Surgery is a game-changer



Last Thursday, I wrote about health and happiness. Reaching my conclusion, I said that I would speak to what prompted the topic at this time.

Assuming I pass the pre-op physical this afternoon (required because I have two heart stents), on Thursday I undergo the first surgery in my transition. This will be on my vocal cords, with the goal to raise the pitch of my voice. On February 14 (moved back from my initial January 24 date), I will have sex reassignment surgery. I hope yet this spring to have plastic surgery on my face.

An interesting thing happened on my way to surgery. I have come a long way in transitioning. I have conversed with many people who either are not sure about all of this or who explicitly disagree. Reactions and opinions have greatly varied, but with everything I have done so far temperaments have been pretty steady.

However, everything changes when the talk turns to my having surgery. Folks’ reactions. Opinions. Demeanor. Concerns.

A common response, and the most explicit, has been, “How can you do that?” The sense I get is that my living as a woman, being on hormone replacement therapy (HRT), and having my name legally changed were one thing, but to actually have surgery is quite another.

And I think I know why.

As for dressing as a woman, that is immediately and totally reversible. I still have my male clothes, packed neatly in tubs and stored in the basement. This ranks as the easiest to alter.

About as simple would be returning to Greg and male profiles and pictures online. This would be nothing more than a time-consuming nuisance.

While it took time and effort to have my name and sex marker legally changed, they could be reversed with the same amount of effort; more than changing my online presence and clothes, but totally doable.

Finally, HRT. I began taking estrogen and blocking my testosterone in September, 2013. I have experienced important affects both to my brain and to my body. If I were to stop HRT, eventually my testosterone would take over and my estrogen would reduce, returning me to a male hormone structure. Changes to my body would remain, but none are significant enough to impact living as a male.

Oh, and I would need a haircut. Quite the haircut.

Summarizing, everything I have done to this point is reversible. Surgery, however, is another matter.

When it is Christians who are the ones troubled with the talk of surgery, I am sometimes left with the impression that I can still be saved as far as I’ve gone but, if I have surgery, I will have gone too far. All bets would be off. I would have committed some sort of unredeemable sin. (I will spare you the theological arguments.)

Transitioning has been a phenomenal experience. No one could have told me how these things would have progressed. There is no book to follow, “Ten Steps to Freaking out Your World.”

I am not making fun of anyone, but I have been everything from befuddled to amused to enlightened as to the ways of my fellow humans.

Why do they react as they do? I believe I have the answer, and I located it in something Julie said very early after I told her how badly I was being crushed by my gender dysphoria: “I wish I could spend one day in your brain.” She has eloquently explained how those who have never experienced a conflict between their gender/brain and their sex/body have no ability to grasp what the gender dysphoric person lives through.

When it comes to Christians who retain a traditional doctrine, who are so immersed in “male and female He created them (Genesis 5:2),” a person’s being intersex is perhaps the highest hurdle to jump. And any surgery to alter one’s appearance for the purpose of changing sex is incomprehensible. Offensive. Sinful.

Returning to “How can you do that?” I have a question for you. You would never agree with a person’s cutting off his own arm, would you? Normally, of course not. But what if the person were trapped, with no one to hear his cries for help, and would die unless he freed himself by cutting off his arm?

Surely, you have heard of Aron Ralston. Already famous for his heroic 2003 deed, his story was made more widely known by the 2010 telling of it in the movie, “127 Hours.” Hiking the canyons of Utah by himself, a rock loosened above Ralston and trapped his right hand. He had not made anyone aware of his plans, so he was as alone as alone could be.

It was either lose his arm or lose his life. While “grueling” and “horrible” barely describe the act of cutting through one’s own flesh and bone, the decision to do so was a no-brainer.

If he wanted to live.

Sometimes in life, we find ourselves—no pun intended—between a rock and a hard place. A spot where doing what was previously unthinkable not only becomes thinkable, it finally lands in the spot of necessary.

I understand that all of this intersex, gender dysphoria, transgender stuff is mysterious. Because of the media depictions through the years of trans folks, I grasp why many are offended. Why they might think I went off the deep end. How they can only find this sinful.

When I was a pastor, I dealt up close with people who suffered terribly with bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, and drug and alcohol addiction. I ministered to those whose crimes landed them in prison, whose affairs ruined their marriages, whose participating in an abortion left them with a huge burden of guilt.

I have never experienced any of these. I had little or zero experience with them. Before I became a pastor, I might have been prone to casting a quick judgment on folks in these spots.

I had to learn to clear the slate of my mind so that I could listen. So that I could care. So that I could be of service to them. So that I could be on their side to help them heal.

For the first time in my life, I have been the person who longs not to be judged, ridiculed, cast aside. My transitioning has vividly taught me never to say, “If I were in your position, I would never do that.”

I long for all people to honestly be able to recognize the same thing.