You Can’t Fix Dead: The Physical Change and Spiritual Transformation of Travis McNeil
Word Alive Press
Reviewed by Keith Reed
What is the subject?
The author tells the story of how Tanya McNeil became Travis McNeil. Gender reassignment is the prevalent subject matter, but the book also outlines McNeil’s spiritual journey and connects this with his physical transformation.
Who is the author?
Chris M. Schwab is an associate pastor.
Why this book?
This book earned my interest through its subtitle. I wanted to know how the physical change of this person would relate to their spiritual transformation and how the church would play a role in the story.
How is it in harmony with – or not – the MB Confession of Faith?
Scripture is used sparingly and the proof-texting is disappointing. These practices fail to honour the value that the MB Confession of Faith places on God’s revelation and its guidance on our lives (Article 2).
Another troubling aspect of this story is the advice that Travis receives from his pastor on a matter of baptism. He is told that he “must always follow his heart [because] God always leads us through our hearts. We cannot follow what others think we should do because they won’t always want what’s right for our lives.” This advice places an unhealthy dependence on how a person perceives the voice of God and dismisses the value of listening to church community members (Article 7).
The story is written from Travis’s perspective, but the author uses his own voice in the afterword to conclude the book. He suggests that Travis did nothing wrong and offers no biblical defense besides some trite references.
Where the book fails:
This book fails to explore the necessary questions that are critical to the conversation. A short selection of cherry-picked Bible verses exposes the book’s glaring weakness – a theological argument for the rightness or wrongness of gender reassignment is missing! For example, once Travis’s hidden past is revealed, there is very little said about how the leaders in Travis’s church arrive at their decision to remove him from his positions of leadership. The author includes how Travis feels (he doesn’t think it’s necessary), but gives no rationale for the beliefs of either party.
Who should read this book?
The book’s greatest asset is the insider’s perspective into the world of gender dysphoria and reassignment. If you are unfamiliar with the intense emotion and complexities that surround gender identity, this book will expand your awareness. Beyond this, I don’t believe this story makes a meaningful contribution to the larger conversation that these topics demand.
“The truth I know from my own life, and from knowing the lives of others, is that gender reassignment is not the solution. It cannot bring about the change of life people may expect. The real need is to have a change of heart.”
“The gender reassignment probably saved my life, but only Jesus could have saved my soul.”
[Keith Reed is a member of North Langley Community Church.