“How can you mutilate yourself like that?”
I’ve not been asked that a lot, but I’ve been asked. It has always come from a person who rejects a person’s transitioning. And, it seems, it comes from those who do not agree that gender dysphoria is the product of a physical situation, but they believe it is strictly a mental illness.
When a person sees my situation as those just described, I understand how they find sex reassignment surgery (SRS) to be mutilation. Because some do—because many who do are my Christian brothers and sisters for whom I have especial concern as it is my Christian duty to live an ethical life by the Word of God—it is my job to explain things fully.
Please know how seriously I have undertaken the path to SRS, to each surgery—the one I have had (vocal cords), and the one I intend to have later this year (facial feminization)—and to the entirety of transitioning—going on hormone replacement therapy, getting my name legally changed, and living full time as a female.
On Tuesday, I saw on my blog that there had been new clicks from a Lutheran website. I clicked the link, taking me back to one of the many posts from last September, when my fellow Missouri Synod Lutherans got wind of me. I could not read a lot; it hurt too much. I saw gender dysphoria placed in quotes as if it’s not a real thing. I easily remembered the ways in which folks made fun of me and condemned me.
The saddest thing that has happened since I went public, which was twenty-three months ago, has been those who either have not listened to me, or put up a wall and shut me out, or simply dismissed me as a sinner, a nut, you name it, and walked away.
Can you imagine anyone, who is on the autism spectrum, being treated in the manner I have? I chose autism because, as with gender dysphoria, its origins are mystical and it profoundly affects the person who has it.
Ah, but there is a vital difference between autism and gender dysphoria: the transgression of the sexes.
For many—especially for traditional Christians, which I am, and which my fellow LCMSers are—when it comes to the sexes, and to anything that has to do with sex, everything is black and white. They quote Scripture, that God made us male and female (yes, He did), as if that is the final word on the subject, as if Original Sin had not worked every sort of variation to our bodies.
And those variations include disruption to the sexes. To those who have sex traits of both male and female. To those whose bodies are one sex and chromosomes are the other. To those whose genitals are ambiguous, or are seen at birth as one sex but actually belong to the other. To those whose sex hormones, when at levels which match their genitals, adversely affect the person, but when hormone therapy is applied, and the sex hormones are reversed, relief is experienced. To other variations off of these variations.
These experiences are just as real as anything on earth—as real as the lunch you eat and the air you breath, and as real as the conditions and diseases and illnesses which are common to us, which no one bemoans a person’s treating them.
Ah, but not to the sexes! Nope. When it comes to the sexes, fingers go into ears and that noise is made—“La la la! La la la!”—so that the person cannot hear you. You are suffering as difficult a thing as there is on earth—to have your sex and gender, your body and brain, not match, and many will not hear you, will reject you, will condemn you, will walk away from you—is something that no one should wish on his worst enemy.
Is it any wonder that the suicide attempt rate among trans folks is 41%? It’s hard enough dealing with this thing which rips us apart from the core of our being. It is profoundly compounded when others will not open their hearts to pay attention to what we are saying.
Pressure from the inside. Pressure from the outside. Is it any wonder that so many of us crack? Explode? Try to find a way out?
I wish I did not feel so strongly that I need to have my genitals changed. I tried so hard to be the good little boy that so many wanted me to be. I went back to it, again and again and again, trying to do what everyone else wanted from me—from everyone who had no idea what I was suffering but who were positive that transitioning was wrong.
I hated myself so much, found myself such a weakling, ripped myself to shreds because I could not get my act together in the manner that the rest of my world wanted from me.
I have prayed to the Lord so much about this, literally thousands of times. He blessed me through my male body to father five children. I thank Him for the gifts of my children, that I am their father, and for the many good things of my life which could only be because I was a male.
I do not want the Lord to reject me, to find me ungrateful for the gifts He has lavished upon me. I trust that He does not, that all of His promises remain mine, because He continually lifts me up in faith toward Him.
It is a terrible thing to hate one’s body, to find it the wrong body. This should never be. No one should have to suffer any ailment—it doesn’t matter if it has tangible, physical roots or the harder-to-pin-down mental origin—but this is our world. It’s a fallen world, and no one gets to escape it.
Back to mutilation. When I was a pastor, at one of our conventions a missionary spoke to us about conditions where he was working in some far off land, the name of which escapes my memory. He told us of how the Christians were treated. Abused. And, yes, mutilated.
He put onto the big screen some pictures of children whose hands were cut off.
My head jerked away in horror.
I forced myself to look at each pictures. Tears showed on my face as anger grew in my heart.
These were eight- and ten-year-olds who had been taught a lesson, the pastor explained. They had misbehaved. They were Christians and those in charge were not.
Somehow, these kids had smiles on their faces, even as their arms ended in stumps.
That, my friends, is mutilation. It is terrible. It should be done to no one. It should be done by no one.
Yes, my male genitals are going to be deconstructed, but they will not be left in a state of mutilation. Dr. Gallagher will use my flesh to create female genitals. She will craft them as a potter uses clay, to fashion them into something beautiful.
She showed me pictures of her work. I will look as if I had been born with female anatomy. I will be provided with proper function.
So, mutilation? No. I will not be left with unworking parts, but correcting the parts which were not working for me, which I could no longer use in the intended manner, which I never was able to properly appreciate because I could not embrace my being a male.
My faith-walk during this has informed me that the Lord is blessing me with earthly healing, just as any person uses medical science. My faith-walk continues to inform me that, in a perfect world, I would have been a male who was content with himself, and that in the resurrection of the flesh on the Last Day I will be.
I rejoice in the hope of that day. Until then, I will continue to make my way in humility, leaning on my Lord Jesus for the strength that only He can provide, and appreciating the ways in which I have been able to find wholeness of being so that I am no longer being torn apart, or tearing myself apart.
I will extol the Lord at all times;
his praise will always be on my lips.
I will glory in the Lord;
let the afflicted hear and rejoice.
Glorify the Lord with me;
let us exalt his name together.
I sought the Lord, and he answered me;
he delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to him are radiant;
their faces are never covered with shame.