Jehovah’s Witnesses as a whole recognize, as spiritually-minded Christians should, that thinking “in harmony with the flesh” — meaning the sinful flesh, in particular, when those thoughts conflict with the thinking of Jehovah and his Son Jesus as revealed in the scriptures — is a danger. For example, when Peter sought to dissuade Jesus from following through on his sacrificial course, Jesus sternly scolded him, saying “…you think, not God’s thoughts, but those of men.”(Matthew 16:23)
Of course, one of the signs that we may be ignoring the thinking of God in favor of our own concepts, and perhaps misconceptions, is when we are paying too much attention to the flesh, literally. Peter, in the cited example, was surely guilty of this, since he thought only as far as the idea that his beloved Lord was about to die (in the flesh), and that this was obviously a terrible thing and therefore ought not to happen. “Be kind to yourself, Lord,” he said, clearly showing that he was not considering all the benefits to be derived from Jesus’ casting off of that fleshly body, nor the superior life and role that Jesus himself would secure for himself upon his resurrection thereafter.
Now it occurs to me, in the case of transgender persons, that JWs themselves remain the ones guilty, quite literally, of pure fleshly thinking. I have considered elsewhere the limited — and to my mind, inadequate and sorely misapplied — scriptural basis upon which the organization routinely disallows and/or disfellowships transgender persons. This time, I want to take a look at the situation from a different angle. And the argument I have in mind is relevant, I believe, not only to Jehovah’s Witnesses, but to each and every religious sect that looks upon transgender persons with a mix of disdain and horror, and as somehow inherently living “sinfully”.
Let us suppose that a man, let’s make him a brother and an elder in the Christian congregation, is driving alone in a fairly isolated area when he is involved in a terrible automobile accident. His body is mangled beyond recovery, and yet he somehow arrives at the local hospital trauma center still alive — though not for long if something cannot immediately be done. His only hope is the newest of cutting edge and admittedly controversial procedures — a full body transplant. The odds of having a body donor are already infinitesimally small, since a viable donor must have a relatively healthy body, while being declared conclusively brain-dead; the relatives of the donor must agree to the procedure; and then there is only a small window of time where the body remains viable. Additionally, doctors must agree that the recipient has no prospect of recovery without the procedure, while at the same time, the recipients brain is deemed free of unrecoverable damage. Yet all of these coincidences fall into place for our brother. As he in no condition to be be consulted, and no family can be reached in the limited time available, the surgeons move ahead with the procedure. Twenty-four hours later, the brother is recuperating well, with a prognosis of full recovery, thanks to his new body — that of the unfortunate coma victim — a woman named Susan, of the about the same age as our brother — who lapsed into brain-death the same day as his accident.
So now we see the dilemma. Is our brother, because of his new body, no longer a man? Will he have to give up his role in the congregation, and learn to dress, groom and present himself as a woman from henceforth, because that is the body he now finds himself in? Will he even have to give up or else change his sexuality? Literal fleshly thinking might answer, “Yes!” But how much sense does that actually make? Is he not the same person now as before? And even if that might be difficult for some people to see or accept, wouldn’t our creator, especially, continue to view him in the same light?
Now, some of you might be thinking this is too unrealistic a dilemma. What these surgeons did was unconscionable! They should never have acted without consent. And if such an operation were really ever to become possible, I’d certainly never agree to one! I’d rather die first.
Well, if you are thinking at all along those lines, then welcome to the dilemma transgender persons are born into. And yes, thoughts of death quite possibly being “better” do occur to us, too. Because like our hypothetical brother, we also find ourselves in a body that does not match our brain — does not match us — the only difference being, we start life that way. We get no opportunity for choice or consent. The choice is only in what we do with what we are given, the same as now confronts our hypothetical brother.
So do you believe this brother, to please God, would now need to live the rest of life in the flesh as a woman? I have a difficult time believing anyone who would answer yes to that question. Still, then, let’s turn this around for just a moment…
…what if our accident victim was a transgender woman. Not an elder, or even a member of the congregation, obviously, because that is something JWs and some other sects view as reprehensible and ungodly. Now, after recovering from this accident, far from being disturbed by her new body, she may well be overjoyed with it! Would those of you who rejected her previously as being “sinful” now accept her with open arms? By the same fleshly standards you presently apply to transgender persons, how could you possibly say that you would not? And yet, she, too, is the same person she was before. If you can accept her afterward, why not before?
Yes, this is all hypothetical. We do not have brain and body transplantation. But before you dismiss the argument outright on that basis alone, consider: the creator himself is capable of providing a perfect solution. He has virtually promised to do so in the future. So which do you think he is more likely to do for the person born transgender? Give them a body that better matches who they are? Or change who they are to fit in the body they happen to have originally been born into?
Unbelievably, at least one JW elder expressed to me with the utmost certainty that Jehovah was bound to do the latter. Only Jehovah knows for sure exactly what he will do, of course, but for that brother to be so convinced that my heart and mind wouldn’t matter to Jehovah and my physical body alone must be the clear determining factor — that is absolute hubris, and the epitome of fleshly thinking.
Here is the equivalent circumstance, expressed using our hypothetical example one last time: once again, our accident victim is a transgender woman. Meaning of course that her body was (ostensibly) male at birth, but in her own heart and mind, she has never been male. So in particular, she is utterly convinced now of her femaleness even if others cannot grasp this, and she lives her life accordingly. Let’s go as far as to say she would like to be part of the Christian congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses, but isn’t accepted there, simply because she is transgender.
This person would, of course, be just as happy as before to end up in a 100% female body! But this time it’s not to be. This time, the only damage she encountered in the accident was to her brain. It’s been destroyed. And as it happens, some other trauma victim — let’s make him another Jehovah’s Witness — is lucky enough to be able to survive by having his brain transplanted into her otherwise intact body.
Now we can be completely sure you would happily accept her into the congregation, can’t we? There’s an “M” on the body’s original birth certificate, and the brain of a brother in that body. You can be sure there will be no more preferring dresses to suits. No more using a female name. Maybe her body has some more feminine features by now, but that won’t be a huge problem either. The new recipient might set about altering those, or else just do his best to hide whatever bits of his appearance don’t feel masculine enough. So yep — we’re all good. Except for the fact that she’s dead. That’s not her in there anymore. Congratulations. We’ve killed her, but at least she’s finally acceptable to you.
And that is what this sort of fleshly thinking and hypocrisy is doing to transgender persons who genuinely desire to be faithful Christians and witnesses of Jehovah. Killing them.