Trans medical treatment and faith

A reader writes:

I am trans but also religious. Although I live as a woman, I was born with boy parts. In my opinion, to have surgery would imply that God made a mistake. I do not believe that God is capable of making a mistake, which means that I have the body I was meant to have. I believe that God gave me a challenge and that I am playing the hand that I was dealt. I am trans and proud, but I will not second guess the Almighty. I hope there is room for that, and I love and respect those who believe differently. We are all in this together.

There is a story an old guy once told me. It’s corny, but here it is:

There’s this guy and there’s a flood. He climbs on top of his roof to be safe from the flood. He begins praying that god save him and his faith in prayer is unshakable. He KNOWS that god will save him.

His atheist neighbors come by in a boat an tell him to hop in. They tell him that god isn’t going to come down from the sky and save him because god doesn’t exist. He tells them that his faith is unshakable and refuses to get in the boat.

The water continues to rise and in a little while, his Muslim neighbors from down the street come by in a boat. They tell him that their god allah told them to check in on him. They tell him to get into the boat. The man tells them that his god is an awesome god and that allah is a false god. He refuses to get in the boat.

The flood waters continue to rise. He is eventually swept away and dies. He then finds himself standing before god. He asks, “God, why did you not save me? My faith in you was unshakable!” God replied,”I sent not one, but TWO boats to save you and you refused to get in!”

I think that a lot of religious trans people view the medical treatment of gender dysphoria as their “boat” sent to them by their god. From what I’ve seen, they thank god every day for giving them the tools they needed to live the life they felt their god had designed for them.

What I do know is that there is a ‘boat’ that people can choose to get in. I have no belief that a god programmed me with gender dysporia so that I’d learn how to suffer well. I’m an atheist.

At one time ALL diseases – pathogenic and genetically caused – was viewed as being part of a god’s design. If you got sick, it was god’s will. When humanity began unlocking the causes of the physical miladies we suffered, most viewed these achievements as a gift from god; a ‘medical miracle.’ Indeed, many religious people believe that god guides the hand of the surgeon.

Many folks nowadays see the ‘cross’ they’re bearing as both the physical malady and the treatment. Yes, a child may be very ill from both the cancer and the treatment, but folks view the treatment as a god-send. For them, the treatment is the window god opened when he closed a door. For them, surviving is an inspiration; they feel grateful that god showed them a healing path forward.

I wish you well in the path you’ve chosen. I encourage you to ensure that you have support (that doesn’t resort to fear or shame-based tactics). Depending upon the degree you may suffer dysphoria, I can believe that your cross is indeed heavy. Please ensure that you have – at the very least – experienced and qualified therapeutic support in your corner.


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Cristan Williams is a trans historian and pioneer in addressing the practical needs of underserved communities. She started the first trans homeless shelter in Texas and co-founded the first federally funded housing-first homeless program, pioneered affordable health care for trans people in the Houston area, won the right for trans people to change their gender on Texas ID prior to surgery, started numerous trans social service programs and founded the Transgender Center as well as the Transgender Archives. She has published short stories, academic chapters and papers, and numerous articles for both print and digital magazines. She received numerous awards for her advocacy and has presented at universities throughout the nation, served on several governmental committees and CBO boards, is the Editor of the TransAdvocate, and is a founding board member of the Transgender Foundation of America and the Bee Busy Wellness Center.