One year ago today, on April 11, I had sex reassignment/gender affirming surgery. I was going to use this first anniversary to talk about how I have healed and what I have experienced this first year, but I find that I’ve written all of this in the updates I provided as 2017 progressed. Thus, on this first anniversary, suffice it to say that I healed perfectly and wonderfully, and I am very thankful for that.
Arriving at this one-year mark, I note that I am nearing the three-year mark (April 29) of having gone public with my suffering gender dysphoria. By the summer of 2015, I would be living full time as a female.
One likes to think he or she has fully prepared for what is to come when entering new territory such as I did. One can try. One should try. One would be naive to think she or he will be fully prepared.
Reflecting on the comments and questions I either directly received or that I was told were said about me, here are seven of note, the ones I can recall which hurt the most.
“Why does he want to have boobs? Mine only make my back hurt.”
A friend told me this is how his wife reacted, when he told her that I was transitioning. Knowing the woman, I easily could hear her. The reaction fit her personality. Thus, I took it as the way she reacts to things, and not as a crack against me.
Even so, it informed me that many might have such a simplistic reaction to a person’s transitioning—as if my transitioning were all about having breasts. Or enjoying dresses. Or wearing makeup.
“The devil is leading you by the nose.”
This assumption came via email, from a fellow Christian. She did not write much more than this, other than to appeal to me to repent of what, to her, was my obviously sinning.
I wrote her a respect-filled reply, explaining that I was taking most seriously my faith in the Lord, explaining how I was addressing my gender dysphoria as a medical issue. She listened. While she continued to struggle with my transitioning, she wrote friendlier emails the couple of times I have heard from her since this.
“How can you live in such a worldly way?”
A similar one I have heard is “I don’t agree with the transgender lifestyle.” I have no idea what that means. There is no transgender lifestyle, just as there is no professional athlete’s lifestyle, and no plumber’s lifestyle.
As for worldly living, I am about the least-worldly-living person you will meet. I rarely drink and never get drunk. I have never smoked a cigarette. I don’t gamble. I’ve never tried pot or any illicit drug. I have no tattoos. I don’t spend money on the latest this or that, but am cautious with our funds. I get my jollies by jogging, and gardening, and writing, and cooking for my family, and Netflix. I begin every day with prayer, and reading the Bible lessons for the day, and listening to and reading devotions.
Assuming that transitioning is living in a worldly way displays either a terrible lacking of knowledge or an extreme prejudice, or that a person simply spoke without thinking.
“I would never let my young children meet you.”
I had a series of email discussions with a man, which led to two Skype conversations. He has some credentials in the Lutheran faith, with a well-read blog, which made me interested in conversing with him. Sadly, it seems we got nowhere.
He has two young children. When he told me that he would not want me around them, I was sure I knew why, but I asked him to explain. He said just what I thought. He wanted to protect them, not wanting to explain this person who looked like a man, but was trying to look like a woman, who has a female name.
I told him what he already knew, that they would eventually encounter the transgender topic, perhaps even in grade school. He replied that he would protect them as long as possible.
Though I grasped his attitude, even agreeing with his desire to do best for his kids, I still was left feeling like someone who is to be feared—a freak, a leper, an object of scorn.
“You will never be a real woman.”
This often is said in a way which sounds like this: “You don’t know what you are doing. Do you really believe you can change your chromosomes?”
I have yet to meet a trans person who is so naive as to think that she or he can do a complete change from one sex and gender to the other, that they can rid themselves of all traces of being their birth sex.
It seems to me that comments such as this one are knee-jerk reactions, made out of frustration, or because they find this trans stuff to be offensive, or they simply don’t know what to say and so they blurt it out. I get it. I’ve said dumb things, not knowing what to say in a ticklish situation.
Understanding that doesn’t remove the sting. A widow grasps why someone says at the casket of her dead husband, “He was so sick. It’s for the best,” even as she wants to scream how deeply she feels this loss. And a friend knows that his buddy is trying to help when a girlfriend has broken up and the friend remarks, “There are other fish in the sea.” We’ve all been on the poked end of this stick. We understand that people don’t know what to say, and so they say dumb things.
It still hurts.
To those who have told me that I could not become a real woman, I replied that I knew that, that becoming a real woman was not my goal, but to find some measure of healing in my terrible mess of a situation.
“Why didn’t he try harder?”
I was not directly asked this. I wish the man had done so. I was told by another that he asked this, so it’s hearsay, but it fits his personality. Indeed, I can hear him ask it, his words filled with befuddlement and bewilderment, because this transgender stuff totally baffled him.
This question comes from frustration—he really didn’t want me to transition—so I get it. Even so, it landed on me very hard.
To the person who told me, my reaction went something like this: “What does he mean, try harder? I was suicidal! I thought I was losing my mind! I tried so hard, for so long, and I was only getting worse! Transitioning was a last resort. I don’t like this. I’m just trying to survive.”
When a person asks why I didn’t try harder, it makes me wonder what they think of me. In every facet of my life, I strived to be an honorable person, a hard worker, one who has strong convictions about the things he believes and lives by them. That I would try my hardest is what I would hope people would think about me.
“Surely, it can’t be that bad.”
Nothing has hurt me so profoundly as this sentence.
Three years ago, as I was beginning my transition, I was emailing with a pastor, a former colleague and a man with whom I was friends. After a couple of emails back and forth, with my answering his many questions about gender dysphoria and what I was experiencing, I wrote how I almost daily fought off thoughts of suicide and fears that I was going insane. In his next email, he wrote, “Surely, it can’t be that bad.”
This, from a man who suffers Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This, from a man who sometimes referenced his PTSD as to why he was so snarly with his words and demeanor. This, from a man who longed for his condition to be respected, so that no one would think he would act so poorly if he were healthy.
His reaction spoke volumes for how people see gender dysphoria. It was akin to the several who were offended when I compared my suffering with a person’s experiencing the worst of cancer or Parkinson’s. Boy, did I get an earful from them! They found my comparisons to be out of bounds. One wrote, “I watched my husband die of cancer!”
Yes, and I ministered to many who suffered and died from cancer, and I find my comparison to be on the mark, that’s why I used it. Are you listening to me?
You, friend, do not suffer gender dysphoria, so instead of your reacting with offense perhaps you ought to listen. If I, whom you always knew to be one who thinks seriously and speaks well, compares suffering gender dysphoria with some of the well-known, terrible ailments, instead of your outrage might you hold your tongue, think for a moment, and then show compassion.
It’s how you would want me to react to you.
Yes, it can be that bad. It has been that bad. 41% of us, with gender dysphoria, attempt to kill ourselves. As I would lie on the floor, pounding my fists and screaming at the top of my lungs as I tried to get the pain out of me, I would beg Julie to let me commit myself to a psych unit of a hospital, wanting to be medicated to the point of not even knowing my own name.
To maybe, just maybe, take away the pain, because, yes, it was that bad.
And, sometimes, it still is.