Anti-Trans Lutheran Thinks Personal Pronouns are a “Sinful Delusion”

Anti-Trans Lutheran Thinks Personal Pronouns are a “Sinful Delusion”

For my own sake, I do my best to avoid the LCMS entirely, but sometimes the world likes to tempt me by dropping pieces of anti-trans Lutheran literature directly in my lap. This is one of those times.

This week I had the privilege of reading a free booklet distributed by Concordia Publishing House entitled “In the Image of God: Gender & Sexual Identity.” If you want to spare yourself from a discussion of the unmasked disgust with gender-expansive people that lies within these pages, just know that it says exactly what you think it says, and go about your day.

The cover of the anti-trans Lutheran booklet on a wood floor. Over a lime green background is large white text reading "IN THE IMAGE OF GOD". Much smaller in the bottom left corner is the text, "Gender & Sexual Identity".

Who wrote this?

Nowhere in this booklet or on the CPH website is the booklet’s author ever made clear. All we know about the author is that they are a “middle-aged dad” and not a “twenty-five-year-old surfer dude.” And based on their fervent belief that one must identify as the gender they were assigned at birth, and their deliberate misunderstanding of personal pronouns, I’m fairly certain that the author uses he/him pronouns. See how easy that was to discern? But the anonymous author here would like to have you think that understanding people’s pronouns is a cosmic mystery.

In the image of God?

I’m getting ahead of myself. Rather, I want to start by talking about the title of this booklet, “In the Image of God.” This part of the title is so large on the cover that you might not notice at first that it has anything to do with gender. But why call it that? Based on the context of what the booklet is about, I can only guess that perhaps the author is implying that trans people are not made in the image of God? This is peculiar because it implies that God is cisgender, which means he has a biological sex. But God (not Jesus) pretty clearly does not have a physical body. He doesn’t have a penis, XY chromosomes, or small gametes. And yet he is described primarily as male because…why?

Trying to disentangle the meaning of this title, or the gender of God, for that matter, would be quite the tangent that I’m not very well equipped to take, but I recommend this intriguing video which reinforces the fact that the title makes no sense.

Being trans is fake news, or something

The booklet starts with the question, “How can this world be so confusing, especially when it comes to talking about someone’s gender?” It sets a tone, which the author reinforces throughout, that being trans is bad because it is confusing. If I could, I’d like to point the author’s attention toward the featured image I chose for this post: Some people are trans. It’s not confusing. Get over it.

He goes on to reassure us, with a not-so-subtle nod to the rhetoric of Donald Trump and Ben Shapiro: “The information we share is rooted in the truth, not fake news, not personal opinion, not feelings. We’ll share the truth concerning these issues found in God’s Word.” Only, ironically, what he shares is not found in God’s Word. He shares instead his interpretation of a handful of vague Bible verses, whose authors likely did not have 21st-century trans people in mind at all when writing.

A screenshot of a Daily Beast article titled, "Ben Shapiro, 39, Films Himself Setting Fire to Barbie Dolls Because He Is Manly and MAD". The subtitle is "GROWN MAN HISSY FIT" and it includes a photo of Shapiro standing in a parking lot next to a trashcan, holding a blowtorch and a Barbie doll.

The author ends the introduction with a caveat not to “take the words of this book as an excuse to hate someone different from you” or “hate anyone who is wrestling with gender identity and sexuality.” Unfortunately for him, it doesn’t work that way. If you find yourself having to write a warning to your readers to not hate people due to reading what you wrote, maybe that’s a sign that you shouldn’t write that. And yet, he did.

Speaking for God

Following this is a very short section intended to show that both “science and the Bible agree” that “we are made either male or female.” The author cites Genesis 1:27-28, which is about the creation of humankind, and Matthew 19:4-5, which is Jesus telling his disciples which circumstances in marriage warrant divorce. Neither verse is about gender identity.

Both verses teach that God created “male and female;” however, this is not a moral instruction, but a piece of information. Jesus did go on to use this information to form a moral imperative—”Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh”—but the instruction was to get married, not to refrain from being openly trans. If he had wanted to be explicit about using the “male and female” line to tell his disciples and the Pharisees about gender identity, he would have. What he does go on to say is that this message may not be applicable to eunuchs, who may be asexual or gender-nonconforming.

Regardless, we don’t know what the Bible’s authors actually meant by “male or female He created them.” They don’t tell us anything about what “male” and “female” are, how to know whether you are male or female or neither, whether someone else can tell you whether you are male or female, whether you can transition between genders, or how sex and gender differ in the first place. If the authors of Scripture had God’s omnipresent foresight to know that his followers in the twenty-first century would condemn transgender people, then he made the conscious decision to have his authors omit a declaration of whether or not he condemns trans people.

Science and the bible agree!

I find that that the booklet’s author was actually right to say that science and the Bible agree. Both make descriptive, and not prescriptive, statements. All he really says in the section on science is that everyone’s cells contain either XX or XY chromosomes, concluding that “every one of the 37.2 trillion cells in your body is genetically programmed as male or female.” (Strangely, he does acknowledge folks with extra X chromosomes, but no other biological variations known as intersex characteristics—a point which renders his previous paragraph’s argument null.)

I think the wise philosopher Natalie Wynn said it best:

You know I don’t really feel the need to have a second X chromosome. I get by with only one, I make it work. I actually like the Y chromosome. I think it’s a little more dainty, you know? It’s a little softer, a little more petite.

Natalie Wynn, J.K Rowling
A screenshot of Contrapoints' video titled "J.K. Rowling," showing Natalie in her elegant set, dressed like a witch, with the caption, "I think it's a little more dainty, you know."

The booklet’s author follows this up by saying that “nowadays many people in this world confuse or try to separate” the concepts of sex and gender. “They would define your biological gender as your ‘sex.’ Meanwhile your ‘gender’ is how you choose to express your ‘maleness’ or ‘femaleness.'” So he accuses “people” of conflating sex and gender, then proceeds to, of course, conflate sex and gender. There is no such thing as a “biological gender,” my guy. Never has been.

A meme in which an astronaut is standing and looking at the earth in the distance, saying, "So sex and gender are different, and sex is biological and gender is sociocultural?" A second astronaut stands behind him holding a gun to his head, saying "always have been."

The omnipresent persecution complex

I’m surprised that it’s taken the author this long to get to the Christian persecution complex. But don’t worry, he didn’t forget it. He tells the story of a PE teacher (in Florida, of course) who was “punished because he refused to supervise” a trans boy in his class who the author calls “a transgender female student (a female identifying as a male).” And of course, according to the author, the victim here is not the trans boy who didn’t receive the basic supervision that this teacher had been hired to provide. No, the victim is everyone else.

The confusing world of gender identity makes everyday life quite confusing. Students as young as elementary school age are claiming a gender identity different from the sex that they were assigned at birth. School districts are scrambling to accommodate students who self-declare their new gender identity. In their efforts to accommodate the few, these new policies infringe on the majority of students. This Florida case is just one example of how the majority of students were inconvenienced in order to accommodate one student.

Concordia Publishing House, In the Image of God booklet

He uses this example to shift to the common, false anti-trans talking point that “they’re transing our kids!” He claims that “children as young as ten years old are undergoing gender transitions.” He gives no reference for what this means, except that they “begin taking medication to prevent the onset of puberty,” as if delaying puberty is the same as medically transitioning. Kids don’t medically transition. Anyone who still thinks this is willfully ignorant.

Trans people are trans (and that’s confusing)

The author gets his understanding of transitioning so backward that he inadvertently describes exactly what it means: “Even with gender reassignment surgery the reality of the person’s genetics remains the same. Even with physical changes and medications, they still have either XX or XY chromosomes.” Trans people aren’t trying to change their genetics. Why would they? In Natalie’s case, having a Y chromosome isn’t stopping her from being one of YouTube’s most elegant trans woman influencers.

Transphobes love to play this game where they pretend that trans people just don’t understand basic biology, that’s our problem! As if I didn’t start taking female hormones because I’m acutely aware that my body is not the same as a cis woman’s body, that sex is real. 

Natalie Wynn, J.K Rowling

The author of the booklet is essentially just angry because trans people aren’t cis. Okay, guy. I don’t know what to tell you. You got me.

A logical fallacy indeed

The next section is very appropriately and unselfconsciously titled “A logical fallacy.” Here it is in full.

No standard exists for someone to declare themselves a different gender. It doesn’t require screening or an examination by medical or psychological professionals. The person can literally say, “I’m done being a girl; I’m going to be a boy now.”

Think about the fallacy in logic here. I could decide I no longer want to be a middle-aged dad. Instead, I’d like to be a twenty-five-year-old surfer dude. How likely is that to happen? NEVER! In the same way, I could decide I’m tired of being a human, that I’d like to be a zebra in the zoo. Just because I decide I want something doesn’t mean it’s going to happen or that it is real.

Concordia Publishing House, In the Image of God booklet

So, a few things. I’m not sure what he means by “declaring” oneself a different gender. Are they coming to the realization that they themselves are trans? Are they not allowed to say to themselves, “I’m going to be a boy now”? (Although they likely wouldn’t word it that way.) Or are they legally changing their gender? Because depending on where they live, that can take anything from being diagnosed with gender dysphoria to updating their birth certificate and driver’s license. Socially, it can include buying a whole new wardrobe and trying to convince everyone you know to use your correct name and pronouns. Medically—and not everyone who is trans decides to medically transition—it can mean multiple surgeries and a lifetime of hormone replacement therapy.

The line about deciding to be a zebra is one of the most infuriating anti-trans or anti-gay talking points that I know. It implies that trans people are as different from cis people, or men are as different from women, as humans are from zebras, or whatever animal or inanimate object they decide on for their punch line. They’d like to forget it, but trans people are human. And they’re not that different from “the rest of us.”

Pronouns are confusing, too

In the next section, the author bemoans the fact that in one school, teachers aren’t allowed to call their class “girls and boys” anymore, but rather things like “students” or “learners.” I’m not sure why we’re supposed to be upset about this.

He then says snidely, “Believe it or not, pronouns matter to someone besides your English teacher. I’m sure you would rather be addressed by name rather than ‘Hey, you over there.'” It seems again that the author is either intentionally misrepresenting what pronouns are, or he’s upset because they confuse him. Because you don’t address people by their pronouns; you don’t say “Hey, she!” or “Hey, they!” No one’s pronouns are “Hey, you over there.” Discouraging someone from gendering a group of people is not the same as discouraging them from addressing individuals by name.

Predictably, he finds it preposterous that misgendering people is seen as “equivalent to personal assault of violence against that individual.” To put it into perspective, I’d encourage folks to view misgendering or deadnaming the same way that we view bullying. Name-calling, mispronouncing names, and calling boys feminine or girls masculine have always been part of bullying. This is no different.

A broken clock

The strawmanning continues when the author says that if you ever don’t know someone’s pronouns, “gender advocates” say to use “pronouns such as ze.” There certainly are folks who use neopronouns like “ze,” but that’s not the standard go-to for people whose pronouns you don’t know; that’s pretty solidly “they.” The funniest thing about this is that the author uses “they,” “them,” and “theirs” to describe individual people throughout the entire booklet. Some examples include:

  • “In both cases, the individual’s genitals are underdeveloped and they are unable to conceive.”
  • “For years when you said someone was male or female, you were talking about both their biological sex and their gender.”
  • “[Gender identity] consists of how someone perceives themselves and how they express that perception to the world.”
  • “Even with physical changes and medications, they still have either XX or XY chromosomes.”
  • “For instance, referring to someone as ‘he’ or ‘him’ when that person identifies as female, or when that person just doesn’t want to have any gender labels attached no matter how they identify, is considered an attack.”

Ah, but if he was straightforward in saying that “gender advocates” suggest defaulting to “they,” then there wouldn’t be anything for him to criticize—because he naturally does that, too. Instead, he says that words like “ze” aren’t found in dictionaries, and therefore “transgender activists are asking you to take part in sinful delusion.” But remember, he warned you not to think he wants you to hate anyone. Just to know that trans people are out here trying to lure your kids into their sinful delusion. I guess that means he’s not responsible for what his readers do with this (false) information.

The definition for the word "ze" from It reads: 
the person being discussed or last mentioned (used as a neopronoun in place of the gendered pronouns he and she):
My friend didn't want to go to the party, but ze got up and danced when hir favorite song came on!

Rare. a generic or unspecified person previously mentioned, about to be mentioned, or present in the immediate context (used as a neopronoun):
If any employee has questions, ze should contact HR."
Well, this is awkward.

Pronouns like “ze” are neopronouns, which literally means new pronouns. That’s why they’re not in many dictionaries. They’re new, and we know they’re new! There was a gap in our language for people who didn’t feel accurately described by “he,” “she,” or “they,” thus “ze” and others formed to fill that need. That’s how new words form and language evolves. Again, always has. It’s actually really cool! (I also find it peculiar that he thinks it’s sinful to go against the word of the holy… *checks notes* dictionary.)

Learning is hard

The author ends the section on (demonizing) trans people by quipping that “Learning the difference between gender identity and sexual identity also means learning a whole new vocabulary,” which he actually shares at the end of the booklet. Surprisingly, he does a decent job defining terms like “agender,” “bisexual,” “gender expression,” and “nonbinary.” So he did clearly go through the trouble of doing enough research to get most of his 26 definitions at least in the right ballpark—other than “pronouns,” which he defines chaotically as “nongender specific pronouns include hir to replace him and her as well as s/he or ze to replace he and she.”

Page 11 of "In the Image of God." There is a stock illustration of a head saying "ze?" in a speech bubble, as well as the text: "CONFUSED YET?
Gender advocates suggest that when addressing someone you do not know, you should first ask the individual for their preferred personal pronouns. If in doubt, they say, use gender-inclusive pronouns such as ze (for he or she). Never mind that these words don't exist in most dictionaries but rather have been created to fit the desires of transitioning individuals. Many experts suggest the use of they or their as safe gender-neutral first-person pronouns. Once again, transgender activists are asking you to take part in sinful delusion."

Regardless, why is the author so afraid of learning? I’m sure he tries to convert people into his Lutheran faith or at least welcomes them when they end up there, even though they have to learn dozens of terms when joining the church: “catechism,” “vicar,” “communion,” “liturgy,” “confirmation,” “seminary,” and “Nicene Creed,” to name a few.

So straight people are straight now?

Following this, we switch over from discussing “gender identity” to “sexual identity,” whatever that is. The author is sure to lay a foundation of making a simple topic sound as confusing as possible:

Who you are attracted to sexually defines your sexual identity. Someone’s sexual identity is quite different from his or her gender identity. This can be especially confusing when someone’s gender and sexual identities seemingly conflict. For instance: a person, born male but who gender identifies as female, might be attracted to men but claims to be heterosexual, not homosexual. Confused yet? Yep, me too!

Concordia Publishing House, In the Image of God booklet

In other words, a trans woman is attracted to men, which means she is straight, but the author finds that confusing because he believes trans women are men. That’s great. Just awesome.

Continuing to build this sandy foundation, the author quotes one of Paul’s epistles, Galatians 5:19-21, which is a list of sins that prohibit people from inheriting the kingdom of God. Context clues tell us that he would like to emphasize that his chosen translation lists the first sin as “sexual immorality,” and we are likely supposed to take that to mean “homosexuality,” but other translations of this verse use the words “fornication” and “adultery,” not “homosexuality.” I’m surprised he didn’t instead quote 1 Corinthians or 1 Timothy, both of which condemn terms sometimes translated today as “homosexuality,” but they likely did not originally mean that, either.

Hell for you but not for him

I find it doubly strange that he shares the full list in Galatians 5, as it also includes “enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy,” and “drunkenness.”

The author laments our “broken” world, saying our “warped sexual landscape” will “lead you away from the true God to an eternity separated from Him;” it “wants you to be happy now, with no concern for the future. It doesn’t matter that you suffer for all eternity in hell.” He has no argument beyond violent threats. He says the world will tell you the lies that God “wants what’s best for you,” that they’ll say “There’s no such thing as punishment for sinful behavior in this religion because this god is just too kind and loving.”

He openly threatens hell for queer people, but doesn’t do the same for his readers who give into jealousy or anger, or who form divisions in the church over this very topic. Non-affirming and anti-trans Lutheran folks like to say they’re no better than queer folks, because “we have all fallen short of the glory of God.” But I tell you, they do not believe themselves.

A psalm about genetics, apparently

The author goes over Genesis 1:27 and Matthew 19:4-6 again, to try to counter homosexuality as he tried to counter trans identities, but this time he adds Psalm 139:15-16, about God intricately weaving David, the psalmist, in the depths of the earth. The idea is that God knew David better than, and before, David knew himself, even in his mother’s womb. The booklet’s author then, outrageously, gets the idea that this passage is about “the genetics that make you male or female.” In what way!?

The psalm is David’s request for guidance from God, recalling his own experience with God, in awe of how intimately and how timelessly God has known him. David does clearly say that God created him in the womb and knew him even then. Does that not mean that God would know if someone will be trans from their earliest moments? If you want to argue that David is saying that God knows your genetic makeup, he would also know your gender identity and whether you are trans. Again, nothing about this verse is a moral dictate.

The purpose of women

This section is generally pretty repetitive with the first part of the booklet as the author uses Matthew 19 to argue that Jesus encourages, but doesn’t require, marriage; it’s a setup for the author to tell LGBTQ+ people to stay celibate. One thing that stands out to me in this dull section on marriage is this handy side-note: “Interestingly, part of remaining sexually pure includes not denying sex to one’s spouse.” It doesn’t really fit anywhere, so one must wonder what onus the author had to include that.

The author now blesses us with another bible passage, 1 Corinthians 7:6-9, in which Paul tells the Corinthians that he wishes “that all were as I myself am,” which is unmarried and celibate. The booklet’s author uses this condonation of singleness to say, “This gift allows men and women like Paul to focus on their mission and ministry.” I guess he forgot that women in the LCMS cannot be ministers. If a woman in his congregation stayed single and didn’t have kids, she’d be ostracized and shamed.

A foundationless marriage

Even more alarming, however, is that “If you can’t control your sexual urges, then Paul encourages you to marry rather than live in sin.” Is a marriage that has no basis other than sex the “perfect relationship between man and woman” that the author refers to repeatedly? Maybe that’s why Christians treat marriage like a vocation, or a form of suffering. They’re told to find someone—anyone—whose genitals will fit with theirs (which you won’t actually know for sure till you try, at which point it’s too late). It’s irrelevant whether or not they have anything in common, or whether they are attracted to or compatible with each other.

As we near the end of the booklet, the author gives a long how-to on what to do when someone comes out to you as gay. It includes gems like “If it hasn’t happened in your family yet, you can be thankful to God,” and “God calls us to condemn sin, but it is not our job to pass judgment on the sinner,” but nothing groundbreaking. There’s also more Christian persecution: “The open expression of ideas on college and university campuses seems to apply to everyone, except Christians.”

Idolizing bigotry

He closes the booklet by sharing a section now included in the latest Luther’s Small Catechism. It’s a shorter version of the same things he said in the booklet, that “a desire and attraction for the opposite sex is the God-given basis for marriage” (saucy!) and that queer and trans “desires result from our fallen nature and are contrary to the will of God.” How do we know that? The section lists that we ought to “respect our identity as male or female as indicated by the body God gave us.”

A mockup of the 2017 edition of Luther's Small Catechism with Explanation sitting on a table.
So practical.

But we are not our genitals. We get assigned a birth sex by fallible humans, not by God. Parents and doctors get them wrong all time. That’s okay! It doesn’t have to mean a hell sentence. If you believe in God, there’s no reason to think he didn’t make you trans. He certainly never says that being trans is contrary to his will. If he meant for everyone to live as the gender that they were deemed at birth, it’s weird that God also invented the science necessary for hormone blockers, hormone replacement therapy, and related surgeries.

All this to say that when people like this anonymous coward say that trans and queer people are meant for hell, that’s his interpretation. The bible is not clear, so it’s extremely disappointing that LCMS Lutherans, and so many other Christians, decide to retroactively shoehorn their hateful interpretations where they don’t belong.

6 thoughts on “Anti-Trans Lutheran Thinks Personal Pronouns are a “Sinful Delusion”

  • July 30, 2023 at 8:24 am

    I was raised LCMS.
    I am no longer affiliated with them – for this reason, among others.

  • August 1, 2023 at 2:16 pm

    The LCMS and WELS insistence that trans people are deluded/immoral is really ridiculous to me. They reject ideas that seem to be much easier to argue for like double predestination or annihilationism without even really any consideration, but then will quote the flimsiest of passages to support their preconceived notions that trans people can’t possibly exist.

  • August 1, 2023 at 2:27 pm

    My family has had quite the personal experience with this topic. It comes down to this: trans folks are over 50 percent more likely to end their lives. This is not about just an argument and who wins on some doctrinal point. This is people’s lives on the line.

    The second major point is that Jesus lives all people. He spent lots of time with people that society considered sinners. He didn’t require outcasts to agree on all his teachings before lavishing love on them.

    Jesus condemned those with head knowledge only and not deep heart knowledge of Jesus.

    Love people. Support people. Listen to people. Share Jesus love with everybody and don’t be quick to judge or make overarching rules you don’t fully understand.

    Basically I will say the head guys of lcms are more interested in preserving patriarchy, their version of pure doctrine, and their Divine Liturgies than
    Really going all out for making Christ followers.

    My youngest child is transgender. I divorced a pastor with a major reason being this teaching and how they threw authority around and treated our family.

    They have no business calling themselves as a denomination missional. Some lcms pastors are great and they’ve mostly broken out of that culture. But most lcms. are not from my experience.

  • August 21, 2023 at 12:06 pm

    Ah, now I see why the president at my company, who is LCMS, was digging around asking why we need to have pronouns on our social media profiles. Yikes. I still have so much to learn about all this, but here’s an idea: How about we default to empathy and compassion? How about we “virtue signal” to trans people that we love them and support them even if we don’t understand it all yet? So, yeah, I’m going to continue have pronouns on my profile. Thanks for writing this and exposing the BS.

  • December 9, 2023 at 3:36 pm

    Fortunately the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod is rapidly shrinking. Its membership is down to 1.7 million, and it has perhaps only 800,000 active members. Its leaders look to children’s songs to inspire a reversal:

    One reason for the LC-MS’s decline is the access to information. I.e., the Internet. It provides everyone with access to scientific information, scientific studies, as well as information about the LC-MS. People, especially young people, use it to investigate. They can learn that the accepted age of the Earth is 4.54 billion years: They can learn that this information is based on scientific, peer-reviewed analysis. They can learn that the LC-MS denies this analysis based solely on belief in a “writing” supposedly dictated by a god: They can learn that the LC-MS still teaches that the Pope is the Anti-Christ:


What do you think?