2016 opened with my polishing the article which would be published in the March issue of Indianapolis Monthly (IM) magazine, the first writing for which I have been paid. It would be both IM’s first article on the topic of transgender, and their first by a transgender author.
I was happy with the final product—good editors are a huge blessing!—and even more pleased with the reception it received. IM also put the article on their website. Something quickly happened in large numbers. Folks were sharing the article via the many social media, especially on Facebook. To date, it has been shared 1,740 times. For me, this is important because a person wants her writing to be read and education to happen.
You may find the article here: http://www.indianapolismonthly.com/features/the-real-me/
Reintegrating with family
February brought me needing to make two big decisions regarding my extended family on the Eilers side. I longed to attend my uncle’s funeral. Family gatherings were among the hardest things for me to miss during my years as a minister. That was my first hurdle, to decide whether I would go. The second was to determine how I would go, as Greg or Gina.
I was positive I would attend as Greg, needing to gently reintroduce myself to my family, some of whom I had not seen in two decades. After a few days, it felt lousy to think about going as Greg.
I sought opinions. Julie and my sister, Sue, felt strongly that I go as Gina, so I asked two Eilers cousins. They agreed. Finally, I decided to talk to an aunt. She pleasantly surprised me not only by agreeing that I should go as Gina, but really encouraging me to go.
I sat in the back corner. I allowed folks to come to me and approached no one unless I already knew where they stood. I was way more pleased with the number of people who talked with me than those who stayed away.
With that victory, the next month I went to a family birthday party, and then in July a family reunion, both on the Eilers side of my family, but both having a different mix of attendees. Again, way more folks treated me as they have all my life than kept their distance.
Because it is against my nature for people to be uneasy, this was a huge hurdle for me to jump, and to leap cleanly. From here, I could keep on running forward.
Making Gina legal
May 2 saw me before a judge. In the days leading up to getting my name changed, I was in turmoil—the way I have reacted with every step of transitioning. I had to reflect on all I had accomplished, recognize how I had jumped each hurdle, recall how every time I had tried de-transitioning I once again became a wreck, and apply those experiences to this new, huge vault.
Leaving court, I was relieved. It wasn’t until three days later, when I departed the bureau of motor vehicles, that I felt good—wonderful, actually—to have reached this step in my transition. In the nearly eight months since, I have never doubted or regretted this step. Now, it is vital that I properly reflect on my name change as I get ready for . . .
Surgeries early in 2017
In March, Julie and I saw Indianapolis’s new sex reassignment surgery (SRS) doctor. I learned what I had to do to be qualified and prepared for surgery. I went to work on those things.
I was ready to see her again in early December. She pronounced me ready for surgery. Initially, I was scheduled for January 24, but a conflict pushed me back to February 14. That’s okay, because in the mean time, another surgery slipped in to fill the gap.
In the autumn, I had learned that we have a doctor in town who performs surgery on the vocal cords, to increase the pitch of a genetic male’s voice so that it is feminine. Julie and I visited him in early December. He found my vocal cords to be healthy and me a candidate for surgery.
I was shocked at how quickly the woman in charge of insurance got my approval. She called me the week before Christmas with the good news. I could set my surgery date.
The day is January 5. After surgery, I will not be able to talk for two weeks—Hush! I know what you are thinking!—as my vocal cords mend. Hopefully, when I return to the doctor I will have a speaking voice which is appropriate to my living as a female.
I continue to await word from the plastic surgeon who will feminize my face. I was hoping to have my face and voice done close together. That remains a possibility.
In May, I was interviewed a second time for a podcast. It was good preparation for Dan and Jeff’s late September flying to Indianapolis from Southern California to interview Julie and me for two-and-a-half hours for their program, Virtue in the Wasteland. With a quarter-of-a-million listeners, this would have the potential of really opening the transgender topic to my fellow Christians.
Sadly, some of the feedback was terribly negative, especially against the two magnanimous hosts for doing the interview. Thankfully, the majority of the feedback has been good, with pastors and Christians pleased that they explored the topic.
I am tremendously thankful to Jeff and Dan for taking a chance on us. I hope for more to come from this. If you’ve not heard the podcast, you may find it here, episodes 196 and 197: http://virtueinthewasteland.squarespace.com/episodes/
In the spring, I longed to return to the church body in which I had been a minister, the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS), because I am in agreement with the doctrine of the LCMS and correct doctrine is vital to me. The LCMS, being doctrinally traditional and culturally conservative, and my being a former pastor who is transgender, do not go together.
Knowing of churches where we were not welcome, Julie suggested a large congregation, known to be a bit more progressive for the LCMS, where we might find a fit.
And fitting we were, with little concern expressed by the membership, until we became members in September. A firestorm swept from the congregation and into the entire LCMS. I became the talk off many websites frequented by ministers and lay people. The talk was not good.
For the first time in my life, I was spoken about in terms which are reserved for people who are despised and reviled. I learned what it means to be on the wrong end of xenophobia, with many casting disparagements and making judgments without knowing the first thing about my condition or about me. The Golden Rule, which is a precious law for Christians, was thrown to the side.
The outcry went to the top of the LCMS. Our congregation’s pastors were in hot water. It didn’t matter how many hours they had talked with Julie and me, or the Scriptures we searched, or the answers I had, or the confession of faith Julie and I made, but strictly their offense they won the day. Because the problem was not our congregation’s or our pastor’s, Julie and I immediately offered our resignation.
In October, I met with several LCMS pastors, my first attempt to have a conversation to promote understanding. They were kind. They listened. They reckoned me still to be a Christian. Yet, despite their lack of learning about the topic, I was judged a person who is giving into a sinful temptation, and not one who is striving to be healed from a physical malady.
I fear that the LCMS will close the door on learning about gender dysphoria, intersex conditions, and transitioning as possible for a Christian. I have written this to the president of the LCMS.
I am at my wit’s end as to how to proceed, yet proceed I must. If I do not speak up I will not be able to live with myself. It is my Christian duty to use my gifts in the service of my neighbor, and I continue to be convinced that transgender education is a worthy and God-pleasing endeavor.
As 2017 unfolds, I will strive to do as I always have, to love the Lord my God with all my heart and soul and mind, and love my neighbor as I love myself, trusting in the Father’s grace and mercy to me for the sake of His Son, Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit who faithfully abides with me.