Abuse. Molestation. Genetics. Hormone imbalance. Brain chemistry. Abandonment. Divine predestination. Free will.
These are some of the terms that have historically been used to describe the causation of same-gender attraction and gender dysphoria. More terms exist. Countless causes have been plastered throughout our culture to explain the existence of any sexual attraction that is not straight or any gender identity that is not cisgender.
Despite all of these supposed explanations, we are no closer to understanding why some people are same-gender attracted. We are still not sure why some people have incongruence between their gender identity and their biological sex.* And because of this, we have no idea how to move forward. It’s as if we are stalled on the highway, unable to get the car started.
Friends, it’s time to leave the car behind and start walking.
It’s About People
In the past, we have focused so much on causation that we forgot we were talking about people.
Like actual, living people. Our brothers and sisters. Our children and neighbors.
They are human beings with complex stories, in-depth personal histories, and unique brains that are far more complex than any computer ever created. What makes us think we can understand the origin of sexual and gender identities?
If we distract ourselves with this search, then we miss the chance to minister to people. We are so focused on what led someone to where they are right now that we are not looking at their current needs.
Instead of wondering what causes a teen to be gay, let’s ask what we can do to stop LGBT+ teen bullying.
Instead of focusing on the endless list of possible causes of gender dysphoria, let’s ask what we can do to put an end to transgender suicide.
And let’s definitely stop asking people if they’re repressing childhood memories, and instead find a way to prevent family rejection and homelessness of LGBT+ youth.
Bear One Another’s Burdens
Even if we could figure out what forms any individual’s sexual or gender identity, it wouldn’t guarantee us being any better at ministering to LGBT+ people. We need to let go of that futile search. Yes, we should care about a person’s story—what has happened in their lives. But we should never do so in an attempt to “fix” them. We should do so because we want to love and care for LGBT+ people in our lives.
Paul says in Galatians 6:2 to “bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” He doesn’t say to “fix” or deduce the causation of one another’s burdens. Paul doesn’t even say we get to define what constitutes a burden. He simply says to share it:
Listen with acceptance
Instill a sense of self-worth
Provide unconditional love
Everyone, no matter their gender or sexuality, has burdens in their lives. And no amount of study will reveal a universal causation of gender and sexual identities for each individual. So it’s time to start walking down the highway. The car of causation is long dead—though, honestly, it was never really running to begin with. Until we can let go of it, we won’t be able to minister properly to our LGBT+ loved ones.
It might not be easier. But it will be better.
Learn more about how to pastor and care for LGBT+ people in our newly released resource, Guiding Families, 2nd edition.
*The most researchers can say is that the cause is likely a confluence of nature and nurture, the combination of which is indeterminate and is likely different from person to person.
This article originally appeared here.