Since he was a baby, Kris, now 26-years-old, knew he was a boy stuck in a girl’s body.
“I have never not known that I was a boy or supposed to be a boy,” he says, “but I’ve only been able to express it in words for the last six to 10 years.”
Kris’s parents recently joined the church I attend, which is how we became friends. Every few weeks, we meet at a coffee shop near my house for a couple of mocha shakers and rich conversation. Like me, Kris was raised in a conservative evangelical home, and we almost always end up talking about faith when we meet. But it’s a sore subject for him.
“My experience as a transgender person growing up in the church was damaging,” he says. “I didn’t feel safe talking to my parents or my pastor about it. I felt like if I told anybody that I wanted to be a boy, things were going to go badly. Rather than talk about it, I prayed every night: ‘Please God, make me a boy.’”
Two weeks ago, Kris legally changed his name. Three and a half months ago, he started testosterone hormone therapy. Kris’s voice grows deeper each time we talk. He says the next step for him is to have a bilateral mastectomy or “top surgery.” The doctor also suggests a hysterectomy because it is believed the testosterone therapy can otherwise increase his chance of cancer.
When it comes to future relationships, Kris says he has no immediate plans to find a mate: “I’m fairly asexual, and though I do have a sex drive, I’m not pursuing a romantic or sexual partner. It’s just not a priority for me.”
Transgender people like Kris have increasingly become a topic of conversation among conservative Christians. Christian television personality Pat Robertson really commented about transgender people on his “700 Club” show, saying, “I think there are men who are in a woman’s body … I don’t think there’s any sin associated with that.” Liberals praised Robertson, while some Christians criticized him. The issue was brought to the fore again when California Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law a bill letting transgender students choose which restroom they would use and whether they would compete in boy or girl sports.
These events and others led some Christian leaders to speak out against the increased sensitivity to transgender people. An article by Russell Moore at the “On Faith” forum hosted by The Washington Post, for example, argued that transgender people are essentially confused. He urged churches to teach that “our maleness and femaleness points us to an even deeper reality, to the unity and complementarity of Christ and the church.”
Moore is someone for whom I have deep respect, and I appreciate his attempts to speak to this topic more compassionately than some of his Christian colleagues. Yet the issue seems to be more complicated than he and others are portraying.