New reviews of my book

My memoir, A Roller Coaster Through a Hurricane, now has twenty-five reviews on its Amazon book page. 24 of 25 are FIVE STARS.

The more reviews I receive, the better my online metrics and the greater are my chances of my book being seen by prospective purchasers.

If you have read Roller Coaster, would you consider posting a review? Thank you! Some have not wanted to post their name and were able to select a username. So, know that, if you desire, you are able to protect your privacy.

The two new reviews are from Christians, whose reviews are of high value. Because I am a Christian, I could not help but write of the many ways church and faith have played a huge role, yet …

I did not write a “Christian book,” but worked to demonstrate that my story can, and does, happen to anyone, of any walk of life. I am pleased that my readers and reviewers have come from every walk of life.

In the first of the latest reviews, note what I’ve underlined.

Here’s the full review:

As a general rule, pastors don’t know a lot about transgenderism and, when they do find out a congregational or family members is transgender, they are focused on “what do I tell this person?” This is an important book for the insight it gives into a person’s life and the years and decades he felt conflict within himself. Any pastor who encounters a transgender person should say “let me look into that” and then READ THIS BOOK before going any further. It will save a lot of heartache caused by pastors jumping in and trying to give advice about something they know little about. A must for every pastor’s library.

In the most recent review, note what I’ve underlined. (LCMS is the church body in which I was a minister.) This person informed me of having purchased copies for four professionals in both ministry and mental health care.

Here’s the full review:

As an LCMS member and mental health professional, I highly recommend this book. Greg has certainly had quite a journey, and it is very informative to those who want to understand more about what it means to live with Gender Dysphoria. I hope the day comes where our understanding of causes and best treatments are clearer. One aspect of the book that I greatly appreciate is how throughout Greg’s struggles and suffering, he never loses sight of his faith in Christ and that perfect healing comes from Him. I also greatly appreciate in this time of inflexibility where people with differing views struggle mightily to listen to each other, Greg and Julie have both consistently modeled the patience, grace, and compassion that we all should strive for as Christians. I am looking forward to reading his next book. Soli Deo Gloria.

The “next book” to which the reviewer refers is my upcoming book, Ministering to Transgender Christians, which is intended primarily for pastors.

To see all twenty-five reviews, and to purchase Roller Coaster, click here:

Pray The Gay Away

What do the following have in common?
• 1982
• Lutherans—specifically, Missouri Synod Lutherans
• Gay conversion therapy
• Comedy
• Music

The commonality for these five items is the new musical comedy, “Pray the Gay Away,” which premieres in Mount Vernon, Washington, on November 8.

Check out the Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/ptgashow/?ref=br_tf&epa=SEARCH_BOX.

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What do the following have in common?
• “Pray the Gay Away”
• Its author, Conrad Askland
• Yours truly

Last July, I received a Facebook message from Conrad. He had found my blog as he was doing research for his play. Because I had been a minister in the Missouri Synod, and also had been transgender, he hoped I could provide assistance in accurately portraying the Missouri Synod and its pastors. I eagerly replied and, the very next day, we enjoyed a long phone chat.

We hit it off. Conrad is a friendly dude, with a good sense of humor.

I wondered what prompted him to write a musical comedy play about gay conversion therapy and set it in the early 1980s in the Missouri Synod (LCMS)? While he did not grow up LCMS, he had experience in the Lutheran faith. He went for the early ‘80s for a number of reasons, such as its being right before AIDS became widely known and attitudes toward same sex relations had not developed to where they are today.

As for the LCMS, they provided a good church setting because the LCMS has remained where it was in the 1980s. In the LCMS, theology is akin to math facts; where 2 + 2 always equals 4, theology is factual and does not change. Thus, if a theological doctrine were true in 1982, it remains true in 2019.

Regarding gay conversion therapy, this is the practice—which has now been widely rejected, even seen as harmful for those subjected to it—by which those with same sex attraction are immersed in “right thinking.” To wit, God made males for females, and females for males, and if you just accept that, and dig it deeply enough into your mind, and pray long and hard enough, you can change your sexual orientation.

It’s also been used for those with gender dysphoria. Indeed, two pastors used it with me (while never specifying that’s what they were using, perhaps not even aware it’s what they were doing), in the months before I transitioned. “Greg, you’re a male.” “You fathered children.” “Remember your baptismal identity.” I replied that I didn’t question any of that, and chanting these things didn’t help because my problem wasn’t with how I was thinking. Since they had no other way to help me, they simply repeated their mantra.

Thus the title of Conrad’s play, taken from the well-worn joke: pray the gay away. Just pray, and seek God, and think right, and you can get rid of these feelings.

Back to Conrad. Over these months, he emailed me a number of times. He began by sending the pastor’s lines. I was able to help him polish them for accuracy. Over the months, for anything of which he was not sure he popped me the question.

Conrad scoured the LCMS in search of properly understanding what it continues to believe about same sex attraction and every associated bit of theology and practice. While I’ve not seen the play or read the entire script, I am confident he has gotten it right.

He recently contacted me, wanting to connect his cast members on a Skype call. You know I jumped on that!

We talked for an hour. They asked me loads of questions, mostly about Lutheran attitudes. We laughed at many of the LCMS’s foibles, while I also explained why Lutherans stand up for what they believe.

Among those I met were the man who plays the pastor, the woman who plays the mother of a gay son who took his life, and “Martin Luther.” Most impressive was the young man who plays the boy who is the focus of having his gay prayed away. (In the photo at the top of this page, that’s him.) After we talked for five minutes, I asked his age. “I’m fifteen.” And a very impressive fifteen he is.

Conrad didn’t set his sights unreasonably high for how his play would be received. Thus, when he learned that opening night has been sold out, he was elated. He now reports the entire three-weekend run might see the house full each for each performance.

I have only one regret about the play. I’m in Indiana and Conrad is in Washington. I am eagerly watching from here, to see the reviews come in.

Playing it for laughs and setting it a generation ago, Conrad was able to tackle a ticklish topic in a way so as to be palatable. With Conrad and cast, I hope he achieves what surely are Conrad’s twin goals: to entertain and to educate.

2018: Goodbye, Gina; hello, Greg

As 2018 opened, I was settling into my new, finally completed self. In 2017, I had every transition surgery so that my body would be aligned with my brain, and that they would confirm my legal name, Gina Joy.

As 2018 closes, I am printing the same forms I filled out three years ago, for the purpose of getting my name changed back to Gregory John.

I contemplate how this might proceed in court. When I did it the first time, I had lots of info from other trans folks on how the process goes. Going to court on May 2 2015 I was properly equipped, including having a letter from my doctor verifying my transition.

I won’t have a doctor’s letter this time—at least, I don’t think I will. If the judge hesitates at approving my petition, it seems to me enough that I can say, “Look at me, your honor. Do you see a man or a woman? This is how I live. Do you need a doctor to tell you what your eyes confirm?”

While I am anxious to get my credit cards back to reading as Greg, there is one positive about having a drivers license for Gina, a female: I am one very careful driver, not wanting to get pulled over by the police. “Well, you see, officer, here’s the deal . . .”

Hopefully, by springtime I’ll have my court-approved name change. Then, I can do what I did three years ago—or rather undo all of it—and once again be Greg everywhere my name appears.

I’m still a numbskull

When I had facial feminization surgery in November 2017, I was told that the worst numbness would ease in a few weeks, and the rest would resolve in six to twelve months.

The numbness was bad. It was everywhere, from the top of my head, down my forehead to my eyebrows, along the sides of my face, around my lips, and across my neck.

Though I have seventy percent of my facial hair removed via electrolysis, I still need to shave every few days. My numb face made shaving a miserably uncomfortable chore. In three weeks, enough sensation returned to make shaving easier, but I am not back to full feeling. My neck still is perhaps ten percent numb, while the sides of my face are probably twenty percent numb.

Thankfully, numbness is not the equivalent of pain. Feeling across the top of my skull has barely returned. It’s perhaps fifty percent better than right after surgery. My forehead is barely better than that. It feels tight, which I especially feel when I raise my eyebrows.

Tightness is the bugaboo with my lips. They are the only area that truly annoys me. Most of the time, I can feel the outline of my lips, which were stitched all the way around. It doesn’t hurt. It’s just there, an almost constant sensation of tight, taut tension.

Because I have passed the one year mark since surgery, I fear that I’m done healing, that I will be living with this numbness and tightness for the rest of my days. Rats. Thankfully, it’s not painful. Thankfully, it’s mostly an annoyance—as are my too-large breasts, which gotta go.

Friends gained . . .

We have lived in Merrymoss, the house we bought in 2015, for 3½ years. In 2018, I met more neighbors than any previous year. And it was way easier to do so.

I hesitated to meet neighbors as Gina. I encounter folks when jogging, walking by their house, or when I’m working in my front yard garden. Dressed for running and yard work, I looked like a guy. I never came up with a smooth way to introduce myself as Gina.

Oh, I did it. I said something like, “Hi, I’m Gina. I know, I don’t look like a Gina. Here’s the thing: I’m transgender . . .” The conversation always felt clunky. Uncomfortable. Way too much for a casual introduction.

But, this year? I gladly introduced myself! And it seemed that as yet unmet neighbors came out of the woodwork and into my path. I love being able to say, “Hi, my name’s Greg. I’m the guy with the front yard garden.”

One man, whom I already knew, truly became a friend in 2018. Mac lives across the street. He’s married to Alice. They are a bit older than me. Mac’s lived in this house for decades, but he and Alice married only two months before we moved into Merrymoss.

I can’t say that Mac is more comfortable with me as Greg—he and I always waved and had done plenty of brief chatting—but this year we found ourselves having longer conversations. On Labor Day, I knew I was truly in with him when he was with another man, who was getting into his car to leave. I was in the garden. Mac hollered for me. Arriving in Mac’s driveway, he said, “I want you to meet my brother.” We gabbed for ten minutes. Walking home, I beamed.

The most profound meeting of 2018 came late in the year. A man contacted me, who is battling gender dysphoria. He’s a young guy, married, children, and a Christian in my former church body, the LCMS. He is a good example of someone who, if he were to transition to female, would freak out a lot of people.

While he’s not a pastor, much of our lives match up. We have found in each other a natural kinship. We’ve talked several times, always long, emotion-filled conversations. He is hurting badly, aching to be female, striving to live as a male, having a difficult time seeing himself long term as a guy. Right where I was in 2013, when I was trying to figure out how I was going to survive.

I ache for him. I commiserate with him. More than anything, I make sure to end every phone call with the assurance that the Lord Jesus loves him with all His heart. Always.

. . . and lost

In 2015, when I announced online that I suffered gender dysphoria, even though I was striving to remain male some friends and fellow Christians unfriended me on Facebook, without saying a word. One of them was one of my oldest, closest friends. Man, that hurt.

That August, when I revealed that I was living as a female to see if it helped me, I lost even more. Only two people let me know they were unfriending me, because I was an offense to them.

In 2018, resuming living as a male, what should I have looked for in the friend/unfriend venue?

I am pleased to report that a nice number of folks have friended me, including some which I would not have expected when I was online as Gina.

I am sad to report that several transgender folks have unfriended me. And not one of them told me why. I’ve had to discover it when wondering why I had not seen them for awhile.

They just left.

Why?

Did I offend them by detransitioning?

A common theme among trans folks, as it long has been with gays and lesbians, is to be accepted. “Acceptance! Tolerance!” is the cry across the globe. At many a meeting of the local trans group, one hears a newcomer declare, “You people understand me. I love you because you are totally accepting.”

Accepting . . . except when they are not.

I learned long ago there is no group of people in which the persons of that group—be it a religion, a political persuasion, a nationality, you name it—are one hundred percent like-minded.

When I transitioned, I could not be the online friend of some because I was transgender. Having detransitioned, I can’t be the online friend with some because I am no longer transgender.

From trans persons, who long to be accepted—who harshly criticize those who do not accept them—I am especially hurt for their rejecting me. I am sad they felt they no longer could be connected to me.

I bet, if the roles were reversed, they would long to continue to be accepted.

Publish it!

I’ve been writing my life story for five years. In 2018, completing it has been my biggest project. I finished the first draft in September. Since then, it’s been edit, edit, edit.

As the year ends, Julie is busy reading it, providing me important improvements. Most don’t know that Julie holds her bachelor’s degree in journalism, wrote for newspapers for a number of years, and is an excellent writer. Her expert eye on my text is giving it real polish.

I asked my son, Alex, to create a cover. He took my ideas and wowed me. I presented it on Facebook, seeking feedback. Many folks provided excellent insights. Julie, Alex, and I discussed them and implemented a few of them. We’ve arrived at the final cover.

Here the cover. Below it is the original version. Look for the book to be published soon!

Robert had a double mastectomy

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He didn’t have cancer. Or any other health issue. The breast tissue was healthy. But it had to go.

It was too much for Robert (not his real name) to succeed at living as a male, to have these now too large breasts, which, ironically, grew so large because he was doing everything he could do to remain a male.

I wrote about Robert in Using HRT to remain male.

In 2016, Robert contacted me, having found my blog. He suffered gender dysphoria. Married, with young children, and a Christian of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod  (my former church body), he found that he simply could not transition to female.

He called this desire to be a female “the alluring call of femininity.” Down deep, he wanted to answer the call. But, he knew, as with the siren song of Greek mythology, answering the call would only dash his entire life upon the rocks of being transgender—the rocks upon which so many trans folks have been unfairly crushed.

He had learned of a man, who had gone on hormone replacement therapy (HRT), which people take for the purpose of transitioning, but this man was using it to alter his hormone levels so as to remove, or at least lessen, his gender dysphoria. It was working for the man, so Robert went on HRT.

The idea is that hormone levels, which are typical for a male, are out of whack for some men. So, perhaps, if a guy doesn’t have so much testosterone coursing through his body, and, perhaps, a bit more estrogen, he would feel better. I call it “the sweet spot.”

I liken this to a person who suffers depression, who never experiences total relief while on depression medication. There is fluctuation. Good days and rough days. The need to change dosage. Riding it out. It can be hard to find the sweet spot. It can be hard to remain in the sweet spot.

Robert texts me every few months. This is what he has described, in and out of the sweet spot But, he continually informs me, he’s succeeding in silencing the alluring call of femininity.

Of course, he knew his breasts were going to grow. The other effects of lowering his testosterone and raising his estrogen—softer skin, some fat deposits shifting, body hair becoming more sparse (it’s different for everyone; as the saying goes: your mileage may vary)—likely would never be noticed. But, growing breasts? Those are hard to hide. Of this, I know.

As trans men do, who have not had top surgery, he bound his chest. This works to hide the breasts, but it is tremendously uncomfortable, and even dangerous if the breasts are bound too tightly, and for too long. Robert reported that at times he almost couldn’t breathe. And, of course, the larger the breasts grow, the tighter the binding needs to be.

For Robert, it had to stop. He talked to his doctor about having his breasts removed.

Softly, the sirens sang. They called to Robert, “If you have your breasts removed, it will be that much harder to transition should you ever decide to.” This is my translation of how Robert put it, that there was this little part of him which was mourning the thought of surgically removing his breasts.

He moved forward. He set the date. Two weeks ago, he had a double mastectomy.

Last week, he told me that he is healing well. The surgeon is pleased with the outcome. Robert would be back to work by the time I posted this.

As one who longs to have his breasts removed (this post isn’t about me, so more on that another time), I can easily imagine that Robert now dresses for work and moves about in the world with renewed ease. No more painful binding. No more wondering if people are noticing his chest. Looking like the regular guy he longs to be.

The Lord be with you, my friend, that you are able to continue, to be strong, to steer clear of the rocks on which the sirens would dash you.

For those who are able to transition and it works for them—which means it also works for their family, and for every situation it affects—I am pleased with them, that they have found health and wholeness. For those who do not want to transition or feel they cannot, I am pleased with them when, as with Robert, they can find a way to health and wholeness in their birth sex.

Thank you, Robert, for sharing your story with me, that I might share it with others, that others might be served in their battle with this cursed gender dysphoria.

Let’s suppose it is a mental illness

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Dear fellow Christians: If you believe gender dysphoria is a mental illness, why do you treat transgender persons so terribly? How do you treat those who suffer any of the many other mental illnesses?

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Because I am transgender, my former church body, the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS), is keeping me from being a member of one of its congregations. I believe there are numerous church bodies, which have the same attitude toward transgender persons, because they are like the LCMS in its biblically-traditional doctrine and conservative practice.

My experience informs me that the majority of these types of Christians hold that gender dysphoria, which leads to one’s identifying as transgender, is a mental illness. I have argued against this, finding evidence for gender identity issues arising from a physical condition. Certainly, one’s mental state is affected, but I cringe at this term—mental illness—because, I have observed, it is not respected. In other words, if a person has cancer, his illness is respected—it’s real, it can be touched, surgery can be done on it—but mental illnesses are not so easily located, often are perceived as personality-driven, and thus are not viewed with the level of seriousness as cancer. One hears, “Oh, he’s mentally ill,” the words perhaps dripping with contempt.

Since I have left many unconvinced that gender dysphoria arises from a condition which is just as physically real as cancer, I will now take up the position of the traditional Christian, that gender dysphoria is a mental illness, that I might help my fellow Christians see how they are improperly treating their transgender brothers and sisters in Christ.

First, a look at some common mental disorders. I bet you are aware of all of these:

  • anxiety
  • eating
  • mood
  • obsessive-compulsive
  • psychotic
  • post-traumatic stress
  • sex

Each disorder has one or more specific conditions associated with it. For example, under eating disorders are listed bulimia and anorexia nervosa. At least one medical website places gender dysphoria under the various sex disorders.

Preparing to write this essay, I read over many of the specific ailments which fall under the general headings. I have found that I could use any of them for my point of comparison. I have chosen to begin with anorexia nervosa because, four years ago, a pastor, whom I told that I might transition, used it in his rebuttal to me.

Believing my gender dysphoria to be a mental illness, and finding that it is sinful for a Christian to transition, he said, “You wouldn’t tell a person with anorexia not to eat, to give in to that desire.”

Of course, no one would encourage the anorexic not to eat. I can’t imagine anyone saying, “Let her be. If she doesn’t want to eat, that’s her business.” No, starving yourself  is an awful thing.

The pastor made his point. I had no comeback. We both thought he had won the argument.

I would now reply to him, thus:

“No, I would not encourage the anorexic not to eat. However, if I were this person’s pastor, and she would not eat, I wouldn’t kick her out of my church. Just the opposite, I would show the deepest compassion. I would encourage and love and do everything in my power, and give Holy Communion—even if it had to be the tiniest sliver of a wafer soaked in a single drop of wine—to provide her with the love of our Lord Jesus. What I would NOT do is shun this child of God, or kick her out of the congregation. I would not make fun, or hold in contempt, or ostracize this Christian, which is what pastors and Christians are doing with their transgender sisters and brothers.”

There it is. It seems to me that my fellow, traditional Christians want it both ways—they want to call gender dysphoria a mental illness, but they want to treat it as if it were nothing more than a sinful desire, nothing different from a person’s bad habit of misusing the Lord’s name. (Funny, I know a lot of Christians who have spent their entire adult lives misusing the Lord’s name, but I can’t think of a one who has been kicked out of a congregation for it.)

I will now make this mental illness argument harder for myself to argue. It seemed impossible when another pastor, who found transitioning an unacceptable way to treat gender dysphoria, said to me, “If a person were a kleptomaniac, you would not prescribe stealing as the cure.” He’s right; I certainly would not prescribe it. However, if he continued to steal and I were his pastor, what would factor into my decision as to how to deal with him? If he told me that he could do whatever he pleased, I would find his position unacceptable. I would tell him that his attitude is sinful. But if he said, “I hate that I do this. The talk therapy helps sometimes, and other times I’m just so weak that I can’t stop myself,” I would show him compassion and have mercy on him.

Every pastor, with whom I have talked, I have told that I hated to transition, that I found it a terrible “cure” for gender dysphoria. If I have missed anyone, I say it again:

I. Hate. This.

As I have gotten to know other LCMS Christians who are in my same spot—some have transitioned, some have family members who are doing so, and some are fighting not to—every one of them has my attitude. They do not embrace this. They do not say that being transgender is normal. They hate being plagued with this awful thing.

Even after transitioning, I continue to hate this—and I am using “hate” in the biblical sense, “to consider evil.” I find gender dysphoria and one’s transitioning among the evils meted upon we human beings because of the Original Sin we inherit from Adam, through our parents. Just as anorexia and cancer are evil things and come to us because of Original Sin, so does gender dysphoria.

I am not happy to be transgender. I do not embrace it. I do not say that I can do as I please.

I will now provide a third, more challenging argument. Body Integrity Identity Disorder (BIID) describes the malady where a person has a compelling desire to have a limb amputated—often, a leg—or wishes he here blind or deaf. The person suffering with BIID feels, for example, that the leg in question is foreign to his body; it needs to go.

Thankfully, BIID is a rare condition, but for even one person to experience it is one too many. If I were this person’s pastor, my compassion for him would overflow. Now, let’s say, despite my pastoral care and encouragement that he work hard at talk therapy, he proceeds to have a leg amputated? How shall I minister to him? Should I inform him, in no uncertain terms, that he has sinned, and that he cannot come to church now because the sight of him would offend the members of the congregation?

You know how I would minister—exactly as in the two previous examples.

It was important that I work toward BIID because there are those who argue that a gender dysphoric male’s desire for sex reassignment, and the gender dysphoric female’s wish to have a double mastectomy, are cases of BIID. (In reply, I point out that the desire is not only for this procedure, but one’s entire life to be corrected. In other words, it is not the desire to have something removed, but the desire for that area of the body to be correct according to the feminine or masculine nature of the person’s gender.)

Whether anorexic, or a kleptomaniac, or with BIID—I could keep naming mental illnesses—I cannot imagine a pastor would treat his member as the gender dysphoric and transgender Christian is being treated.

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Three years ago, on April 29, 2015, I went public with my gender dysphoria. At the time, I was fighting to remain male. I had the love and compassion of one hundred percent of those who responded to my post.

Four months later, I revealed that I was attempting transitioning, so that I might find some healing, to try to remove the thoughts of suicide and fears of insanity. Immediately, many had contempt for me. I was accused of being a sinner. Some longtime friends either chastised me or simply walked away without a word.

Since then, matters only grew worse with my fellow, traditional Christians.

Most of them would say my gender dysphoria is a mental illness.

If it is a mental illness with which I have to be plagued, I wish it were a different one.  Maybe then, I would not be hated by so many of my Christian brothers and sisters.

The LCMS and transgender acceptance

I selected what I find is the worst possible word for the title because for many LCMS Christians “acceptance” evokes this reaction: “I will never accept transgender people as God-fearing Christians.”

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My chief complaint with the LCMS is that, overall as a synod, gender dysphoria has been judged as either a mental illness or a sinful proclivity, and transitioning a sinful response to it. While there are pastors and lay folks who are open to learning, even to recognizing gender dysphoria as arising from a real, physical condition, and transitioning as a medically viable option, the general sense in the LCMS is that those who transition willfully sin and thus are found ineligible for membership in LCMS congregations.

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“Acceptance” is commonly heard from LGBTQ folks and their allies.  It is synonymous with tolerance. The sense of its usage is that one consents to, is tolerant to, whatever a person says about himself, however he lives, whatever his take is on his situation in life, and no judgment will be taken in opposition to the person’s actions.

Because LCMS Christians hold a traditional understanding of God’s Word, and with how “acceptance” is used, it is largely rejected. I am reminded of the term, “born again Christian,” which is also largely unused by LCMS Christians. The term is correct—there is no such thing as a Christian who is not “born again”—yet, because of the wrong theology attached to it by evangelicals, it is mostly unheard in the LCMS. So it goes with “acceptance” in the transgender conversation.

For many in the LCMS, acceptance with transgender issues feels like support, which feels like caving in and giving up one’s theology. My best example is when Julie and I were received into membership in a LCMS congregation in 2016. The uproar among LCMS pastors was swift and vicious, and taken right to the top of the synod.

None of these, who called for our congregation and pastors to be kicked out of the LCMS, sat in on any of the meetings I had with the pastors. They did not inquire of the pastors as to these discussions, as to my answers, as to the pastors’ stance. They simply judged each person and the situation as sinful.  I know; I read their comments on several websites.

They made assumptions about things which were in violation of the Eighth Commandment, that we shall not bear false witness against our neighbor. Martin Luther explains this command wonderfully: “We should fear and love God so that we do not tell lies about our neighbor, betray him, slander him, or hurt his reputation, but defend him, speak well of him, and explain everything in the kindest way.” The reputation of our pastors, the congregation, and Julie and I, all were hurt. From the outcry, it seemed that no one was interested in learning anything from us, but only condemning us. Few of our fellow Christians defended us, or spoke well of us, or explained anything about this situation in the kindest way.

There are many unfair assumptions about transgender persons, including:

  • their actions are sexually motivated;
  • they live a lifestyle unfit for a Christian;
  • they all are part of a movement to impose their beliefs on others.

None of these assumptions are true about me.

Speaking only for myself, yet having had other Christians express similar things about their experience,

  • I have poured out my heart to many pastors, expressing how difficult is this malady;
  • how strongly I fought it;
  • how deeply I longed to remain living as a male;
  • how the last thing I wanted was to sin against the Lord or offend my fellow Christians, yet how weak I was against my gender dysphoria;
  • how thoughts of suicide constantly visited me;
  • how I truly thought I was going to lose my mind;
  • how I struggled to live a God-pleasing life because this led me to hate everything;
  • and how I feared that I would have to go on medication which, because it would be very strong in order to address my anguish, would leave me in a stupor, which would leave me a shell of a person and unable to fulfill any of my vocations.

I have explained how my studying has led me to be all but convinced that my gender dysphoria—and, I suspect, most cases of gender dysphoria—was caused by disruption to my endocrine system when I formed in the womb, which explains why talk therapy and repentance does not address it. I have provided all of the evidence I have accumulated, to demonstrate the science of this.

While I realize that this is challenging stuff, I do not understand the replies I have received from so many. Some simply dismissed what I said. Some were highly skeptical. Some returned to the various Scriptures which they had already quoted, such as “male and female He created them,” as if there have been no maladies of our sinful nature which could attack the uniqueness of the two sexes.

I have continued to demonstrate that I hold to all LCMS doctrine, and that my desire is to love the Lord with all my heart and my neighbor as myself. Because I cannot undeniably prove anything regarding my malady—and, my experience informs me, I am up against misinformation and prejudice—I am left on the outside looking in, as are others in the LCMS who share my situation.

Instead of being helped, we are shunned.

Instead of being heard, we are ignored.

Instead of being fed with the nourishing Word and Sacraments of Jesus Christ, we are starved.

Is this how Christians are supposed to act toward their brothers and sisters in Christ?

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My experience informs me that most LCMS pastors find that gender dysphoria is a mental illness. I will now take them up on that assumption. One pastor said to me, “You wouldn’t tell a woman, who is anorexic, not to eat,” making that the correlative to my transitioning. Indeed, no one would encourage the anorexic to starve herself. However, if she were not able to conquer her malady, and she did, indeed, eat so little as to continue to worsen, even to hasten her death, no respectable pastor would kick her out of the church!

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Here is what I do NOT want from the LCMS:

  • I do not want the LCMS to accept one’s being transgender as normal, the “God made me this way” which is argued by some.
  • I do not want the LCMS to cave in to the secular LGBTQ agenda.
  • I do not want the LCMS to alter one word of its doctrine.

Here is what I DO want from the LCMS:

  • I want the LCMS to recognize that gender dysphoria is a real, physical condition, suffered by Christians just as believers are prone to experience any aspect of our fallen and fractured nature.
  • I want the LCMS to accept that it has members who strive in right doctrine, who struggle with gender dysphoria, who long to be healed, to remain in their birth sex.
  • I want the LCMS to see that it is possible for a Christian to transition, to hate that transitioning was found to be the only solution to quelling suicidal thoughts and fears of insanity.
  • I want the LCMS to acknowledge and treat us as the equals we are in the Lord’s sight, every last one of us humans a fallen and fractured person, all of us unworthy of the Lord’s grace.
  • I want the LCMS to speak and act compassionately toward we who are burdened and heavy-laden, whom the Lord Jesus encourages to come to Him for rest.

This is how acceptance looks to me. It looks like Christians commiserating with their fellow Christians. It looks like working to understand, not judging and discarding. It looks like longsuffering. It looks like compassion. It looks like 1 Corinthians 13’s definition of love.

It looks like how God the Father looks at us—at ALL of us—through the work of our Lord Jesus Christ.

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Two more rays of hope

This is another follow-up to The Lutheran Witness article which sought to answer the question, “Can people really be transgender?” Following are the links to my reaction to the article, how I responded with my letters to the magazine and to the author, and finally the first letter to the editor which took exception with the article.

https://eilerspizza.wordpress.com/2017/09/28/dear-lcms-transgender-is-not-like-making-a-chevy-into-a-ford/

https://eilerspizza.wordpress.com/2017/10/04/chevy-into-a-ford-follow-up/

https://eilerspizza.wordpress.com/2017/10/18/chevy-into-a-ford-a-ray-of-hope/

In LW’s December issue are two more letters from folks who were not pleased with the article. If the magazine has followed the typical practice, printing a representative number of letters which reflect the tone of all letters received, the readers of The Lutheran Witness found the article greatly lacking.

While I was hoping my letter would be printed, I am pleased that they published the excellent one from my friend, Norma Sander. I came to know Norma when I was a pastor, her being related to others in our congregation. After I went public regarding my being transgender, she became a grand ally. I am very thankful for her, and that she wrote to LW.

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It is with a heavy heart that I write to say how disappointed I was in the August 2017 article about transgenderism.

The whole problem is the lack of education and understanding. I wonder what kind of research the author did before espousing such simplistic views. Does he know that children from good Christian families tell their parents at a young age that they are really the opposite gender? Can he imagine the heartache and strife accompanying these feelings? Is he aware of the suicide rate among transgender people? Does he really think someone would choose to be transgender?

Please know that there are many LCMS Lutherans who know, are related to, or are friends with transgender people. These people need our prayers and support. They deserve our understanding and willingness to learn.

Amen, Norma! You touched on many vital areas concerning which all simply must be aware. As you write about Lutherans who have trans relatives, that is the perfect introduction to the other outstanding letter.

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Like Pastor Christenson’s response in October, I was dismayed with Pastor Vogt’s article about transgender people in the August LW. It’s not that I disagree that God created us male and female and we can rejoice in how He has made us. God’s original design seems clear that we are created with distinct differences in gender for both body and mind. Part of that difference is that we have an internal sense of our gender. For most of us our internal sense aligns with our physical body. When your internal sense diverges—you are transgender. The biggest problem the Christian church faces with transgender people is that we treat them as modern day lepers—spiritually unclean. Such articles don’t bring compassion and understanding about people for whom Christ died. I have a transgender child, and now many transgender friends and loved ones. They deserve to be treated with respect.

Thank you for this, dear brother in Christ! I found this thought to be especially poignant: “The biggest problem the Christian church faces with transgender people is that we treat them as modern day lepers—spiritually unclean.”

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2017 was pretty quiet for me in the pursuing of my former church body regarding its understanding of gender dysphoria and transgender folks. I was very active in 2016, and was shot down one time after another. I grew disheartened. Couple that with 2017 being my surgery year. I laid low, save for a few letters and my blog posts.

Now that I am done transitioning, and I am heartened by these letters in LW, I am ready to get back to engaging LCMS leadership.

Echoing the two letters, education where there is ignorance, understanding where there is misunderstanding, compassion where there is hardheartedness, and we-are-all-sinners where trans persons are treated like lepers, are my areas of focus.

The job to educate, and to open eyes and hearts, is huge. It is high time the job gets done—for the benefit of all, and to the glory of Jesus Christ.