It is always a problem for people who are not “something” to write about that “something”. I am not a transgender person and so I write about this with trepidation. However, I am not writing to explain what it means to be trans. I have no business doing that. But I can enter the conversation as someone with an education in theology and biology. It seems to me that cisgender people need to do some thinking about biology and theology. That’s what I am doing here. I am mainly writing for other cisgender folks who may be quick to dismiss or discredit someone who is different citing theological or biological reasons.
This is the last in a series on Transgender persons and theology.
“God doesn’t make mistakes!” Sometime people deny the experience of transgender people by saying this. This is one of those “half truth” sayings. It’s not exactly wrong… but it’s not right either.
There are two problems with this statement.
First, with respect to transgender persons. The statement, “God doesn’t make mistakes” is often used to deny the transgender person’s reality. It is a way of saying, someone can’t be trans because that is a mistake. God doesn’t make mistakes. Therefore, they can’t be trans.
Simply because you don’t understand someone else’s experience doesn’t mean you may deny their experience. Their experience, their reality simply is whatever it is. It’s not about you and whether you understand or like or approve of their life.
Next, theologically speaking this statement has some problems. Actually it has a lot of problems, but I want to focus, narrowly- just on “mistakes” and human bodies.
People exist in a variety of physical ways. The greatest majority of us have two legs, two arms, two ears, and so on. But not everybody. Most of us have a certain level of vision and hearing, but not everybody. Some of us are more agile, some of us run faster than others. Some of us can’t walk. Some of us have photographic memories. Some of us can think about complex math. Some of us have trouble reading. Most of us have either male or female sex organs, but not all of us. Most of us are within a particular range of height, but some of us are much taller or much shorter than others. There are varieties of skin color, of hair and eye color. And this doesn’t begin to list all the ways we are different from each other.
Are any of these physical characteristics “mistakes”? Many people I know who have what are commonly called “disabilities” don’t consider their condition to be a mistake. Many believe God created them to be the particular person they are, with disabilities and abilities. Often they would not exchange their “mistake” for “normal”. For example, families with Down Syndrome children do not consider their child a “mistake”.
Perhaps, when we are speaking about the variety of ways we humans exist, “mistake” isn’t a good way of thinking about each other. Perhaps even “normal” and “abnormal” are not helpful. Perhaps we might be better off thinking about life on a spectrum. There are more common and less common ways that human bodies are. Perhaps we ought not to declare another person’s physical state a “mistake”.
In thinking about the phrase, “God doesn’t make mistakes”, it seems to me the problem isn’t with what God does or doesn’t do. The problem is with how we think about each other and how we label each other. People who are different from us are not mistakes. You are not a mistake. I am not a mistake. We are physically different from each other in an astounding variety of ways. We need to accept each others differences, not deny them and label them mistakes.