Neither proud nor ashamed

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Friday, April 7, I had my hair and makeup done for a party, a first for me.
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It was a masquerade party.  This is the first time I posted a full body picture of my new self.

I once read from a transwoman, “I am proud to be transgender.” I thought, “Huh?” It felt akin to one’s saying, “I am proud to be left handed,” or, “I am proud to be a white person.”

Though I found the statement ill-fitting, I understood it. We trans folks have been pushed around, disrespected, made fun of, and called every evil name in the book. When a person is terribly mistreated, it is natural to battle back.

That’s why the Gay Pride movement arose. That’s why we now have Trans Pride. That’s why a transwoman writes, “I am proud to be transgender.”

We trans folks stand up, speak up, and shout out because of the hatred, the prejudice, the misunderstanding about us, the people who turn their backs on us, the rights we are deprived, and much more. It takes a lot of standing, speaking, and shouting to be heard.

I was taught not to be full of myself, to keep my ego in check. When folks dig into their pride (even when they’ve earned it), less than honorable words and actions often accompany it. We pump up our chest. We might think we are better than others. As a Christian, from the Word of God I can find no good usage of pride when a person speaks of herself.

Thus, when I post pictures as the two, above, I stay away from saying, “I’m proud that I look nice when I’m all made up,” and, “I’m proud to have nice, runner’s legs.” Of course, I am PLEASED with how I look. I ENJOY dressing up. I FEEL GREAT these days.

But I’m not proud. More importantly, I am not ashamed.

I am ashamed of nothing in my having transitioned. I am ashamed of nothing in my being a son and brother, a husband and father, a Christian and that I retired from the ministry because of this. I have strived to address everyone and everything in a patient and loving way, and in an ethical manner befitting of a Christian.

I am not ashamed because I had an honest-to-goodness as-difficult-as-anything-in-life situation, and I set out to learn about it and handle it in an appropriate manner.

I am not ashamed because I gave it my all, again and again and again, to remain male. I can look myself in the eye without blinking, knowing that when I tried my hardest, I tried even more, and then I tried even longer and harder, always pushing myself to feeling I would either kill myself or literally go insane.

I am not ashamed because I have undertaken every step of transitioning methodically, slowly, continually studying and learning, and bathing each decision in prayer. Lest I sound boastful, I will tell you that I am tremendously pleased with how I have stayed firm in my Christian faith. Rather than take pride in me, I boast in the Holy Spirit, for He has fulfilled every promise to remain with me, to continually drive me to my Lord Jesus, so that I have remained diligent in the Word and continued steadfast in the doctrine to which I vowed as a minister.

I am not ashamed because, when I first told my close family members and friends, church leaders and pastors, and then went public with my blog, I resolved that I would answer every single person, even when people were mean and ugly with me, and never lash back when someone was nasty. I have, indeed, responded to 100% of those who inquired of me. While there are times when my written words were taken in a way I did not intend them (and I could have done a better job of writing), I have never reacted harshly with anyone. And, in the few cases where someone took offense at me, I asked them to please forgive me (and they have).

I am not ashamed because I have used my blog essays and videos to teach and explain everything from every imaginable angle, never feigning from any hard question, and I have worked hard to do everything in a way which would be enlightening and helpful, and often returned to speaking of my Lord Jesus and His enduring love for me.

As my sex reassignment surgery (SRS) neared, I found myself remembering Tuesday, April 26, 1994. On that day, near the end of my second year of seminary, I received my vicarage assignment. Vicarage is the seminarian’s one year internship, where a man and his family move to a church and the student is submersed in the work he will do after graduating, after he returns to the seminary for a final year of education.

When my turn came to learn where we Eilers were headed, I stood in Kramer Chapel, at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana, front and center. There was a vicarage in which I had great interest, which was the place where the man was serving who rented the house we were in, and they were moving back to it when we took off, and then we hoped to move back into it when we returned from vicarage.

It was a country church outside of Osage, Iowa. It had no pastor because it was small. The vicar was the man. His supervising pastor was in St. Ansgar, about ten miles away. Most vicars serve under a resident pastor and only get to preach once a month or even less, and don’t get some of the less common experiences. The Osage vicar preached every week, and got to handle everything that came his way.

I wanted it. I wanted it but bad. I wanted to learn how to preach. Only once a month sounded lousy to me. Please, give me Osage!

Now came the announcement. “Gregory John Eilers. St. John Lutheran Church. Osage, Iowa.”

As I moved from my spot and up the chancel steps, to shake hands and receive my documents, I immediately said to myself, “You got what you wanted, now what are you going to do with it?”

That question stuck with me. It helped me to put into my vicarage everything I could, so that I would get out of it everything I needed, so that I might become a good minister. And, wow, what a marvelous year of experiences I had.

That question has been visiting me again. Even though I am almost done with every step of transitioning, this step is, perhaps, the biggest. For me, I am changing my genitals. I do not enter into that lightly, even as I anticipate great joy at finally possessing what I find to be the correct body for me. For others, this is the most controversial step in transitioning and, even though it affects no one in how I interact with them, everyone knows that I am having the surgery, that I went this far, that I changed my body.

Now, here I am, only one day before the surgery. There are a lot of people who are against this. I have been asked, “How can you?” I have been urged, “Don’t do it.” I have been told, “I don’t understand why you would want that.”

Of course, they don’t understand. And when they form an opinion about something they know nothing about, and cannot begin to understand because it is completely foreign to anything they have experienced, they are doing a disservice to me, and the many like me, who have to live this life, who have to make hard decisions—tell your family the hard news, go on hormone replacement therapy, live full time as your desired sex, change your name, and much more—and because so many don’t understand, because too many are prejudiced, because the haters love to be vocal, it is common for us trans folks to be shamed.

I have had every one of these either directly or indirectly tossed at me:

  • “Why didn’t you try harder?”
  • “You know, you’ll never really be a woman.”
  • “If the HRT makes you feel better, why do you still need to wear women’s clothes?”
  • “You should divorce Julie.”
  • “How dare you think you can be a member of a Missouri Synod Lutheran church.”
  • “Stay the hell out of my bathroom.”
  • “I love you, but I won’t be able to deal with you.”

To sum it all up, “Shame on you.  Shame on all of you transgender people. You are not worthy of we who have our act together. You are less than us.”

Thankfully, so many of you have been tremendously kind and understanding. You did not know anything about this gender dysphoria stuff, but you listened. And you heard. And you were educated. And you have been able to say, “I sure learned something, and you are the same person I always knew and liked and loved.”

I am so pleased about you! Thank you!

I am so pleased to finally feel right about myself, after a lifetime of struggle.

I am so pleased that I have accomplished so much, and so well, with my transition.

I am so pleased with all that I undertook and have done with my blog and videos, my magazine article and podcasts, and with the book I now need to get published.

I am pleased that I can look myself in the eye, ask the question, “What are you going to do with this?” and reply, “Quite a bit, and not too shabby either, thank you. And I am far from done.”

As for me, and the gifts I possess and use, all of my boasting goes to my Creator and Savior, my Brother and Friend, Jesus Christ. He is my pride and my joy.  “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:31).”

I live by faith and with confidence in my Lord Jesus’ love for me. Now living as a female, I have no shame going before Him in prayer, or worshiping in His house. I rejoice that this promise is true for me, Romans 10:11: “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.”

Bring on tomorrow! And every tomorrow the Lord has for me to enjoy!

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8 thoughts on “Neither proud nor ashamed

  1. I’m a friend of a Facebook friend of yours who just read your post, and I just had to say BRAVO! for facing your challenges with honesty and generosity of spirit, and for staying true to your authentic self. We all have obstacles placed in our paths, but you’ve got scarier ones than most people ever have to deal with. I applaud your sharing your story so you can teach others as you’re learning, yourself. People who judge others usually live in glass houses…and I’ve learned to erase them from my life, because who needs that? You’ll do fine with this surgery. You’ve got this! Sending wishes for an easy and quick recovery.

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    1. I was greeted by your lovely note, H Newman, as Julie drove us to the hospital. Thank you so much for your kindness and encouragement. Interestingly, “You’ve got this,” was my first therapist’s rally cry when I was retiring, so his warm voice rang in my ears. 😀

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  2. I love you and am able to deal with you, including your sense of humor. I commend Psalm 103:1-3 to you for the time of surgery and healing. The Lord be with you.

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