I have gender identity disorder. The clinical name is gender dysphoria. Dysphoria = ill feelings. Because it feels like my gender (brain) and sex (body) do not match, I have ill feelings about myself and my entire life.
There is great diversity in how this condition is experienced. I will normally refer to it as a condition, never as a disease, but my favorite term is dis-ease, which perfectly highlights the ill feelings.
A typical life with this condition and the dis-ease of it:
- As a young child, he is told that he should be outside playing with the boys. He grasps that his behavior is wrong. He learns to comply so that he doesn’t get into trouble.
- In middle school begins the thoughts that will be with him every day of his life, dreaming about being a girl.
- During the teenage years, he takes action. Clothes are the obvious way to look and feel female, so he sneaks them whenever he has a chance.
- Growing up, getting married, he had hoped that love would be the cure but his feelings overcome him. As crossdressing intensifies, so does guilt and shame. Over the years, he will purchase and toss out a small box of items, over and over and over.
- In later middle-age, everything intensifies. He hates the sight of the man in the mirror. His body feels wrong on him. Getting dressed for work, he curses his male clothes.
In these five points, I have briefly described my experience.
In 2013, this finally crushed me. I began therapy. During my many meltdowns, I begged Julie to commit me to a psych ward. I cried more that year than the first fifty-five years of my life, combined.
Trying to calm my brain, I began hormone replacement therapy. Raising estrogen and lowering testosterone often makes guys like me more at ease. I entertained the possibility that I would transition, often thinking that was the only way I would survive. Of course, that flew in the face of everything in my life—faith and family—and, as by summer 2013 I began telling pastors and family and closest friends, “shocked” does not begin to describe their reactions.
I hope you appreciate this is why it was so how hard to get to this day. People like me can’t be transgender! Wake up, Eilers! There is nothing in my life which fits the profile—as if this chooses whom it afflicts (which begs the question: how did I get this?).
I am small town middle-class, lifelong committed Christian, husband and father and grandfather, traditional and conservative in every way from how I live to how I dress to how I spend my money to how I vote, and as a Lutheran minister I am one who holds a very by-the-book biblical doctrine. I am as straight as a yardstick.
In my post, “Therapy,” I spoke of my suicidal thoughts. Among gender dysphoric people, 41% will attempt suicide. In the general population, the number is under 2%. Why is it so much higher for gender dysphoric and trans people? Because we fear coming out. We fear the reaction, the rejection. We can’t deal with our internal struggle. We cannot see a good answer for ourselves.
“Greg, you cannot possibly transition”—a logical statement based on my resume. Yet, how much can a person take, even one who is strongly supported with these two pillars—faith and family?
There is no prescription, as for high blood pressure. There is no fix, as when I had two stents to heal my heart. With therapy, some can abide. I wish I could find the magic therapist. We all do, which brings me to the many folks who sent me private messages since Friday. I don’t think any of us suffer from the same condition, with symptoms of frustration and despair and anger and sadness and so forth, yet each one listed the same problems which often seem insurmountable.
I will advocate no position on the topics of transitioning or anything else. I seek no permission or sympathy. I am opening up for two reasons, because the people who make up my world are largely in the dark about gender dysphoria and transgenderism: for us to be understood and for others to be educated that this is a condition as real and horrible as the worst disease.
I am inviting you into my world because I have exhausted every avenue to live with myself. I want you to know the gravity of this condition. It is not the stuff of TV sitcoms. It goes to the core of one’s being. It forced me out of the job that I so loved, for which I was perfectly suited. I held it together in public and fell apart in private. It sent me to extremes I never imagined, even to the brink of death. It is a condition to be reckoned with, with humility. The world needs to learn about it in a calm, measured, non-sensationalistic way. I am here to do just that.
This post barely scratched the surface, but the surface has been scratched. I welcome every respectful comment and question. I suspect there will be so many questions that I will assemble them into Q & A posts, as early as Friday.
I conclude with this. The last several days, I have been male-brained. That, along with the two year anniversary of having started therapy and finally grasping the answer to my ongoing prayer, is why I am speaking now—now, when I have renewed vigor to fight to remain male.
When I am male-brained, I am able to fight. When I am female-brained, I cannot imagine living as a man. When both brains present together, which happens more often, I can’t do anything. I hate everything. I cry and writhe in pain. I remember my promises to Julie: I will not hurt myself, I will not run away, I will not destroy things. I pray like crazy, asking the Lord Jesus to show me His good and gracious will, reminding Him that I only want to do good with my life.