I have appreciated every person who has been kind to me, offered their encouragement and support, and especially those who have not been afraid to be public about it. At times in their cheering me they have said things in ways which I would not. I focus on one topic:
- “I’m so glad you are happy.”
- “As long as you’re happy.”
- “You deserve to be happy.”
Have you guessed the topic?
We all can quote plenty of advertisements that use happiness as the goal to get us to buy the latest this or that or the other thing. And as soon as our happiness has worn off from the previous thing, we move onto the next thing even if the previous thing, say one’s current cell phone, still works perfectly fine. Nope, now that the new model is out so is my happiness with my current one.
Our culture is bent on being happy.
A Lutheran man, with whom I have debated every issue under the heading of transgender, told me that he conferred with some pastors. He said that one of them commented: “The basic idea is extremely troubling: I wasn’t happy; now I am.” Where did this pastor get this idea? He didn’t get it from me.
I asked the man to please inform the pastor that happiness was never my goal. I dared him to find the places on my blog where I have talked about striving for happiness, that he would not find such talk from me because it has never been my attitude.
Good health is my worthy goal. Contentment, not happiness, is my desire. Where the final two of the ten commandments warn us not to covet, we see contentment as coveting’s opposite, to be satisfied with one’s situation in life, and doing so in a manner which is wise and healthy.
Ah, to be healthy! Where do so many go when asked how their lives are? “I am thankful that I have my health.”
I did not have my health.
If I had not been crushed by gender dysphoria, I would have cried from the mountaintops what a happy life I had. My marriage was simply the best. I was pleased for my children, and that they gave me seven grandchildren. I had the job for which I was perfectly suited and I loved. My health has primarily been outstanding throughout my life. I enjoyed good hobbies—jogging, gardening, reading, writing. I had a good income, a wonderful house, a splendid community, loads of friends, and all of the material things that I needed and many that I didn’t need but when I wanted them I could afford to go out and get them.
Remove my gender dysphoria and I was as content as one can be. I experienced profound thankfulness to the Lord for His goodness to me. I have said many times that my Lord has blessed no one more than He has blessed me. I absolutely mean that . . . even with the gender dysphoria.
Did I transition in order to be happy? Absolutely not. I transitioned so that I might be healthy, so that I might be able to live a life in which I could benefit my family and community.
Where I was, I was of benefit to no one. When I was suffering the worst, I despised everything so much that I was stymied. And my mood was ugly. And I hated what I was putting Julie through.
I could only see three things as the possibilities for me as a male:
- I would commit suicide, or
- I would go insane, or
- in order to extinguish my mental anguish, I would be so heavily medicated that I would be a shell of a person and unable to do anything.
I had to take action. If transitioning would get me healthy, allow my mind finally to relax, I could remove the three fears and I could once again be a productive person, making good use of the gifts with which I have been blessed.
Not only was happiness not my goal but, now that I have transitioned and am healthy, there are plenty of things about which I am not happy, including
- the ongoing trouble for the many who have been offended by me;
- fighting with my fellow Christians;
- the battle that I have undertaken and at which I resolve to continue to work hard: educating my fellow Christians, especially the leadership of my former church body;
- my body shape;
- my hairline and very thin hair;
- all of my upcoming surgeries;
- the financial strain on Julie and me;
- and that I can no longer do the job I love in the place where I want to be, the LCMS.
None of those were issues for me before. The question has thus become: are the new troubles worth it? Was the trade-off reasonable? Am I more happy than I had been? (Oops! I just had to add that.)
I am pleased to say that my answer is an absolute YES. While I do not prefer the new troubles and would shake them free if I could, they go with the territory. While I wish no one were offended by me, I have strived not to offend anyone but to live as an honorable, ethical person. I have worked hard to educate them. For my fellow Christians, this education goes to the heart of my transitioning publicly because my experience informs me that LCMS pastors and lay persons do not understand gender dysphoria and being transgender. As for my body and hair, I can abide with what I have, and am way more grateful for what I have than for what I do not have. The surgeries are a necessary evil, if you will, as is the financial strain. Thankfully, we are hanging in there financially, and we are people who do not go crazy spending money. Finally, while I still miss being a pastor I am okay with it so long as I am doing things which are beneficial and fulfilling, which I am doing most of the time.
Everyone wants to be understood. We long to be respected. Both of these are vitally important to me. Sadly, too many people judge me before or without hearing me, and come up with unfair assessments such as the pastor who found my goal only to be happy.
Am I now happy most of the time? I am pleased to report that I am. Happiness is a byproduct of getting healthy and the ability to be content again—a byproduct, but not the goal.