Acceptance of Transgendered Varies Widely Among Faiths
The views of different faiths toward transgenderedness differ widely, from Unitarian Universalists, who officially welcome transgendered people, to Muslims, who prohibit transgendered people from joining their clergy.
Transgendered is a broad and fluid term, but the people it encompasses range from those who assume an identity of the opposite sex to those who change their gender through surgery.
According to Rabbi Joshua Aaronson of Temple Har Shalom in Park City, the Jewish Reform movement states that anyone can become an ordained rabbi or an invested cantor regardless of sexual orientation, which Aaronson takes to include transgendered people.
The sticking issue for some other faiths is the act of transforming the gender given by God, especially anatomically.
As Allan Gunnerson, associate director of the LDS Institute of Religion, says, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints "believes that gender was established in our life before and was determined by God."
LDS Church leaders counsel against elective transsexual operations, saying it may be cause for formal church discipline. In questionable cases, a bishop should obtain the counsel of the First Presidency, according to the church's General Handbook of Instructions.
Islam also takes issue with transgender transformations, says Imam Shuaib-Ud Din of the Khadeeja Islamic Center in West Valley City. He cites the Quran, where the devil says, "I will arouse in them false desires and will order them to change their nature created by Allah."
Din believes such "change" includes transgender transformations, though he says the mosque is open for anyone to worship in the Islamic tradition.
The Presbyterian Church takes a similar stand, accepting anyone to its congregations but not ordaining transgendered people, says Marvin Groote, presbytery executive for the Presbytery of Utah, though there has been plenty of debate. That position applies to people who have anatomically changed their bodies, but Groote says depending on how private they were, transvestites also might be frowned upon as clergy.
In the eyes of the Roman Catholic Church, a sex-change operation makes only "superficial" alterations, but does not affect a person's gender, according to a recent Vatican report. Still, Catholics who have undergone the procedures are not eligible to marry, be ordained to the priesthood or enter religious life.
Though many faiths discourage transgenderedness among people within their traditions, some leaders of those faiths say they still respect transgendered people as human beings.