At roughly 2:15am on Sunday, December 28, 2014, Ohio teenager Joshua Alcorn walked in front of a tractor-trailer on Ohio’s Interstate 71. His death was immediate, but the reason for the apparent suicide was not. This would not become known until 5:30pm that evening when Joshua’s Tumblr blog released a post that Joshua had earlier scheduled. The explanation, in Joshua’s own words, was this (read the full note Here):
After a summer of having almost no friends plus the weight of having to think about college, save money for moving out, keep my grades up, go to church each week and feel like s**t because everyone there is against everything I live for, I have decided I’ve had enough. I’m never going to transition successfully, even when I move out. I’m never going to be happy with the way I look or sound. I’m never going to have enough friends to satisfy me. I’m never going to have enough love to satisfy me. I’m never going to find a man who loves me. I’m never going to be happy. Either I live the rest of my life as a lonely man who wishes he were a woman or I live my life as a lonelier woman who hates herself. There’s no winning. There’s no way out. I’m sad enough already, I don’t need my life to get any worse. People say “it gets better” but that isn’t true in my case. It gets worse. Each day I get worse.  That’s the gist of it, that’s why I feel like killing myself.
Joshua had come to the conclusion that life was no longer worth living because he felt that his true gender identity did not correspond to his biological gender identity, and this created a snowball of other social problems. Because of the prospect of not “transitioning” quickly enough to his felt gender or not being able to transition at all, his future seemed pointless, full of heartache, disappoint, repression, and endless discontent. Thus, instead of living what to him would have been a painfully bleak and unfulfilled existence, he wanted his death to be the impetus for positive change for those who identify with him. He writes near the end of his note: “The only way I will rest in peace is if one day transgender people aren’t treated the way I was, they’re treated like humans, with valid feelings and human rights. Gender needs to be taught about in schools, the earlier the better. My death needs to mean something. My death needs to be counted in the number of transgender people who commit suicide this year.”
Joshua was born a boy. But he wanted to be a girl. He had felt this way since he was four (“To put it simply, I feel like a girl trapped in a boy’s body, and I’ve felt that way ever since I was 4).” However, if he wanted to have his gender re-assigned while still a teenager living at home, he would need his parents’ help. But this was a dead-end. Upon sharing his feelings with his parents at age 14, Joshua’s mother “reacted extremely negatively, telling me that it was a phase, that I would never truly be a girl, that God doesn’t make mistakes, that I am wrong.” This was devastating to Joshua, who offered this advice to any parents reading his note: “If you are reading this, parents, please don’t tell this to your kids. Even if you are Christian or are against transgender people don’t ever say that to someone, especially your kid. That won’t do anything but make them hate them self. That’s exactly what it did to me.”
Joshua’s parents attempted to help him rid himself of his transgender feelings. After all, they were Christians and knew that Joshua’s feelings did not reflect the biblical ideal found in Scripture. Therefore, they sent Joshua to Christian therapists. They obtained help for him to battle his deepening depression. But Joshua himself accelerated their reaction when he openly professed homosexuality at his school, receiving positive support from his friends. At this revelation, his parents pulled him out and enrolled him in an online school. This, according to his note, was the most emotionally distressing for Joshua.
So they took me out of public school, took away my laptop and phone, and forbid me of getting on any sort of social media, completely isolating me from my friends. This was probably the part of my life when I was the most depressed, and I’m surprised I didn’t kill myself. I was completely alone for 5 months. No friends, no support, no love. Just my parent’s disappointment and the cruelty of loneliness.
But even after his parents returned his social media privileges, his excitement was short-lived. His friends’ enthusiasm at restarting their old relationships waned, doubtlessly motivated by their inability to see him regularly face to face, and according to Joshua he felt “even lonelier than I did before.” The combined effects of it all finally pushed Joshua to the breaking point, and on December 28, 2014, he ended his own life.
Christianity Holds the Resources for Dealing with Transgender Challenges
I have told Joshua’s story here because I believe it is tremendously important that Christians understand the very real pain and turmoil experienced by the “transgendered.” The issues discussed in this article and many others do not involve mere abstract concepts that can ring with erudition on paper but bear little fruit in practical application. These issues are real. They are crackling with emotional intensity. They are socially polarizing. They impact real lives.
But I write as a Christian, and as a Christian I labor under the conviction that all of life’s ills, trials, hardships, and tragedies can be met and redemptively overcome by the power of Jesus Christ and His Gospel. To be sure, this statement is not an attempt at platitudinous posturing to somehow cover the potential embarrassment that Joshua’s death heaps upon his well-intentioned parents and their Christian faith. It is a conviction by which I live my own life and for which I am willing to stake everything. My faith declares that if Christianity is not true, then my beliefs are futile, I have misrepresented God (if He even exists), and only unconscious oblivion awaits me at my death (1 Corinthians 15:14-19). As such, I believe that Christianity must, and indeed does, provide the best resources for all of life’s perplexities and challenges, even those for which its sacred Scriptures have no specific word, such as “transgender.”
Since Joshua’s death, many replies have already come from Christian quarters that are thoughtful, biblical, and contextually sensitive (see Here and Here for two of the best). I will not repeat those insights here but only refer you to them for additional perspective. What I propose to do below is to provide a brief biblical-theological framework by which to address the modern social issue of transgendered men and women and then to offer a condensed Christian approach to those coming out as transgender and those currently struggling with transgender feelings.
A Theology of Gender and Human Sexuality
Creation. The Bible documents the creation of man and woman with these amazing words: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27, ESV). This was followed by the mandate, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it” (Genesis 1:28). A bit further we read that God actually created woman from a part of man because it was “not good that the man should be alone” (Genesis 2:18). Then, after the first woman, Eve, was presented to the first man, Adam, the author writes: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). Later, in New Testament revelation, it will be shown that this marital relationship was always meant to illustrate Christ’s relationship to His church (Ephesians 5:22-32). These verses serve as the foundation narrative for all humanity, and they form the bedrock of any view of human gender and sexuality. They yield the following facts: (1) God is the Creator of humanity and thus the originator of gender and sex. (2) God designed gender to serve both functional and relational ends. Functionally, gender is linked with the creation mandate to “be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it.” Making image-bearing creatures with male and female genders was clearly the best way to facilitate this mandate. It is only through the unique reproductive contributions of both genders that fruitful multiplication can populate the earth with human stewards. Relationally, gender is optimally designed to provide the most intimate and fulfilling form of companionship. In spite of the fact that Adam was given land, work, food, and animals, God saw that he was still incomplete. He therefore created woman as someone to be “opposite to” Adam, a suitable counterpart that would provide fellowship and closeness that was otherwise lacking in all other spheres of Adam’s existence. (3) God’s design for gender and sexuality was among the elements of creation that He pronounced “very good,” thus constituting the ideal condition of male and female in relation to Himself, each other, and the earth. In summary, gendered image-bearers that complemented one another in the creation mandate to multiply throughout the earth and subdue it were part of God’s original, ideal intent. Any deviation from this model would therefore serve to undermine the ideal, distort the image-bearing mission, and introduce breakdown into the interconnected relationships between God, man, and earth.
Fall. Unfortunately, humanity rebelled against God’s ideal. Adam and Eve chose the idolatry of autonomy over against loving, obedient submission to God. The cataclysmic aftereffects of this decision are reverberating still. Sin was introduced into creation, along with a host of other baneful ills (Genesis 3:14-19). As a result, all of the ideal relationships established by God in the infancy of Eden were uprooted, including gender and sexuality ideals. Failure to respect the proper place of gender and sexuality soon began (Genesis 9:22-27). Sex was used presumptuously and faithlessly (Genesis 16:1-16, 17:20-21). The proper sexual roles assigned by gender were subverted and ignored (Genesis 19:1-6). Clothing designed to distinguish between the genders came to be used to confuse the genders (Deuteronomy 22:5). Such was the corrosive and poisonous effects of sin. The fall of man corrupted every human process and touched every human faculty, including gender and sexuality
Redemption. But God did not leave His creation in a state of tragic spoil. He sent to the world a Savior, and this Savior came in a body and with a gendered identity. “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth”(John 1:18). The eternal Word who was with God in the beginning and was, in fact, God came to earth in human flesh and as a son. Embedded within the Son’s saving mission was, among other things, the redemption of both soul and body. This was the case because both soul and body had been tainted by sin. Paul warned about letting sin “reign in your mortal body” (Romans 6.12), but he affirmed that the same God who raised Jesus from the grave would also “give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you” (Romans 8.11). Indeed, the end-times hope of Christians is the “redemption of our bodies” (Romans 8:23). Also, the importance of the body in God’s purposes for His people is heightened in the New Testament. The Christian body is said to be the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19-20) and thus representative of the active dwelling place of God in the world today. Consequently, God still regulates the use of the body, especially its sexual functioning, in the New Covenant age, calling upon His people to “glorify God in your body.” This includes not only sexual conduct but also the appropriate representation of one’s gender (1 Corinthians 11:14).
Consummation/New Creation. Finally, the consummation of all things will bring in the completion and total fulfillment of God’s redeeming purposes. In answering the expected question of how the dead will be raised and what type of body they will possess, Paul writes: “And what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body” (1 Corinthians 15:37-38). He goes on to describe how that the perishable body that is sown in death will be raised as an imperishable body; the dishonorable body as a glorious body; the weak body as a powerful body; the natural body as a spiritual body (vv. 42-44). This resurrected body will be patterned after the resurrection body of Jesus: “Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust [Adam-mc], we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven [Jesus]” (v. 49). With respect to gender and sexuality, it would seem that while gender identity will remain in the new heavens and new earth, sexual activity will not (Matthew 22:23-33). This is not because sex was always dirty or evil or sub-spiritual, but rather because its purpose will have been fulfilled. Recall the mandate given by God to the first human pair: “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it” (Genesis 1:28). Because this will no longer be a command in Heaven, the sexual function necessary to obey the command will no longer be needed. Thus, in the new environment of Heaven, the body will be outfitted in glorious perfection so that it will serve as the ideal vehicle in which to honor and obey our saving God. This means, among other things, that human sexuality will be perfectly fulfilled and human gender will be perfectly expressed.
A Christian Approach to the Transgendered
How, then, should the Christian approach someone who feels that they are trapped in the wrong gender? Do they refer them to Christian therapists, as Joshua Alcorn’s parents did to him? Do they shun them, pretending that they do not exist? Or do they turn up their nose in disgust and issue a parting condemnation before walking away? Clearly, as is evident from Joshua’s own story, such encounters must be handled with extreme sensitivity to the churning emotions and social awkwardness that having transgendered feelings entails. Many transgender individuals likely feel that something is “wrong” with them. They may blame themselves. They may blame God. The Christian approach, then, cannot be cavalier and soaked in the naiveté that says that because someone else does not experience the world as I do, then that someone else must be deficient in some way.
The Christian must empathize with such persons with the remembrance that he/she, as a Christian, has their own struggles with the ideal of Eden, whether it be pride, dishonesty, hypocrisy, sex, lust, materialism, stinginess, cowardice, disloyalty, and a thousand different idols enthroned upon their hearts at any given time. Certainly, the Christian should offer biblical guidance, just as they would to anyone else who struggles with habits and feelings inspired by the fall in Eden. Empathy and loving patience with sinners does not mean that one is somehow accepting and encouraging their continued sin. It simply means that you are dealing with them as God has dealt ever so graciously with you. The non-Christian transgendered is a sinner in need of redemption just like everyone else. Their particular temptations and feelings may be different from the more “common” modes of sinning that most are accustomed to, but their departures from God’s ideal can and must be addressed with God’s merciful compassion. They need to be shown that in spite of the intensity of their feelings, the life that God offers in the Gospel contains hope. It promises redemption now and a future consummation that will wholly eliminate the tumultuous feelings and temptations that seem as if they could rip them apart in this life.
Hope was clearly what was lacking in Joshua’s view of his parents’ faith or in the treatment he received from others. Remember his words: “There’s no winning. There’s no way out. I’m sad enough already, I don’t need my life to get any worse. People say “it gets better” but that isn’t true in my case. It gets worse. Each day I get worse.” Joshua needed hope, a Christ-centered, Christ-exalting hope that assured him that, in spite of his struggles, there was grace, love, hope, and redemption available to him. It was extended to him by his Creator, who loved him in spite of his conflicting emotions and Who could use his struggles to display His mighty and redeeming power (John 9:3).
A Christian Approach to Those Struggling with Transgender Feelings
But if you are currently struggling with transgender feelings or you know someone who is, what are the resources that God gives His people to address them? The answer is beautiful in its simplicity: God has given us Himself. God has given us Himself in the Gospel, which means that He has given Himself to all who covenant with Him by the blood of His sacrificed and resurrected Son. The resulting promises and assurances of this great transaction, though sometimes mysterious in their application, are truly hope-inspiring. These include:
Facts and Resources for Those Struggling with Transgender Feelings
Documented Sex-change Regret
 Accessed on 1/4/15. The Tumblr account from which the note was pulled was deactivated shortly after Joshua’s death became known.
 The literal meaning of the Hebrew term translated variously as “fit for” (ESV), “his complement” (HCSB), “suitable for” (NASB), “suitable for” (NIV), “who corresponds to” (NET). See Brown, Francis, Samuel Rolles Driver, and Charles Augustus Briggs. Enhanced Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon. Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, 2000, 617.