On Saturday, an openly gay Leftist rabbi twisted the Bible to support transgender identity, and in so doing he explicitly named eight Bible figures who he suggested were transgender or gender non-conforming.
Responding to a recent statement from the Kansas Republican Party rejecting transgenderism, Jay Michaelson disputed the idea that “God’s design for gender” involves accepting biological sex.
“[W]hat about those men and women who deviate from gender roles in the Bible?” Michaelson asked in a Daily Beast article. “The patriarch Jacob, for example, is clearly gendered female in comparison with his twin brother Esau. Esau is hairy, Jacob is smooth; Esau is a hunter, Jacob ‘stays in the tent’ (which is where women stay) and cooks; Esau is favored by his father, Jacob by his mom. And yet Jacob is the chosen one who becomes Israel, who fathers a nation” (emphasis added).
Yes, this rabbi suggested Jacob was “clearly gendered female.” Since Jacob was biologically a male, and even fathered children, this would necessarily make him transgender. Michaelson went on, “Of course, Jacob didn’t go on hormone therapy, but the way the Bible constructs his gender identity makes it very clear that, at least until his transformative nighttime wrestling match, he is gender non-conforming.”
The rabbi didn’t stop with Jacob, however. “Likewise, Deborah the Judge, who performed a male societal role. Likewise, the beautiful young David in his ‘armor-carrier’ relationships with Saul and Jonathan. (1 Sam. 16;12, 1 Sam. 18:1-3) Likewise the Apostle Paul, who rebelled against the most fundamental gender role of his time, fathering children, by becoming celibate,” Michaelson wrote.
Each of these suggestions is more absurd than the previous one. Jacob is known to history as one of the three great patriarchs of the Jewish people. He may have been slightly effeminate compared to his testosterone-charged brother Esau, but it is ridiculous to suggest that makes Jacob transgender or “gendered female.”
Similarly, Deborah the Judge is defined as a wife in Judges 4, and she identifies as a mother in her song in Judges 5. She led Israel in battle because the man Barak was not man enough to go without her. Deborah is a wonderful example of God giving women a pivotal role in history and taking the glory from a man, but that does not make her transgender or gender non-conforming.
The Bible describes King David as fair, but that does not mean he identified as a woman. He served Jonathan his friend and Saul his king well, but that does not mean he was taking on a female role in society. David later grew up to become a great warrior, slaying not only Goliath but hundreds of Philistines. This great king of Israel, who had many wives and children, could not be further from transgender.
Finally, Michaelson suggested that the Apostle Paul, who kept a male name when he changed his name from Saul, and who wrote a substantial chunk of the Bible never once suggesting he should be called female, “rebelled against the most fundamental gender role of his time” by not having children. Ironically, it was women, not men, whose value was tied to childbirth throughout the Bible and many traditional cultures.
The wives of the “transgender” patriarch Jacob fought fiercely over who would have the most children and prove their worth to their husband, even going so far as to offer their servants to bear children for them.
Fatherhood was a masculine virtue, but Paul was not rejecting maleness itself by deciding to remain celibate, and the suggestion is laughable on its face.
Michaelson also listed four women “who preached the gospel in ways usually reserved for men:” “Tryphania and Tryphosa (Romans 16:12) and Euhodia and Syntyche (Phil. 4:1).” This is true, but the mere fact that God called these women to preach the gospel in “male” ways does not mean they were any less to be considered women.
The Leftist rabbi wrote, “On and on and on, the Bible presents heroic characters who vary from normative gender roles.” This is true, and the Bible is remarkable for gender equality at the time. The central claim of Christianity — that Jesus Christ rose from the dead — was originally entrusted to women, whose testimony was not valid in Jewish courts of law.
God lifting women up for important roles does not mean God endorsed the idea that these women were not women, however. Therein lies the heart of why Michaelson is tragically wrong in his biblical interpretation.
Early in his article, the rabbi made a crucial distinction between sex and gender. He admitted that “in the Genesis story, God creates human beings of male and female sex. But the creation story says nothing about gender,” the rabbi argued.
“Remember, sex is not the same as gender. Definitionally, sex is about chromosomes; gender is about cultural practices. Sex is what is between our legs; gender is what is between our ears,” Michaelson wrote. He even used the example of “conservative societies” suggesting only women “wear high heels and makeup.”
Crucially, however, the rabbi did not maintain this distinction when it comes to transgender identity. If gender and sex are separate, transgender people would want to dress up as the opposite gender, but altering their bodies to mimic the opposite sex would be a step too far. If gender is “socially constructed,” transgenderism would involve crossing certain norms, not advocating for changing the physical and chemical makeup of your body to match that of the opposite sex.
Throwing out his sex-gender distinction willy nilly, Michaelson presented as a positive thing the fact that some transgender people “opt for hormone therapy or gender confirmation surgery of various types.”
This crucial distinction undermines the rabbi’s entire argument. There is no suggestion that Jacob, Deborah, King David, or the Apostle Paul ever thought of themselves as belonging to the opposite sex or even identifying socially as the opposite “gender.” They broke societal norms, but that does not make them either transgender or gender non-conforming. If what they did counts as “gender non-conforming,” then gender non-conforming is not a useful category, especially when considered with something as drastic as transgenderism.
Rejecting strict gender norms is worlds away from a biological man identifying as a woman and then acting on that to get surgery to make his body into that of a woman. There is simply no comparison between Jacob being a hairless cook and Bruce Jenner identifying as “Caitlyn” and getting expensive irreversible surgery to force his body to develop into that of a woman.
Tragically, Michaelson seems to have forcefully blinded himself to this distinction. He presented a dilemma of transgenderism, suggesting that Christians must support transgender identity or dehumanize people who struggle with gender dysphoria.
The options? “One is to listen to what they have to say. The other is to decide that they are so deeply mentally ill that they cannot be trusted to describe their own experiences.”
Having dismissed this straw man position as incompatible with Christian love, Michaelson proudly declared, “If the Bible is our guide, then God’s design for gender is a gigantic rainbow of variation, not a black-and-white conformity with sex.” He even suggested that transgender people present “the wondrous diversity of God’s many-gendered faces.”
There is another course, however. As Michaelson admitted, the Bible presents human beings as male and female, and never suggests that a woman could or should become a man or a man become a woman.
But the Bible does have an explanation for gender dysphoria. The fallen condition of humanity has saddled human beings with a sinful nature, a mind and heart bent toward confusion, selfishness, and evil (Romans 1). Gender dysphoria is real and not a sin, but that doesn’t mean transgender identity should be encouraged.
Importantly, many men and women have taken cross-sex hormones and even had transgender surgery, only to reverse their decision later and confirm their biological sex. “I am a real, live 22-year-old woman, with a scarred chest and a broken voice, and five o’clock shadow because I couldn’t face the idea of growing up to be a woman, that’s my reality,” Cari Stella, a YouTube artist who once identified as transgender, admitted in a deeply personal video. Max Robinson, a 21-year-old woman who once identified as a man, said of hormone therapy, “It’s not a cure at all.”
Is it loving to dismiss these people as though they did not exist? Transgender identity can be dangerous and leave people with long-term scars.
There is another biblical answer to gender dysphoria. The New Testament promises that those who believe in Jesus will be given new, perfect, spiritual bodies (1 Corthinians 15:42-44). This should give hope to every person struggling with physical ailments of any kind, especially gender dysphoria.
It is not easy to tell a gender dysphoric person that the pain they feel cannot be satisfied with something like hormones or surgery, but the Bible promises something much more powerful than those would-be treatments.
The identity and confirmation that transgender people seek can be found in Jesus, and that is the message that courses through the Bible. Jesus entered the world and bore the pain of rejection, ridicule, torture, and an ignominious death. He knows the human struggle, and in his resurrection there is hope to overcome every malady.
Christians should reject transgenderism, but be sure to reach out to those who suffer from gender dysphoria. The Bible’s message of repentance, forgiveness, and resurrection applies to them just as much as to anyone else.
Jacob and King David were not transgender, but Jesus’ message emphatically applies to people suffering with gender dysphoria, and heaven is a much more satisfying remedy than any hormone treatment or surgery.