Seventy-two percent of Protestant pastors in the U.S. believe it is morally wrong for people to identify with a gender that does not correspond to their biological sex, according to Lifeway Research. An even greater majority, 77 percent, agree it is morally wrong to use hormone therapy or surgery to change genders.
“Whether it is a physical sex-change or public identification,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of Lifeway Research, “a large majority of pastors see a person’s biological sex as something a human should not change.”
Among U.S. Protestant pastors, 72% say it is morally wrong for an individual to identify with a gender different from the biological sex they were born, including 62% who strongly agree. https://t.co/sgy0UEyZkr
— Lifeway Research (@LifewayResearch) March 17, 2021
Protestant Pastors Believe It Is Wrong to Change Genders
From Sept. 2, 2020, through Oct. 1, 2020, Lifeway Research surveyed 1,007 Protestant pastors about their beliefs about gender identity. In the report entitled, “Pastors’ Views on Gender,” researchers asked if the pastors agreed or disagreed “that it is morally wrong for an individual to identify with a gender different than the sex they were born.”
Sixty-two percent of the respondents said they “strongly agree” that it is morally wrong and 10 percent said they “somewhat agree.” Only four percent said they “somewhat disagree,” while 10 percent said they “strongly disagree.” Ten percent answered that gender identity is not a moral issue, and four percent said they were “not sure.”
Researchers explored if factors such as denomination, gender, and education impacted pastors’ perspectives on gender identity. They found that pastors aged 45 to 54 were more likely to view gender identity as a moral issue than pastors who were either younger or older. Male pastors were more likely than female pastors to say that identifying as a different gender was immoral.
Evangelical pastors and pastors who only had a bachelor’s degree were more likely to take a moral stance against people choosing a different gender than were mainline pastors and pastors who had gotten a master’s or a doctoral degree. Notably, pastors of churches with 100 or more attendees were more likely to see identifying as a different gender as morally wrong than were pastors of churches with 0 to 49 attendees.
Protestant pastors showed even more unity in their responses to the idea that it is “morally wrong” to change one’s biological sex by means of taking hormones or surgery. Seventy-one percent said that they “strongly agree” and seven percent said that they “somewhat agree” that such changes would be immoral. Three percent answered “somewhat disagree,” while nine percent responded “strongly disagree.” Only seven percent said that transitioning to another gender was not a moral issue, and once again four percent said they were “not sure.” The responses to the question of changing genders broke down demographically along similar lines as the previous responses regarding identifying as a different gender.
Researchers also surveyed pastors to see if they personally knew anyone who identifies as transgender and explored whether factors such as age, ethnicity, and denomination impacted the answers. Forty-eight percent of the survey participants said they did know someone who is transgender. Forty-one percent said they did not, and 11 percent answered, “Not that I know of.”
Younger pastors were more likely than older pastors to say that they personally knew a transgender individual. Fifty-five percent of pastors age 18 to 44 said that they did know a transgender person, compared to 45 percent of pastors aged 55 to 64 and 41 percent of pastors age 65 and older. African American pastors (36 percent) were less likely than pastors of other ethnicities (57 percent) to say they knew someone who is transgender. Mainline and female pastors were more likely to say they knew a transgender person than were evangelical and male pastors, respectively. Education and church size were also characteristics that influenced pastors’ answers. The more advanced a respondent’s degree and the larger his or her church, the more likely the pastors were to know someone who is transgender.
McConnell observed that previous Lifeway studies have shown that even though American Protestants tend to agree that God created people male and female, they are much more reluctant than pastors to say that identifying as a different gender is “morally wrong.” Said McConnell, “Protestant pastors are more likely than Americans who identify as Protestant to consider it wrong to identify as a gender different from your biological sex. While most Americans accept the biblical narrative of God designing male and female, pastors take changing that design much more seriously.”