope is that as years pass, there’ll be more Christians – a LOT more – who are qualified practitioners who can work with Christians with gender dysphoria. I think a lot of what we’re seeing with homosexuals, for instance, is either complete acceptance in the church or complete rejection, and I think some of that has to do with a church that doesn’t know how to love homosexuals or deal with struggles of Christians who don’t want to be attracted to people of the same sex but are. Christians with gender dysphoria are in the same sphere and are even less understood, and gender dyphoria among Christians – and maybe in general – is just not understood particularly well.

      But even if that doesn’t happen, or until it does, I hope that church congregants will more and more be able to demonstrate compassion along with sharing the truth, and be able to be true “friends” to such individuals, joining them on their journey of faith instead of leaving them on their own because of discomfort, ignorance, and/or culture.

    2. Seen your blog around on other anime wordpress blogosphere. Talking with OP but your comment also piqued my interest.

      “The hardest part, for me, isn’t talking with transgenders; it’s being confronted with the growing mindset in the Church that because God loves trangenders just as much as he does anyone, gender dysphoria is a non-issue for believers. Unless God changes (and Malachi says he doesn’t), he still ‘detests’ people dressing in the other gender’s clothes – his forgiveness doesn’t change the fact that it’s a perversion of his will in the first place.”

      This part interests me since then is any female that wears pants going to hell? You would say no and that is silly, but the female able to wear pants is a pretty new concept. Think even in the 60s this concept was just growing. Other problem is clothing does not really have a set gender and it varies by culture. What is considered masculine or feminine in one culture vastly differentiates in another. There is no set model of what are girl clothes and boy clothes. Thus it seems kinda hard to judge on who gets the “afterlife pass” based on clothing on something as a social concept as gendered clothing. Unless there are a lot of women in pants walking around hell rn.

  5. “It reminds me of other conditions that we might deal with, like anxiety or depression. When we’re overcome by these conditions, are we sinning? Are we more specifically dealing with the repercussions of the fall? Perhaps this lack of connection between gender and sex isn’t always willful rebellion, cultural influence, or any type of choice, but a mismatch resulting from the condition our world suffers from – sin. An imperfect world leads to imperfect conditions, such as the feeling that one doesn’t belong in his or her body. Then, having feelings of gender incongruence might instead be approached with empathy, since we all live in this imperfect world.”

    Interesting. Comparing this to anxiety leads me to….a weird train of thought. Because I had an anxiety disorder for a time, and then lost it later in life upon learning a few things about theory of mind and how infrequently others really think of you. Basically….It’s BALLS difficult, and not everyone can pull it off (Sometimes your internal chemistry is just permanently screwed up), but you can rid yourself of extreme anxiety by cognitively modifying yourself. You’ll always have the tendency towards it, but the affliction is much less profound. That’s what a good psychologist can do for you. The problem is, people seem to think that because you can do this that you had a choice about entering that state in the first place, and blame you for your imperfect condition. :/ Thinking of those conditions as “sin” IS the problem, often even causing the symptoms to persist longer due to guilt (When the key is in fact to stop fighting and just trust God…) and I’m glad you caught onto that.

    What I’m not so clear on is whether changing yourself into another gender, the gender that better fits your mind, is “illness” and the gender of your body is the “right gender” for you. Because it says that exactly nowhere at all in the Bible. But that debate’ll come up later.

    Thank you for approaching this issue with fresh eyes and compassion. 🙂

    1. Mental disorders are so tricky and differ between each person. God is the only one who knows our hearts and minds. I remember being in a restaurant a couple years ago, then having a very strong panic attack come out of no where. Problem was, I was really not in the mood to have one, it being my sister’s birthday and all. That is the only time I can remember on my journey with anxiety of when I used pure will power to stop a panic attack. Everyone is different, but there is a portion of anxiety you can control, but still much of it you can’t. When I fail to control my anxiety, the next hurdle to deal with is the guilt I put on myself. When I feel guilty about such things, I’m listening to lies and believing them which borders on the lines of sin for me. God doesn’t want me to beat myself up, but he is literally the only one who can help me calm down and stop feeling guilty about a chemical imbalance. “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7

    2. That’s certainly the question, and as astute as you are, I’m sure you’ve noticed I tried to skirt around it some. And although I fall to one side of the debate, there’s reason to fall on the other as well. I’ve read some about either side, and I hope those smarter than I can help illuminate the issue for me by using scripture. But in the meantime, and in spite of the answer, Christians need to love and encourage people to love God according to his terms in their journey of faith, and we do for all believers.

  6. I think in a sense, that……….listening to that lie about yourself, and feeling guilty about the way your hormones are turning, is….giving in to Satan’s most powerful lie. The one that he ….feeds off of, I think….and that has utterly destroyed people from the inside out. The idea that there is a “being worthy” we can aspire to, and by meeting its impossible expectations we will be “good enough.” God states instead that none are ever worthy of Heaven by themselves, and yet all are worthy of His gift (If they repent and accept) and His love.

    “Mental disorders are so tricky and differ between each person.”

    That they do. You almost never know what you’re going to get. The most confident, powerful, deeply self-assured person I know (who isn’t literally an inhuman Eldritch monster or something—Let us not think on how the Bible describes angels looking) also happens to have a really bad variant of what’s called “hypermoral OCD,” and this is all without being religious. There are some things that you just can’t shake after all. :/

    ….I’ll always be haunted by a couple memories, still, despite the worst of the nagging, constant anxiety having left me…so I do understand the feeling. Best of luck. :]

    1. Absolutely – and the church is failing in such astounding fashion and helping though overcome by guilt and other internal pain as our pride interferes with the gospel message and too many find that their church communities are full of self-righteous Christians instead of humble followers of Jesus.

      And also, I’m glad you’ve overcome your anxiety. That’s encouraging for me, as one with someone very close to me suffering with the same.

      Take care, my friend!

  7. I tried to get through this calmly,… tried. But this just comes off as so degrading. For starters despite this facade of politeness put on you went out of your way to call Nitori a he instead of a she, same thing with Yoshino. If you honestly want to talk to people who are trans, and do so in a semi respectful way at least. Would it really be that bad to use pronouns and respect Nitori even if she is a fictional character albeit the one we are talking about?

    I know that you probably don’t want that since the point of the article was to dance around and dress up how you don’t want to, what’s the term you would even use? Play along with or acknowledge her true gender since transgenderism is something you don’t like, but if you wanted to keep a faux air of caring. I know this goes contrary though to what you want and this is my main gripe.

    Wandering son is a sweet little story about a transboy and a transgirl. The underlying theme and message of the story was to show what it was like to be transgender with the main focus on the two of them overcoming to the best of their ability transphobia or trying to describe themselves to others and show who they really are. Your article comes off as the opposite of that which is my main issue with this and the misgendering. It comes off as a long winded way of saying, “Nitori needs Jesus” to presumably save her from the trans and presumably make her live her live as a man. Sure it may make her hate herself living as the wrong gender, but she got Jesus. No Nitori won’t go to hell for wearing a bra… unless she died while wearing one presumably or while presenting as her female real self. Or maybe not as Christians tend to be unclear on how sin and forgiveness work in relation if you go upstairs or down stairs I.E if a gay man died while kissing his partner he would go to hell but not if he repented after the action and then went to hell.

    Perhaps the reason this article strikes me the wrong way is that it goes against the entire message of the show which was meant to be pro trans and showing it in a positive light and making us understand them as characters and transgenderism in the real world. Then this article comes along and takes a dump on that, basically stating a need to minister to these people and bring them away from “the bad trans” At least that is what I am getting since you seem to dislike the fact of Nitori talking to the transwomen and her husband (since it would give them some type of companion ship with people like them) but if a Christian found them and ministered to them (presumably to persuade them to never identify as their gender) that is peachy.

    1. Thanks for the response—I appreciate your honesty and your thoughtfulness, and I understand where you’re coming from.

      You and I have very different world views, I think, and also probably don’t understand each other so well. My experience in understanding gender dysphoria and transgender issues is in an elementary stage, and I’m quite ignorant of that world, though I’ve tried to learn some (as I mentioned in this article) because I do care. Too many Christians do not, and that’s what I’m hoping to discourage in this essay, that we’ll avoid the hypocrisy that often stains our name as a people know for judgement and talk of hellfire than simply loving others.

      I wouldn’t have anybody struggle with their gender identity—my belief is that the ultimate cause of gender dysphoria is sin, that which would cause us distress over who we are and how we were born. My hope is that we as Christians can love everyone (especially when the church is so know for the opposite when it comes toward the LGBT community) and show them toward Christ, which we believe is absolute truth. How transgendered individuals, or anyone else, works out their salvation and faith in Christ becomes part of their own personal journey, as they grow and figure out how their gender identity works within the faith of which they’ve become part.

      1. “I wouldn’t have anybody struggle with their gender identity—my belief is that the ultimate cause of gender dysphoria is sin, that which would cause us distress over who we are and how we were born.”

        Okay like trying to find a way to explain this. Gender Dysphoria has more of a scientific approach and basis than say even something like homosexuality. Gender Dysphoria henceforth shortened to GD, is when the internal brain of the person knows they are their true gender. What they identify as is what they are or what was supposed to be, but like with a lot of things what I call a “fuckey wuckey oopsie” occurred during birth and what was supposed to be a female or male was assigned the wrong body.

        It is where the distress comes from. When you know you are a girl and supposed to be a girl but girls don’t have beards or excessive body hair. Or boys don’t have boobs. Stuff like that. Now maybe you want to apply it to OG sin, as the OG fuckey wuckey and that explains other not nice stuff like cleft lip, or mermaid syndrome, or intersex, or other birth defects. That’s fine.

        But we as transpeople do not and have never really feel welcomed in a church or in religion. True we were not mentioned in it but we kinda were thrown under the whole strict gender roles assigned due to the nature of Jewish society of the time it was written. Our experiences with it has varied. It is not really a secret the Church and most of society sees us as delusional and freaks and that is at best and predators at worst. Usually we are told to be “cured” by people who have no idea what its like, its like telling a depressed person to stop being depressed. It would be like if someone one day forced you to be a woman. Like society forced you to dress and behave as a women and looked down on you and called you a freak if you did not fit in. Perhaps this is why it upset me a bit on this article. Nitori is a sweet girl and I loved her to pieces and I felt so bad her sister was entirely an ass to her. Maho thought she was doing the right thing, trying to make sure Nitori wasn’t a “freak” so she could fit in but it came off as not cool. Then there is the whole school not accepting her and society in Japan as a whole.

        So then from reading this POV with the article and mentioning the Christian it came off as kinda tasteless with the wrong pronouns. You may not realize it but it hurts us. Its like if someone called you she and her or called you a girl. You would say that is not me, stop calling me that. The second concern is I can’t really get a reading on the actual substance of you or this blog’s view of Nitori and you seem to dance around it at times but it just kind comes off as off putting. Like I get the feeling that what you would want is for Nitori to not be happy with being a girl which was like the opposite of what the point of the anime was, that we should realize how painful and stressful such a thing is for Nitori and sympathize with her and her plight to try and be a little girl she truly is. Thing is Christians and people in general can show love but sometimes that love is not manifested in a good way. Indeed love can be horrible at times and some of the most horrible things can be done of love not hate. Maho when she was trying to force her sister to be a boy was doing it out of love no doubt. She wanted her to be “normal” and not a sick freak, but the actions she did caused him harm and trauma emotionally. Her goals and place was out of love but her actions and end goal was doing harm to Nitori. That is why I am a bit wary of the message and the themes of the Church and what not and that line.

        “Instead, these individuals will find their “truth” from other sources. Note that the church plays a minor role in Hourou Musuko as a place Saori occasionally attends. But it’s not pictured as a house of grace (or anything much, really). Imagine if Saori, who already cares about Nitori, was armed with gospel truth from her church, what kind of impact could she, after having been transformed, have made on Nitori! Instead, he and Takatsuki receive love and wisdom outside of the church in the form of older friends, a man and his transgender wife, who almost certainly aren’t Christian and can offer mere acceptance (as comforting as that might be) without the answer all our hearts need.”

        The church tends to act like Maho. Maybe they mean well or their actions have a context and starting point out of love or concern, but the way it usually goes. The methods usually use are horrible, harmful mostly. Road to hell is paved with good intentions as they say? IDK it feels like that the goal is that Nitori should be persuaded to not dress how they want, to confirm to gender roles that don’t fit, and do not identify as their gender. Since in 99% of churches salvation for people like me and Nitori means we have to live a lie. Its hard to gauge your own thoughts but that is just how it comes off to me and the article that is about a protrans anime, seems to be supporting the very antithesis of what wandering son was about.

        1. Thank you for the reply, and for sharing to so much, both in an academic sense (teaching me) and personally. I have to say that I’m evolving on the issue. I’m ignorant and coming from a place of both ignorance and hate, having grown up in the type of religious institutions you mention. I’m learning but by bit about transgender issues and the transgender community, and I’m also learning about my own faith. And it’s comments like yours that push me ever further toward growth.

          I’m sorry that the article comes across as it does. I can’t argue against your reading of it. But I do want to say that for a couple of us on the blog, this series is deeply meaningful, among our very favorites. It’s a different experience for us than for you, and perhaps less significant, but it has had the power to help us consider what the church has done and is doing, and our own complicity in it, either actively in hurting others or by being a bystander. We dance around the issue because we’re still learning and coming to terms with what this all means according to our faith, and how our faith is challenged by how we’ve practiced it, and how we have to strive to believe that of grace is the center or our faith, we are immense hypocrites. We are babies as Christians, then—at least I feel that way—and perhaps the same as simple, decent human beings.

          Anyway, again, thank you for your responses. They help me on my own journey of understanding, one I hope that is mirrored somewhat in the church, and I’m hopeful that our younger generation will indeed grow and evolve in how we treat those who are too often regarded as the “others,” as we challenge ourselves to do so in accordance to our faith in Christ.

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