Updated: May 10
A couple of months ago, Lia Thomas became the first trans woman to win the NCAA Swimming championship. And everyone seemed to have an opinion. Since then, news organizations, social media, and even state legislatures have gotten involved, attempting to ban trans athletes from competition.
One side‘s argument boils down to the simple statement: “It’s not fair.”
And that’s the attack I’ve been hearing against the LGBTQ+ community.
“It’s not fair that someone born with the body of a male is competing against someone born with the body of a woman.”
“It’s not fair that school systems and organizations have to rethink how to categorize competitions.”
“It’s not fair that we have to rethink how to call someone by different pronouns.”
“It’s not fair that this question has been handed to this generation at this time.”
“Don’t we already have enough going on? It seems to be on top of a title wave of change.”
I don’t know how to fix this problem in women’s sports. But then I thought more about fairness.
It’s also not fair that more than half of all transgender and nonbinary young people in the U.S. seriously contemplated killing themselves in 2021.
It’s also not fair that the lives of gay and trans people in dozens of countries are in danger. In almost 70 countries “homosexuality” is illegal. The penalty in some countries is death.
It’s also not fair that I have to tell my daughter to be careful when she travels to certain areas of our state, because she’s openly gay. I’m not sure why I say, “Please be careful.” I want her to be able to express her love like anyone else. I suppose I just want her to live.
It’s especially not fair that the people who are most dangerous to her, call themselves Christians. That’s not fair.
For most who object to trans girl athletes, they clothe their discomfort in “fairness” language. Talking to one of my students lately, he said that the LGBTQ+ community makes him feel “weird.” I knew what he was talking about. I mean, he’s 12 years old and has a lot of learning and growing to do. 12-year-olds feel weird like all the time. But there are people 52 years old who are still uncomfortable with this. The more they shelter themselves from reality, the more dangerous their ideas become.
I don’t pretend to understand this whole situation, nor do I have to. Sexuality is hugely complicated and the world is slowly (too slowly) discovering that intersex, transgender people, and gender dysphoria are real. It is not something, “in their heads,” as some have dismissively said.*
So, what does God want us to do?
As the governor of Utah stated when he vetoed a ban on transgender students playing girls’ sports, “I want them to live.” The governor sees the big picture. He understands that the lives of young people are so much more important than the score of a high school match.†
God calls us to always do the loving thing, not what seems fair – and certainly not what makes us comfortable. In fact, God calls us to be UNcomfortable.
There is a tendency among the very religious to hyper-focus on minutiae, rather than on matters close to the heart of God.
Jesus had a memorable way of describing it: straining gnats and swallowing camels.
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.” (Matthew 23:23-24)
It was his way to prioritize the important from the unimportant. “Life and death” things from “following the rules” things. Love for people versus just trying to follow the law.
Jesus was ripping into the religious leaders for caring about inconsequential rules and “neglecting the more important matters of the law.” Namely, matters having to do with justice, mercy, and faithfulness.
For example, the religious leaders became angry at Jesus for healing on their holy day, the Sabbath – straining gnats.
They did not see the importance of mercy and love of actually healing a human being from their affliction of 40 years — swallowing camels.
So christians, are we not guilty of the same thing?
“Rarely has so much fear and anger been directed at so few,” the governor continued. “I don’t understand what they are going through or why they feel the way they do. But I want them to live.” What a rare and humble position for a governor of a state to take.
It’s up to us now. Will we strain the gnats of prohibiting trans girls from playing in sports, while we swallow the camels of the life and death struggle of LGBTQ+ people every day? These are human beings. These are fathers and mothers, daughters and sons, brothers and sisters. These are friends, coworkers, and our loved ones. And they're in danger. And they’re tired too. They’re tired of walking into schools, churches, work places, restaurants, and stores wondering if they’re being judged -- wondering if they’re safe to be who they are.
Our discomfort and feeling for “fairness” is nothing compared to the disruption of life and fear for people that happen to be gay and trans in our society.
So when I hear gnat-straining-Christian leaders complaining about fairness, I have a hard time swallowing the camel with them, and I remind myself that Jesus called these “defenders of fairness” blind guides and hypocrites.
* "Answers To Your Questions About Transgender People, Gender Identity, And Gender Expression". Https://Www.Apa.Org, 2022, https://www.apa.org/topics/lgbtq/transgender. Accessed 7 May 2022.
† "Gov. Cox: Why I’M Vetoing HB11". Governor Spencer J. Cox, 2022, https://governor.utah.gov/2022/03/24/gov-cox-why-im-vetoing-hb11/. Accessed 7 May 2022.