Five years after the miracle

From the preface to my memoir, “A Roller Coaster Through a Hurricane.”

Five years ago this week, I thought I was finally on a path after completely overturning my life.

And then I wasn’t.

As had occurred in January, 2013, I found myself torn in half because my identity changed against my will—this time in the opposite direction.

From the chapter, “The Return to Greg,” in my memoir.

In January, 2018, I experienced the onset of the healing I’d needed since 1968. But, because I’d addressed my suffering by turning my life on its head, when this miracle arrived—I don’t know that it was an actual miracle, but I see it as miracle-like—the timing of it was so absurd, so disturbing, that it hurt as deeply, and was as confounding as when I was crushed in 2013 to the point of being suicidal.

At first, I didn’t know if I could trust it. The supercalifragilisticexpialidocious of late 2013 (referenced in the memoir excerpt, above) was, well, super, but it didn’t last. And, when it ended, I crashed so badly that I sometimes wished I’d never experienced it. So, when it happened in 2018, I didn’t know what to make of it. I didn’t trust it. I was afraid of what it might do to me.

Nowadays, the change I’ve experienced over the past five years is so profoundly wonderful that I no longer want to talk about those days. Or think about them. Or put them before anyone to remember that they are my history. (Note that I’m refraining from using the word for what I was—the word that rhymes with man-slender.)

Yet, that’s what I’m doing with this piece. Why? Because, one thing never changes: I’m built to speak. I need to educate, because there are a lot of people outwardly smiling as they silently suffer, and the rest of us need to remember that.

Regarding where I am now, and how I view the years from 2013-18, I wish they didn’t exist. I wish I still had my old, pre-2013 life. I wish I was a pastor in a congregation. I wish I’d never had to upset my children, my family and friends, my fellow Christians, with my shocking news.

I wish I could erase those years so that I wouldn’t experience what I did at my class reunion in 2022, when certain people seemed unpleased to see me and didn’t want to engage me in conversation.

And I wish for other things in my altered life that are too personal to describe here.

There’s more. In the church, where Julie and I have now been for three years, how do folks see me when they learn of my past? Very slowly, I’ve informed people as I’ve gotten to know them. A few have read my memoir. Surely, word has spread, as it did about my having been a minister. (“Wait just a second! He had been a minister and this, too?!“)

How do my family and friends view me these days? Do they see me as Greg, as a guy, as a regular person—all the ways I want them to think of me—or are they not able to forget those five years, what I did to myself, how I lived, how they saw me when I was that other person?

From the chapter, “Coasting,” in my memoir.

I still have no regrets as to how I dealt with my gender dysphoria. Yes, I wish I’d not had to take every step in transitioning—physical, medical, legal, social—but wishing is not the same as regretting. The attitude I’ve had, since I adjusted to the miracle, remains the same: I had to go through every step to arrive at the conclusion.

If I had stood still, I would have experienced no movement, and I would have remained stuck in the conflict that was causing me excruciating mental anguish. I very likely would have killed myself.

I compare what I undertook, and where I am now, with those who’ve gone through diseases and injuries and other extreme changes to their lives: they couldn’t deny their circumstance, they had to deal with their circumstance, and they have to live with the result of addressing their circumstance. So, please don’t read me as complaining about my lot. I’m enjoying the greatest overall health of my life.

Grasping where I was, and where I now am, is one of the two reasons I once again live as the happy-go-lucky person I was before I grew ill. The condition that led me to be suicidal, that drove me from the work and people I loved, that ultimately turned me into a joke and disgrace and sinner in the eyes of many, was one that was handed me against my wishes—no different than a person’s being stricken with life-threatening cancer. I learned all that I could about my malady and, with Julie, addressed it carefully and methodically.

As some like to say, “It is what it is,” I’ll bite: It was what it was. The best I can do with it is what I’ve done: educate others about this mysterious, vexing condition. I’ve filled my blog with pieces addressing this from every possible angle, written two books on the topic, and educated groups in person.

The larger of the two reasons I feel so good these days is because I feel right. That was the miracle, the conflict finally being resolved. Permanently—well, five years running.

I feel correct. Whole. The struggle is gone. My mind is healthy.

I’m happy, because I’m healthy. Wholeness of mind allows a person to accept other circumstances he wishes didn’t exist, such as those of which I wrote above.

For exactly fifty years, I was conflicted with my sex and gender, my body and brain, the life I had and the life I thought I should have. For five years, stricken with debilitating gender dysphoria, figuring out what to do about it, then addressing it, overturned my life. Now, for five years, for the first time since I was ten years old, I experience myself as fully male. (That was me you heard exhaling a huge sigh of relief.)

I always was an emotional person. Now—wow—I’m sooo much more emotional. When things happen as at the class reunion, they hurt me deeply, and then they cause me to hate all I endured, and then they make me long to be able to erase my past.

Thankfully, the negatives are far outnumbered by the positives. I am mostly happy, because I’m healthy. And I have the three things my final therapist told me every person needs in order to enjoy life: love, good work, and plenty of fun.

In the months after my gender dysphoria resolved, many asked, “What if it returns?” I won’t try to kid anyone: I held my breath that first year. The second year, I was able to settle in. Now that it’s five years in the past, my memories are fading as to how profoundly it tortured me.

If the healing that finally came to me was a water to wine caliber miracle, then I say, Thank you, Lord Jesus.

If the healing was the result of my transitioning, and finally getting my hormones into a place that works for my brain, then I still say, Thank you, Lord Jesus.

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Epiphany 2023

Jesus Christ brings light to the darkness.

“Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem . . . behold, wise men from the east . . .” (Matthew 2:12)

We know this story of the magi, and their gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh, which they brought to the Christ-child. But do we know why these magi would come to worship the King of the Jews? They were not Jews, but Gentiles. What were they, a bunch of wise guys?

Today is the thirteenth day after Christmas. It is the day set aside, which we call The Epiphany of Our Lord, to remember that, with the visit of those wise guys, the Lord Jesus was made known to the Gentiles, just as, on the day of His birth, He was made known to the Jews, with the angels’ announcements to the shepherds. (I wonder if the angels called out, “Hey, ewe guys!”?)

So, today is the Gentile Christmas. But don’t think that the magi arrived in Bethlehem when the Lord Jesus was thirteen days old. In the Church Year, we compress the entire life of Jesus into under six months. Thus, we mark the Lord’s Epiphany to the Gentiles—the word, epiphany, meaning manifestation, expression, announcement—we celebrate Epiphany so soon after Christmas because we need to get to Jesus’ adulthood, and His walk to the cross.

I return to the opening question: why would these magi come to worship the King of the Jews? We know they were aware this is what this newborn was, because they asked King Herod, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews?” They told Herod about the star they saw. They told Herod they knew the star was a sign regarding the Messiah. They told Herod they came to worship this newborn King of the Jews.

But it doesn’t make any sense, because these guys were not Jews. In fact, the Jews were pretty much nobodies, for Gentiles to give a hoot about some newborn king of theirs. It’s not that Israel was an important country, comparable to the USA. Israel was probably to the Gentiles what a country like Mongolia is to us. You know about it. You probably know where it is—okay, you at least know what continent it is on—but you won’t be going there anytime soon, unless you find yourself in China and want to head to Russia.

So it was with Israel, and Jerusalem. As for Bethlehem? No Gentile was going there, and probably didn’t even know it existed. That would be like New Yorkers knowing anything about towns in Huron County. (Where’s that? Thank you for proving my point.)

With that, what made these magi—these star-watching astronomers—into wise men? We are told they came from the east. We don’t know how far east; only that they came from the east. How would any prophecy about a King of the Jews have gotten to them—even if “from the east” only meant they were a few-hundred miles away?

Let’s think about this. Did the nation of Israel ever take up that much land, that, perhaps, years earlier, their ancestors had lived in Israel? Um, nope. Okay, then how about this? Was there ever a time when Israelites lived in the land to the east, so that the Word of God could have spread that far from Israel? Ah, now we’re onto something.

About six centuries before the birth of Jesus, the kingdom of Babylon—which was on the Euphrates River, in what, today, is Iraq—came into Israel and began hauling Israelites to Babylon. And, where was Babylon? Babylon was in the east, about four hundred miles east of Jerusalem.

Over several decades, Babylon captured Israel and imprisoned all of her citizens. At this point, I need to make a clarification. Israel wasn’t really Israel, anymore. You might recall that, after the time of kings David and Solomon, Israel was divided into two kingdoms—the north and the south. In the seven hundreds B.C., the north—which was made up of ten of the twelve tribes (or families) of Israel—was pillaged and plundered by the kingdom of Assyria, which destroyed the north and removed her people. Israel, as King David knew it, was no more.

This left the south, which only consisted of the two tribes, Judah and Benjamin. Benjamin is where Jerusalem was, and Bethlehem was in Judah, about six miles south of Jerusalem. Because Benjamin was a tiny land area, and since Judah was much larger, the land of these two last tribes of Israel came to be called Judah. Thus, when Babylon captured Judah, these particular Israelites now were no longer called Israelites. Since Jew is easier to say than Judahite, it could be the reason that from now on the ancestors of Jesus were called the Jews.

This is a lot of history, and it is good stuff to know. It helps us to understand how all of these events, such as the visit of the magi, came to take place; to see how the Lord wove every last stitch into the cloth of salvation.

Everyone knows about Daniel, of the lion’s den. Daniel lived in this era—he was among the Jews who were hauled to Babylon. That’s why he found himself in trouble with the king, because the king wasn’t his Jewish king, but the Babylonian king. That’s how he wound up in the lion’s den, by refusing to bow down to the king.

So, though the Word of God doesn’t come right out and say it, here is what might have happened. Faithful men, Daniel and others, preserved the Word of God, including all of the prophecies regarding the Messiah, the promised King of the Jews. They studied the Word, while in Babylon. They made copies of it. They spoke about God’s promises. And, when they were allowed to leave Babylon and go home to Judah, they very likely left behind Gentile converts, who kept alive the Word of God and His prophecies.

As those, whom the Holy Spirit enlightened with the sure and certain hope of salvation in the Messiah—whom, in the New Testament, we call the Christ—they kept the faith. They passed it onto their children. Their children were wise in the knowledge of the Lord, and then when one century elapsed, and another, and another—until it was more than four centuries later that, true to God’s promise, the star of the Messiah appeared, and the faithful—who truly were wise men, because, despite what many would consider God’s acting very slowly, and, you can be sure, many scoffed at these astronomers for keeping watch for the star—the Lord made good on His promise, and made His Epiphany: the star announced the King’s arrival.

Because these magi were wise to keep the faith, they got to worship Jesus Christ. Because you are wise to keep the faith, you get to worship Jesus Christ.

This has been a good exercise, to see how the magi came to know how to go and find Jesus, because it has shown us that we are no different. The Lord made promises. The Holy Spirit delivered those promises through the Word, spoken by people. He enlightened His people to trust His Word. The faithful passed the Word onto their children.

I just described the wise men, and I just described you, who are wise unto salvation. Though you were not blessed to be there with the magi, making the journey to Jerusalem, and then to Bethlehem, you follow Jesus’ star. You follow the sign, which the Lord has provided, so that you know where to find the gift of your salvation.

The star of Jesus became the cross of Jesus, lifted up in the sky so that all people might see it and believe (John 12:32)—God’s sign that the King of the Jews is the Savior of the world.

The Word of God is the announcement that your sins are forgiven through the cross of Jesus (Colossians 2:14), the epiphany of the Lord’s grace and mercy.

The Baptism, in which you have been washed, is the expression of Christ’s death and resurrection, as He used the water and His Word to join you to Him—your sins, crucified with Him, so that you now live with Him (Romans 6:3-5).

And, the Lord’s Supper, in which you eat and drink, is the manifestation of Christ’s living body and blood, with which He loves to nourish you from His throne in heaven (Matthew 26:26-28).

You are the wise men and women of the Lord. You worship the King of the Jews and the Gentiles. You worship Him now in faith. One day, you will worship Him in person, forever. Amen.

2022: in the books

Books published

Early in 2022, I published my first novel, John Z, about the life of a Lutheran minister. I couldn’t be more pleased with the reception it received—so far, all 5-star ratings.

Buoyed by that, in the fall I published my second novel, Making Paul Schneider, a coming-of-age story about a man from my generation. Paul has gotten off to a slower start, but the reactions so far have been gratifying, and each rating is 5-star.

The sequel to John Z is in the editing process, with a goal of publishing it late winter. In the mean time, I just finished the first draft of Kit & Cassie, which was inspired by the true story of how my Julie and I came to know each other.

Rewriting the record book

In my 43rd year of jogging, I set new personal bests in several categories:

Total miles: 1,418.79. This tops my previous best in 2020 by 59 miles.

Total events: 283. That’s 53 more than last’s year’s previous high.

Average per week: 5.4.

Longest run: 10.11 miles.

My previous longest run was 10 miles flat, in 2000. Last March, when I pondered turning 65 in April, I decided to celebrate that I am healthy by setting a new standard. I didn’t pass it by much—and I was out of gas the final stretch—but I did it.

I have new goals for 2023. I’ll keep increasing them as long as I’m healthy and able.

The book of life

Julie and I padded our grandchild count by two, bringing us to nine—five girls and four boys.

We have two daughters and two sons. Each has one daughter and one son, and one of our daughters has a second daughter. Pretty nifty distribution!

Yearbook reunion

In August, I attended my pandemic-delayed 45th class reunion. I’d not been to one since 2005. In the people I saw, the conversations I had, and some blessed reconnections, the event surpassed my hopes.

Books used for teaching

In May, I spent two days in a Christian high school, teaching from my transgender experience as detailed in my two books on the topic, A Roller Coaster Through a Hurricane and Ministering to Transgender Christians.

It has been my goal to talk with groups. When the man from this high school contacted me, informing me he’s used my blog to teach in his ethics class, and that his students hoped to meet me, we turned it into a full-school event. The first morning, I talked with teachers and staff, and left copies of my books with them. Then, I spent two days with the students—fully 98% of the student body.

Both days, I had seven sessions of forty minutes each. The first day, I explained about gender dysphoria and living as a transgender person, beginning from my experience, to my interactions with trans persons, to the research I’ve done. The second day, I answered the questions they’d submitted ahead of time.

Throughout, the students were attentive and respectful. Lots of teachers and staff sat in on student sessions. After the event, their feedback and kind words were gratifying.

I’m available any time, and I’ll travel. If I might be of service, contact me.

Onto 2023! Let’s see, what do I have booked for myself?

Bob Agnew: his eternal gain is our great loss

On Friday, December 16, 2022, the Lord called home his servant, Bob Agnew. His obituary provides a more complete picture of his life than I could ever write: https://www.oakleyhammond.com/tributes/5522/robert-e-agnew/tribute

Typical Bob: he’s attempting to get bunny ears behind me. Sitting with him is his wife Dixie, who’s waaay nicer.

The first Saturday in 2020, Julie and I attended worship at Trinity Lutheran Church (LCMS), on the east side of Indianapolis. For the sake of Julie’s packed schedule, we desired a congregation that offers a Saturday evening service. Trinity’s 5pm worship attracted us.

Our third week there, a white-haired fellow approached us after worship. “A bunch of us go out to eat after church. You’re more than welcome to join us.” Desiring to meet folks, and to feel part of this congregation, we took him up on it.

That’s how we met Bob, his wife Dixie, and the whole crew we now eat with Saturday evenings. Three years in, they’ve become our church family, in a place we love to worship the Lord, and friends in a city where we’re still relative newcomers.

As you might surmise from the photo, Bob was a blast. His personality and mine meshed—read that: he would talk your ear off, was friendly with everyone, and was easy prey for picking on. To put it bluntly, I never gave him a moment’s rest, and he gleefully repaid the insults.

Julie and I only had 2½ months at Trinity when the covid closure hit. Then, Julie’s mom took ill, and Julie went to Iowa for six months. I found myself more than isolated by the pandemic; I was alone in our house and couldn’t even go to church.

Who was it from our new congregation, who checked in with me with occasional phone calls? It was the guy, with the Santa-like white hair and beard, who delivered to me the gifts of caring and friendship.

Bob wasn’t all talk. He was a put your actions where your mouth is fellow, which made him a vital member of Trinity. The congregation, which operates an elementary school, sits on a large plot of land. That means there’s loads of grass to mow. And, if you know churches, funds are tight so, if members will volunteer to cut the grass, dollars can go to bills that can’t be ignored.

I am not familiar enough with Trinity to know who will fill Bob’s shoes, but I do know from my years at St. John in Port Hope, Michigan, where we also had large expanses of grass, how valuable volunteers are—especially those you can rely on week after summer after year to take care of a job without anyone needing to be concerned it will get done.

Uniting Bob’s love for people and his church, he could be found in Trinity’s commons in the weekly euchre game. He invited me early and often. He encouraged me to play. He cajoled me to join in the fun. That I’ve not done so is only due to my schedule.

At church the evening after we lost Bob, Kathy summed up what I was thinking: “Bob’s death leaves a huge hole.”

Thankfully, we the family of Christ do not mourn as those who have no hope. Indeed, a loss right before our celebration of Christmas is a great reminder: God the Son was born the Son of Mary that He might one day take our sins into Himself, so that all people might receive His righteousness and, with that, His gifts of forgiveness, eternal life, and salvation.

Mourning our loss, we will rejoice with you soon, dear Bob, when with you and all the saints we worship at the throne of the Lord.

Till we meet again, thank you for reaching out to Julie and me. Thanks for being my sparring partner.

Spotify: ten years in

Thanksgiving 2012, we were playing cards after dinner. My daughter Jackie put music on her phone. From Spotify.

“What’s Spotify?”

“Dad, Dad, Dad.”

Dad fell in line. Dad put Spotify on his computer. Dad has never stopped playing it in the background when writing. (Elton John is playing as I write this.)

I wanted to listen to every album of each artist, and I wanted to remember who I’d played, so I kept track. Below is my list. First, here’s my most-played songs of 2022:

1. Men Without Hats is known for The Safety Dance. This song is far superior, and as good a dance song as you’ll find. And, yup, I dance around the house.

2. Dead Or Alive’s big hit was You Spin Me Round (Like a Record). That song pales in comparison to this one, which is another superb dance song that gets me on my feet.

3. You might recall The Vogues’ biggest hit, 5 O’clock World. This song, from Man Of La Mancha, is my favorite version. I learned the lyrics so that I could sing it in my head while jogging.

4. ABBA’s Agnetha Fältskog’s voice captivates me on her rendition of this old hit. Another one I learned, so that I could sing it while running.

Whether I’m writing or jogging or dancing or singing, there will be music!

ABBA
ABC
Adam and the Ants
Adam Ant
Adele
A Flock of Seagulls
Airplay
Air Supply
Alan Parsons Project (The)
Alarm (The)
Almond, Marc
Albert, Morris
Alpert, Herb
Alpha Band (The)
Altered Images
Amboy Duke (The)
Ambrosia
Amen Corner
America
American Authors
Andantes (The)
Andrea True Connection
Animals (The)
Animotion
Anything Box
Apollo 440
Archie Bell & the Drells
Archies (The)
Associates (The)
Association (The)
Astley, Rick
Atlantic Starr
Atlas Genius
Autograph
Avalon, Frankie
Average White Band
B-52s (The)
Badfinger
Babys (The)
Bachelors (The)
Bacherach, Bert
Bachman-Turner Overdrive
Balance and Composure
Balin, Marty
Banks, Peter
Barrett, Syd
Bay City Rollers
Beach Boys (The)
Beatles (The)
Beau, Toby
Beck
Becker, Walter
Bee Gees (The)
Bell Biv DeVoe
Bells (The)
Bentley Rhythm Ace
Berlin
Better Than Ezra
Big Country
Bishop, Stephen
Black Oak Arkansas
Black Sabbath
Blancmange
Blind Faith
Blind Melon
Blink-182
Blondie
Blood, Sweat & Tears
Blue, Barry
Blue Man Group
Blue Mink
Blue States
Blunstone, Colin
Bo Donaldson & The Heywoods
Book of Love
Boomtown Rats (The)
Bowie, David
Box Tops (The)
Boyce (Tommy) & Hart (Bobby)
Brady Bunch (The)
Brass Construction
Bread
Brick
Bristol, Johnny
Bronski Beat
Brotherhood of Man
Brothers Johnson (The)
Browne, Jackson
B. T. Express
Buble, Michael
Buckinghams (The)
Burdon, Eric & The Animals
Cameo
Camouflage
Captain & Tennille
Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band
Caravan
Carmen, Eric
Carpenter, Karen
Carpenter, Richard
Carpenters
Carrack, Paul
Cars (The)
Cassidy, David
Cassidy, Shaun
Cast
Cause & Effect
Cetera, Peter
Chad & Jeremy
Champlin, Bill
Change
Charlatans (The)
Charles, Tina
Chicago
Chi-Lites (The)
Chilliwack
China Crisis
Chvrches
Christie, Lou
Clarke, Stanley
Clark Five, The Dave
Classics IV
Climax
Climax Blues Band
Clout
Clovers (The)
Cochrane, Tom
Cock Robin
Coldplay
Collective Soul
Collins, Phil
Commodores
Communards (The)
Como, Perry
Con Funk Shun
Cooper, Alice
Counting Crows
Country Joe & The Fish
Cowsills (The)
Cranberries (The)
Cream
Crystal Method (The)
Crystals (The)
Culture Club
Cut Copy
Cutting Crew
Cyrkle (The)
Daltrey, Roger
Damone, Vic
Darin, Bobby
Darts
Dazz Band
Dead Or Alive
de Burgh, Chris
Deep Purple
DeFranco Family (The)
Del-Vikings (The)
Derek & the Dominos
Derringer, Rick
DeVaughn, William
Devo
Dexys Midnight Runners
Diamond, Neil
Diana Ross and The Supremes
Dion, Celine
Dolby, Thomas
Donovan
Doobie Brothers (The)
Double
Dr. Buzzard’s Original Savannah Band
Dream Academy (The)
Dupree, Robbie
Duran Duran
Durante, Jimmy
Eagles
Earth Wind and Fire
Edgar Winter Group (The)
Edison Lighthouse
Edward Bear
Electric Light Orchestra
Electric Prunes (The)
Eloy
Eminem
EMF
England Dan & John Ford Coley
Equals (The)
Erasure
Essex, David
Eurythmitcs
Everclear
Everything Everything
Faces
Fagen, Donald
Falco
Fall Out Boy
Faltskog, Agnetha
Fastball
Fatback Band
Ferry, Bryan
5th Dimension (The)
Fine Young Cannibals
Firefall
Fireman (The)
Five Americans (The)
Five Man Electrical Band
5000 Volts
Fixx (The)
Flaming Lips (The)
Fleetwood Mac
Fleetwoods (The)
Flick, Vic
Focus
Fogelberg, Dan
Foghat
Fortunes (The)
Foster The People
Foundations (The)
Fourmost (The)
Four Tops
Foxy
Frampton, Peter
Francis, Connie
Frankie Goes to Hollywood
Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons
Freddie and the Dreamers
Free
Frey, Glenn
Frida
Gabriel, Peter
Gallery
Game Theory
Gap Band (The)
Garfunkel, Art
Garrick, David
Gary Lewis and the Playboys
Gary Puckett and the Union Gap
Gaye, Marvin
General Public
Generationals
Genesis
Georgia Satellites
Gerry & the Pacemakers
Gibb, Barry
Gibb, Robin
Gilmour, David
Gladys Knight & The Pips
Glass Tiger
Godley & Creme
Godley, Kevin
Goldsboro, Bobby
Gore, Lesley
Gouldman, Graham
Goulet, Robert
Go West
Grand Funk Railroad
Grass Roots, The
Graydon, Jay
Green Day
Greg Kihn Band (The)
Griswolds (The)
Gross, Henry
Guess Who (The)
Haim
Hall and Oates
Hall, Daryl
Hammond, Albert
Happenings (The)
Happy Mondays
Harold Melvin & the Bluenotes
Harper’s Bizarre
Hart, Corey
Harts
Harrison, George
Harvey Danger
Hayes, Isaac
Hayward, Justin
Head East
Heart
Heatwave
Heaven 17
Henley, Don
Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass
Hodgson, Roger
Hollies (The)
Holmes, Rupert
Honeycombs (The)
Honeydrippers (The)
Hot Chocolate
Houston, Thelma
Houston, Whitney
Hues Corporation
Huey Lewis and the News
Humble Pie
Hyland, Brian
Information Society
Inspiral Carpets
Instant Funk
INXS
Iron Butterfly
Isley Brothers (The)
Jackson, Joe
Jagger, Mick
Jam (The)
Jan and Dean
Jane’s Addiction
Jay & The Americans
Jefferson Airplane
Jefferson Starship
J. Geils Band (The)
Jethro Tull
Jigsaw
John, Elton
Johnny Hates Jazz
John, Robert
Johnson, Michael
Jon & Vangelis
Jones, Howard
Jr. Walker & The All Stars
Junior Boys
Justice
Kajagoogoo
KC & the Sunshine Band
Kershaw, Nik
Keys, Alicia
Kihn, Greg
Kim, Andy
King, Carole
Kishi Bashi
KISS
Klaatu
Knack (The)
Knickerbockers (The)
Knopfler, David
Knopfler, Mark
Kodaline
Kool & the Gang
Kramer, Billy J.
Kula Shaker
LaBounty, Bill
Laine, Denny
Lakeside
Lawrence, Steve
Led Zeppelin
Lemon Jelly
Lemon Pipers (The)
Lennon, Julian
Lennox, Annie
Lettermen (The)
Level 42
Lifehouse
Lightning Seeds (The)
Lindsay, Mark
Litter (The)
Little River Band
Lobo
Lodge, John
Lo Fidelity Allstars
Looking Glass
Loose Ends
Love
Love Affair
Loverboy
Love Unlimited Orchestra (The)
Lovin’ Spoonful (The)
Lowe, Nick
Lynyrd Skynyrd
Lynne, Jeff
Maccabees (The)
MacGregor, Mary
Magazine
Main Ingredient (The)
Mancini, Henry
Manfred Mann
Manfred’s Mann’s Earth Band
Manilow, Barry
Marillion
Marmalade
Maroon 5
Martha & the Muffins
Matchbox Twenty
Mathis, Johnny
Matthews, Iain
Mayer, John
Mayfield, Curtis
McCartney, James
McCartney, Linda
McCartney, Paul
McCoy, Van
McCrae, George
McGrath, Mark
Members (The)
Men Without Hats
Merseybeats (The)
Michael, George
Midnight Star
Mike & the Mechanics
Mink DeVille
Mint Royale
Missing Persons
Moby
Modern English
Modern Nature
Modest Mouse
Monkees (The)
Montrose
Moody Blues (The)
Morrison, Van
Motels (The)
Mott the Hoople
Mountain
Mouse Rat
Move (The)
Mowgli’s (The)
Mr. Mister
Mtume
Mud
Mungo Jerry
Murphy, Eddie
Murphy, Walter
Music Explosion
Music Machine (The)
Nektar
Naked Eyes
Nash, Johnny
Neighbourhood (The)
New Edition
New Musik
New Seekers (The)
Nice (The)
1975 (The)
1910 Fruitgum Company
Nolan, Kenny
Oasis
Ocean, Billy
Ocean Colour Scene
Odyssey
Ohio Express
Ohio Players
Oingo Boingo
O’Jays (The)
O’Neal, Alexander
OneRepublic
Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark
Orleans
O’Sullivan, Gilbert
Outfield (The)
Pablo Cruise
Page, Jimmy
Page, Martin
Pages
Palmer, Robert
Panic! At the Disco
Paper Lace
Parker, Ray Jr.
Parsons, Alan
Paul, Billy
Paul Revere and the Raiders
Pearl Jam
Peanut Butter Conspiracy (The)
Pendergrass, Teddy
Phish
Pilot
Pink Floyd
Plant, Robert
Player
Police (The)
Porno For Pyros
Porter, Cole
Post, Jim
Power Station (The)
Prefab Sprout
Presley, Elvis
Procol Harum
Propellerheads
Pure Prairie League
Queen
Question Mark and the Mysterians
Quiet Riot
Radiohead
Rainbow
Rare Earth
Raspberries, The
Raydio
Rea, Chris
Real Life
Real Thing (The)
Records (The)
Reddy, Helen
Red Rider
R. E. M.
Remains (The)
Renaissance
REO Speedwagon
Reptar
Richard, Cliff
Richards, Keith
Richie, Lionel
Right Said Fred
Roberts, Austin
Rockin’ Berries (The)
Rodriguez
Roe, Tommy
Rolling Stones (The)
Romantics (The)
Romeo Void
Ross, Diana
Roxy Music
Rubblebucket
Rubettes (The)
Ruffin, David
Ruffin, Jimmy
Rundgren, Todd
Rutles (The)
Ryan, Barry
Rydell, Bobby
Saga
Sam the Sham & The Pharaohs
Sanford-Townsend Band
Santana
Savage Garden
Sayer, Leo
Scaggs, Boz
Scheff, Jason
Scritti Politti
Sea Level
Searchers (The)
Sedaka, Neil
Seeds (The)
Seekers (The)
Seger, Bob
Semisonic
Seymour, Phil
Shaw, Marlena
Shed Seven
Sherman, Bobby
Shirley & Company
Shocking Blue
Silver Convention
Simon & Garfunkel
Simon, Carly
Simon, Paul
Simple Minds
Simply Red
Sinatra, Frank
Skyliners (The)
Skyy
Slave
Small Faces
Smash Mouth
Smith, Hurricane
Smith, Rex
Smoke (The)
Sniff ‘n’ The Tears
Soft Cell
Somerville, Jimmy
Sonny & Cher
S.O.S Band (The)
Soundgarden
Spandau Ballet
Spanky & Our Gang
Spencer Davis Group (The)
Spin Doctors
Spinners (The)
Spiral Starecase (The)
Spooky Tooth
Springfield, Rick
Springsteen, Bruce
Squeeze
Stampeders
Standells (The)
Starbuck
Starland Vocal Band
Starr, Edwin
Starr, Ringo
State Cows
Steely Dan
Steppenwolf
Stereophonics
Steve Miller Band
Stewart, Al
Stewart, Eric
Sting
Stone Temple Pilots
Strawberry Alarm Clock
Streisand, Barbra
Style Council (The)
Stylistics (The)
Styx
Sugarloaf
Sugar Ray
Summer, Donna
Supremes (The)
Sweet
Swinging Blue Jeans (The)
Sylvers (The)
Talking Heads
Taste
Tavares
Taylor, Mick
Tears for Fears
Television
Tellier, Sebastien
10cc
Ten Years After
Thin Lizzy
Thomas, B. J.
Thomas, Ray
Thomas, Rob
Thomas, Timmy
Thompson Twins
Three Degrees (The)
Three Dog Night
‘Til Tuesday
Tiny Tree
Toad The Wet Sprocket
Tommy James & the Shondells
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
Tony! Toni! Tone!
Tool
Toto
Tower of Power
Townsend, Pete
Traffic
Trammps (The)
Tremeloes (The)
T. Rex
Triumph
Troggs (The)
Tubes (The)
Turtles (The)
U2
Ultravox
Uriah Heep
Vacationer
Valli, Frankie
Vanelli, Gino
Vangelis
Vanilla Fudge
Vanity Fare
VanWarmer, Randy
Vapors (The)
Velvet Underground (The)
Venus Hum
Vertical Horizon
Verve (The)
Vinton, Bobby
Visage
Vogues (The)
Voudouris, Roger
Wallflowers (The)
Wang Chung
Wanted (The)
War
Waters, Roger
Wayne Fontana & The Mindbenders
Weiland, Scott
Welch, Bob
Wet wet wet
Wham!
When In Rome
White Plains
Who (The)
Wild Cherry
Williams, Andy
Wilson, Brian
Wings
Winehouse, Amy
Winter, Edgar
Winwood, Steve
Wizzard
Womack, Bobby
Wonder, Stevie
Wood, Ronnie
Woolfson, Eric
Wright, Gary
Wyman, Bill
X Ambassadors
Yankovic, “Weird Al”
Yanni
Yazoo
Yes
Young, Paul
Youngbloods (The)
Zevon, Warren
Zombies (The)
ZZ Top

Ginny’s great idea

“I’m going to order three copies of your book to give as Christmas gifts.”

I was so pleased with Ginny’s great idea that I found it a splendid way to encourage others to do the same.

This photo is from 11.5.22. After Saturday evening worship, a bunch of us always go out to eat. In the rear, flanking my Julie, are Rosie and Bob. Six others were gathered with us at Culver’s.

Julie and I love hanging with this gang. Why? Because they make us feel so young! Oh, and they’re also loads of fun.

Ginny is full of more than great ideas. A few weeks ago, I saw her outside our church’s entrance.

She smiled. “I’m reading your book.”

I responded with a loud, “Yay!”

She continued, “It’s so good, I had to put it down so that I wouldn’t read the whole thing in one sitting.”

“I’m so glad you’re enjoying it!”

After worship, our gang headed out to eat. At the restaurant, we had this exchange, in which she paid me a hilarious, backhanded compliment:

“The writing is so good.”

“I’m glad you think so.”

“Do you use a ghostwriter?”

I said, “What?!” and laughed hard. I continued, “Ginny, first of all, that’s not a compliment! Second, I don’t have money to spend on a ghostwriter. And, third, remember that I was a pastor and wrote sermons all the time.”

Then, I thought the next idea would imply why I could be a creative writer: “Besides, I’m also a really good liar!”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

John Z is a Lutheran minister, but don’t let that scare you off, fearing this might be a churchy book. I wouldn’t want to read a book like that, so why would I foist it on anyone else?

Having myself been a pastor, I strived to write an authentic account of what ministers experience. Read that: they work long hours, are regularly going this way and that, and face with their members every situation life hands them.

I wanted John Z to be fun and intriguing, so I’ve filled it with humor and mystery, trouble and heartache. I made John Zyskowski a bachelor, so that he might find himself in romantic situations—and he does!

The book is appropriate for adults and high-schoolers. There’s no foul language or sex, but be aware of a situation with a woman on the brink of ending her life.

Readers have been graciously generous with their 100% 5-STAR reviews. Here are a few:

Absolutely LOVED the book, could not put it down. Felt like I knew the people personally. Can not wait for a sequel!! ❤️

Humorous and well written. Solid theology.

This book was great! I felt like I knew the town & people personally! I would love a sequel.

As for a sequel, look for it early in 2023, with another to come in what I envision as a three-book series.

Click here for a preview of “John Z,” read other reviews, and to order: https://www.amazon.com/John-Z-Greg-Eilers/dp/B09RP7JC25/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

While you’re at it, check out my brand new novel, Making Paul Schneider: https://www.amazon.com/Making-Paul-Schneider-Greg-Eilers/dp/B0BL1RWCDH/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

Here’s its first review:

My second novel: available now!

I met Paul Schneider quite by accident. Striking up a conversation, I learned we were the same age and both grew up in small-town Michigan by a great lake.

Where our lives diverged was when we got into how we grew up. Paul’s house could not have been different from mine. As he told me about his mom’s drinking, and his dad’s explosive temper, I thought, “Man, I grew up in paradise.”

Paul mesmerized me, so I peppered him with questions. After setting the table, he began dishing with details about his childhood pals—his best friend, Shorty Peterson; the incident with Harry Truman; how Jody Dykstra showed him he was closer to adulthood than childhood—his brother Jim’s untimely death and the mystery that surrounded Jim.

“Paul, you’re married, right?”

“Yup. To Patty.”

“How’d you meet?”

He laughed. “Greg, I don’t know if we have enough time to get into this.”

“What? Why?”

“It’s not so much how we met, but what took place over the next couple of years.”

I was intrigued. Looking at my watch, I spoke words rarely heard from me: “Lunch can wait. Spill it, Paul.”

I didn’t eat until 2:30.

When he said, “I’ve written this all down,” I asked if he’d published it. “Naw. Who’d want to read it?” “Are you kidding? Who wouldn’t?!”

I said, “Paul, you’re is a classic American success story, a marvelous coming of age tale. The unconditional love you received, and from people who—come on, Paul, the world needs to learn about Shorty, Mrs. Lucas, Ike Mueller, Patty’s parents. As for Patty, don’t tell my wife, but I’m pretty sure I have a crush on her!”

Before we parted, we had a deal. Paul would send me his files, and I would set them up to be published. I’d enlist my son-in-law, Matt Kroeger, to create the cover, and have my Julie edit Paul’s work.

That’s how we wound up here, with this book, “Making Paul Schneider.”

Paul and I can’t wait for you to read it. Then, if his story moved you, for you to do for others what was done for Paul, who is the very model of what can be achieved when we have hearts bent on helping others.

The cover captures some of the notes Paul kept, from which he wrote his story:

With Paul’s permission, I had some fun with the back, using my senior photo:

Check out “Paul’s” first review:

Get your paperback or ebook copy here:

Going green; hold the envy

Jogging by this house in August, the new addition quickly caught my eye. Before I finished processing that these were solar panels, I thought, “Oh, boy. I wonder what the neighbors think.”

From a neighbor, I just found out.

Before getting to that, some items of note. First, the house faces north. Look behind the house, which is to the south. Those trees would allow for scant rays to penetrate, except during the summer when the sun is higher than they are. Even on the roof, a majority of months the solar panels would not soak in much heat.

No one would advocate taking down trees, right? And many of us agree that capturing solar energy is a good thing. Sooo, if you or I wanted to take this step in going green, what might we do?

I jog by this house often, so I was forced to ponder this. It didn’t take me long to decide two things. First, if I lived next door to these folks, I wouldn’t be crazy about these panels in the front yard. Second, however, I decided that if there are no city ordinances against them I would not put up a fuss; I would get used to them.

What is it I recently learned about those who actually live near this house? I learned that they’ve met regarding the panels. That everyone has an opinion. And that they have spoken with a nearly-united voice.

They want them removed.

From the neighbor who informed me, it sounds as though the solar-panel person is being understanding, that she’s looking toward removing the structure.

If this is true, for the sake of peace in the neighborhood I applaud the woman. And I hope the neighbors have not been hard on her, but have expressed their dismay in a kind and friendly manner.

Landmark personal moves have a way of travelling onto larger pastures. I have my eye on Indy Star, curious how long before the newspaper reports that our city council has taken this up for discussion, and even ruled on it.

If I were a betting man, my money would be on it happening, and on front-yard solar panels being given a strong thumbs down.

I don’t see us as being ready for this step. Some day, we will—when our wallets can’t take any more—but I suspect that’s still quite a few years off.

What do you think?

Clowning around

An excerpt from chapter six—“Clowning around (1)”—of my upcoming book: Only on Sunday: A memoir of the ministry that takes place the other six days of the week.

Yours truly—July 1997

On a late-summer Monday afternoon, I walked the two blocks from Trinity’s parsonage, north on Riverview Drive, to pay a visit on Evelyn Walter.

No, not Evelyn Walter, who was Martin’s mother. This Evelyn Walter was Vernon’s mother.

The two were sisters-in-law. They married brothers. And when they were first married, they all lived in the same house. And constantly got each other’s mail. And phone calls.

The frustration of the confusion of their situation caused them no trouble. They laughed it off. Maybe, that’s why it was Evelyn Walter—Vernon’s mother—who taught me an important lesson.

Thankfully, it came early in my ministry. It allowed me to be me. All of me. And not only did I benefit, but so did everyone I pastored.

Evelyn was a textbook example of who I called on in the home. She was in her eighties. With plenty of health troubles. And rarely able to get to church.

I brought church to her, as I did to more than a dozen others scattered across three counties—two in Iowa and one in Wisconsin.

Before holding our little worship service, I visited with my shut-ins. Usually, for at least forty-five minutes. Often—when I had time, or it was obvious they longed for the company—more than an hour.

This is serious business, ministers giving of their time to their members—especially to those cooped up at home. Thus, pastors are to comport themselves as befitting their office.

I can make conversation with anyone. And make a joke as quickly as anyone. Or tell a funny story. And I love to get others to laugh.

I came out of seminary thinking I needed to hold in that part of me—not with the likes of Barry and Marty, when we were playing dominoes—but, certainly, when calling on the ill and infirm. I was sure those members—especially the ones old enough to be my mom or dad—would expect their minister to be sober minded, as in the stories they told of their old pastors. You know the ones: they were never photographed with a smile.

These folks revered those ministers. Even feared them. And often viewed them as on a pedestal.

So there was old-enough-to-be-my-mom-Evelyn and I—she was in her eighties, and I was thirty-nine—sitting in her living room. I’d learned an easy way to foster conversation was to get folks reminiscing. They loved telling their family stories, and I loved hearing them and learning about these folks. Evelyn proceeded to tell me one of those embarrassing family secrets that always invoke a laugh. And I shared a similar one from my family.

And we laughed.

Oh, how we giggled and guffawed. And got to that spot—you know how it happens—where we couldn’t stop.

And oh how my eyes were opened.

I had a revelation—really, a series of revelations.

First, I realized that you don’t lose your sense of humor just because you’ve grown old. Second, I learned that older folks enjoy a good laugh as much as, well, even as much as kids. Third, I learned that I could be my silly self with my members, even when minutes later I would be leading them in worship and communing them on the Lord’s Supper.

That day with Evelyn, when we got done laughing, I told all of this to her. And she told me how laughing was good for her. She acknowledged that, sure, in the past, ministers were more sober, but the times had changed. And she liked this part of her new pastor, that he had a good sense of humor, and could be silly, and had a big laugh.

And so I let my hair down.

And there would be lots of ways to do it.

I return to Barry and Linda Spreen, who were members of the McGregor congregation. Though Linda was a nurse and Barry a nurse anesthetist, they had, at one time, been semi-professional clowns.

McGregor’s Independence Day parade was nearing. St. Paul would have a float in the event. The Spreens encouraged me to be a clown. I protested, “I’ve only been the pastor here for a year. Are you sure I should do that?”

“Absolutely! The people will love it!”

When I saw their completed makeup job on me, I was impressed. I looked like a pro.

For the parade, I would be equipped with a bag of candy. I decided I would be a clown who does not speak. Let my actions do the talking.

I was thankful for comedy performing I had done on stage in my hometown. Pish! I’d been clowning around my entire life! All I needed to do was be myself.

As our float rounded the corner to be greeted by the first people crowding along the street, I hit my stride.

The kids saw that I had candy. They screamed for me to toss it their way. I did, but not without first winding up like a pitcher and tossing them strikes, or bending over like a football center and sending it flying from between my legs, or flinging it behind my back.

With tiny tots, I approached them carefully. Kneeling before them. Holding the candy in front of my face. Presenting it to their open hands as if it were a trophy.

I spied one of my members. Darlene was old enough to be my mother. I stopped. Gave her the eye. Made sure she saw me. Sauntered over to her. And planted a big kiss on her cheek. She shrieked, “Pastor, is that you?” I merely made eyebrows at her and was on my way.

Soon, my favorite move became my stopping and thumbing the air, as if hitching a ride. When that didn’t work, I hitched up my pant leg. That drew the hoots I was egging for.

The high school band was close enough that we could hear it at our spot in the parade. When they were playing, I would stop and dance. I tried to coax women out of the crowd and into the street. I don’t recall being successful. I doubt that I’d want to dance with that goofball clown, either.

I was especially glad I got to clown around in McGregor. As I’ve written, the congregation had taken a hit over the years. Too many previous pastors didn’t spend as much time there as in Guttenberg. St. Paul often felt like the redheaded stepchild.

Barry and Linda’s suggestion that I play the clown that Fourth of July was an early entrant in the parade of events that demonstrated how the St. Paul congregation was being revitalized. Another event preceded it by two months.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

There’s more to this chapter. Look for it in my upcoming book, Only on Sunday: A memoir of the ministry that takes place the other six days of the week.

Ten Years Later

This article contains explicit descriptions of the surgeries I had when transitioning from male to female.

My senior class photo: August 1974.

The topic has been examined in plenty of books and movies: What if you could look back at your life, examine all that transpired, and be able to go back and change some of the decisions you made?

The goal would be to correct . . . what? Mistakes? Perhaps. Who hasn’t made plenty? Address differently things that had been out of your control, but now you knew how they turned out and so you could maneuver them differently and achieve a better result? Um, that makes sense—like, maybe save that marriage, or keep that job. Outcomes you’d prefer to be different? Seems obvious. Have your present situation better than what it is? Duh. I mean, only a goofball would change anything to make matters worse.

On Saturday, August 20, 2022, Julie and I were on one of our weekend, three-mile walks. I said, “It occurred to me recently that it’s coming up on a decade since my gender dysphoria completely overtook me. I’ve been thinking that I should write about it—that I should look back at what happened at the time, how I addressed it, how it affected me and us, and how I view it now.

“It could be another memoir. I would write each section at the ten-year mark after each thing occurred, beginning now and going through 2028, ten years after I resumed living as a guy.

“What do you think?

“I like it.”

So, here we are.

I look at myself from a couple of years before I crashed—the man who soon hated what he looked like.

I’m beginning now, in August 2022, because I thought of this now. If this idea had occurred to me sooner—even a couple of years ago—I could have begun then. How so? Because, as I wrote in my autobiography, A Roller Coaster Through a Hurricane, the seed that took root in January 2013 had been sown when I was a young kid, sprouted when I was in sixth grade, and grew slowly and gradually throughout my life.

A few years before 2013, it blossomed. Blossomed? That word feels wrong, unless I can find a way to steer your mind toward the flower of a noxious weed. As with weeds encroaching and engulfing the garden plants one is cultivating, the thing that sprouted when I was young was now beginning to take over my life.

I didn’t know it yet. Not in 2012. But I remember how ornery I was, far too often. How I couldn’t look myself in the eye in a mirror—and hadn’t been able to for a couple of years. How I hated the man in the mirror. That he was a male. And aging. And that receding hairline. And life was getting away from him.

In August 2012, I couldn’t wait for October, when I stopped wearing shorts and short sleeves, and could begin shaving my legs and arms—which helped me feel more feminine—and keep them shaved until spring.

I didn’t make it. I shaved a month early. Then I took a chance that no one would notice my lack of body hair.

In 2012, I had turned fifty-five. Clearly, the one thing in my life—the only thing about which I’d ever said, “All I want in life” is that thing: to be female—was never going to happen.

My first profile pic as Gina: August 2015.

But I didn’t think in those terms. In 2012, none of my self loathing was conscious.

That’s what I didn’t grasp about it. That’s why I couldn’t understand why I was so unhappy, when I had everything to be happy about. My marriage to Julie remained as wonderful as the day we wed in 2001. Our four children were flourishing—I’d had the pleasure of officiating the wedding of three of them, and number four was coming the next year—and we had the first two of our now nine grandchildren.

I was healthy—well, my body was. And I still loved being a minister. I was in my seventeenth year, and twelfth in Port Hope. Having been ordained at age thirty-nine, I wanted to put in thirty years. Then, marrying the much-younger Julie, I endeavored to stay at it full time until at least age seventy, and if I hit seventy and was doing well then I’d keep on going.

In 2012, not only did those goals seem achievable, I could taste them—and they tasted mighty fine.

I was all set in life. I should have been content. But I wasn’t. And, because I wasn’t content, I struggled to be happy.

My favorite photo of me as Gina—the sass! This was for a photo shoot for my article in Indianapolis Monthly magazine, which you can read here: https://www.indianapolismonthly.com/longform/therealme

This is where I had been in 1990, when I wanted to leave the only life I ever wanted and head to seminary so that I could become a minister. I don’t recall seeing the connection in 2012—no, I surely didn’t, because becoming a minister, while it seemed a huge task—quitting my job, uprooting my family, and leaving the hometown I never wanted to leave—while it often seemed insurmountable, it wasn’t ridiculous. But, me, transitioning? A more ridiculous idea has never been entertained.

What was blossoming in me in 2012—well, that was never going to flower. Sure, before we married I told Julie of my gender conflict, but I’d also said—honestly, at the time—in answer to her question, “Do you think you’ll ever want to become a woman?” that, no, I didn’t, and, indeed, I wanted to be her husband.

That I might one day—in March 2013—tell her, “If I don’t transition, I might not survive”—if you would have told me in late summer 2012 that half a year later I would be at that point, I might have replied, “Those words are never going to come out of my mouth.”

The day after facial feminization surgery: November 2017.

When I completed the writing of Roller Coaster, I was one year into experiencing myself as fully male, which began a mere six weeks after I’d had my final transitioning surgery. As I wrote the final chapter, it had only been six months since I told the world I was once again living as Greg.

The question I most received in those first months is the question that has persisted the past four years: do you regret that you transitioned, that you had all those surgeries?

The answer remains as I wrote in the final chapter of Roller Coaster: I have no regrets. I wish I hadn’t had to go through all of that, or put my family through all of that, but I believe I had to live through every step to arrive where I did.

I remain firm in each of those aspects of my answer.

What I couldn’t know then, now that I’ve enjoyed—which is the correct word, because experiencing myself as fully male has provided me with internal stability, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the peace that provides, what I imagine it would be like having the hiccups for half a century and they finally stopped—now that I’ve enjoyed living as Greg for more than four years is what the memory and fallout of being transgender has done to me.

And what it has done to me takes me back to this month ten years ago, and the question with which I opened this chapter. If I could have known what would happen to me, would I change anything?

At times, my answer is that I’d change it all. In a heartbeat. So that I could still be a minister, the pastor at St. John Lutheran Church in Port Hope.

So that, despite Julie and me still having a great marriage, it would be as it was in those days.

So that I would not have freaked out my kids, my congregation, and countless others.

So that many would still respect me.

So that even more would not hate me, and find me an offense, and be done with me.

So that I wouldn’t have to live with surgeries I cannot undo—the numb skull I’ve been left with from my facial feminization surgery, my too-large breasts from all the years of taking estrogen, the vocal cord surgery that left me with what to me sounds like a hoarse voice and the inability to sing decently, and the bottom surgery that left me with no penis and a neo-vagina that I can’t stand to look at and only touch when cleaning it.

I walk into men’s restrooms and long to be able to use the urinal.

My body is that of neither a male nor a female. When in 2013 gender dysphoria overtook me, it disgusted me to have a male body. Now, in 2022, I long for my pre-surgery body.

One month after facial feminization surgery. I was happy with what I’d achieved. Ready to move on as a fully transitioned transwoman, three weeks later I ceased experiencing myself as a female.

But, there is a vital difference between then and now. In 2013, I hated my body, because I was a mental and emotional mess in the throes of gender dysphoria. In 2022, though my post-surgery body is wrong for me, because I am at peace with myself it rarely bothers me. I am able to ignore it. Though my too-large breasts are obvious, I am not self-conscious about them, because I’m me, a guy—I’m a guy who is blessed with a gregarious personality that allows me to go everywhere and do everything with confidence.

Ten years ago right now, I was in the long, slow process of falling apart, having no idea how hard things were going to become the next year. Today, I wish I were still a pastor, and I’d prefer not to live in a big city, but my positives are so wonderful—great relationships with my wife and children and grandchildren, and the third career of my life: book writer and publisher, and opportunities opening up for speaking and educating regarding transgender.

Ten years ago right now, I hated that I was fifty-five and aging. Today, I’m sixty-five, having hit the classic retirement age in the spring with the attitude that I’m aging but not growing old, because I see grand vistas before me.

I am excited for what the years might bring, and if I’d not had gender dysphoria,
and not retired from the ministry prematurely,
and not transitioned,
and not, in 2018, finally experienced myself as fully male—and it stuck!—
and had not listened to my therapist and wrote everything I was experiencing,
and hadn’t compiled it and published my autobiography,
and in 2021 found that novel I began writing in 2006,
and finished it and published it,
and have now written three more (not yet published),
and am full of ideas for more stories,
and gleefully remember high-schooler Greg, in Creative Writing class, who enjoyed composing his thoughts so much that he pondered, “I think I’d like to be a writer”—and I am!—
well,
if I’d not gone through all I did the past ten years, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

2022: I see a guy who is content. I experience him, fully male. And my Julie is always right there with me.

Ten years ago, if I had guessed what would have happened to me over the next decade, I would have gotten nearly everything wrong. (What would I have gotten right? More grandkids!)

Ten years later, I marvel at all I experienced . . . and lived to tell about it.

During those rough years, I screamed a lot of prayers to the Lord. He did His part. He was faithful to His promises to uphold me with His righteous right hand. I’m still here to testify to His goodness and mercy. I’m grateful to Him for my daily blessings.

My wish is everyone might be able to say the same things about themselves.