4 Reasons Why the Bible Does Not Support Transgenderism

April 10, 2024

A lecture based on this article is also available.

According to the American Psychological Association, “Transgender is an umbrella term for persons whose identity, gender expression or behavior does not conform to that typically associated with the sex to which they were assigned at birth.” At the heart of the APA’s definition—and at the heart of the transgender movement itself—is a sharp distinction between sex and gender. 

As many use the word today, sex has to do with biology, with chromosomes, with hormones, with internal and external anatomy. Sex, they tell us, is “assigned at birth” based on these biological realities.

By contrast, gender identity, we are told, has to do with how a person feels, with someone’s internal sense of identity, and with how a person chooses to express this identity through clothing, hairstyle, voice, appearance, behavior, names, and pronouns. Gender, on this account, is socially constructed and need not correspond to sex as biologically defined. On this understanding, not only are sex and gender separated, but people need not be constrained by two gender choices (non-binary) or by any fixed gender at all (gender fluid).

The purpose of this article is to explore what the Bible says about this constellation of beliefs. We will see that the Bible does not support transgenderism. Instead, God has created each of us as either male or female, and he desires that we live our lives—in appearance, in attitude, and in behavior—according to our biological sex.

In support of this conclusion, let me highlight four essential biblical truths about being male and female.

Truth #1: Our Bodies Matter

The only life we have to live here on earth is the life of the whole person, body and soul. All our hopes and fears, joys and sorrows, adventures and failures are experienced as embodied persons. Everything we do to love God and love our neighbors, or to rebel against God and mistreat our neighbors, we do as embodied persons. As John Kleinig puts it in his excellent book Wonderfully Made, “All human life on earth shares the same common condition: it is lived life in the body.”[1]

Many people have an ambivalent relationship to their bodies. While it may seem that our culture thinks too much about the body—being obsessed with looking good, losing weight, and preventing the natural effects of aging—the opposite is also true: we think too little of our bodies. Even with all our scientific knowledge, we do not marvel at the complexity, beauty, and intricate design of the human body. Truth be told, many of us hate our bodies. We deem them too dark or too pale, too skinny or too fat, too gray, too slow, too weak, too wrinkled, too unattractive. Many of us would rather be free from the shame and the burdens we associate with our bodies.

And yet, God’s word tells us a different story. God formed our inward parts; God knitted us together in our mother’s womb (Ps. 139:13). Even though we feel the effects of the Fall in our bodies, still each one of us is fearfully and wonderfully made (v. 14). The fact that the perfect Son of God took on human flesh means that embodiment is not inherently dirty or evil. The fact that Christ was resurrected and now reigns in heaven as the perpetual God-man means that the human body is not antithetical to the deepest union and communion with God. The fact that our final hope is the resurrection of the dead means that embodiment is good and desirable, and that without our bodies our redemption would be incomplete (Rom. 8:23).

Before we can address the claims of transgenderism directly, we must think about our bodies in the right way. God isn’t just concerned with the inner world of our thoughts, desires, beliefs, and feelings. The Bible commands us: “Glorify God in your body” (1 Cor. 6:20). Our arms and legs, our eyes and ears, our hands and feet, our sexual organs are agents for honoring God or dishonoring him. The human person is not like a puppet whose mouth and limbs are moved by an external agent separate from the puppet itself. Neither is the human person like a machine whose external functions are controlled by an internal processor that can be pulled from that machine and placed in another machine. Think of how often Jesus physically touched someone’s body or was touched by someone else (Mark 1:41; 5:27, 41; 6:56; 7:33; 8:23; 9:27). Jesus understood what our world can implicitly deny—namely, that our bodies are not incidental to who we are. Our bodies matter to God, and they should matter to us.

Truth #2: Our Bodies Are Given to Us as a Gift

It is an obvious biblical truth—stated clearly already in the very first chapter of the Bible—that we are created beings (Gen. 1:26–27). This is not just true of Adam and Eve, but of every human being descended from them (Gen. 5:1–2). Our lives, our souls, our bodies, our whole selves are a gift from God.

This simple truth—that God created each one of us—means that we did not create ourselves (Ps. 100:3). We did not cause ourselves to be born. We did not put our skin and bones and organs and muscles together. We did not decide whether to be male or female, or what color eyes to be born with, or whether we would come out of the womb hairy as a chimney sweeper or bald as a cue ball. Our bodies were given to us. 

To put the same truth in a different way, the Bible insists that there is a given-ness to the body. If there is one fundamental error in transgender ideology, it is the lie that says our material bodies are malleable, while our immaterial feelings and sense of identity are sacrosanct. Transgenderism only “works” if we assume that when our bodies tell us one thing, and our internal feelings and perceptions tell us another thing, that our bodies must be mistaken. This is not the way the Bible understands the body. The truth is that I am more than just my thoughts and desires and beliefs and feelings; I am body and soul. Our bodies were created for us, and they are us. As Kleinig puts it, “We cannot appreciate the complexity, beauty, and mystery of the human body unless we realize that it is given to us. We do not make our bodies; they are made for us. They are provided for us with all their main characteristics.”[2]

One of the ironies of our age is that outside of transgenderism, most people are adamant that the objective realities of the body must not be supplanted by what we think and feel. If someone has white skin, they should not identify as black. If someone is European by descent, they should not identify as Asian. If a healthy teenage girl thinks she is drastically overweight, her parents will tell her that the negative assessment of her body is wrong. If a man smokes a pack of cigarettes a day, his doctor will warn him about the objective harm he is doing to his body whether he thinks he is in danger or not. Men and women are told to get early screenings so we can detect breast cancer, prostate cancer, colon cancer, or other maladies because we know that if the body tells us something—even something we don’t want to hear—we need to listen to our bodies.

One of the reasons that transgenderism makes sense in our day is because we do not want to think of our bodies as imposing limits and constraints. We like to think that we are free to become whoever and whatever we want. But such “freedom” is neither good for us nor, in the end, possible. By definition, human bodies must deal with limits and constraints. As embodied creatures, we cannot be physically in two places at the same time, we cannot live without food and water, we cannot survive without sleep, we cannot experience any of the joys and sorrows and hopes and dreams of earthly life apart from the body and the finitude it imposes upon us all. 

The full flowering of transgender ideology is part and parcel of a spiritual rebellion that rejects every kind of external and limiting authority. If God cannot tell me who I am, and the Bible cannot tell me who I am, and civilizational tradition cannot tell me who I am, and my family cannot tell me who I am, and the norms of my community cannot tell me who I am, then it is only a short step to conclude that not even my own body can tell me who I am. The lie of transgenderism is that there is no given-ness to our bodies and no ought-ness imposed by our biology. Transgenderism enthrones us as Creators with a self to express and a body to shape, while the Bible honors us as creatures with a divine image to reflect and a divine design to embrace.

Truth #3: God Created Each of Us as Male or Female

The Bible says more than that God created us. The Bible says God created the human race as a sexual binary. “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Gen. 1:27). Sexual differentiation was God’s idea. God didn’t create a race of males or a race of females or a race with fifteen different sexual kinds. By design, God chose to show forth his image by making men and by making women—neither independent from the other, and neither identical to the other (1 Cor. 11:8–12). When God declared that it was not good for the man to be alone (Gen. 2:18), he did not remedy the situation by creating another man to be his friend or a pack of golden retrievers to keep him company. He fashioned a woman out of his side because only a woman would be “fit for him” as a sexual complement capable of creating new life through a one-flesh union with the man (Gen. 2:24).

Transgenderism suffers from an utter disdain for teleology. In theology and philosophy, teleology has to do with design and purpose in the material world. This includes our bodies. Male and female bodies are designed for each other in a way that is reciprocal (they are made each for the other), complementary (they uniquely fit together in order to fulfill an organic biological function), and purposeful (they are oriented toward reproduction). Biblical sexuality reflects the teleology of sexual differentiation and the natural design of the body. 

In transgender ideology, there are no “ends” for which the body was created (other than the circular ends of self-fulfillment and self-expression). Transgenderism insists that a person is right to pursue hormonal and surgical procedures—which often amount to irreversible mutilation and a lifetime of genital pain and ongoing treatments—in an attempt to bring the body in alignment with one’s sense of identity. But these procedures are tragic examples of neglecting the different ends for which our bodies were created. A man is someone with the inherent procreative potential (whether realized or not) to deposit the seed which can become new life. A woman is someone with the inherent procreative potential (whether realized or not) to receive and incubate new life. “Male and female, therefore, refer to the differing ways that human bodies are organized for sexual reproduction.”[3] Because our bodies were created with a God-given purpose and design, we are not free to destroy or refashion our bodies according to our own desires.

The Bible doesn’t just teach the reality of a sexual binary, the Bible also believes in the organic unity of biological sex and gender identity. This is why male and female are (uniquely) the type of pair that can reproduce (Gen. 1:28; 2:20). It’s why homosexuality—a man lying with a man as with a woman (or vice-versa)—is wrong (Lev. 18:22). It’s why the apostle Paul can speak of homosexual partnerships as deviating from the natural relations or natural function of male-female sexual intercourse (Rom. 1:26-27). It’s why there are distinct responsibilities within the church and within the home based on biological sex (Eph. 5:22-33; 1 Tim. 2:11-14). In each instance, the argument works because there is an equivalence between the biology of sexual difference and the corresponding identities of male and female.

Some have argued that the presence of intersex individuals calls into question the reality of a sexual binary and, therefore, implies that gender is fluid and malleable. Because this has become a common argument, it behooves us to understand something of the science of sexual determination. In an article for the Wall Street Journal, evolutionary biologist Colin Wright explains that “[a]n organism’s sex is defined by the type of gamete (sperm or ova) it has the function of producing. Males have the function of producing sperm, or small gametes; females, ova, or large ones. Because there is no third gamete type, there are only two sexes. Sex is binary.”[4] Wright further explains that intersex and transgender “mean entirely different things.” Intersex refers to a variety of rare conditions where genitalia appear ambiguous or mixed due to a congenital disorder of sexual development. It is important to note that an intersex diagnosis is made based on an objective, observable medical condition. Transgender, on the other hand, has to do with subjective feelings, thoughts, and an internal sense of identity. “Most transgender people aren’t sexually ambiguous,” says Wright, “but merely ‘identify’ as something other than their biological sex.”

The Bible recognizes that people can be born with damaged, malformed, or non-functioning sexual organs. This is what Jesus meant when he said, “There are eunuchs who have been so from birth” (Matt. 19:12). And yet, these tragic realities (a sad aspect of living in a fallen world) do not undermine the sexual binary. In their article “Genetic Mechanisms of Sex Determination,” Laura Hake and Clare O’Connor, biologists from Boston College, explain that “in placental mammals, the presence of a Y chromosome determines sex.”[5] Normally females contain two X chromosomes, and males contain an X and a Y chromosome. On rare occasions, however, someone can be born with more than two chromosomes or with only one chromosome, resulting in hormonal and sexual development that is ambiguous or mixed. But even in these instances, sex is still determined by the presence or absence of a Y chromosome. “Thus, individuals with 47,XXY and 47,XYY karyotypes are males, while individuals with 45,X and 47,XXX karyotypes are females.” In other words, even when genitalia appear ambiguous, a person is, by virtue of their chromosomes, either male or female.

Truth #4: God Is Opposed to the Confusion of the Sexes

God created human beings in his image as male and female (Gen. 1:26–27). Our bodies are good gifts given to us by God that we are to use for his glory (1 Cor. 6:12–20). As a God of order and design, God opposes the confusion of man as woman and woman as man.[6]

This point about confusion is the extended argument Paul makes in 1 Corinthians 11:2–16. The passage is complicated and full of interpretive questions about the nature of women’s hairstyles and head coverings in the first century Roman world. But thankfully the overarching point is simple and clear: it is disgraceful for a man to take on the appearance of a woman, and it is disgraceful for a woman to take on the appearance of a man (1 Cor. 11:14–15). However we apply 1 Corinthians 11 in our culture, we can assert, without equivocation, that God wants men to look like men and women to look like women. This is one reason the Old Testament law forbade cross-dressing (Deut. 22:5). From the opening chapters of Genesis to the coming together of the mystical Church-Bride and Christ-Groom in Revelation, the Bible affirms the essential importance of the sexual differentiation between male and female.

Ironically, the transgender movement often reinforces the assumption that men should look a certain way and women should look a different way. When Bruce Jenner declared himself to be Caitlyn Jenner, now supposedly as a woman, what did this new person look like? Bruce (now Caitlyn) re-emerged on the cover of Vanity Fair with makeup, long stylish hair, manicured eyelashes, and manufactured curves and cleavage. If Caitlyn had appeared on the magazine cover still looking like Bruce—with a beard, short hair, and a flat, muscular chest—that would have been consistent with transgender ideology because the interior sense of self is what really matters. But that’s not the way transitions work. The transitioned male or female does not look like their old gender. However unnatural (and airbrushed) Jenner’s transformation was, the new photograph was supposed to be worth a thousand words. We were all supposed to know intuitively that Bruce had become Caitlyn because this is what a woman looks like. 

In the end, most transgender transitions, though contrary to God’s word, demonstrate that God’s design for sexual differentiation cannot be so easily subverted. Kleinig’s summary is apt: “Both the account of human creation in Genesis 1:27 and its reaffirmation by Jesus in Matthew 19:4 and Mark 10:6 teach that God created humanity in his image as male and female. In Hebrew, the terms ‘male’ and ‘female’ describe both their biological sexuality (Lev. 12:2, 5, 7; 15:33), which they share with all the animals (Gen. 6:19; 7:3, 9, 16), and their corresponding gender, their sexual identity (Lev. 27:3, 4, 5, 7; Num. 5:3).”[7] If we are going to live according to biblical truth, or simply in step with the natural order, we must not accept the contemporary notion that sex and gender are entirely different concepts. What God has joined together, let no man separate.


Until the last few decades of human history, it was understood by virtually everyone everywhere that each of us is born wholly and irrevocably as a “he” or as a “she.” Maleness and femaleness are identities that we do not choose and cannot change. Read, for example, these remarkably relevant words (first published in 1522) from Martin Luther, commenting on Genesis 1:27:

From this passage we may be assured that God divided mankind into two classes, namely, male and female, or a he and a she. This was so pleasing to him that he himself called it a good creation [Gen. 1:31]. Therefore, each one of us must have the kind of body God has created for us. I cannot make myself a woman, nor can you make yourself a man; we do not have that power. But we are exactly as he created us: I a man and you a woman. Moreover, he wills to have his excellent handiwork honored as his divine creation, and not despised. The man is not to despise or scoff at the woman or her body, nor the woman the man. But each should honor the other's image and body as a divine and good creation that is well-pleasing unto God himself.[8]

Notice that Luther believes that our bodies are given to us and that they impose limitations on us. And yet, he does not consider the given-ness of our bodies as male or female to be bad news. On the contrary, the fact the you and I were created as either a man or as a woman reflects God’s “excellent handiwork” and should not be despised.

To be born male or female, and to live a life of Christian discipleship according to those given identities, is the way of blessing, not to mention reality. Later in the same treatise, Luther insists that we are born men and women, and that these identities can never change. “[Y]ou cannot solemnly promise that you will not be a man or a woman,” Luther writes, “and if you should make such a promise it would be foolishness and of no avail since you cannot make yourself something other than what you are.”[9]

What Luther knew to be true five hundred years ago is just as true and just as biblical today. To accept this reality, even in the midst of personal pain and confusion, is to embrace God’s wisdom and God’s ways—a divine design that God himself declared to be “very good” (Gen. 1:31).

[1] John W. Kleinig, Wonderfully Made: A Protestant Theology of the Body (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2021), 216.

[2] Kleinig, Wonderfully Made, 22.

[3] Denny Burk, David Closson, and Colin Smothers, Male and Female He Created Them: A Study on Gender, Sexuality, and Marriage (Ross-Shire, UK: Christian Focus, 2023), 70.

[4] Colin Wright, “A Biologist Explains Why Sex Is Binary,” Wall Street Journal (April 9, 2023).

[5] Laura Hake and Clare O’Connor, “Genetic Mechanisms of Sex Determination,” Nature Education 1(1):25.

[6] This language is taken from the “Twelve Statements” section in the Presbyterian Church in America’s Report of the Ad Interim Committee on Human Sexuality (https://pcaga.org/aicreport/).

[7] Kleinig, Wonderfully Made, 198.

[8] Martin Luther, The Estate of Marriage, Trans. Walther I. Brandt, in Luther’s Works, Volume 45, Ed. Walther I. Brand (Philadelphia, PA: Fortress Press, 1962), 17-18.

[9] Luther, Estate of Marriage, 19.

Booklets of our articles can be purchased one time or delivered monthly as part of our church partnership program.  Click here to learn more, or email janet@clearlyreformed.org. 

Kevin DeYoung is the senior pastor at Christ Covenant Church (PCA) in Matthews, North Carolina and associate professor of systematic theology at Reformed Theological Seminary.

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