This week my wife and I watched Abigail Austen’s Channel 4 documentary ‘My Trans American Road Trip’, an hour-long journey into some disturbing territory.
The primary focus of the documentary was the controversial ‘bathroom bill’ that has been passed into legislation in certain parts of the USA. The law states that transgender people, when out and about in public buildings, are only allowed to use a public toilet for the gender that they were born with. It is a tragic abuse of the human rights of a group of people who have suffered prejudice and harassment from all avenues during their whole of their lives.
The bill has caused huge amounts of controversy across America and has become a key factor in the current electoral atmosphere, with both leading parties having much to say on the subject.
If you don’t already know, Abigail Austen is a transgender journalist, the first British army officer to undergo full gender reassignment. During the show she interviewed many outspoken proponents of the bill, graciously trying to understand their point of view, whilst challenging their preconceptions. She visited churches, businesses and was even interviewed on a radio chat show.
At this stage let me reiterate the fact that I’m a Christian, I’ve been involved with the church for the whole of my life, ‘became’ a Christian (in the sense that many Christians would understand) aged eighteen (1982) and was baptized in 1985. My wife has been a Christian for even longer than me and we wrote this post together.
Unlike much of the Christian church, we passionately believe in the human rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender people to equality, inclusion, equal marriage, equal employment and the freedom to live without fear. We also sincerely believe that this is a Christ-like approach; Jesus is all about inclusion, love and compassion.
As such it appalled us to see the hatred and fear that was being expressed during this broadcast by so much of evangelical, conservative, right wing America. Pulpit thumping preachers shouting about the evils of transgender people and exhorting their congregation to punish their children physically if they expressed homosexual tendencies, Christian businessmen pontificating about how ‘God cannot compromise himself’ and using such vague statements to reinforce their standpoint of prejudice. Christian parents feeling the need to ‘guard’ the doors of public lavatories whilst their children are using them, just in case a transgender person tries to use them at the same time with the motive of accessing and sexually abusing the child. Thus assuming that transgender people are sexual predators. Surely if a transgender lady were to use a male toilet they would be in serious danger of being sexually abused themselves.
All of this behaviour is extremely frustrating to us. We are part of a group that is campaigning for equal marriage in churches in the UK, and there is still much opposition to that move.
We grew up in the Baptist tradition, which encourages its members to study the scriptures personally and prayerfully in context, where disagreement takes place we should seek to respect the others point of view, however the extremist point of view expressed by these supposedly Christian people is well beyond the pale.
It is exactly for reasons like this that I cannot apply the label ‘evangelical’ or ‘conservative’ to my Christianity. These words carry so much negative baggage with them. This is not true Christianity; the hand of Jesus reaches out and offers unconditional love. A fundamentalist approach is dangerous; it breeds contempt, segregation and a superiority complex. It lacks love, peace and understanding and in no way reflects the real ethos of Jesus.
Thank God for the progressive Christian movement, with all its flaws, uncertainties, doubts and scrabbling for direction, we are at least seeking positive ways forward based on a more inclusive understanding of the world.
If you want to watch Abigail’s documentary it’s at
Be warned you may find the ideals and attitudes of the church leaders represented upsetting. We do not want you, or anyone to believe these people represent the real Jesus or us as Christians. They claim that LGBT people will be judged and condemned, we truly believe anyone who preaches this prejudice and poison is not representative of the Bible or Jesus.
Your comments welcome below, I welcome all input, but please don’t tell me I’m going to Hell, because I’m getting sick of being told that all the time!