When I first heard about this year's Association of Certified Biblical Counselors conference in Louisville, Ky., hosting a special plenary session on transgender people, I wondered how it could possibly be worse than the parade of horrors at conferences featuring many of the same people last year.
I should not have wondered. Humanity can always find new and inventive ways to be worse. The counselors group is drawn from conservative Christian denominations, especially the Southern Baptist Convention. Here are 10 ways these folks have found to be even more nasty and disingenuous toward transgender people.
1. Rejection is godly.
After a Southern Baptist conference last year where the denomination urged people with transgender children to reject their children's identities, the counselors' conference doubled down. Members have now made it clear that under no circumstances should you accept your child's identity if they are transgender. They have hinted that it is OK to reject and cast out your children for being gender-nonconforming.
They came straight out and said that it's OK to cut off relationships with a transgender child who is transitioning, because the act of transitioning means they (the transgender person) rejected you (and by extension God) first.
2. Transgender people are abominations.
They made it clear that all transgender people who accept their identities are in rebellion against God and going to hell. It doesn't matter what they believe, how they worship, or how they behave; as long as they remain gender-nonconforming, they are damned. You cannot be transgender and Christian. You cannot be transgender and saved.
3. Transgender people are disgusting
Speakers at the conference made it clear just how disgusting, nasty, and vile they found the notion of transgender people, and transgender women in particular. When confronted with this, their followers on Twitter responded that of course sin is disgusting, and transgender people are basically sin and abomination and rejection of all of God's plans personified.
Meanwhile, a record 20 transgender people, all of them transgender women, and 18 of them trans women of color, have been murdered so far this year.
4. Transgender people are a bigger threat to Christianity than gays.
Somehow, the Christian martyr complex has gotten bad enough that the conferees flat-out claimed that acceptance of transgender people -- and transgender people themselves -- represent the direst threat ever to Christianity. Never mind that transgender people are a tiny, impoverished minority and Christians are 75 percent of the population and have ridiculous amounts of money to throw at 501(c)3s.
They're also a little fuzzy on the whole mechanism of how acceptance of transgender people will end Christianity in America, but they seem really certain transgender people are part of why millennials are leaving fundamentalist protestant religions in droves. They can't quite seem to come to grips that when millennials are forced to choose between loving their friends and family, and staying with a church urging them to reject someone they love, millennials are choosing love.
5. Pray away the gay is back ... as pray the trans away.
The group has completely rejected the notion of "conversion" or "reparative" therapy, or at least the therapy part of it. Members have rejected the notion that some trauma causes people to be transgender or that being transgender can be cured with some sort of talk therapy. They have reverted to the notion that with enough prayer, Jesus can cure anything, including being gay or transgender. Both of those conditions are simply sins that must be purged.
What about people who don't succeed in praying the transgender away? They just didn't pray hard enough or have enough faith, and as a result are going to hell for their lack of faith and rejection of God's plan.
After 20 years of lesbians and gays trying this and breaking into a million pieces in the process, who here thinks it will end well for transgender people?
6. All of the experts were white, heterosexual, cisgender men.
This conference about transgender people was hosted entirely by people who aren't transgender, dislike them intensely, and are arguing for marginalizing, demonizing, and discriminating against a minority group. The result was what you would expect: It looked like a "conference" about the civil rights movement if it was hosted by the Klan.
7. None of the experts had a degree in psychology or medicine.
Every last one of the experts speaking at the panel has a degree from a theological school. None of them had advanced degrees in medicine, psychology, gender studies, or psychiatry. When the topic of actual medical consensus came up, they either claimed that it wasn't there or cherry-picked a factoid, misused or misrepresented clinical opinions, or simply hand-waved away the American Medical Association, American Psychiatric Association, and American Psychological Association as biased liberal organizations.
8. The Bible is scientific, and science is biblical.
The speakers at the conference resorted to another bizarre logical sleight of hand when they claimed there is no gap between a biblical view and a scientific view. Their belief in the inerrancy of the Bible means that everything in the Bible is scientifically valid, and that science confirms the Bible. Therefore, what they say the Bible says about transgender people (hint -- it actually says next to nothing) is scientific. And provn by science. And full of science-y goodness.
9. Rejected and dead is a better outcome than loved and accepted for trans kids.
Basically, we're at a point where they don't see a difference between dead by suicide and transgender: you're in hell either way. This logic is a particularly horrific and evil: These folks are telling parents that sure, the suicide statistics on rejected transgender children may be right, but if you don't shame and reject them into not being transgender anymore (by lots of praying!) they're going to hell either way. If you accept your transgender child, you're going to hell too.
The message is pretty clear. It is better for you to end up with a dead kid than a transgender one. The outcome is the same either way for your child (hell), but having a transgender child who is loved and accepted will send the whole family to hell.
10. You can come to church with us if you come as someone else.
In a rather futile attempt to show they're not a hate group, the conference panelists said they'd love for transgender people to come to church with them. As long as they went back their birth gender, conform with societal and religious gender norms, and generally be straight-acting and -looking.
In other words, transgender people are welcome as long as they're not transgender. Or at least pretending not to be transgender for the sake of everyone who doesn't want to lose their lunch at having to share co-religionist space with "one of those people."
Which is quite possibly the worst welcome mat since the Claymore mine.
BRYNN TANNEHILL graduated from the Naval Academy in 1997 before serving as a campaign analyst while deployed overseas. She later worked as a senior defense research scientist in private industry; she left the drilling reserves and began transitioning in 2010. Since then, she has written for OutServe, The New Civil Rights Movement, Salon, Everyday Feminism, The Good Men Project, Bilerico, and The Huffington Post.