The transgender suicide problem

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The transgender spectrum is anyone who has a mismatch of sex and gender, whether or not they transition, attempt to transition, or transition full time.

The attempted suicide rate for those on the transgender spectrum is forty-one percent.

41%.

Two of every five.

That’s ten times the rate for all Americans, of which it is estimated about 4% will attempt suicide at least once.

In this piece, I endeavor to examine why those on the transgender spectrum are prone to attempting to kill themselves.  I will break it down into four groups, seeking to cover vital areas of impact but not presuming to address every last one, nor to cover things in great depth.

Those who are keeping it to themselves

For those who feel wrong about themselves in their sex and gender, the idea of telling anyone—spouse, parents, children, siblings, friends, even a therapist—can be beyond their imagining.  Many circumstances can increase the height of the hurdle, among them being marriage, religion, and work.

“No good thing could come of it,” is where the person arrives.  “And much bad would come of it.”

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Alone.  These folks feel completely alone.  They cannot comprehend anyone understanding.  They easily can envision trouble with every person, in every sphere of life, a total destruction of their lives.  So, they stuff—check that, they try to stuff their feelings deep enough to be able to ignore them, which they find impossible to do.  They find they must deal with their angst, yet they cannot find a way to do it.  In time, they might arrive at an impasse so great that death seems like the only answer.

Those who open up

The next group includes those who took the leap and gave voice to their gender identity issues.  Perhaps, they told one or more of those closest to them, or they first sought a therapist.  They have gotten it off their chest, revealed their deep secret.  In one respect, telling someone felt good.  Of course, there now are others involved.

If it were a close relative, that person’s reaction and feelings are now on the table. If the person saw a therapist, there will be much to work through.  By telling the therapist, the person might find facing it—“The therapist said I might in fact be transgender!”—to be too much.  Whatever was said, the person now is facing the issues, can see being on a path, and the path might look very scary.  By confessing to the family member, the fall-out could easily have done perceived or real irreparable harm to the relationship.

These matters might now be mulled in this person’s head so much that they become big, and they can become so big that they can be seen as unconquerable.  “Why did I ever open my mouth?!”  Seeking an exit, suicide begins to look like the way out.

Those who begin transitioning

Should a person progress, transitioning might be undertaken.  The person tells family and friends, those at work and online.  There will be many supporters, but there will be those who do not.  Worse, there will almost assuredly be opposition, and the resistance can come from people in positions to adversely affect the trans person’s life—emotionally, spiritually, economically.

Virtually no transgender person experiences 100% acceptance from the entire family.  Some of the contention can be so severe as to be traumatic, even to cause division between the supporters and the opposers.  If it is internalized as guilt, the impact can be experienced deeply.

Your transitioning could bring you trouble at work—from not receiving a promotion which, otherwise, you are confident was coming your way, to an out-of-the-blue firing when you always had been an appreciated employee.  Indeed, every sphere of your life now is in play.

If you find transitioning to ease internal stress, because of these new, external stressors, the tension can mount to the point of needing to alleviate it.  You might first try (and likely already have) relieving the stress with alcohol or drugs.  Indeed, some studies show the alcohol abuse rate to be higher than the attempted suicide rate among those on the transgender spectrum.  Distraction is another tool employed by many—“If I just stay busy”—but it’s one you probably tried before you ever bared your soul, so you already know it is as temporary a fix as getting drunk.

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If this person’s pain becomes too great, the scales will tip.  Tip too far, and it will crash in a suicide attempt.

Those who have completed transition

We arrive at those living entirely as how they sense themselves.  If they longed to have their name legally changed, to have any of several possible surgeries, to socialize in their revealed self, they have accomplished each aspect on their wish list.

They have undertaken the challenging task which is transitioning, and they have succeeded.  From my reading of books and getting to know many who have transitioned, when the task is undertaken methodically and carefully, not rushed or with a person mistaken in the source of the gender identity issues, most reach peace.  The internal tension has been resolved.

We began with having issues which are only inside us.  Should we tell our story, then, if we attempt transitioning, we move to now experiencing issues both inside and out.  If we successfully transition, that should take care of our issues, shouldn’t it?  All desire to kill oneself is erased.  Right?

While in the surveys I have read I have yet to find accurate studies done on this, some show that the attempted suicide rate remains high among those who have fully transitioned, perhaps even not having reduced from the 41% of all on the transgender spectrum.  While I have neither appreciated nor respected the manner in which this specific bit of information has been used—always by those who are adamantly opposed to transitioning—it is not a shock to me that the fully transitioned person does not fall back to the attempted suicide rate of the average American but remains somewhere between the 4% and the 41%.

Whatever the attempted suicide rate is for transitioned transgender individuals, it should surprise no one that it likely remains unacceptably higher than the general population. Even if a person has erased all inner turmoil—even when this provides a new, perhaps never-before-in-life-experienced emotional strength—there possibly remain areas of outer turmoil.

No, that is not strong enough.  There will remain areas of outer turmoil.

  • At home.  There might be family members who are struggling with, or opposed to the one who transitioned.
  • With family and friends.  Estrangements and losses will have littered the way.  One might feel, or be made to feel out of place at gatherings, weddings, funerals, or might not even be invited.
  • Religion.  While some faith groups have become understanding and accepting, many have not.  It is common for transgender members to be condemned and expelled.
  • At work. Biases against trans folks can arise in many and various ways, some of which I noted.
  • Under the law.  Protections and privileges which belong to everyone else might not be yours where you live simply because you are transgender.
  • In public.  Trans persons never know when someone will take exception and bring harm to them.  Even insults, which can be quick and casual—looks and stares, laughing behind one’s back—sting and add up.

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How trans folks manage all of these—how many of them there are, and to what degree the impact—will make a huge difference in their lives.  I have heard far too many sad stories from folks who continue to have family squabbles, who are not accepted, who are called by their old name and misgendered, who are told, “I will never accept this.”  I have heard far too many upsetting accounts of trouble in the workplace, when the trans person has done the job and minded his or her own business.  I have heard from far too many who are afraid of going out in public, as after the Pulse nightclub massacre last year and whenever there is another report of a trans person being murdered: real fear smacks the trans person right in the face.

Get enough of these into the equation and they can add up to too much.

These are not weak people.  Let no one look at them and think that they are lacking in character, in personal fortitude.  Those on the transgender spectrum share every attribute of any group of people.  Indeed, as a group, transgender women and men might be stronger than the average Joe.  As metal is tempered by fire, the trans person grows for having endured the heat.

Ultimately, trans folks are typical folks—regular people in an extraordinary circumstance.  We can take a lot, but we feel and hurt just like the next gal or guy.  We can take a lot, but sometimes it’s too much.

All we want is what everyone wants: peace, respect, and the chance to live a decent life. When we have finally gotten what every human desires, thoughts of killing ourselves will have melted away.

Trans Ed 101: transsexual

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Have you noticed that this word, “transsexual,” is no longer used in regular conversation about, um, transsexuals, er, I mean, transgender folks?

If you’ve not noticed, perhaps it’s for the same reason I couldn’t figure out what was missing from my buddy’s face after he’d shaved his mustache. It’s hard to detect what isn’t there. While my friend wasn’t wearing the mustache for a century, believe it or not the modern age of trans is coming up on being one hundred years old.

Soon after surgery was introduced in Germany, in the early 1920s, to conform the male genitals to those of a female, “transsexualism” was coined, which means “to go across from one sex to the other.” It took until nearly 1950 for the word to be translated from German to English. Dr. Harry Benjamin, who is essentially the USA’s father of all things transsexual, popularized the term in his 1966 book on the topic.

Also in the mid ‘60s, “transgender” was created by John Oliven. By the 1990s, “transgender” became the umbrella term for the entire spectrum of people who are trans, with “transsexual” a specific subset. (All historical information gathered from the Wikipedia page, “Transsexual.”)

Nowadays, though “transsexual” and “transgender” are true synonyms, one rarely hears “transsexual.” Besides being reduced to a subset of transgender folks, it also has been largely corrupted, often used to speak unfavorably about “trannies” and “she males,” and others in what are viewed as less than savory occupations, or about whom the speaker is intentionally degrading. When the media want to sensationalize a headline, they will use the older term, as in “Big star caught with transsexual hooker!”

In my reading of scholarly books on the topic, I have found “transsexual” still to be used in an honorable way, to be a term for those transgender persons who have undergone a surgical change to their genitals, the procedure which I have always referred to by its old name, sex reassignment surgery (SRS), which is more often now called gender confirmation (or affirmation) surgery (GCS/GAS) and, even more recently and picking up steam, simply as bottom surgery, which allows one to speak of the variety of possibilities of surgery for both genetic males and females.

There is one thing that I like better about “transsexual” over “transgender,” and it is that it does not need a qualifying word to accompany it. One may speak of a transsexual, but not of a transgender. I can say that I am a transsexual, but to use the other term means I have to add a word: I am a transgender woman.

Transgenderal will never be a word.

Some simply add an “s,” referring to transgenders. If you want to raise the dander of a trans person, go ahead and do this. Um, please, don’t. Besides, I have noticed that the predominance of those who call us transgenders are those who disrespect us.

I like specificity in words. The more specific one is, the better understood with the fewest words. Thus, I hope an honorable usage of “transsexual” does not completely fall out of favor. Indeed, now that I have had SRS, I identify as a transgender person who is a transsexual.

Ultimately, one term is not inherently better than the other. The “sex” of “transsexual” points to the sex characteristics regarding the mismatch of brain and body, while the “gender” of “transgender” focuses on the experienced identity of the individual. It is my opinion that “gender” is winning over “sex” because how one identifies speaks for us better, referring to how we see the entirety of our lives.

“Sex” and “sexual” immediately takes one’s mind to one’s genitals, and being trans is tremendously more than about one’s genitals. For many, being trans has nothing at all to do with the genitals.

Even more, being trans has nothing to do with having genital surgery, as with when the word was originated.  For many reasons—no interest or need to have surgery, or it’s not economically feasible—many trans folks never have surgery, and consider themselves fully transitioned.

As much as “transgender” came to replace “transsexual,” the simple “trans”—removing “gender”—is taking over for both of the full terms. For example, I am a trans woman.

Because to be trans is way more than simply male or female, woman or man, in our trans group meetings we have come to refer to those who are “trans feminine,” “trans masculine,” and “non-binary.”

“Non-binary,” you ask? Indeed, a fairly new term, and one which has made great headway toward regular usage. To learn more about that, stay tuned to more Trans Ed 101 posts.

Punnier business

The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.  Thus, I post more of my goofy wit.

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When I was young, I went with my friend to visit his grandmother. He eagerly took me to a brook, which was deep in the woods, where he loved to swim. The water was clear, the bottom was sandy, the spot was perfect.

I asked, “Since you only come here once a year, how do you remember where this spot is?” He replied, “I recalled that there is this beautiful bed of clover all around.”

When I was back home, I found myself at our nearby stream, and my eyes lit up when I saw the same type of greenery growing near it. I quickly threw off my clothes and plunged in. Argh! The water was muddy. The bottom was rocky. It was just awful.

As I quickly got out of there, the old saying dawned on me and it sure was proven true:

Never judge a brook by its clover.

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My bucket list and my grocery list are the same list.

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A Wednesday joke:

Today is Hump Day.  Make it a special one.  Treat your camel to lunch.

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I made a batch of dough.
With it, I was able to form a loaf.
But I lacked the skills to shape rolls.
Once again, an old saying was proved true:
Easier bread than bun.

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After yoga, my yodeling yogi, Yolanda from Yonkers, took me out yonder for yo-yo lessons and yogurt.

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No longer am I only the gardener. I have been promoted to branch manager!

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Shirley Dorland—matriarch of Port Hope

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She was, in a word, memorable. If you ever knew her, or met her for more than a moment, you could never forget her, even if only for that Phyllis Diller-like cackle.

Shirley Dorland was 92 years old when she was called home to the Lord on July 2. The last time I saw her was precisely three years earlier, when I retired and moved from Port Hope, Michigan. I had been her pastor for thirteen years.

And did we ever grow close.

Shirley was one of those folks who, when the call goes out for the need for helping hands, her hands were always helping. At church, she was one of only a couple of women who were part of both the Ladies Aide and the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League. When there was a church dinner, she was working it. Whatever it was at church, if it were something she could do, she was doing it.

As for her faith life, she made the most of it, always in the late service and always in Bible class—both Sunday and Wednesday—and always in the same spot. Until she could no longer navigate the stairs to the church’s balcony, she sang in the choir.

If she only were a church lady, I could not have crowned her Port Hope’s matriarch. Her attitude toward her community equaled that toward her church. Shirley’s obituary captured that aspect well:

She was a member of the Port Hope Women’s Club, was secretary of the Port Hope Chamber of Commerce for many years, member of the Home Makers Club, secretary of the sewing circle, and was president of the pinochle club.

More than a doer, Shirley was both spoken and outspoken. Never afraid to offer her thoughts on a topic, she also was not shy to say what everyone else was afraid to admit. As for Bible class, she never lacked for asking the pertinent question, often leading into deep discussion of a topic that was a curiosity for the entire group.

Often, she began, “Maybe, I’m wrong, but . . .” It wasn’t long before our combined gregarious personalities had found us fond of each other, and I so loved to pick on her. So, if the mood were right—and it usually was—I would be ready for her opening, “Maybe, I’m wrong . . .” and I would quickly slip in, “Yes, Shirley, you’re wrong.” Shirley would bellow, “WHATTT?” and everyone would laugh, and we would once again shake our heads and murmur, “That Shirley.”

I could count on her to be quick to speak. Once, during a sermon, I was to pose a question in a way that I was sure would get the wrong answer from the congregation. Even more, I was confident that I could do it in a way to get Shirley to answer out loud.

I got to that point in the sermon. I crafted my words and tone of voice just so. And, sure enough, from out of the pews came one lone, loud, “Yes!” I said, “Thank you, Shirley. I was counting on you to answer for the crowd . . . and to be wrong.” “WHATTT?” she bellowed, and the congregation was roaring.

When she was in her mid-eighties, Shirley took quite ill. Her husband, Don, had died in 2002. They had no children. Shirley lived alone in the house they had bought, which looked east toward and provided a view of Lake Huron before the trees grew tall to obscure the scene.

Shirley became homebound for some time. She was in great pain and convinced the end was near. I thought she might be right. I visited regularly. She desperately missed worship and being in her church. I communed her, of course, but paid my visits as both pastor and friend. Most stops at her house lasted way longer than the usual pastoral calls. It didn’t hurt that she always had coffee and cookies for me. Thankfully, she rebounded and was back to her old self.

Perhaps what follows is why she and I liked each other so much, because folks say the same about me. Shirley was loud. She spoke freely. She laughed easily. Getting her goat was no chore. She didn’t take it personally. She was, as they say, a real people person.

Now, for the hard part. When it became obvious that the news of my being transgender had become common knowledge in Port Hope, Shirley was the person who epitomized all of the church members for whom I was concerned how they were taking the news.

I so feared hurting these good people. I could only imagine older folks being jolted to learn about their pastor. I wanted them neither to be harmed in their faith nor angry with me. I longed for them to know that I still believed everything I taught and proclaimed when I was their pastor. I made a video for the congregation, asking some folks with the Internet to be sure that Shirley, and those like her, got to see it.

This past February through Facebook, Judy Schuett let me know that Shirley was failing. Shirley asked Judy to inform me. That act alone elated me so. Then, it got even better.

I wrote to Judy:

Thanks to you and Gene and Wally Schave for doing the work of being her power of attorney. Shirley sure relied on her friends, and she did so much for the community and the church to have earned the lovely return of her affection. Tell her that her old pastor said, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant!” and that I so wished I could preach her funeral sermon.

To say that I loved Shirley doesn’t come close to saying enough. She meant the world to me all my wonderful years in Port Hope. She was one of the many whom I so feared that I freaked out with my situation these past couple of years. I pray that I didn’t harm her. In fact, I hope you can tell her that Julie and I love her, and then this most important thing: My faith in the Lord is exactly what it was when I was her pastor. My present struggles have only driven me closer to the Lord, relying on His strength and love more than ever in my life.

Whenever we would talk in Bible class about heaven, she would say, “I just want to get in. I only need a crack in the door.” And then she would cackle as only she could do. Well, tell her that I plan on entering that same door as she, and we will rejoice together forever with the Lord Jesus.

The next day, Judy replied:

We took your letter to Shirley today and she was so pleased. She wants us to give her sister Helen a copy too. You made her day, thank you!

Shirley didn’t hate me! I could not have been more happy! I broke down in tears of joy, which were mixed with tears of sadness because I could not be there with her. I am shedding the same tears as I type right now, so longing to be the pastor in the pulpit for her funeral.

At her funeral, I think sister Helen will be the only family who will be able to be there. The only blood family, that is. I hope, and surely suspect, that the church will be filled for the matriarch of Port Hope with her children, the congregation and community which Shirley made into her family.

A family which she served with the heart of a loving mother, and which gladly gave its heart right back to her.

I love you, Shirley.  I look forward to sitting with you at the throne of our Lord Jesus, praising Him forever for loving us.

 

 

Indy-pendence Day 2017

Hitting the road a bit before nine a.m. on this year’s Independence Day, I spent more than an hour on a combined run/walk, covering 5.4 miles of my Indianapolis neighborhood. What I encountered on a glorious morning, under blue skies and mid-70s temps, was tremendously reassuring about the state of our nation.

It was pure peace.

I first came across a woman, perhaps my age, who was taking a walk. I will mention that she was African American only because I am a white person, and I often wonder if I might meet folks who are suspicious of whites, who perhaps have had their own bad experiences with us. Indeed, every person I saw on this morning was an African American, a common experience for me as our neighborhood is largely populated by persons of color, and my common experience is always to see smiles and hear friendly words.

The walking woman caught my smile. We both waved and as we got close said our good mornings. It was a perfectly familiar meeting of two strangers.

I remind you of what people see when I am out running and walking. My hair is in a pony tail. I have on a sports bra, which is easily recognizable under my shirt. And my fingernails are always painted. I sometimes wonder what people think after they see me: “Crazy white guy . . . or woman. I’m not sure which.”

Mellow soul music now emanated out an open window. I wanted to lasso the house and drag it with me. After a bit, it was bouncy hip-hop to help speed my way.

In my second mile, I saw two men removing large grills from a pickup. Soon, I arrived at one of the several parks that might be on any given route I take. This one has a paved trail that rings the park. Immediately, I found groups gathering. As I approached the pavilion, a younger couple was minding a grill that already was in action.

They saw me, so I made motions with my hands as if to get the wafting smoke to come my way. When I could see them notice, I said, “It smells soooo gooood.” The woman thanked me. I replied, “Invite me back later to eat.” They both laughed and she said, “You have a good one.” I thanked her and wished them both the same.

Leaving the park and arriving at a busy road on which there is a rescue station, a fire truck was returning to the garage. Then, I noted some of the gray garbage bins which had not yet been brought in after yesterday’s trash day. I thought, our public services constantly run smoothly for us.

Two young guys on bikes approached from the rear. I thought, it’s good to see kids still ride bikes.

As the boys passed me, I passed a house where a number of people filled a yard and the grills were producing a great aroma. I would observe and smell the same thing, again and again.

With a mile to go, I spied a dog in a front yard, and he was not leashed. I was wary, so I paid attention. I noted the real fire hydrant in the yard. It was in the middle of the yard, so I knew it was put there by the owner. Then, as if on cue, the canine raised his leg and watered it.  Thanks for the chuckle, Fido.

It’s funny, but it was seeing the dog that prompted me to think about writing this piece. I looked up at the blue sky, now littered with the lightest of billowy clouds, then I dropped my gaze to soak in the deep green of the trees’ leaves, then down to the grass which, because we’ve had plenty of rain, still dazzles spring-green.

I came upon a church. It had a special billboard planted by the road, announcing the free meals that are available to young people, eighteen and under, all summer long. This is an Indianapolis program, covering the entire town.

I thought, this is my country. This is our spirit. This is the land over which Old Glory waves.

I have been as troubled as anyone about our government, especially the edition that has been in place since January. Yet, for all of the fighting, the bickering, the bipartisanship, and the downright nonsense and embarrassment, we remain the United States of America, from sea to shining sea.

We need to work hard to retain it, that’s for sure. For now, I want to reassure you: we still have it.

We still have it, so let’s enjoy it. Let’s relish each other, everyone of every color, every culture, every creed. Let’s deeply appreciate and value this marvelous 241-year-old treasure. And let’s each do our part to preserve it.

I arrived home. After getting some water, I headed to the garden to sow a second planting of spinach and kale. Julie joined me. She sowed the seeds and I began fingering the ground around the potatoes. As I pulled up one spud after another, she checked the green beans. Soon, we had in our bucket two-thirds of our evening meal.

The day before, we noted our first okra fruit growing. We never have grown okra, so we’ve been watching the plants closely. Having not seen any blossoms, we could not understand how there could be fruit. Now, this morning, Julie told me to look. She had spied the first pretty yellow flowers.

I took a picture and we headed into the house with our potatoes and beans, this bright okra flower perfectly symbolizing the joy which was in my heart.

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Toward understanding gender dysphoria

In a post entitled, “Higher Things—Quo Vadis?” which gave reference to me, on the site of The Brothers of John the Steadfast, it was stated that in my interview on Virtue in the Wasteland the doctrine of the Evangelical Lutheran Church and Natural Law were not affirmed. No references were given, though the article encourages its readers to listen to the podcast and judge for themselves.

Specific to my part, I have been in this discussion many times with LCMS pastors and lay folks who quote “male and female He created them” and rest their case. None of them have undertaken a serious study of gender dysphoria, intersex conditions, or their possible causes. Some of them have studied nothing, and some have read things like the CTCR document and perhaps a bit more. Speaking from general ignorance of a terribly complex topic, they have judged me as sinning, of rejecting God’s Law.

On many of my blog essays, I have written of my doctrinal stance, which has not changed since I was ordained twenty-one years ago. If anyone has found error in any of my writings on God’s Word, they have not made them known to me. The singular issue has been “male and female He created them,” which ends the discussion.

I uphold “male and female He created them.” I do not espouse the view which says that gender is a construct. I reject all notions about the body which are in disagreement with God’s Word.

I also uphold the Fall of Adam. I uphold our total brokenness. I uphold that the Fall means more than that we commit sins, but that our bodies do not fully work as the Lord created them, nor does the world work as it did before sin entered it.

We are prone to every sort of dysfunction.

It is to our brokenness that I appeal. My study of gender dysphoria led me to learn about intersex conditions and maladies caused by disruption to our endocrine system. There are several intersex conditions, and there are even more hormonal maladies. Diabetes and thyroid troubles are two common hormonal maladies.

I will speak to two conditions and then make a connection to gender dysphoria.

From the late 1950s to the early 1960s, thalidomide was prescribed to pregnant women to ease morning sickness. When thalidomide was administered early in the pregnancy, the fetus sometimes formed wrong, with some babies born with no arms or legs, or deformed ones. It is estimated that, worldwide, 20,000 to 100,000 babies were affected. Once they figured out what was causing it, they stopped giving the drug to pregnant women. It was learned that in some women the thalidomide disrupted the endocrine system, causing the deformities to the baby.

Autism is a malady which is mysterious in its origins. It is suspected that it might be caused by both the genetics of the parents and by environmental factors. It very likely is, as with the work of thalidomide, the result of the baby’s endocrine system having been disrupted in the womb.

I use these two conditions for comparison because the affects of both are obvious and easy to grasp. The results of endocrine system disruption to the sex hormones are not easy to grasp, unless one can actually see the malformation of one’s genitals.

Just because we cannot see something, or define something, does not lessen the reality of it. Indeed, the cause of autism remains profoundly mysterious. Despite that, no decent person rejects the reality of autism. No one would argue that the one with autism has nothing more than a mental illness. With gender dysphoria, the argument of my opponents is that it is merely a mental illness, often compared to how one suffers from bulimia.

The cause of gender dysphoria is mysterious. As with “thalidomide babies,” I believe mine can be traced to another drug, diethylstilbestrol, given during an eerily overlapping era, to mothers in danger of miscarrying. While, as with autism, no absolute connection has been made, there is much anecdotal evidence.

Diethylstilbestrol is but one of many drugs which have been determined to be endocrine disruptors, as have chemicals and plasticizers. When one wonders why there is so much gender dysphoria in our world these days, I point to these known endocrine disruptors.

While I do not insist on having all of the answers, I have learned much to give me enough confidence that my gender dysphoria is a condition just as real, just as physical, as to those who suffer autism and the deformities of the “thalidomide babies.”

But, with gender dysphoria—even if it is a real, physical intersex condition—traditional Christians, including LCMS Christians, will have grave difficulty with, and are prone not to listen to any discussion of, the remedy being transitioning medically with cross-sex hormones and surgeries, and transitioning socially, adapting to the clothes and name of the other sex.

I do not attach myself to “the transgender agenda.” Indeed, as a Christian, who holds a traditional reading of God’s Word, I am viewed with suspicion by many transgender folks because I am not on board with their entire docket. And then I am viewed with the same suspicion in the LCMS, with folks believing that I want to introduce the entire LGBTQ agenda into the church.

Not so.

I hate that I could not find a remedy that could keep me living as a male. I was constantly fearing that I would either kill myself or lose my sanity. I undertook both pastoral and secular counseling, from numerous pastors and two therapists, striving to remain male. Even as far as I have gone with transitioning, if something were to arise, to give me some confidence that I could have relative peace as a male, I would be interested in pursuing it.

I do not disagree with God’s Law. I disagree with how gender dysphoria is viewed. For many traditional Christians, when it comes to the sexes and “male and female He created them” it is as if the Fall could do nothing to touch this one aspect of our creation. Christians such as I, who are striving to be faithful to the Lord and  have a measure of temporal healing, are objects of condemnation instead of compassion.

Trans Ed 101: the pre-trans life

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When a person transitions, what becomes of her or his or their prior life? For perhaps the first half-century after surgery became available for males to transition to female, it was most common for them to scrub their past, almost as if they went into a witness protection program, because of how unacceptable would be their transitioning and how difficult their new life if the world knew (save for the rare public person, such as Christine Jorgenson). So, they would move to a new town, create a new history, hide or burn their old photos.

Today, while there are plenty of trans folks who are able to transition so effectively that they blend in as their desired sex, and both desire to and are able to live in a way that they don’t have to reveal their past, most either do not blend so effectively or, even more, remain right where they were, transition publically in their family, in their work, in their school, retaining the life they had built.

The question then becomes, how do they refer to themselves pre-transition, and how might they want others to do so? Does a genetic male, now a transwoman, take to referring to childhood as “when I was a girl”? Does a genetic female, who has given birth, now go by “Dad”? When a young child transitions, with very few years of history, do their parents act as if there were not a pre-trans life?

You can easily imagine that there is no one answer to this. Indeed, how trans folks see their past is as unique as each person.

For me, this was a no-brainer. I transitioned so late, and built a thorough life as a guy, my life prior to transitioning would remain Greg and male. I was blessed with a good life, so I continue to embrace it, where too many long to shed their prior life because of how terribly they were treated (see my post, “Dead Name”).

https://eilerspizza.wordpress.com/2017/06/19/transgender-terms-dead-name/

For those who blend well, who do not let on that they are transgender, it is assumed that they will change how they speak of their historical self. A transwoman would not want to say to a co-worker, “Oh, yeah, when I was a boy I wanted to be a fireman.” While she might continue to admit that she wanted to be a fireman, or fire fighter, she might now say “when I was a girl,” but she also could avoid the question entirely by simply saying, “When I was young,” or, “When I was a child.”

My sister now refers to me as her sister, and she is lovely to do so. Besides, especially on Facebook where I am Gina, it makes sense to switch from brother, and it might save some questions should one of her friends not know much about us. That’s purely practical. Many decisions are made by us, and about us, for purely practical purposes; don’t create a problem or raise questions where none exist.

How about when one is a parent? I never was my children’s mother. They have a wonderful mother and splendid step-mother. Besides, I love that I am the father of my children. I told my kids I still want them to call me “Dad,” and they do. The writer, Jenny Boylan, transitioned when her two boys were young. One son brought up that “Dad” no longer fit, but that she wasn’t Mom, either—Jenny and her wife remained married—and so the son mashed “Mom” and “Daddy,” to come up with “Maddy.” It worked, and it stuck.

I know a transwoman who transitioned when her kids were really young. For the kids’ sake, switching to “Mom” was easier personally and most helpful socially. Can you imagine the trouble that would be given to middle-school-aged kids using “Dad” for this person who looks like a woman? Kids can be very mean, and some of them would pick on these kids just terribly.

What if you are not sure how to refer to the pre-transitioned life of a trans person? Again, I refer to a previous article, “Rude Questions.”

https://eilerspizza.wordpress.com/2017/06/21/transgender-terms-rude-questions/

If you do not know the person very well, I would suggest never switching sex/gender on them in any way. Retain their current pronouns for their past, until and unless they correct you. All historical references should be in the sex and gender in which they are now living. If they notice and want to correct you, they have the ability to do it. “Oh, hey, it’s okay to say that I grew up as a girl. That’s how I think of myself and talk about my younger self.”

If you know the person well enough to talk about personal things, and you have found yourself unsure about this, one would think it would be fair and right to ask in a respectful manner—in private; not in front of others—something like, “Jenny, I know your kids call you ‘Maddy,’ but I’m not sure how you think of yourself before your transition.” I am confident that, said this way, Jenny will not only gladly answer but will appreciate that you didn’t make an assumption.

Even more, if you know that the person is transgender, and you are in a group where some folks might not, or you don’t know if everyone does, you will want to take great care not to say anything to reveal it. If the group were talking about when they all were young, you wouldn’t want to say to your transman friend, “I’m really curious what you were interested in, since you were a girl back then.”

That’s the ultimate thing. You never want to expose a trans person who does not want it known. If you had some deep secret, which you didn’t want everyone knowing—say, when you were young, you did a foolish thing that found you a convicted felon—how would you feel if a friend, who knows your past, exposed it?

Sadly, for the transgender person this is more than a personal/social issue. If one is exposed, when that person has successfully kept it unknown, it could cause trouble for them on the job, where they live, and more. Work opportunities—promotions and raises—can be adversely affected. Jobs can be lost, because trans women and men do not have protections in many places. The same goes for where they live.

Even for trans folks who have successfully transitioned and are doing well, many things can trip them up to create trouble where it need not have existed. Please, don’t be the one to trip anyone.