On the Shelf: Understanding Gender Dysphoria by Mark A. Yarhouse

I picked up this book last winter at Urbana, a student missions conference that takes place every three years in St. Louis.  It was a purchase made on a whim, a title in a large stack. With all the controversy about bathrooms this past spring, transgender issues were on my mind and I wanted to be more informed.  Although David Ebershoff’s The Danish Girl opened my mind to the nature of what it means to be transgender (I never really understood how deep the identity struggle is), there is so much I don’t know or understand.  My faith also spurs me to ask questions: How should Christians respond to transgender issues?  What does the Bible have to say on the subject?  So many of my fellow Christians have responded to transgender people with fear and hate–an attitude that makes me extremely uncomfortable.  So I picked up Yarhouse’s book to learn more.

Understanding Gender Dysphoria: Navigating Transgender Issues in a Changing Culture
by Mark A. Yarhouse

My Rating: 3.5 / 5

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Few topics are more contested today than gender identity. In the fog of the culture war, complex issues like gender dysphoria are reduced to slogans and sound bites. And while the war rages over language, institutions and political allegiances, transgender individuals are the ones who end up being the casualties. Mark Yarhouse, an expert in sexual identity and therapy, challenges the church to rise above the political hostilities and listen to people’s stories. In Understanding Gender Dysphoria, Yarhouse offers a Christian perspective on transgender issues that eschews simplistic answers and appreciates the psychological and theological complexity. The result is a book that engages the latest research while remaining pastorally sensitive to the experiences of each person. In the midst of a tense political climate, Yarhouse calls Christians to come alongside those on the margins and stand with them as they resolve their questions and concerns about gender identity. Understanding Gender Dysphoria is the book we need to navigate these stormy cultural waters.

What I didn’t realize at the time is that the book is more academic text than prose, which meant I could only manage a few pages at a time.  Still, I’m thankful I put in the effort.  Yarhouse takes on the subject of gender dysphoria as a scholar, not a culture critic.  His chapters follow a logical order–first he describes what gender dysphoria is, then he presents a number of different frameworks to use in approaching the issue.  He discusses possible causes and treatments (although, really, not much is known) and ends the book with chapters on how Christians can respond on the individual and institutional level.  I found the book to be extremely useful and I highly recommend it for Christians who are trying to understand what it means to have gender dysphoria.  Ultimately, I came away with a deeper understanding of the struggles transgender people face and feel moved to love and compassion.

If you’re a Christian looking for a fairly unbiased, educational discussion of transgender issues, this book is definitely for you.

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Check out my On the Shelf page for more reviews!

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