My church and gender dysphoria (2 of 2)

Last summer, the Commission on Theology and Church Relations (CTCR) of my church body, the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS), published a report, “Gender Identity Disorder or Gender Dysphoria in Christian Perspective.” It may be found in the menu on this page: http://www.lcms.org/CTCR.

In my first post regarding this report, yesterday, I addressed the CTCR’s recognizing that intersexed people may decide in which sex they more closely identify, using medical options to provide them with the help they desire, but the CTCR did not extend the same to the person who has gender dysphoria.

Today, I take up this from the same report: “Individuals who have had sexual reassignment procedures and then come to the conviction that their actions were mistakes and were not God-pleasing will need special care and encouragement” (p. 9).

The report makes no statement regarding those who are pleased with their transition and wish to remain members of an LCMS congregation. One needs to be careful making arguments from what has not been said, so I offer the following gently. It is my impression that trans women and men are considered impenitent and, if they remain impenitent, are not in God’s grace and will not be members in good standing in an LCMS congregation.

If the CTCR did not intend to paint with such a broad brush, leaving one to feel that only the regretting trans person is able to be a repentant Christian, I hope they will offer clarification.

I can best use myself as an example of a person who in no way wants to be disobedient to the Lord, who only wants to love Him and his fellow man, who wants to know the Lord’s good and gracious will and follow it, but who is hurting so badly that he can envision himself fully transitioning, living the rest of his life as a female, yet desiring to be in the American church body that offers the best doctrine of God’s Word, along with the salutary liturgy and hymnody which is centered in Jesus Christ. If I were to transition, I would see my service to the Lord and my fellow man as this: to demonstrate that a Christian can go through a “sex change,” do so with no desire to test the Lord but as a last resort to find some measure of comfort in this earthly pilgrimage and live a God-fearing life.

Is it possible for my LCMS to agree with this?

Since retiring from parish ministry and moving to Indianapolis, I have attended several trans groups, longing to get to know people who are like me. I have listened with sadness to the accounts of Christians who, assuming they are telling their story in a fair manner, were kicked out of their congregations because they were transitioning. One was Orthodox, one Roman Catholic, and one non-denominational. In each of these cases, the church is theologically traditional. In Indy, one can find churches where trans folks are welcomed. I like to learn for myself, so I have attended services and read websites. Sadly, my assessment of these churches is their focus is on celebrating people not Christ, and the only condemnation of sins are the no-one-can-argue-with things like physically or emotionally hurting another person, and where the Gospel of forgiveness, life, and salvation in Christ is replaced with the gospel of inclusion and tolerance and justice.

I have seen three therapists. I have never spoken of the first one as I only saw her one time, leaving there thinking, “You cannot possibly transition. Stop this nonsense.” With all three, I have constantly replayed my desire not to hurt anyone or have anyone hate me, speaking of my Lord Jesus and my desire to please Him. I cry in every session, often bawling. Even in my worst struggles, when I can imagine nothing else than fully transitioning, I have told them, “If you could just help me to live as a male…”

I posed to my current therapist, “Surely, you have had other trans patients who struggle in their faith.” She pondered, then replied, “No, I haven’t. By the time they get to me, they have lost their faith. They either were told they were not welcome in church or given that impression, or their families disowned them.”

In 2013, I began telling of my condition to brother LCMS pastors, including my district president. To date, I have told ten LCMS pastors my whole story. Each man was pastoral and filled with concern for both my spiritual and physical well-being.

To generalize the response, I may not take medical steps toward transitioning and I am to bear this cross under Christ. When I tell them that I have been doing this, that I have strived and sought the Lord’s will and yet I keep getting worse, that this caused me to leave the ministry which I loved and for which I was so well-suited, and that I have become a wreck of a person, continually experiencing extreme self-hatred, and I ask them how I am supposed to bear this cross as I presently am, they either have no reply or say, “I don’t know,” or, “This certainly is difficult.”

When I told some of these pastors the research I have done to find a therapy that might work but have found none, and some of them have researched it, the only answer is: there is none. The day I was told, “I have nothing for you, Greg. There is no therapy. There is no hospital,” caused me to grieve as deeply as when I was told my son had died.

I plead with the Lord to give me direction, that I might fulfill His good and gracious will. I have told Him countless times that I only want to love and serve Him and my neighbor. These pastors know me, that all I want to do is the right thing. I am not willfully disobedient in this. I am sick. I am overcome. I feel helpless.

I want to know how He wants me to bear this cross. Does He want me to remain male, or does He want me to transition and use me to proclaim that He also loves the person who could find no better solution than to transition, just as He loves all for the sake of His Son? Is that possible? Is it possible for a Christian to transition and still be a Christian?

Our pastors and congregations and Christians who leave trans women and men with the sense that they are rejects are doing a disservice to them and might even being doing a disservice to the Lord. It is a delicate thing to balance God’s Law and Gospel, what He requires of us and how the Father demonstrates His love and mercy for us through His Son, Jesus Christ. In the end, if the Gospel of Jesus Christ does not triumph, every last one of us is defeated.

Because the process of transitioning is long and methodical, the vast majority of those who transition do not regret their decision, but find comfort from transitioning and finally are able to live a life where they are not constantly suffering and suicidal, but are able to live and to serve their fellow man through their work and take care of their families.

To summarize my reactions to the CTCR: I plead with the LCMS to listen to people like me, to acknowledge that trans people can be Christians the same as any person with any of life’s struggles and troubles.

“But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5). When I stew and sweat over the letter of the Law, I rejoice that I have a Savior who fulfilled the Law in my place, taking my sins into Himself and returning to me His righteousness.

Come what may in this life, I am already healed.

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6 thoughts on “My church and gender dysphoria (2 of 2)

  1. Any thoughts about what this former psychiatrist from Johns Hopkins has to say? http://tinyurl.com/pxg4z5q
    Towards the end of the article he states: In fact, gender dysphoria—the official psychiatric term for feeling oneself to be of the opposite sex—belongs in the family of similarly disordered assumptions about the body, such as anorexia nervosa and body dysmorphic disorder. Its treatment should not be directed at the body as with surgery and hormones any more than one treats obesity-fearing anorexic patients with liposuction. The treatment should strive to correct the false, problematic nature of the assumption and to resolve the psychosocial conflicts provoking it.

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    1. Thank you for commenting, Joan. I have read plenty from this doctor. Perhaps, because he is a conservative Roman Catholic his voice is heard by Lutheran clergy over most others. Yet, his writing shows his heart, as he does not only believe what he does about the origin of gender dysphoria, but he refers to those who have transitioned by their former names and birth sex, along with other ways I have found what I believe to be an unfair bias. Thus, while I continue to read from him – and, yes, have learned some things from him and even agree with him in some areas (because I am no fan of the “there is nothing wrong with me, I take pride in being trans”) – my study leads me to disagree with his main finding. I would not compare gender dysphoria with something like anorexia, but with something like fetal alcohol syndrome, where it is clear that the evidence in the victim traces to the mother.

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  2. Gina thanks so much for your blog and your work with the LCMS. I’m a parent of a transgender child. Before our child came out to us, I was very biased against the entire LGBT community. I had some compassion for the LG part, but totally didn’t get the “T” part. I thought that transgender people were just pressured by parents because they wanted an opposite gender child. But, then our own child came out to as transgender, and my worldviews had to change. We already had both sexes for our older kids, and for our youngest we only wanted a healthy happy child, the gender didn’t matter. We only raised them as their natal gender. It was a shock and I thought it an impossibility when they told us they were transgender. My first inclination was that being transgender must be against scripture. But, like you I haven’t found clear teaching in God’s word on the issue.

    I’ve also written a letter to the CTCR and feel this is an important issue to work on. It’s important for us as Christian’s to hold onto God’s Word. But if we don’t find clear teaching but still hold a particular viewpoint it’s possible we are holding onto “mere traditions of men” rather than God’s word. In the case of homosexual behavior (LG people) we have some clear teaching in Scripture (something like six verses in the old and new testament). But, what is even more overwhelmingly clear in Scripture is the command to treat all people whether on the LGBT spectrum or not as well loved children of God. That’s the part we decided we were going to start with for our child. That command of course applies just as well for transgender people — they are well loved children of God people for whom Christ died. The difference I see is that I don’t find clear teaching of scripture against transgender people’s need to transition. But, there is clear medical evidence that gender transition is the only treatment that helps with gender dysphoria. And it is clear that for many people gender transition is literally life saving.

    I hope to stay in contact with you. And look forward to reading more of your blog postings. Take care. In Christ.

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    1. Erik~

      I beg your forgiveness for taking so long to reply. This has been a terrible week. I will likely be posting tomorrow to demonstrate how terrible it has been.

      I am sorry for your family to be going through this terribly challenging situation, but I rejoice at your love and compassion! I am thoroughly thankful for you. Bless your heart for writing to the CTCR!

      It IS possible that we (the LCMS) are holding to mere traditions. The key, as far as I am concerned, is to have gender dysphoria finally rooted in a real, physical condition, that is the result of one’s being intersex. Right now, that is not being heard. Right now, that is why the things have happened as they have across the LCMS in the past week, what has made this a terrible week, and to what I referred regarding my next post.

      My spirit is presently crushed, but for my Lord who has the love and power to keep me together.

      I DO hope we can stay in contact. My email is porthopepizza@gamil.com. I would welcome an email anytime you find that you want to write. For now, forgive my lateness and brief reply. My brain is paralyzed.

      The Lord be with you,
      Gina

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  3. You said “The key, as far as I am concerned, is to have gender dysphoria finally rooted in a real, physical condition, that is the result of one’s being intersex.” That was the underlying question my LCMS pastor asked me during our last counseling session. To paraphrase, he wanted to know if there was any objective, demonstrable, physical evidence of my having a female brain in a male body. I told him the only way to find such evidence, from what I’ve read, is by conducting an autopsy. I’ve since sent him a link to an article in wikipedia titled “Causes of transsexuality” (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Causes_of_transsexuality), which has numerous links to research studies which have successfuly used non-invasive methodologies to show evidence of brain structure and brain function abnormalities in transsexuals, when compared to cis-Gender control groups.

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