A Jewish Psychiatrist Looks at Transsexualism
Sexuality is a core aspect of our identity and a part of the basis upon which we interact with others and even God Himself.
When I was in my psychiatric training over 40 years ago, transsexualism, along with homosexuality and transvestism, were listed among the pathological disorders that were caused by arrested or perverted development. Now they are seen by the greater culture as normal variants of sexual identity and expression.
Back then, abortion, having children “out of wedlock,” adultery, fornication, cohabiting and divorce were seen as morally wrong by most, and sinful by those who were religious. The Bible was read in school assemblies, and God could be mentioned without fear of negative repercussions. That was then, and this is now. Times certainly have changed.
Freudian psychosexual developmental pathways were accepted by most psychiatrists as the explanation of how we handle the task of becoming mature whole sexual beings. There was no significant opposition that questioned these theories. Now, the majority of psychiatrists, at least the vocal ones, reject Freud in this regard, stating that his theory of sexual development is incorrect.
Is Transgenderism Inborn?
It has also been posited that homosexuality and transgenderism or transsexualism are biologically, genetically inborn and therefore not at all to be seen as abnormal. The problem is that there is no convincing scientific evidence to support or refute Freud’s original theory or those that have replaced it. Nor is there any convincing evidence for the assertion that these sexual variants are inborn.
In the absence of scientific evidence, we are left with no objective resolution to this increasingly divisive social dilemma. We are left rather with people’s opinions based on their moral, ethical or spiritual worldviews, paradigms or frameworks. “Scientism” (using science to attempt to answer questions for which it doesn’t have the authority or the expertise) or “religionism” (using religious authority to do the same in the opposite direction—for example, saying that the sun revolved around the earth, because of a misinterpretation of Scripture) must both be avoided.
Understanding Our Sexuality
As a psychiatrist who personally strongly embraces a religious/spiritual worldview, I see the underlying problem as a lack of understanding of sexuality overall. What does it mean to be a man and what does it mean to be a woman? Not just in the realm of the physical and the romantic, but in the essence of our personhood, our identity and in the full range of our relationships and behaviors. How can we deal with the less common, the more unusual, when we are not even able to understand the complexities of the more common?
It is the responsibility of the religious to look below the surface at what is going on in our imaginations, our fantasies, our motives and the roots of our thoughts, feelings and behaviors. When this is done with honesty and transparency, it will become apparent that there will be no justification for self-righteousness. It is also the responsibility of those who advocate for total “freedom” to be and do whatever is right in their own eyes to likewise honestly examine their secret thoughts and feelings.
Our Authentic Sexual Self
Bible believers will need to remove the log from their eye so they can see to remove the speck from their brother’s eye. They will then look for healing and growth for themselves first and will model a differentiated complementary sexuality that will speak for itself even as they speak for it.
Those who are hungry and thirsty for truth will be drawn to that truth when they search for it with all their hearts. They will be drawn to reality, to legitimate love in all its various forms of expression, and will be experientially convinced in their innermost beings of what it means to be their authentic sexual selves.
Jesus and Sexuality
Yeshua (Jesus), the one who claimed to be the Jewish Messiah, said that those who obey his commands are truly his disciples. He said that if they become his disciples, they will then know the truth, and the truth will set them free. The core question is not whether transsexualism is legitimate or not.
The core and fundamental question is whether Jesus is the Truth who will set us free or not—not just free to be who we are sexually, but to be totally free.
The question for all is the nature, motivation and mind-set of the entirety of our thoughts, feelings and behaviors, not just our emotional and physical romantic ones. Are we being respectful of our own identities and those of others? Are we seeing ourselves as the gender we truly are, the generation that we truly are and the individual that we truly are?
It is time to move from fantasy to reality, from ignorance to knowledge, from foolishness to wisdom, from isolation to healthy intimacy, from unforgiveness with its accompanying bitterness, anger and resentment to forgiveness, and from unconfessed sin and resultant shame and guilt to confession, repentance, humble submission and obedience.
These decisive moves are necessary for everyone, transsexual, homosexual and heterosexual alike. God offers both mercy and justice through the sacrifice of the Lamb of God. As with the blood on the doorposts of the Israelite homes in Egypt, so by the blood shed on the accursed tree by Yeshua, the way has been opened for both Jew and Gentile to enter into the peace of God by receiving the God of peace.
With mercy, He offers to release us from the judgment we deserve. With grace, He gives us His love, His presence and His promises—that which we clearly do not deserve. God actually offers to take up residence within us and become our Comforter, our Intercessor and the source of all the wisdom and power we need to accomplish all that He has for us to do, first with Him and also with our families, our friends and our work.
I am not speaking as a generic psychiatrist. None exist. All have faith in something or faith in nothing (in which it must indeed take a lot of misplaced faith to believe). I am speaking as a Jew, as a psychiatrist and as a follower of him who is the Way, the Truth and the Life— Yeshua HaMaschiach, known in the Greek as Jesus Christ.
Is total freedom encompassed by being his disciple, or is total freedom being our own gods and pretending we have an authority, even a right, to do whatever we want, wherever we want, and with whomever we want? In answering that question, each of us will reap the rewards or suffer the consequences. Choose wisely.
Irving S. Wiesner, M.D., is a psychiatrist who has been in practice for over 40 years. He was raised in an Orthodox Jewish family and came to faith in medical school. He bases his thinking and his counseling on biblical understanding. He has co-authored two chapters in Clinical Aspects of Religion in Psychiatric Practice, published by the American Psychiatric Press, and is board certified in both internal medicine and psychiatry. He has also written the book, Tools from Psychiatry for the Journey of Faith.