Q & A #1

Today, an assortment of items, all of which have been asked either in private or among comments on posts, and which merit proper addressing.

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Q: Why not take testosterone to make a man feel male, who has gender dysphoria?

A: This is an excellent question. It was asked and answered, a half-century ago, by trying it. Even when men had normal testosterone and estrogen levels, it was thought that raising testosterone would do the trick. To the surprise of doctors, not only did it not solve the problem, the dysphoria grew worse.

I do not recall that it was ever determined why, only that it happened, again and again, so it was abandoned.

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The next question is closely related. Combining both, I am continually confirmed in my notion that my gender dysphoria is a “hard wiring” issue—the result of my mom taking diethylstilbestrol while pregnant with me.

Q: Do you have a hormone imbalance, which is causing your dysphoria?

A: When I had my blood tested, at the start of taking hormone replacement therapy (HRT) in 2013, my testosterone and estrogen levels were in the normal range for men my age. As I have studied, I have never read where a person with gender dysphoria has a hormone imbalance. I wish it were so! It would seem a simple fix: get the hormones in balance, goodbye dysphoria.

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Q: How does HRT affect you?

A: This is a very loaded question as my experience has been unique. I said, in my April 29 post, “Who am I?” that I began HRT to try to calm my brain. Almost universally, people with gender dysphoria report a new serenity, that they are being confirmed in their desired gender. I had the opposite thing happen: I felt comfortable as a male for the first time in my life; my brain and body were in harmony. For six weeks, I felt wonderful, every day. It was so good, and the weeks were progressing, I thought it had to be the HRT causing it, and I was hopeful that we had found a way to treat me, and I would not have to retire from the ministry.

Neither my doctor nor my therapist had ever heard of this happening. I searched the Internet, to no avail. I was and remain flummoxed as I await my July appointment with an endocrinologist.

When I awoke on New Year’s Day, 2014, I knew it was gone. It was as horrible a day as I have ever experienced; the renewing of my dysphoria intensified it. By late January, I had to take a month’s sick leave. I stopped the HRT.

Since then, I have stopped and started and stopped HRT a number of times. Two more times, while on HRT in 2014, I had extended periods of inner peace. I have never, in my life, experienced this harmony of brain and body when not on HRT. My hope, when I see the endocrinologist, is to learn if HRT, when in the right dose, getting my testosterone and estrogen to where I call The Sweet Spot—at just the right levels—might be a viable treatment, not unlike the delicate monitoring of a person on medication for depression.

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Q: Aren’t transsexuals just deluding themselves, since a man can’t become a woman and a woman can’t become a man?

A: Genetically, it is correct that one cannot change sexes. Experientially, it is incorrect.

Trans folks are not deluded. There are real, physical reasons for gender dysphoria. Transgendered people are highly attuned to their gender (brain) and sex (body). It is a terribly difficult experience when the two do not match. Even though one cannot technically change his sex, he can receive hormone therapy to convert his chemistry, and surgeries to outwardly appear as he inwardly feels.

I know, this is offensive to many. I have heard every type of comment: God made you male or female. This is an abomination. They are mutilating their bodies. These people are just confused and need therapy, not surgery.

I understand all of these reactions. Mostly, I find them to be answers which are too simplistic for this terribly complex, debilitating condition.

I suspect someone just said, “You are making it more complex than you need to.” I hear you. I have had that conversation with myself hundreds of times. I only want to honor the Lord, love and be loved by my family, and serve my fellow man. I never waver from these things. Yet, so much of my life is spent in excruciating pain, trying to deal with myself, feeling wrong about everything.

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Q: I know that you retired, but are you still a pastor?

A: Since I do not presently have a call to a congregation, I am not a pastor, per se. I remain on the clergy roster of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, so I am in the ministry. I am able to preach and administer the sacraments. I can’t go and do that wherever I want, but if asked to lead worship any given Sunday, I am eligible to do that. Indeed, last fall, I did, five times.

As fall turned to winter, I had another period where I sunk very low with my dysphoria. The third of my periods of the harmony of brain and body left me in October. I crashed so bad that I had decided to resign from the ministry. If it were not for the patient pestering of a pastor friend I made in Indy, I would have. He kept saying, “What’s your rush? There’s no hurry. Give yourself time.” So, I did.

With the developments of late April, where things came together so that I made public my gender dysphoria, I have been grateful for that pastor’s insistent encouragement. As I have sought the Lord’s good and gracious will, chief among my prayers has been to remain in the Missouri Synod, to teach about my condition in the context of Jesus Christ crucified and resurrected for our eternal lives.

I didn’t retire because I stopped loving being a pastor, but because I was too ill. While I might never again be a parish pastor, it doesn’t mean that I cannot minister in Christ’s Church. I love preaching and teaching! My favorite place to be is in front of a group, proclaiming the Word of the Lord. No matter what happens with me, I intend to spend the rest of my life glorifying Jesus Christ.

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