I'll warn you ahead of time, this might be a bit of a rambling and unfocused post. I know what I'm trying to say but I've not taken the time to distill it into a sharply defined thesis.
I've said before in this place that those who have given me, shall we say, negative feedback - have done so almost entirely from the "God would not approve" worldview. Both among a few who have spoken up, and among several more who's opinion I am aware of but with whom I've not spoken directly, the mindset that this is somehow a great sin that I have chosen to do and can chose not to do - or even want to do - prevails.
I often wonder, if that is true, just how they think people get this way. I am not going to deny that I have done some thing that are hard to defend in my life (though I see no need to defend myself on those things) but none of them "infect" a person with being trans. For instance, back in the day I was known to visit a strip joint or two. But since not every man (hardly any in fact) who goes to such places ends up like me, that would be a poor argument. And such would be the failing of any other sin you might lay at my feet and say "because of THIS you are a pervert."
And that doesn't even address the reality that I was sneaking chances to dress up all through my childhood from even before puberty. does the sin you think so harshly of in my 20's or 40's somehow explain that?
But heck, let's lay aside myself and look around. sure you can point to the drag queen or the person of confused sexuality and make your judgments (not that I think those people deserve your judgment either) but what of the others?
The thing that provokes me to post these thoughts is the comments of a friend of mine on a message board I frequent. Whenever someone brings up God or Jesus or Christianity you pain in her posts leaps off the page. She was - in her former life - a hyper-committed Christian who lived and breathed the faith 24/7. She taught, she sang, she witnessed, she studied, she prayed - just as much if not more than you do.
Now? Now she is alienated from God and from those who follow Christ. Why? Because the church has insisted that God hates her. That's she's a freak and a monster. Worse than that, her spouse is so bound up in that point of view that whatever feelings they formerly had are dead. The wife was not free to make her own choices about how she felt about this person she had been married to - she had been trained from childhood to consider such people freaks, even if the freak was a person she once loved.
Tell me, oh ye who would judge: how is it that such a person is transsexual? Where's the red flags in her past that portend a falling away? If this is just some "kink" that we have chosen to indulge ourselves in, whence cometh this woman's fate? She did everything right as far as being a "good Christian man, husband, and father" yet there she is, giving up all that you consider valuable in order to be the butt of jokes, the villian in her loved one's pain, and the outcast among her former "friends." THIS is something a person does by CHOICE?
Another variation of the "sinner" charge has to do with the marriage. Sure, they chose not to argue with you about how you got this way (whatever opinions they might hold) but they are on much firmer ground when it comes to the responsibilities that come with marriage. I'll even admit to some conflicted feelings on that point myself because you'd have been hard pressed to find a person more convinced of the "wrongness" of divorce just a few years ago.
However, shall we not consider what's being asked here? The common requirement is basically "knock it off!" - again, as if this is something you DO and not something you ARE. In fact, without going into indiscreet details, this is pretty much the heart of the issue at home - thanks to her training, my wife simply can't bring herself to accept that this isn't something you DO (and thus something you can STOP). and if her worldview were correct, then she would have every right to require me to not do it.
But it's not something you Do. It's something you are. I tell you three times gentle reader, if you don't get THAT concept right, you can't possibly understand anything else about this subject.
But so many, particularly among my brothers and sisters in Christ, struggle with that. Why? How many documented cases of pre-school children having gender identity issues must we see before we can drop the "sexual perversion" cliche? How many young people raised in "good Christian homes" with well balanced influences on every side must step forward with this condition before we stop insisting that they were molested or abused or whatever.
And please, how many times does it have to be pointed out to you, when you say "God made you a man," that babies are born with mental and physical defects every minute of every hour of every day and when the surgeon says "we can correct this" NO ONE says "no, leave him crippled - it's how God made him." You know, if you have one eye and half sense, that we do not assume that of every defect, every disease, every mental condition - that which we CAN treat medically we DO. We don't say "well, it was God's will he has a cleft palette or "God just wanted me to die of cancer."
Despite the often inaccurate cliches we toss about, most of us understand that it is in our defects and our flaws and our weaknesses that God shows himself to us. When you deny that I or anyone like me was born with this defect, you assume that this defect is unlike all the other defects God doesn't preemptively cure. Why? On what grounds? Because there's a rule in Leviticus about clothing? Are you wearing mixed fabrics right now? Did you have bacon for breakfast? Why does some of Leviticus apply and not all of it?
Sorry. that's starting to turn into a rant.
Back to the marriage issue. IF in fact this is who I am, and not some perversion or kink, then what is it that you ask the trans person to do for the sake of their marriage? Deny themselves? surely. but there's nothing wrong with that - many people chose to deny themselves something they want for the sake of their family (many don't, too, by the way). But it's more than that. Does the woman who gives up a promotion which means time away from her family suffer mental anguish to do so? Does the man who gives up the sports car to pay for his kids college consider suicide?
There's a spectrum of sacrifices and every one isn't identical or comparable. but even beyond that, you are asking that person to live a lie. Every minute of every day. Every hand you shake, every room you enter, every job you apply for, every friendship you make, every church you attend - all predicated on a lie. (Consider what it must be like to be trans, and be forced to repress it, and sit in church and listen to the pastor or teacher tell you how "freaks" like you are what's wrong with this country) Would you really be comfortable knowing your spouse was presenting a false image to you and to the world all the time? how could you trust him? How could you know anything he told you was real?
And in my situation, that's magnified by the fact that I am out. If I took all the well intentioned advice and reverted back to the former facade I once presented, do you really think my wife and kids would see me as a "real man" worthy of respect? Can I go back to the same store which has served Laura and ask them to hire the the man? Oh, I'm sure there are those who would understand the situation and love me anyway - but those are not the same folks who now think I should repress my true nature for the sake of others.
I know some of you are reading this now who would make that argument but look into your own heart - would you REALLY feel the same about me if I went back as you did a couple of years ago? Really? Don't lie to yourself. it is impossible. But even if it were, that's not even the bottom line. Do you think SHE could?
The actual bottom line is not what you think about me but where the marriage, or the relationship if it makes you less queasy, goes from here. I will state for the record that I have no desire or purpose to be apart from her for it's own sake. I would very much like, selfishly speaking, for her to make peace with this and prefer to be with me over being apart. But much more than that, I have a tremendous desire for her to be as happy as she can be (in time) given the circumstances we both are faced with. If that happiness is found in friendship and some sort of companionship with me, tremendous. if it is found by kicking me to the curb and finding a real man, then such is the price I must pay because none of this was her fault.
Some have said I should remember my vows but the vows don't exactly cover this do they? There is no vow to remain a man. I have not been unfaithful nor have I forsaken her for another person. I might argue - but I won't - that my condition falls under "for better or worse, in sickness and in health." But I wouldn't see her suffer in bondage to vows made to a person she's lost her love for (if the day comes when she loses it). If there's anything my situation illustrates, it's that simplistic thinking and cliched platitudes are not strong enough medicine for what ails us.
We live in a fallen world folks. Bad things happen. Storms and diseases and broken relationships are the rule, not the exceptions. Why should it be true that people can have a million sorts of physical and mental defects and we show compassion for those who suffer and for the loved-ones who's lives are made more difficult but THIS - this ONE mental defect, because it is (falsely assumed to be) about sex - THIS thing is not a defect or a condition or a mental flaw - it's just something some one can turn on and off like a tap and if they don't turn it off then clearly they are to be judged a pervert and a freak.
If you can be depressed, suicidal, bi-polar, schizophrenic - whatever - and recognize it is not something you CHOOSE to be then where do you get off thinking I choose this? If your spouse or your friend or your pastor says to you in the midst of your depression "just cheer up" can you? Have you ever just arbitrarily decided to "be happy"? I trust I don't need to offer a similar illustration about physical faults.
But here's the thing - if you are bi-polar (or whatever), I don't understand what that is like and I CAN'T understand it if I haven't lived it. What I can do is not presume to tell you to "get over it" or "suck it up." What I can do is show you love and compassion in the midst of your very difficult circumstances. What I can do is continue to call you friend, continue to think well of you, and continue to show you my support, while also showing support to those around you who might suffer because of your condition. Instead of making you out to be the villain because you don't "get over it."
1. The inspiration for this post comes from things I've experienced myself, along with things which have been described to me by my fellow travelers on this road. It refers both to directly stated comments and second and third hand awareness of people's opinions, as well as things said by on-line acquaintances. If you think you see your own views in these remarks, or those of someone you know, it would be a mistake for you to assume that the comment is a personal shot at you. there's nothing here that I haven't heard (or my friends haven't heard) from multiple sources.
2. As always, i must remark that MOST of the feedback I have received has been either politely neutral or vigorously supportive. I do not mean these remarks to imply I face adversity on every hand. Much the opposite is actually true.
3. for those of you who pray, pray for my wife and my family. Pray for me too if you want. But don't waste your time with God asking him to "Straighten me out" - you can't possibly devote as much prayer to that request as I did over the foregoing 20+ years. Just pray that he gives us the wisdom to deal with these things in the manner which will produce the most peace for all concerned.