Using HRT to remain male

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Not yet forty, he’s still a fairly young guy. Married, with two young children, and a member of a congregation in the church body where I was a minister, he longs to be a man, a husband and father, and everything else he has built over his lifetime.

He does not want to transition. No, wait. That is not nearly strong enough. He has told me there simply is no way he can let this happen. He needs to resist what he says is “the alluring call of femininity.”

This man, whom I will call Robert, contacted me last year, another in a growing list of folks who found my blog and reached out to me. He identified with me in many ways, except that he had resolved not to transition. He then told me the craziest thing. He was about to go on hormone replacement therapy (HRT) in order to help him remain male.

Yes, he was going to use HRT as medicine—the HRT that trans women use in order to be female—as the prescription for calming the call to femininity. He was about to do that for which I had longed, but could locate no doctor who found it a possible remedy, and no information on the internet to show that anyone had done it.

Robert told me that he knew a man who was doing it, who had gone on HRT and was having success with it in his effort to remain male. Robert found a doctor who agreed to prescribe HRT for him and, in June of last year, he began taking estradiol to increase his estrogen and spironolactone to block his testosterone.

In other words, Robert set out to reverse his sex hormones, so that his higher estrogen and lower testosterone would reflect that of a genetic female, so that he might continue to live as a male.

I have chatted twice with Robert this year. He reports the good that is happening in him, along with the undesired side-effect. The good? HRT has, indeed, calmed the call of femininity. He is feeling strong, finding himself more capable of being a male. The side-effect? He’s growing breasts.

Since no male desires a flabby chest, especially one in which his breasts are obvious and might invite questions or suspicion, Robert has found himself needing to resort to flattening them. He opts for one of two options, depending on the type of shirt he is wearing. If he can get away with it, a sport bra does the job. When he needs to smooth out his chest the most possible, he binds his breasts, which is the same procedure for genetic females who transition to male.

The goal for many genetic females who transition is to have top surgery, that is, to have their breasts surgically removed. If HRT proves to work for Robert over the long term, he could find himself opting for top surgery.

This begs the question. Will HRT provide the type of relief for Robert, over the long term? Even more, can HRT do this? Does it have this ability?

How much of Robert’s situation is hormonal/physical, and how much is emotional/mental? Is sheer determination on his part a factor—perhaps even the ultimate factor—in his succeeding?

Besides the desire to physical transition from male to female, one of the hopes for taking HRT is that it will calm one’s brain. The person with gender dysphoria experiences fierce mental fighting—I always say that my brain was on fire—and if one does much reading, one learns that trans women report that HRT calmed their dysphoria, causing them to (finally) feel right about themselves.

I reached this point, but before I settled into it I experienced a calm so great that I had no interest in being a female. For the first time in my life, all feminine desire was gone.

My doctor told me to give it eight weeks before I began to feel the effects of HRT. At seven weeks, I did, with the first sign of tender breasts. At eight weeks, the calm arrived. By the third day of it, I wondered what was going on.

I found myself with no interest in being a female. I was dumbfounded. It was so extraordinary, I waited another day to tell Julie what had been happening that week.

Telling her the next day, we both wondered if HRT had gotten my sex hormones to levels which were in proper balance for my endocrine system. It really made sense to us. It’s essentially what Robert set out to do, and he even reported to me, the last time we chatted, that he found that to have his testosterone too low—where a female’s would be—did not feel good for him, so he eased back on the blocking medication, allowing his testosterone to rise but still be significantly under what it had been before he began HRT.

When I experienced the profound calm, I began researching it online. Sadly, I could find no reports of a man’s using HRT to produce the effect where he felt right as a male. Next, I reported it to my therapist. He’d never heard of it. He checked with other therapists, who work with trans folks. None of them had heard of it. Finally, I asked my doctor. He had never heard of it. He did, however, say that if I liked how I felt we could work to keep my dosage where I would feel good.

That sounded great to me.

That didn’t work.

After six weeks, I crashed. Adjusting my meds made no difference.

I went through the experience two more times. I quit HRT, not wanting the physical effects of it and determined not to transition. After several weeks, when my hormones reverted to pre-HRT levels, my brain once again caught fire. I restarted HRT and, in about a month, I experienced the same calm which had me feeling like a guy, with no desire to be a female.

Each time, I didn’t want to stay on HRT, so I quit taking it. Each time, after awhile I crashed.

Retiring from the ministry and moving to Indianapolis, I found an endocrinologist. I explained to my new doctor my history with HRT. As with the others, she had never heard such a story, and she has had loads of trans patients. I asked whether she thought HRT could be used to keep a guy feeling like a male. She was veritably blunt in her reply. “No,” she said without hesitation. “I don’t.”

Still, I restarted HRT and hoped for the calm. Sure enough, it arrived . . . and remained for exactly one day. From there, for weeks, I was in and out, until I finally settled into feeling female and, in the summer of 2015, undertaking living full time as a woman.

My Indianapolis therapist thought that my determination to remain male had worked with the HRT to provide those periods of calm, of feeling good as a male.  Determination, however, was not enough to uphold me. It would be like telling a person with cancer to convince himself that his tumor no longer growing and cause it to cease.

I hope Robert continues to have success. I hope others hear of him and decide to undergo HRT for the purpose of remaining in their birth sex, if that is what they want and find that they need.  I hope doctors would do more research into this, that it might be an effective therapy for all with gender dysphoria who prefer not to transition.

As Robert keeps me updated, I will report on his progress. Later this month, he passes the one year mark of being on HRT. So far, he’s doing well. Indeed, he is doing better than I thought he would be able to do.  Maybe, just maybe, he’s onto something good.

One month post-op; the hellish parts

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Now I know why this sign was posted at the door of my hospital room!

May 11 means that I am one month post-op from my sex reassignment surgery (SRS). I am pleased to report that, at my second post-op appointment last week, Dr. Gallagher pronounced me to be healing nicely, with everything in order.

I am thankful for that! Yet, even as things are progressing as they should, and I am slowly and gradually feeling better, there are a few areas which have been tremendously challenging. I share these for two reasons, both in my ongoing desire to educate about that with which we transgender folks have to grapple and because I am getting feedback from trans women who have either also had SRS or, especially, those who are contemplating it or have it in their near future.

From least to worst, here are three areas which have plagued me.

The nerve!

To perform SRS, the surgeon has the patient’s feet in stirrups. While the stirrups are padded, and the surgery team keeps close watch over every inch of the patient, that the surgery takes at least six hours creates a troubling situation for the feet.

I awoke from surgery, immediately noting the tremendous pain in my left heel. The next day, Wednesday, the pain eased. On Thursday, I was out of bed and walking—and noticing that my left foot was almost entirely numb, with the numbness climbing my leg halfway to my knee. My right foot and leg were okay.

Touching my foot, I found it tremendously sensitive. Speaking with Dr. Gallagher about it, she explained that the condition—neuropathy—is a sometimes unhappy result of the feet so long in the stirrups. She said it almost always resolves itself in several weeks, with no treatment. If needed, there is a drug to help it, but the drug causes extreme drowsiness. I have opted, so far, to forego the drug.

Here’s the tough part. The nerves are waking up—yay!—but, where the problem is centered at the top of my foot I am being jabbed with intense pain. Not all the time, mind you. It comes and goes. But, when it comes, wow, it has at times been so severe that it has left me in tears.

It appears I am through the worst of that. The past few days, the jabs have been fewer and not so intense. At the touch, my leg and instep now have feeling. The neuropathy has not impeded me—it has not stopped me from my walking!—but, all should be aware that this is a real, ornery complication of SRS.

Take that! And that!

Not surprisingly, my entire bottom was numb after surgery. And swelled. Oh, boy, was I swelled. And I still am. As Dr. G said last week, the swelling has come down a lot, but it still has a ways to go.

I suspect that you can easily picture two rows of stitches running down either side of my urethra and neo vagina, a few inches long. At the bottom of them, the nerves have been playing a game of “I can jab you worse than your foot could ever do it!”

Before seeing Dr. G last week, I researched this to be sure it was typical. Yup. Totally. Dr. G confirmed it. Well, kids, typical does not lessen the pain. And, oh me oh my, but when I had the worst of these jabs they accompanied the ones in my foot . . . the evening of my birthday.

Happy—JAB—birthday—STAB—Gina—ELECTRIC JOLT.

Blow out your cake’s candles if you can catch your breath!

With each stab, my body shook. With the worst jabs, I cried out in pain.

Then I was bawling.

I got up and walked around, trying anything to ease the pain and distract my mind.  Poor Julie was so concerned, longing to help. We rode it out. Finally, both areas eased up by the time I wanted to go to sleep. That was eleven days ago. Almost every day, I notice that the jabs are less stabby, and the stabs are less jabby, and I am hopeful that this phase will soon be completed.

My song is out of hormone-y

My poor body has gone through way more than ever in its sixty years. Starting hormone replacement therapy (HRT) nearly four years ago, I sought to bring my brain and body into harmony. As my testosterone lowered and my estrogen increased, the gender dysphoria-induced fire in my brain was largely doused. I just plain felt better.

I had my share of ups and downs, and keeping my hormones at good levels proved a challenge until about a year ago. Then, in a bit of news that almost made me want to halt having SRS, I was told that I had to stop taking my HRT a month before surgery. Why? Estrogen makes one prone to blood clots, and surgery in one’s mid-section does the same. To go off HRT would drop my estrogen to a safer level, but it also would allow my testosterone to return to that of a male.

I truly thought I would suffer a meltdown in the final days before surgery, as I would be fighting off the discord that had made me suicidal in 2013. That no meltdown arose was nothing short of amazing. Yes, a week-and-a-half before surgery I felt my hormones shift, even experiencing testosterone’s physical affects, but I remained at peace with myself.

On April 11, I faced the greatest shift of my life in my hormone production. My testosterone factory was about to be dismantled.

The testicles are the main testosterone producers, yet both sexes make a bit of the male sex hormone in the adrenal glands (that’s why genetic females also have a small amount of testosterone). By late afternoon on April 11, my testicles were gone. My predominant testosterone production immediately and abruptly ceased.

A few trans women, who have had the surgery, warned me that I might experience any number of emotions because of this. I’ll say.

It took a week, and then it hit me. It nailed me, well, like those jabs and stabs in my foot and mid-section.

I found myself feeling completely asexual. Neither female nor male. The sexual equivalent of eating food but unable to taste it.

My outlook on life turned bland.

I tried thinking about dressing nicely, in a skirt and heels. No reaction. I thought about dressing in a guy’s tie and sport coat. No reaction.

I thought about some shirts and jeans that I have, that either a gal or guy could wear. That sounded good to me.

And it scared me.

I tried to see myself detransitioning. I WANTED to see myself resuming my life as a male. And the weight of that came tumbling down upon me like that rock that Sisyphus never could get over the top.

I have cried many times in these days.

Despite this, I have not regretted having had SRS. Even more, I continue to feel strongly that I needed it. My body feels correct. It looks right to me.

I have had to talk with myself in a logical manner, just as with the jabs and stabs, that I am far from healed, but I am healing. My hormones will get back into order. I have every reason to believe that when they do I will feel as good as I did before my pre-surgery stopping of HRT.  Indeed, I have sensed things easing this week.

This situation, as when my son died and my wife divorced me, are important teachers that one shall never say, “I know what you’re going through.” Even if you buried a loved one or lost a marriage, and even if you had the same surgery, your experience is your experience, and mine is mine, and the acts of observing others or having them explain how hard something is does not begin to approach the experiencing of it.  Respect others for their burdens; don’t dismiss them with comments which only serve to offend.

This has been a mighty tough period. I am tremendously happy to have one month under my belt. Each of the three troubles of which I have written are way less than they were. I can now picture the day when I am fully healed.

Thankfully, I have gotten through each day, each terrible moment, in the strength of the Lord, to whom I turn in prayer innumerable times every day.  He is always faithful to His promises to uphold me with His righteous right hand.

And, thankfully, I always have my Julie. She is my little Jesus, whose devotion toward me never ceases.

This is not a surgery through which one should try to go it alone.

My chick life II

It’s been seven months since I published “My life as a chick.”

https://eilerspizza.wordpress.com/2016/07/08/my-life-as-a-chick/

Here are five more ways my life as a female is profoundly different from my first fifty-seven years.

Wearing heals in public

One of the questions that I have gotten numerous times has been, “Do you wear high heels?” or it is put more bluntly, “You don’t wear high heels, do you?”

Um, yes, I do.

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Three pairs of my three inch heels

Three inches is the highest I go. Three inches provides what one wants from heels, the elongation of the leg, even if she doesn’t want to make herself taller. Yes, they make me 6′ 4″, but I don’t feel too tall, and Julie compensates by wearing four inch heels. You can bet that we debated my heel length in the days that I was contemplating transitioning!

I look nicer in heels than in flats. Frankly, flats make me look frumpy, while heels enhance my femininity very nicely.  So, when I dress up, heels it is.  Otherwise, in everyday dress, flats and comfort win out.

Reading your mind, no, I don’t have any trouble walking in them.

And your next query surely is what size I wear. 13.

Where do I find a size 13, you now wonder? Payless Shoes! Bless their hearts, they carry a wide selection in my size. I can order online and have a good fit with virtually every pair of shoes. Of the pairs pictured, I found the black ones in a store and got the other two online.

My new signature

I dare you to change your name, then proceed to easily sign your new name without your brain automatically going for your old one. And make it even harder on yourself by having the same initials, so that with both your first and middle names your brain is determined to keep going with the rest of the letters as it has for decades.

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I am pleased to say that by about the tenth time I had reason to sign my new name—mostly signing checks to Barb the Impaler!—I could do so successfully. In fact, I have Gina Joy down pat so that my pen glides across the paper as smoothly and quickly as Gregory John had, which was so fluid that any doctor would be pleased to claim it.

Keeping my skirt at my knee

Oh, the things one never encounters as a guy!

My favorite skirt/dress length is at the middle of my knee cap. I have a number of skirts and a couple of dresses in this length, and a couple of both that fall a bit above my knee. (I also have several skirts of midi and maxi length. I prefer the shorter ones, especially because Julie says that I have nice legs and I look good!)

But, jeepers, especially when sitting down, it is a constant to look at my skirt and if it’s ridden up at all to pull it down and get it back to my knee. Perhaps, I am more conscience of this because I’m still pretty new at wearing a skirt or dress in public. Perhaps, I will notice it less in the future. Perhaps, um, it would be a good thing for me to continue noticing!

The effects of HRT

Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) reversed the two main sex hormones in me so that my estrogen and testosterone are at levels appropriate to a female my age. The two most obvious effects of HRT are the calming of my brain and breast growth. But there is much more.

My skin is softer. It is remarkable how different the skin is of males and females. I recall when I first noticed the change on me. Was it ever wonderful! Softer skin is one of the many things which help everything match for me, getting my brain and body and life unified.

Less body hair is another. I went from having an average amount of chest hair to so little that you have to look closely to see the few areas where a bit grows. My arms also have less hair. I had been shaving them, but let the hair grow back in to see how heavy it would now be. It’s perhaps half as thick as before but still darker than I like, so I resumed shaving my arms.

But I only have to shave every two weeks, including my legs. I used to have to shave once a week. While the hair grows as quickly, because it is so much more sparse it doesn’t appear as soon, so I can get away with going two weeks between shaves.

Do I cut myself often, you ask? Hey, I’ve been doing this for a long time, kids. Rare is it that there is blood in the water to attract sharks.

There is one vividly negative effect of HRT. I cannot run as fast as I used to. This is commonly reported by trans women who are runners. Some report that they have lost upper body strength, but in that regard I feel as strong as I had.  (Stuck pickle jar caps, shudder!) When it comes to running, however, while my stamina is just fine my per-mile average is way down—so low that as I recall when President Clinton was in office, and he was shown jogging and his per-mile time was announced, and mine now is what his was, and I had scoffed at how slow he was, that, yeah, I don’t desire your snickers.

Comfort level in public

Before I transitioned, I was thankful that I am not a self-conscious person, thinking that would help a lot as undertook going out in public as a female.

I go everywhere, dressed in whatever way is appropriate to the location, and feel comfortable. Most of the time, I’m in jeans and flats, with a simple top, yet I’m still clearly dressed as a female, always adorned in necklace, painted fingernails, chick glasses, and carrying my big, bright purse. When occasions allow, I love to step it up, mostly in dressier tops and skirts, either with or without hosiery, and in heels.

I know what I look like. When I inspect myself after dressing, our full length mirror reflects an honest image. My male shape cannot be completely hidden. I know that I do not blend in as a genetic female, that, surely, folks do a double-take at the sight of me.

Despite this self-awareness, it does not faze me, and I am sure I know why.

I feel right about who I am and how I am dressed.

While I never felt wrong out in public in guy’s clothes, the act of putting them on became awful. I dreaded dressing in the morning. Often, I sat on my bed, delaying the act. I merely put up with the shirts and pants, wearing a tie, and clunky dress shoes.

Now, I like deciding what I am going to wear. It’s a joy to put on each item, so proper to my self-image are these feminine items. Seeing myself completely dressed . . . truth be told, I smile.  Wide. A lot.

So, even though I am no vision of feminine pulchritude, the matching of my inner sense with how I am dressed provides me with contentment, and with contentment comes confidence to have folks see me, and even if they “make” me not to cause me a moment’s concern.

Soon, when the hoarseness wears off from my vocal cord surgery, I will have a new voice, one which finally will match how I am dressed. I am very excited for this wonderful next step in my transition!

Surgery is a game-changer

 

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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.

“Transgender Identity—Wishing Away God’s Design,” a reply

Owen Strachan is the president of the Council on Biblical Manhood & Womanhood, a professor of theology and church history at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Boyce College, the author of Risky Gospel, and coeditor of Designed for Joy (Crossway).

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Dear Dr. Strachan~

I am writing regarding your essay, https://answersingenesis.org/family/gender/transgender-identity-wishing-away-gods-design/, which was published on the Answers in Genesis website on July 24, 2016.

I am a traditional Christian, a long-time reader who deeply appreciates AiG, a transgender person, and a former minister of eighteen years in the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS). That I am no longer in the ministry is only due to my inability to continue to serve and is not a reflection on my doctrine. I continue to espouse the doctrine as believed, taught, and confessed in the LCMS, to which I vowed on the day of my ordination, June 23, 1996.

Several concerns arose as I read your piece. I will begin at your fourth point as to how Christians should proceed. You wrote, “It will involve the recognition that sin has corrupted us in every fiber of our being (Isaiah 64:6).”

I agree with the statement. Indeed, I agree with much of your essay regarding the differences in the sexes, how God originally created us, and how the non-Christian world-view sees things, along with its rebellion against God’s Word.

Regarding our corruption, however, you did not take this far enough. You ignored that the corruption of our being includes conditions of the body, maladies of every sort, which include a variety of intersex conditions.

Because you did not include a discussion of intersex conditions, do you see them to be as real as cancerous tumors and Alzheimer’s and broken bones? Are you familiar with them, which exist in each essential aspect of our being—in our flesh, in our chromosomes, and in our hormones?

There are several intersex conditions of the genitals. At times, the male genitals are up inside the body, making it appear that mother has given birth to a female and the child is reared that way. And, at times, females are born with their genitals external and penis-looking, causing them to be identified and reared as males.

These situations might go undiagnosed until the age of puberty. Sometimes, when the individuals are young, he or she will protest being reared as the sex in which they were identified at birth. Regardless of when the intersex condition is discovered, these people had not been correctly identified at birth.

If, at any age—before the teen years, during the years of puberty, or later in life—these people find it would be better for them to outwardly change how they live—to the world, it would appear that they are transitioning from one sex to the other but, truly, they would only be “changing” to how they in fact are—would you agree or disagree with their outwardly changing? To their remaining in the wrongly identified sex? If this is a Christian person, is the answer different?

There are a number of intersex conditions of the chromosomes. In one, Swyer Syndrome, people who are externally female have XY chromosomes, instead of the appropriate XX. Sometimes, these women do not know of the condition until puberty or when desiring to get pregnant and are unable.

I have been told, especially by my former brother pastors in the LCMS, that because I am a genetic male—clearly I am; I fathered five children—it means I am a male, period. If DNA and chromosomes are the ultimate determiners of our being, would not a woman with Swyer Syndrome have to begin living as a male in order to align with God’s design?

That, of course, sounds preposterous. She has a female body and had built a life as a woman. But, this situation begs the question: Are we going to play by a consistent rule? Or, because of the fall into sin and the corruption of our being, which includes many variations of intersex conditions, can there be a consistent rule when an intersex condition exists?

This brings me to intersex conditions of the hormones or, properly speaking, the endocrine system. Where genitals can be spied with the eye, and chromosomes identified with a test, the endocrine system is more mysterious. Yes, hormone levels are easy to read from a blood test, but how the various hormones affect a person is not a black-and-white proposition.

There have been identified more than two dozen specific disorders of the endocrine system, which affect us in many and various ways. We know of chemicals, pharmaceuticals, and plasticisers which are endocrine disruptors, the culprits behind the maladies which have been identified.

That there are endocrine disruptors is undeniable. In the LCMS, and among many church bodies, that endocrine disruption can result in a true, physical intersex condition is largely denied. Since vast numbers of people with gender dysphoria do not have intersex conditions of the genitals or chromosomes, those who deny endocrine disruption as the cause of gender dysphoria have no where else to go with gender dysphoria than to label it a mental illness—one which is akin to anorexia nervosa, but not one of the many forms of depression, since anorexia has not been found to have a physical origin and many depressions have.

When a Christian lands here, transitioning will not be an acceptable course of action and, in the end, will be sinful. But, if a Christian can recognize gender dysphoria as having a root physical cause—the person whose endocrine system has been disrupted truly has a physical, male/female internal competition—then transitioning can be an acceptable remedy.

I will not make this letter so long as to be unreadable, so I will direct you to my blog for some of the many ways in which I have addressed my situation: eilerspizza.wordpress.com. For now, it is pertinent to discuss how going on hormone replacement therapy (HRT) eased my dysphoria. Because I continually worked hard not to transition, I removed myself from HRT three times. Each time, after about a month off HRT, I returned to terrible gender dysphoria. And, each time I resumed taking it, after a number of weeks my dysphoria disappeared. This, finally, allowed me to reckon that I did, in fact, have a physical malady, and I was not simply mentally ill or a despicable sinner.

Moving on, you wrote, “‘Transgender’ ideology is grounded in the idea that the body isn’t an essential part of our being (a viewpoint known as essentialism). Our ‘gender identity’ is fluid, a social construct that can change.” You are correct in that this view is widely held. You are incorrect to include all of us in espousing it. I do not. Please, do not dump all of us into the same heap.

I hold a traditional biblical world-view. I believe God created the world in six, regular-length days, that Jonah was swallowed by a fish, and every last thing I could mention which jibes with a traditional reading of Scripture.

My ultimate concern with essays such as yours is the proclamation of the Gospel. Specific to this, my concern is the proclamation of the Gospel to people like me, whether or not we transition, who confess that we are completely fallen and fractured people, and that we rely solely on the completed work of Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

If I were not a theologian, your essay—and the essays and sermons of many of my former brother pastors in the LCMS and across much of Christendom—would leave me finding that I am unsavable. Too big of a sinner. So offensive to the Lord that He would never bestow His gracious favor upon me. In need of cleaning up my act before I could have a chance with God.

Yet, Dr. Strachan, you know that every human is in the same cemetery before the Holy Spirit begins His work in us, freely giving us faith in Christ that we might be cleansed of our sins, saved from death, devil, and damnation, and enlivened with eternal life and on our way to a resurrection just as Christ was raised never to die again. I am the chief of sinners. You are the chief of sinners. Neither of us was saved by righteous acts we performed, but by God’s grace as a gift.

Regarding the resurrection, I know that I will be raised in glory as a male, finally shed of my intersex malady and of everything which now afflicts me because of the sinful nature I inherited from Adam, just as every Christian does who hates the effects of sin which plague us during this pilgrimage.

I worked so hard not to be transgender, taking advantage of deep pastoral care and therapy. Since I found that transitioning eased my dysphoria and I am successfully and happily living as a female, I am determined to glorify my Lord Jesus, shining my little light so that others might see my good deeds and praise my Father who is in heaven. If you scan the titles on my blog, you will see that I am striving to do that in my writing, just as it is my joy to do for the sake of my family and my slice of the world to be a little Christ during this pilgrimage.

I hope this proved helpful. I am always available and open to discussion.

The Lord be with you.

Gina Eilers

One more time: it’s NOT a choice

 

So many still don’t get it. They don’t hear us. I fear that they refuse to listen. They have hardened their hearts. The case is closed to them. They know nothing, but they know it all. They are experts at everything. Please, give them the task of solving world hunger, peace among the nations, and how I can take off fifty pounds and keep it off, because, clearly, there is nothing that is beyond them.

I prefer to write upbeat articles, themes to move us all forward in life, but, sadly, this piece comes from shear and utter frustration. Forgive me, but my ranties are in a bunch.

This was prompted by yet another person—in this case, a celebrity—insisting that we trans folks are making a choice by being trans. Let’s look at the facts.

Yes, I did choose several things.

  • I chose not to take my life when my daily refrain was, “You hate being a man. You can’t be a woman. Just kill yourself.”
  • I chose not to commit myself to a psych ward, because it would not cure my ails and only be a temporary escape.
  • I chose not to reject my Lord Jesus all of the times when it felt like He was asleep on the job. I chose to trust Him. I chose to follow His instruction, to ask, to seek, to knock down His door until I heard His answer.
  • I chose to keep the vow I made to my congregation and do my job, and thus also take care of my family, even fulfilling my promises on those days when the only thing I wanted to do was sit on my bed and cry.
  • And, yes, I chose to transition—or, more accurately said, I chose to try it, to see if it would help, and it is. Even when it helped, I stopped four times, so badly did I not want to hurt anyone or have anyone hate me. But, when, each time, I crashed worse than the previous time, last summer I finally learned to enjoy the peace of mind I was enjoying and reveal that I was living as Gina and planned to continue to do so.

No, I did not choose several things.

  • I did not choose to be the child who was conceived after my mother had two miscarriages, so that I was in line to have my endocrine system disrupted which left me with hormones that did not match my genetics.
  • I did not choose to have the gender identity question that I began experiencing when I was very young.
  • I did not choose for it to worsen throughout my life. Indeed, if everything that everyone wanted me to try after I went public—beg the Lord’s help more, repent of it as if it were a sin in my life, try to convince myself that I am the male that God made me to be, stop dressing in women’s clothes, concentrate on others instead of thinking about myself—which was everything I did, countless times throughout my life—if any or all of this would have been proper treatment for me, then I would have ceased to have any gender identity question decades ago.
  • I did not choose for the identity question to erupt into gender dysphoria when I hit my early fifties, which means that I finally went from simply wishing I were a female to now hating that I was a male.

I continue to make many choices.

  • I choose to live a highly ethical, moral life.
  • I choose to educate about all things transgender.
  • I choose to bring light to what it means to be a Christian, and that being transgender is no more a factor in being a Christian than being an American, or a factory worker, or a parent, or anything else.
  • I choose to take care of my family in my new role of house spouse.
  • I choose to be a friend to many trans folks from all over the country who have called on me for help—sometimes to understand themselves, sometimes for help with their families, sometimes because they too are Christians, and sometimes it is their family member who is trans, and sometimes because a person simply needs a friend who understands and on whose shoulder she or he can cry.
  • I choose to be a biblical Joseph, who declared to his brothers that the thing which they meant for harm the Lord would use to accomplish good things. This is the Lord’s Romans 8:28 promise to me, to use all things in my life for good . I choose to believe Him. I choose to glorify Him in my life.

To you, who think you know all, I beg you to show some humility.

I beg you to do the one thing that all humans desire, to be treated well and fairly and justly and with respect. For the sake of the entire human race, please do for others what you want from them.

Unless you enjoy division. Prejudice. Ignorance. Bigotry. Hatred. Walls. Walls. Walls.

If these are the things you want, go for it, but please purchase a desert island and practice your deaf-dumb-and-blind-ness there.

G to G transitioning diary

brave-blog-dear-diary

Key dates and events in my roller coaster years of going from Greg to Gina. From guy to gal. From G to G.

Pre 2013

Living as a female will never happen. My lifetime chant has been, “All I want in life is to be a woman.” It is an impossibility. I need to stop desiring this. I need to repent, pray more, try harder, be the husband and father and minister that I am.

2013

January: What is happening to me? I knew, over the past couple of years, that my gender identity problem had actually turned into this thing I never knew about before—gender dysphoria. I just plain hate myself. I can now look back over the years since I turned fifty and see how this has grown worse. I haven’t been able to look at myself in a mirror for, wow, how long? For years. I hate the man who looks back at me.

February: When I have a free evening, I need to be dressed as a female. I have never in my life had a need for this as deeply as I do now. I just chose the name, Gina, finally feeling like I have found a female name that fits me after a lifetime of trying. When I have to remove my female things, I break down, crying miserably and begging myself to let her remain.

March: Every dressing session ends with me bawling, lying on my bed and praying out loud, begging the Lord to help me. I can’t see a way out. For the first time in my life, I understand why people commit suicide. I am constantly saying, “You hate being a man. You can’t be a woman. Just kill yourself.”

March 8: I did not want to trouble Julie during income tax season because she works awfully long hours, but I finally have to come clean with how distressed I am. Her response to my finally admitting that I am desperate: “If you need to transition, we will figure it out.” Might I actually get to be a woman? I take turns being giddy and doubtful.

March 21: My first therapist appointment, a two hour drive both ways. I tell her that I need her to figure out whether I am transgender or just a crazy crossdresser. I schedule another appointment for a week from now. I will soon cancel it and never go back.

Mid April: I am a complete and utter emotional wreck. My life is constantly under stress. I cry all of the time, only gathering myself for work. Julie undertakes the finding of a therapist who might be up to snuff for what I need.

A week later: Julie found one. My first appointment proves that this therapist knows his stuff and is going to be a good fit. I tell him what I told the first therapist. Julie attends the session with me. She will attend as many sessions with me as possible, until tax season returns. The therapist is ninety miles away. We have lots of quiet time to talk.

Early June: In only my fourth session, I tell my therapist that I need to transition.

A few days later: I change my mind.

The next week: I change my mind.

The next week: I change my mind. I will live on this swivel for months.

Early June: Julie describes my life as riding a roller coaster through a hurricane.

June 24: I need to see if I can do this. I attend my therapist session as Gina. I feel comfortable going to and from the office dressed as a female.

June 30: Returning from my son’s out-of-state wedding, I tell Julie there is no way on earth I will ever be able to be around my family as a female. I am NOT transitioning. We flesh out new ideas about what I will do in retirement, which I just decided is what I’m going to have to do—I need to get out of the ministry so I can address my situation.

August 6: I inform the pastor who acts as circuit counselor for the churches in our area of my intention to retire in 2014. I do not tell him the full reason.

August 13: Wracked with guilt over withholding the entire story, I tell the pastor of my gender dysphoria and that I might need to transition. He has no knowledge of these matters but is very gracious. Over the next several months, I will tell many pastors, church leaders, my children, and some friends of my gender dysphoria and that I might be transitioning. Out of the dozens of people I will tell, precisely one will have any knowledge of these things.

September 1: I inform my congregation that I will be retiring in 2014, giving the cover story, which is true enough, that I need freedom from the grind of the ministry, especially because my kids all live so far away. The congregation is shocked and saddened. I’m sad, too. I don’t want to leave. I can’t figure out how I can stay.

September 19: I wish I would have kept track of the number of times I have changed my mind. One day, I am transitioning. A few days later, I am not. Round and round we go. I continue to have crushing meltdowns, about two a week. I need to do something concrete to try to get off this very-unmerry-go-round. I call one of the recommended doctors to get myself started on hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Perhaps, HRT will help me.

September 26: Everything is so far away. Julie and I see the doctor in metro Detroit. I pass the physical. I am given two prescriptions for HRT, one to lessen my testosterone and one to boost my estrogen.

September 27: I take HRT pills for the first time. I am very happy.

Early November: Julie and I go on the road, to tell each of the kids, in person, about my situation. No parent should ever have to tell their kids this lousy news. No children should ever have to hear this from their parent. The next two years are going to be very rough for all of us.

Late November: HRT often has a calming effect. At the eight week mark, I am so calm that I feel fine as a guy. Sadly, neither my therapist nor my doctor has ever heard of this. I can find nothing on the Internet to tell me why I no longer need to be a woman. I love the feeling, but I am totally confounded.

New Year’s Eve: I have felt wonderful for six weeks, happy to be a male for the first time in my life. I wonder if the HRT has balanced my hormones so that I finally feel right about myself, but I can find nothing to support this idea. Julie and I speak of my not retiring. We will give it another month before saying anything.

2014

New Year’s Day: Yes, it is the very next day after Julie and I have the happy discussion that maybe we won’t have to leave Port Hope. But, the moment I wake up, I know my peace is gone. I am in terrible distress. I am completely confused about everything. I fear becoming suicidal again. I will soon fear that I will literally go insane. Happy New Year . . . not.

Late January: If I don’t shape up, I am going to be shipped out of the ministry. I had to promise church officials that I will stop taking HRT and keep my mouth shut about my gender dysphoria—I long to tell my congregation what is going on with their pastor—so that I don’t create a storm. If I behave, I will be allowed to retire without trouble.

The next day: I have been so completely out of sorts, the worst ever, and getting worse since New Year’s Day, and yesterday pushed me to the brink. I am in such dire straits that I fear the day when I simply will refuse to leave my bed. I hate everything. I have no idea what I am going to do with myself.

The next day: I ask for and receive a month’s sick leave. I need to get a hold of myself.

Early March: I return to work. I announce that I am going to try everything I can so that I don’t have to retire, that I will give them the final word within a month.

End of March: I was a fool to think I could gather myself. I inform the congregation that I will have to retire. June 30 will be the day. Feeling they deserve to know more, especially after my taking a month off, I go so far as to tell them I suffer from dysphoria, which means I am completely out of sorts in my mind, my body, and my life. No one will guess that I am actually talking about gender dysphoria.

May 1: I can’t live with myself. I have HRT pills on hand. Despite my promise, I restart taking them. I fill all of my refills, just in case.

Four weeks later: I confuse my pending retirement with being on HRT for my feeling good about myself. I stop taking HRT.

June 29: My final Sunday. The congregation throws me the most wonderful retirement party. Julie gives the loveliest speech, getting a standing ovation.

July 3: We move to Indianapolis.

July 6: I crash.

Early August: I hate everything. I hate me. I hate living in Indy. I hate being retired. I miss Port Hope. I restart HRT.

Four weeks later: Same thing as in May, I should know that it is the HRT that has me feeling good but, dumb me, I use the good feeling to decide that I need to cease all thoughts of ever transitioning. I stop taking HRT.

Early September: I had already scheduled a first appointment with an electrologist, needed for having my facial hair permanently removed. I keep it, and the next week’s, then stop doing this for the next four months as I try to be a male.

October 6: Here we go again. After a nice stretch of peace, I crash.

Early November: After a month of fighting myself, I pull my female clothes out of their tubs in the basement. I feel like I’m going to fall to the floor in a puddle of nerves if I don’t put on some women’s things.

Mid-November: I go to our family deer camp back home in West Michigan. I spend a lot of time by myself in the trailer, crying.

Mid December: I start with a therapist in Indy.

Christmas Day: This going back and forth cannot continue. I decide that, on January 1, I need to try the Real Life Test, living full time as a female, to see if I can do it, to determine if it is the thing that works for me. Julie agrees: It’s time. I inform my kids and some other folks who have been in the know. No one is happy about it. I get it.

2015

January 2: As Gina, I go to Kroger all by myself, a first. Somehow, all goes well.

Mid-January: I have a bit of HRT pills left. I restart them in anticipation of my therapist soon giving me a doctor’s letter to restart officially.

Early February: Here we go again. Feeling good, I am fighting myself. I begin a period of going back and forth, Gina to Greg to Gina, sometimes flipping in the same day. My therapist says something about my struggles which finally sounds like it makes sense. Where the standard reaction of a transitioning person on HRT is, “Thank goodness I am transitioning,” when my hormones have enough HRT to be changed, the calm it brings actually gives me the power to fight harder to remain male. Earnest self-examination leads to me agree with this, that my intense desire to remain male is behind all of this, and I will see it in myself several more times over the next year.

Mid February: I have a consultation with a plastic surgeon for facial feminization surgery. Seeing the computer imaging of what I can look like pleases me very much.

Early March: I see a doctor to get new HRT prescriptions.

April 23: Returning from my therapist, I realize I’ve now been in therapy for two years and feel I’ve gotten nowhere. I just spent the hour in angry tears. I write about it and post it on Facebook.

April 29: I always knew that if I transitioned, I would not do so privately. I wanted no one to think I ran away to hide, that I was ashamed. Knowing how many people misunderstand transgender people, how many have prejudice against us, how many simply know nothing, I would make it my task to educate. I prayed for months about this and, last week, things came together to tell me it was time to go public. Today, I announce on the Internet that I suffer from gender dysphoria. I will post self-written essays, several days a week, to both my blog and Facebook.

May: We buy a house. I dub it Merrymoss, after Mary Moss who last lived in it.

June 3: We move in. I do all of the packing and loading and unloading in guy mode. Being in guy mode always makes me want to try harder to be a male. It never lasts more than several hours.

July 2: No more going back and forth. I am living as Gina 100% of the time, for good.

Mid July: I visit my son and his wife. This sets the table for his siblings. When I ask him how it is that we are having the same conversation as we’ve always had, with me dressed as a woman, he says, “You’re still the same. You are talking and acting and being your usual self. I don’t see that stuff. I see you, my dad.” Over the next months, all of my children will be able to accept my transitioning. Our relationships will be healed. I will never be any happier about anything else in my entire life.

August 19: After admitting online that I had been living full time as Gina for awhile, I change my profile from Greg to Gina, and post a female picture for the first time. The world didn’t come to an end.

Late October through early November: I print the forms for having my name changed. Family deer camp is coming up and I am no longer welcome at it. I talk with one of my brothers, who takes over a big function of mine at camp. The pressure of changing my name and the loss of the family vacation cause me to have a terrible breakdown that lasts for three days, a new record.

Mid December: The November breakdown has had me in a funk and finally I am coming out of it. I have a new resolve that I have to transition, that trying to stop, trying to go back to living as a male, is not going to happen. I will have losses, as with deer camp. I’ve had lots of losses in my life, just as everyone does. I will survive these losses.

2016

Late February: I apply for a legal name change. I have an article printed in Indianapolis Monthly magazine: “The Real Me. What it is like to be transgender.” It is well-received.

Early March: I get my therapist’s letter, endorsing me for sex reassignment surgery.

Mid March: Thirteen months after my first visit, I return to the plastic surgeon. I am now ready to apply for health insurance to cover my facial surgery.

March 25: I see a doctor for my first consultation for sex reassignment surgery. I hope to have the surgery before the end of 2016.

Mid April. To have the sex reassignment, a second therapist’s endorsement is required. I begin therapy with a new therapist. I will only need two sessions for him to confirm my first therapist’s endorsement.

May 2: After being happy to apply for my name change, I have been struggling the past two weeks.  I feel like Greg deserves better than this.  But, serious reflection tells me that every time I try to stop transitioning, I crash, and then I always return to it.  In circuit court, my name is legally changed to Gina Joy Eilers.  I am relieved to have it done, but do not experience happiness.

May 5: I get a new drivers license. Besides my new name and photo, it reads: “Sex: F.”  Now, I feel happy.  This was a bigger hurdle for me than going to court.  I leave the BMV feeling lighter than air.  I get into my car, cry, “Woo hoo!” and thrust my arms into the air.  Whew!

May 6: I receive insurance approval for my facial surgery.

May 11: I schedule my first facial surgery for June 22. I will have a second surgery later in the summer.

After I have SRS in the autumn, I will have completely transitioned.

I will be as female as I can possibly be in this life. I have no doubts about all of this. I struggle to remember what gender dysphoria was like. I feel like I’ve always been a female.