What I love about Julie

December 2018, celebrating our 17th anniversary.

I’ve noticed that lately I have been pondering my Julie more than usual. I’ve noticed what so many say is true: I love her more now than when we got married.

I decided that I needed to put into words some of what causes me to love her, and for my love to have deepened. It’s important for me to fully appreciate who she is, and who she is for me.

And I want the world to know. I hope her qualities impress others so that they imitate them.

Julie is kind to everyone

This comes first, because I find when a person is kind it allows others to see everything else about that person, but when a person is not kind others can’t get past it to see other good things. Julie is completely and constantly kind.

Julie is humble

I’ve never heard her brag. Not once. Her work speaks for itself. Her life speaks for itself. When she talks about herself, or something she has accomplished, she does so in a matter-of-fact way, never to feed her ego or make herself look better than someone else.

She can show some sass when it’s called for.

Julie is smart and wise

I’ve often said that she’s the smartest person I’ve ever known. Smarts aside, that she’s also wise is what makes the difference. She uses her smarts in ways that benefit everyone in her life.

Julie is a hard worker

I can’t think of a single time when she was lazy. She rests and relaxes—which is wise to do—but never to excess. She always has a list of things to be accomplishing, and she’s always working on the list.

Julie is a team player

Since we’ve been married, Julie has worked four places. In each place, without hesitation she’s learned everything about each job, each place, and used her knowledge to improve things and to help her coworkers. Where there is a need, she learns new things so that a job can be done.

Circa 2004. My kids became our kids because of Julie.

Julie doesn’t gossip or run down people

When Julie talks about others, she’s either sharing something important or interesting, or seeking to help or improve a situation, and always from a positive perspective toward those about whom she is speaking.

Julie has a can-do spirit

Julie lets nothing defeat her. Before calling a plumber or taking a car to a mechanic, she investigates the situation, often figuring out the problem, and frequently fixing it on her own. That spirit is seen in her in every aspect of her life.

She loves being behind the wheel of a tractor.

Julie is patient

I experienced this one the most beginning in 2013 when gender dysphoria crushed me, and all the years since because of the roller coaster my life has been. Rather than push and prod and pester, Julie has hung in there with me.

Julie is reliable

If you are expecting her, she’s there. When you need her, she’s there. And she will be pleasant, and kind, and friendly, and helpful. Reliable. Faithful. Constant.

Us, in 2002.

Julie is thoughtful

It’s never a surprise when the answer to my question, “Honey, what’s that for?” is, “It’s for so-and-so, because …” and it’s because she learned the person liked this thing, or it’s a coworker’s birthday, or she knew one of the grandkids would enjoy it, or because I had mentioned my need or desire for it, or …

Julie is selfless

After ten items on this list, selfless naturally follows. Self-centered people neither possess nor display more than a few of the ten.

Julie is fun and funny

Julie laughs easily and is not afraid to laugh loudly. And crack a joke? She can do it with the best. She’s not afraid to get down on the floor and play with the grandkids, or go you-name-the-place for a good time, or dance herself weary at a wedding reception or in our living room.

A few years ago. Holding granddaughter Maggie, with granddaughter Margot looking on. Who’s having the most fun?

Julie has helped me become a better person

Julie has not shied from showing me where I could have expressed something more helpfully, or handled a situation in a better way. Because she has talked gently with me, I could trust her when she brought up challenging things. The result is that I have grown more patient, more careful with my words, less apt to make foolish jokes and, I hope, an all-around better person.

Julie loves me

I’ve said many times that I love Julie because she loves me. That’s too simplistic, of course, but it sums things up. Everything I love about Julie, she applies to me.

I will always strive to give to her what she gives to me. With joy!

Us, in 2014.
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“I don’t understand”

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A couple of weeks after undergoing sex reassignment surgery (SRS), I had a long, profitable, wonderful conversation with a man who is dear to me. I’ve not interacted much with this man since I transitioned, and have longed to have a meaningful conversation.

He had not rejected me; he didn’t know what to do with me. He didn’t know how to talk with me. He didn’t know what to call me, and admitted that he could not bring himself to use “Gina” for me. He didn’t know what to make of my being transgender.

We had very briefly seen each other, only one time since I transitioned, and he now admitted that he struggled with seeing me dressed as a woman.

It was easier simply to keep some distance between us.

How did we get reconnected? He gets all of the credit. He texted me, to tell me that he had been praying for me. He knew that I had just undergone SRS. I used this to seek a phone call. He was hesitant. He owned up to not being ready. I asked how a person gets ready for this, to take this step.

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NOTE: Soon after I posted this, Rick Cruse made some insightful comments.  I commend you to read them, below.  Rick’s comments reminded me that I neglected an important point: I had vowed to be patient with everyone in my life, grasping that I had surprised them with the revelation of my gender dysphoria, then compounding it when I transitioned.  In each one’s own way, my being transgender is as hard on them as on me.

As with the person in question in this piece, I have given everyone space, never pestering them or acting out to them.  It has been very hard, in many instances, to leave people be and give them time.  I continue to wait on many, am resigned to the worst with some and, thankfully, have had lovely success with others.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I hope I wrote gently, but I continued to press him to call me. I told him that being disconnected was very hard on me, that it felt like rejection. I assured him that I spoke the same as always—well, my voice would sound hoarse because I was still recovering from surgery to my vocal cords—that I talked and acted exactly as he always knew me. I told him that he could call me whatever was comfortable for him, either Greg or one of the nicknames that he’d used over the years.

He said he would call. Seconds later, we were saying our hellos. We immediately fell into talking with each other in the same manner as we had so many times before.

As we got into discussing my transitioning, and what that means for me being a Christian, a familiar pattern emerged. With his every comment after concern after question, he began, “I don’t understand.”

He asked me about everything. How I got to the point of transitioning. What it meant for my marriage to Julie. How I understood it as a Christian. What will happen when I die, and when we are resurrected from the dead. And more.

Everything was now on the table that had been left unsaid, unasked over the past few years since I first told him about my gender dysphoria.

It wasn’t long before I noted and addressed how he kept beginning a new thought, “But, I don’t understand . . .” I said, “Have you heard yourself? You have been saying how you don’t understand, and then you ask me an excellent question, a question for which I need to have an answer, and I’ve had good answers for all of your questions. Because you’ve never asked your questions, you have never given yourself a chance to understand. You’ve never given me a chance to explain. Now that we are talking, you finally have a fighting chance to understand.”

“Yeah. You’re right.”

We talked for ninety minutes. Eventually, we caught up on happenings in our families and shared interests. We made our goodbyes with promises to stay connected.

As I make the next statement, I do not mean it to sound judgmental, but simply as what the situation was: he let this situation become worse than it was and harder than it needed to be.

What happened with him is terribly common. When something is very foreign, really challenging, tremendously troubling, we all can be prone to avoiding it. I know that I’ve sure been that way plenty of times. We make the thing bigger than it is, harder than it needs to be, and it finally becomes virtually impossible to tackle.

We let “I don’t understand” tumble around in our head so long and so often that coming to an understanding seems so unlikely that we give up on trying to tackle it.

Relationships should be too important to allow “I don’t understand” to win the day. Whether it is parent and child, sibling and sibling, friend and friend, church and member, teammates or coworkers or fellow Americans, people who are important to us should be—no, need to be those for whom we will not allow unknown, troubling, and foreign things to keep us apart.

Love perseveres. Well, it’s supposed to, anyway.

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I don’t begin to imagine that one conversation removed every struggle for the man regarding me, and those concerns he has involving the entirety of the topic of transgender. It didn’t have to. The first step has been taken. We are once again walking together.

Sex and sexuality questions

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My physical, sexual anatomy transition has prompted new questions about sex and my sexuality, questions which had not arisen since August of 2015 when I changed my profile from Greg to Gina. At that time, I was asked if I now considered myself a lesbian, since I was married to a woman. It was a question worthy of putting before me. Because I had not asked myself about my orientation since I began the process, I then had to once again examine myself.

Did transitioning to female make me a lesbian, since I remained attracted to women? Crazy as it seems, I came up with a no. Here’s how.

I am a genetic male. That I fathered five children proves it. And, because I understand the reason for my gender identity issue to have its origins in my endocrine system’s being disrupted when I was forming in the womb, I consider my desire to be a female to be out of order for the person my genetics say I would otherwise be.

So, no matter how I live or what surgeries I have, my starting point is male. Because I am male and am attracted to females, I consider myself a heterosexual male. Yet, I have an intersex condition, which prompted my gender dysphoria, which then led me to transition.  Now, I identify as a heterosexual male who is a transgender woman.

For some reason, Sesame Street, Electric Company, and Blues Clues never taught me about this!

Now, having actually had my male genitals reformed to female, new questions have surfaced. I am pleased to answer them because this is an excellent, teachable moment, because folks simply don’t know anything about what we trans folks experience, and when they ask logical questions, and do so in a respectful way, I am happy about it and eager to answer.

One friend had trouble grasping how I could now have sex reassignment but remain married to Julie. After we explored this a bit, I came to recognize something which had not occurred to me, that folks naturally equate my having had this surgery with my desire to have sexual relations.

Did I have the surgery because I desire relations with a male? Do I want to experience being a female in this way?

It makes total sense that folks would think that I would want to change my sex organ so as to enjoy sex in the manner in which I identify myself now, as a female. But, for whatever reason, that thought never dawned on me. Why didn’t it occur to me? I suspect it is because it was never the issue.

I have joked that I have no business daydreaming about having sex with a man (or another woman) because I am married! Actually, that is a true statement. I am married to Julie. My heart and desire belongs to her. I long to be faithful to my vows. My first desire is to be an upstanding, highly ethical Christian and spouse.

Now, let’s ask: Does transitioning ever alter one’s sexual orientation? Some folks who transition do experience a change in attraction, but from my reading it is a smaller percentage. Changed desires, along with the inability for one in the couple to cope with transitioning, and much more have split up many couples. Easily, Julie could have said, “I didn’t sign up for this. I am not a lesbian. I married a man and I want a man for a husband.” Thankfully, she has lived our marriage vow, “For better or for worse. In sickness and in health. Till death parts us.”

When my hormones changed after I had been on hormone replacement therapy (HRT) for awhile—meaning that my estrogen was higher and testosterone lower to match that of a genetic female in my age bracket—my sexual appetite was all but extinguished, leaving me with little to no sex drive. I was thankful for that, because I could no longer emotionally practice sex as a male. Yet, my attraction to Julie never wavered (nor hers for me), even though I could do nothing more with it than to be affectionate.

This is hardly the case for all. Indeed, I might be in the minority. I know of plenty of trans folks—male, female, pansexual, gender fluid, queer—who continue to enjoy sex with their natal anatomy. As with all of life’s experiences, there is no one-size-fits-all to this.

Am I curious as to how my body will react after I heal from surgery? Will my sex drive reignite? Will I have any change in desire? What things might happen which I cannot predict or know to look for?

How about after I go back on HRT this week, which I have been off for six weeks for the sake of undergoing surgery? When my hormones return to female-oriented levels—hopefully in about a month—and I now have female anatomy, will this new situation give me such a feeling of wholeness and rightness that I experience new feelings, and cause my sex drive to return?

As for Julie and me, we believe that our attraction remained, though neither of us have changed our sexual orientation, because our attraction is built upon our love for each other. Remember, we fell in love through our writing, before we ever saw each other’s picture.

https://eilerspizza.wordpress.com/2015/05/09/wow-um-wow/

I personally know a few couples—in each case, heterosexual couples in which the genetic male transitioned to female—who have not skipped a beat in their love and commitment to each other.

This all has been a grand lesson in sex and attraction and love. Sex is neither reduced to nor confined to one’s genitals. Yes, mine are now different, but I remain the same person. To me, that is the key. The essence of the human does not change even as some significant aspects of that person are altered. The sex act is a performance of the whole person—body, mind, and spirit.

Sex never was my reason for the surgery. Possessing body parts which are correct to my identity was my reason for sex reassignment surgery. Male genitals simply were wrong on me. I neither wanted to see nor touch myself.

If I were not married, other things could come into play for me. Since I am a turning-sixty-years-old-this-month married person, they are out of bounds. I don’t even ponder them. Ultimately, I much prefer my situation in life, because I have Julie and, well, you know how I feel about Julie. I am as blessed a human being as there is.

To me, my marriage lacks nothing. Julie so fills me in every wonderful way that I do not find myself wanting for a thing. I always live in her love. And she in mine. I would not trade our marriage—as much as we have been through, as challenging as it has been, and even as unusual as it became and the spotlight under which we found ourselves—for anything in the whole world.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Next time, I will address the asking of questions, and how one might know what is okay to ask a trans person and what is not, and what situations can inform a person when a question will be fair play and when it will not.

Are LGBT people pedophiles?

Have you ever been on the dirty end of bigoted prejudice—you know, because you are THIS you automatically are THAT?
• “I don’t trust that man. He’s a Jew. You know Jews. They will do anything to make a buck off you.”
• “That woman has worked in this McDonald’s as long as I can remember. She must not care about finding a real job.”
• “He’s German. He’s stubborn. Don’t waste your time trying to reason with him.”

I could write these all day. The one that prompted this essay takes me once again to Roger Jimenez, the Baptist minister who, after the Orlando massacre, preached the worst combination of bad theology and bigoted hatred: “Are you sad that fifty pedophiles were killed today? Um, no. I think that’s great. I think that helps society. I think Orlando, Florida, is a little safer tonight. The tragedy is that more of them didn’t die. The tragedy is I’m kind of upset he didn’t finish the job, because these people are predators. They are abusers.”

What is the easiest way to note stubborn prejudice? When anyone declares something about an individual or group, which has no basis in fact, and asserts it as if it is true, it is fair to make the assessment that the speaker harbors negative suppositions and, very likely, the hatred which so often accompanies them.

Pedophiles. Predators. Abusers. From where did Jimenez get his information to make these awful assertions? He certainly did not get them from any factual reporting, such as I found by reading a number of studies on the topic, searching “profile of a pedophile.”

Among the several studies, I found this one to best represent them:
https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/20140916142130-238758622-characteristics-and-behavioral-indicators-of-a-pedophile

In this report, the US Department of Justice provides the list it developed of characteristics and behavioral indicators of a pedophile, of which these are the top five:
1. Most often an adult male.
2. Usually married.
3. Works in a wide range of occupations.
4. Relates better to children than adults.
5. Socializes with few adults unless they are pedophiles.

As one goes through the list of twenty-two items, none of them indicates that homosexuals are prone to being pedophiles, or that pedophiles are more likely to be gay than straight. Even more, since gay marriage is so new, item two—usually married—added to item one—most often an adult male—speaks volumes about who the majority of pedophiles are: Men who are married to women.

It is not only gay men whom people like Roger Jimenez unfairly target. I have previously related the story of a trans friend who suffers the same prejudice. I will refer to this person with male pronouns because he continues to live as a male.

When, several years ago, it was his intention to transition, he informed his family. One of his children’s spouses reacted this way: “You are a pedophile and you will have no contact with our children.” To this day, my friend has not been able to see those grandchildren. He has not transitioned, continues to be married to his wife/the grandmother, interacts with his other children, and by all accounts is a fine citizen.

What is it that makes some people react in the manner of my friend’s family member and Roger Jimenez? Is it not the exact same thing as is behind those white people who think all black men are a danger to them, and those Americans who think all Muslims’ motives are suspect, and on and on and on?

It is this: Not only are you not like me, but you are so different from me that you cannot possibly be respectable.

And it is this: I am so offended by what you are, in my mind you will be the worst version of that I can imagine.

And it is this: The hatred for you which I harbor I will make known wherever I can.

The essence of human trouble is self-centeredness. In the Christian faith, we know that this self-centeredness stems from our sinful nature. The entire world can vouch for it in the simplest example witnessed in every people group, everywhere, in every age: You never need to teach a young child how to do wrong, to steal a toy from another, to cry to get his way, but you do need to teach a young child how to do right, how to share, how to behave.

From this self-centeredness comes every form of evil, including bigotry and prejudice.

We really fight the urge to treat others the way we want them to treat us, and when a person or group offends us not only is the desire to fulfill the Golden Rule squelched but we easily and quickly give ourselves permission to put the worst construction on their lives.

That’s the way it is. It does not excuse it. It lets no one off the hook. It only explains it.

Hopefully, understanding it, we can combat it. As one of my trans friends says—this has quickly become my own mantra—when you get to know a trans person, it is hard to hate or be afraid of trans people.

You can change “trans” to whatever you want, whomever it is in your life which drives your own xenophobia, which is the fear of the unknown.

Finally, if you are a Christian and are espousing bigoted hatred, you are giving a bad name both to Jesus Christ and to every Christian who works hard to live the Golden Rule. If this is you, you are a hypocrite who is in need of looking into the mirror and repenting of your sin.

The Good News is that Jesus Christ has taken and borne your sin and given you His Holy Spirit that you know the Lord’s love AND possess the ability to practice it.

The bear trap

This is dedicated to all who suffer from gender dysphoria, to give hope to all who endure in silence, who cannot give voice to their pain, who do not dare to speak, who attempt to take their lives, who see no way out, and to demonstrate to everyone else how terrible it can be for we who live through this extreme conflict of self.

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I once again found the bear trap had snapped firmly onto me.

It was one year ago, today. I had my first ever appointment with an endocrinologist. I bawled through the entire appointment. My new doctor gave me time so she could get to know me. She patiently listened to me tell her how I worked so hard not to transition, how I still did not want to transition, and how I saw no other way out of my mess but transitioning.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I have written about the suffering that crushed me in 2013, the result of the extreme internal turmoil that left me constantly lamenting, “You hate being a man. You can’t be a woman. Just kill yourself.” I have not explained all of this thoroughly enough.

You might recall the statistic: 41% of people on the transgender spectrum will attempt suicide—from those who have a gender identity question, to those for whom it develops into gender dysphoria, to those who attempt transitioning, to those who transition. This, alone, should speak to how difficult it is to live through the incongruence, the extreme conflict which it is to have a body and brain that do not match; to be seen as one sex but feel like another.

It is far from only the internal struggle. Indeed, if not for the outer forces—the potential for being rejected and misunderstood; of losing a job or a home or both; the risk to one’s emotional life, economic life, the loves in one’s life; rejection by one’s church; every last sphere of life—if not for all of these, the internal struggle would be so much smaller, the attempted suicide rate way easier to stomach.

As much as I pondered killing myself, I was not going to do it. As a Christian, I would not test my Lord that He would give me eternal life; it’s His call, not mine, when I die. As a human, I would not do that to my family and everyone else, who would be left with the worst of emotions, and especially to my Julie, who would have to make it in life on her own. And, frankly, I could not bear to hurt myself.

Even more than killing myself, I thought about running away from home. Sundays came to be the hardest day of the week. I loved leading worship, proclaiming Christ, and teaching Bible class. When I came home at noon, I crashed horribly. I hated myself the worst. Outside of church, I could not sustain the good feeling I had when leading the Lord’s people. Often, during worship, my mind slipped away to the coming gloom, and I felt like a sham of a person.

So, Sunday afternoons were spent planning my getaway. On Monday, whenever Julie might leave the house, I would quickly throw together some things and take off. I would drive to who-knows-where. I would only check in with Julie after I got far enough away, and only so that she knew I was safe.

Several things kept me from running away. I’m so stinking practical that I could not bear the thought of wasting money on hotels and dining out all of the time. Besides, I knew that, eventually, I would have to come home and face my life. Thus, I was able to conclude that running away, like suicide, was no answer.

What did I have left? Since transitioning was an impossibility—this was the mind-set I worked so hard to retain, that my becoming a woman was the stupidest idea on the face of the earth, and even when I would decide that I would have to transition I would work so hard to change my mind—the only other option I could fathom was to enter a psych ward of a hospital.

Here is what I want you to know about how horrible my life was in 2013, and that what I experienced was what thousands of precious people go through who have gender dysphoria.

My mind was on fire.

I have never had a tumor growing in me, so I don’t know how that feels. I have never delivered a baby, so I don’t know how that feels. I have not experienced many of the things which bring the worst pain to the lives of people, so I don’t know how they feel.

But what I know about delivering a baby is that after hours of pain one has a gift of joy. And what I know about tumors is that there are plans for addressing them. And what I know about every other malady under the sun—even the ones which become lifelong plagues, and those which end in death sentences—is that people can tell their families about them, and they won’t be shunned or hated or misunderstood for having them, and even when there isn’t a cure there are many and various ways to treat them, to ease them, and they will be respected for having the surgery or taking the medicine.

Forgive my presumptive arrogance: Because of its uniqueness, my pain was worse.

My pain took me into the wilderness. And feeling like there was no one on earth who could understand, no minister who would think me anything but a sinner, that I had a condition which my family and friends might not/would not respect for its seriousness, in this wilderness I found myself tightly ensnared in a bear trap.

And so I suffered. I hurt the same each new day as I did the day before, yet I wouldn’t die. I just kept on suffering. I bled, but the blood would not run out. There was no end in sight, no expectation of help, no hope that death would come. And there was nothing I could do about it.

That’s how the world looked to me: I was lost in the wilderness, tightly ensnared in a bear trap.

Thankfully, I had Julie, but I feared wearing her out. I undertook therapy, to see if I could learn some skills to abide in my male life. I regularly spoke with a pastor, for spiritual strength. I would wind up speaking with many pastors, and placed myself under the care of several of them.

I took refuge in my work. I still loved being a pastor, and I adored the people of my congregation and the village in which I lived. I did not want to leave there until I retired at a good old age or, as I came to joke, when my friends at Ramsey Funeral Home would have to come and pry my dead fingers from the pulpit.

But I could not work twenty-four-hours-a-day.

I cried constantly. I would finally tell my congregation that I cried more in 2013 than in the first fifty-six years of my life, combined. That is no exaggeration.

I cried when I got up in the morning. I cried when I got dressed for work. I cried when I came home from work. I cried when I prayed. I cried when I was driving my car. I cried in my therapy sessions. I cried when I tried to go to sleep at night.

My mind was on fire. The bear trap tightened.

Before I had begun telling pastors about myself, the thought of telling them crushed me. Then, the pastors I had come to tell, who had influence over my professional life, completely did not get me. They were sympathetic, but they didn’t get me. In the end, to them I was struggling with a sinful situation and I had to get my healing from Christ. Their answer to my plea, “What am I supposed to do with myself? If I can’t transition, how am I supposed to ease my pain?” was always, “I don’t know.”

I would rather be told that I have a terminal illness than to hear “I don’t know.” At least with that I would know where I stand.

Every two or three days, especially from winter of 2013 through that autumn, before they became less frequent, I would fall into a complete meltdown. The bear trap was at its tightest. I was filled with pain. With anger. With rage. I had nowhere to go with everything that was inside of me. I couldn’t transition. I had to transition. I had to figure out how to be a male. I couldn’t figure out how to be a male. I couldn’t kill myself. I couldn’t stop thinking about killing myself. I wouldn’t run away. I kept planning my escape.

There was no end in sight for my pain. In my mid-fifties, I was still young, still wanted to be a pastor, still wanted to be a husband and father and grandfather and brother. I didn’t know how I was going to be that person. I hated myself, and then I hated myself for hating myself, sniveling ingrate that I was.

I came to say that I suffered a nervous breakdown right in front of everyone, and no one saw it.

In April, I started therapy. I had a marvelous therapist. I felt like I exasperated him with my bawling, pain-filled sermons about myself. He worked hard for me, but he could not remove the bear trap.

He taught me that only I could remove the bear trap. Only I could walk back from the wilderness.

At times, I had a meltdown on my bed. I would kick, and scream, and pound my pillow. I would holler my prayers to Christ, begging His mercy. After an hour, I would collapse in exhaustion and fall asleep.

At times, I had meltdowns when Julie was home. These usually took place in the living room. I would either pound away at the arms of my chair, or I would fall to the floor and writhe in pain. I put my pain into screaming words, as if blowing it out of me would finally get rid of it.

I never put myself into physical danger, so Julie would sit by, observe me, and wait. When I had exhausted myself, she finally spoke. Then we talked. Always an hour. Often two. The same stuff, over and over. New stuff, as it arose. We addressed it all. The profound love and respect we already had for each other grew in a way that cannot occur unless a couple does the hard work of suffering together.

I would beg her to commit me to a mental hospital. Many times, I pondered driving to one and committing myself. I saw it as a reasonable form of running away. And if I wound up in the hospital and I came to tell my world what landed me there, then maybe, just maybe, they would have sympathy for me. Maybe, just maybe, if I were hospitalized for a good, long time, they would feel sorry for me. Then, maybe, just maybe, because I was this completely screwed up person—this man who was their minister in the stead of Jesus Christ, who led them with integrity, who spoke by the Spirit as one who had authority, to whom they looked in tragedy after tragedy which continued to befall our congregation and community—maybe, just maybe, they would have sympathy for me. Maybe, just maybe, they wouldn’t hate me.

But Julie would not do it. Julie would not commit me. And when I was tempted to drive myself to Bay City or Port Huron—to the psych wards where I had ministered to some of my members—when I thought of placing myself in one of these places her reason for not doing it rang in my ears and kept me at home.

We were convinced that they would so heavily medicate me that I would basically be left in a stupor, that it would take the most serious sedatives to douse the fire in my brain so that I could relax

But the drugs would not cure anything. They would only delay any decisions I had to make. They would leave me in a spot where I was useful to no one—only a blithering idiot, one who could do no more than watch TV.

Drugs. Mental hospital. Suicide. They’re all just other forms of running away.

Another form of running away: One evening, I tried to get drunk. It was during tax season, when Julie was not getting home till 11:00 p.m. or so. We had a bottle of wine. I drank the first glass very quickly. I poured a second. I began to sip it. The alcohol hit my brain. I’ve never been drunk and that first feeling always makes me stop. I started crying so hard that I flipped my La-Z-Boy onto its back, and I spilled onto the floor. I lay there and bawled. I couldn’t even ease my pain with alcohol.

By summer 2013, I finally agreed that I possessed the keys to the bear trap. That’s keys, plural. It would take me two years to finally grab onto these to where they did not slip out of my grasp.

Doc, my exceptional therapist, then Julie’s echoing him, encouraged me that I was the only one who could decide about my life, so the first key was that I could not make decisions based on who would be hurt or by whom I might be hated.

Another key was educating myself, learning that I had a real, physical condition. Once I knew that the origin of my suffering was not some nebulous mental illness, I was able to take control of it.

Another key was Julie and I talking through every last detail as to how we would proceed, figuring out my retirement and our future, how we would tell people and the order in which we would do it, striving to know how each would react so that we were ready for this largest hurdle (and after we got the first few under our belt, we were 100% correct as to the reactions of everyone).

The final, most important key was the Holy Spirit’s abiding presence, His always holding my Lord Jesus Christ before my face, and the excellent theology in which I had been trained, which I had proclaimed and taught, which I believed. I found myself trusting in Christ more deeply than ever, that He loved me and that I was proceeding under His good and gracious will.

I continued to suffer, but it gradually eased. Even at the three year mark, this past winter, I would feel the grip of the bear trap; old wounds would bleed. When they have, I’ve used the keys to free myself.

Through it all, I have taken refuge in Christ and in many of His promises, including this one: “God keeps his promise, and he will not allow you to be tested beyond your power to remain firm; at the time you are put to the test, he will give you the strength to endure it, and so provide you with a way out (1 Corinthians 10:13b).”

The big turn-off

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There are many things about the Christian faith which non-believers find offensive, the chief of which is that Jesus Christ, who is the Creator of the world (see the first chapters of both John and Colossians) took on human flesh and is the Savior of the world.

It’s always going to be this way, that Christ, and many Christian truths, are going to offend non-Christians. What doesn’t need to be, as it is too often, is that non-Christians and Christians alike are offended by certain behaviors of Christians.

You know the word is coming. Hypocrite. And there is a specific hypocritical behavior which harms the holy name of Jesus Christ, along with all who are on the injured end of it. To introduce it, here are two quotes from the Lord Jesus:
• Matthew 7:1: “Judge not, or you too will be judged.”
• Matthew 7:12: “Whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them.”

I can vouch for how often Christians quote these. I suspect I’ve heard them nearly as many times as the number of pizzas I’ve eaten in my life. Christians speak these with a reverence which approaches the very death and resurrection of Christ.

If only they would practice what they preach.

This has been on my mind the past few weeks. A trans friend has been at that point in transitioning where she’s had to tell her family. They are devout Christians. My friend has not practiced the faith since she was young. She speaks of Christ, and her being baptized, in the manner of a believer, and she lives an ethical, highly moral life—and I don’t think I’ve ever heard her speak ill of another person—but she hasn’t worshiped.

The concerns of her family over her being transgender found her saying to me with exasperation, “When I was growing up, we were always taught in church that we are not to judge and we are to treat others as we want them to treat us, but it seems like the first thing Christians do when there is something which they don’t approve is to forget the two rules that they are always professing.”

And that is her big turn-off.

And that is the big turn-off for Christians and non-Christians alike.

It is blatant hypocrisy. It is ruining the good name of Jesus Christ and His Church.

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I am pleased to report that many Christians take seriously what they profess. I am sad to report that way too many do not.

Way too many are quick to judge others. Way too many jump on the judging bandwagon with the most cutting words. Way too many speak in ways that have juicy smeared all over them: “Did you hear about Greg Eilers? Can you BELIEVE it??????”

I wonder, when the Lord Jesus said, “He who is without sin, cast the first stone (John 8),” how many modern Christians would have still had at it?

And do notice that the Lord did not say, “He who is without THIS sin”—the woman’s sin was adultery—but He kept it to sin in general. In other words, if you are a sinner—and the first qualification for being a Christian is acknowledging that you are a sinner—put down the stones.

 

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We love throwing stones. We love sorting through our sins so we can recognize that we are not guilty of the thing we see in another, and as we rocket our rocks we forget that we would never want anyone throwing stones at us even as we pick up the biggest ones we can find.

The Lord Jesus flips our behavior on its head. The Lord Jesus ate with sinners. The Lord Jesus only condemned those who would not heed His words. The main object of His condemnations were those hypocrites of hypocrites, the Pharisees.

God’s Word says that He wants all to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:4), and that Christians are to shine the light of Christ so that others might see their good deeds and give the glory to God the Father (Matthew 5:16). If we Christians do not do the latter because we do not practice the two things we claim are primary rules for living—judge not and the Golden Rule—the former will never happen.

And, oh, about this judging business. The Lord did not end with “judge not.” This placard provides the full thought:

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Do you want God to show you mercy? Then show mercy.

Do you want others to be loving, friendly, and respectful toward you? Then give them what you want from them.

It is easy to judge. It is hard to listen. It is hard to learn. It is hard to love.

It is that much harder when the thing in question is so foreign, so unknown, and so terribly misunderstood. Pastor Mark Wingfield, who wrote, “Seven Things I’m Learning about Transgender Persons” and its follow-up, has demonstrated that it is possible to put down the stones, listen up, and learn.

No judging. Golden Rule living. Just as I’m sure he teaches and his congregation members profess.

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We all are in this together. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus (Romans 3:23-24).” There is no room for stone throwing.

Do make wise judgments about every important thing in life—it is the God-fearing thing to do—but when you have the opportunity to speak a harsh word or a kind one, to react with a huff or to dig in with patience, to cut someone off or to draw them back in, to tear someone down or to build him or her up, to put up walls or to build bridges . . .

You know what to do. It’s what the Lord Jesus does for you. As Jesus’ disciple, it is your privilege and joy to treat others the way that He treats you.

He didn’t judge you for your sins. He died for them.

2016-03-23 11.22.22

Bathroom liberty for all

Enough arguing. Enough posturing. Enough beating up each other. It’s time for a resolution which serves all. In this essay, I propose the solution.

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I care about the needs and rights of our trans youth, but I also care equally about the needs and rights of our youth who have been sexually assaulted. And our youth who are socially awkward or overly shy. And our youth whose family or religious upbringing is more strict than the general culture’s. And any other category one might imagine, and let us imagine them so that we understand that all youth potentially have serious challenges in the many facets of social life.

Regarding our nation’s youth, President Obama’s administration last week brought the bathroom debate to the entire nation. While no new law was fashioned, plenty of excitement was created.

Attorney General Loretta Lynch said, “There is no room in our schools for discrimination of any kind, including discrimination against transgender students on the basis of their sex. This guidance gives administrators, teachers and parents the tools they need to protect transgender students from peer harassment and to identify and address unjust school policies.”

One reaction to this informed me that both the Fourteen Amendment and the Civil Rights Act provide for the full rights of all Americans, which would mean that all people are allowed to use the bathroom which is right for them.

These bathroom concerns are only about discrimination, right?

Not so fast.

As a transgender person, I long to be protected, I desire full civil rights, and I appreciate every privilege the average American enjoys. Equally, I strive to care for all persons affected by any situation.

I long for this to be the attitude of every American.

Life provides us with countless opportunities to practice the Golden Rule, to treat others the way we want them to treat us. Sadly, this flies in the face of our selfish nature, which wants the other guy to think of my needs first.

And so we hear the trans community screaming for its rights, while forgetting the needs of others. And so we hear from every other sector screaming for its rights, while not giving a hoot about trans people.

Some equate these days with those of African Americans’ fight for their deserved rights. Where I find many comparisons, this is not entirely the same. The similarities end when there are honest sensitivities.

When whites got the heebie-jeebies over things like using the same water fountain or dining at tables next to blacks, their anxieties, fears, even hatred, were borne of prejudice, of deep-seated biases which were not based on facts. Thus, they were dishonest.

In the bathroom debate, there certainly are dishonest feelings, prejudices held by many. They are heard plenty. Once again last week, the popular blogger, Matt Walsh, wrote on the topic and he continues to refer to us as “transgendered”—always in quotes, as if we are not real—and calls us “confused.” The conservative The Federalist posted this piece in light of last week’s government letter to schools: “Obama Threatens Schools: Let Men in Little Girls’ Room or Else.” The readers of both of these have added their “hear, hear” affirmations.

There are plenty of people who are transphobic. There also are plenty of people who have honest concerns, real sensitivities, even true fears, which have nothing to do with trans folks.

As I have been debating this heavily, I have been given a lesson in not having grown up female, a person who never was abused just because she was there. I have heard from several women who have been sexually assaulted. It is not uncommon for these women to carry a phobia for spaces where they might be prone to a man who has harmful desires.

I checked several sources for statistics. I find these two numbers to be accurate and eye-opening:
• Nearly 1 in 5 women have experienced a completed or attempted rape.
• Nearly 1 in 2 women have experienced some form of sexual violence.

This simply is unacceptable.

I really am not a fan of comparing numbers, but many are, so here goes: The number of women who have been sexually assaulted or had sexual violence carried out against them dwarfs the number of transgender people. While this shall not be cause for any lessening of the concerns for we trans folks, I take very seriously how many others are holding cards at this table.

We trans folks are far from the only people who long for peace and comfort in using our desired restrooms.

Since the government’s letter focused on schools, I will now do that. School culture varies by size and type of school, size of town, area of the nation. This is not a one-size-fits-all situation because we do not live in a one-size-fits-all world.

Many school districts have been dealing with this issue for years. I have read some marvelous success stories where concerned people, with helpful spirits, acted wisely and resolved their issues. For the most part, you and I were never aware of these because they were handled discreetly.

As with the need to remember the adult women who are vulnerable, how much more children? Too many children have been sexually, physically, or emotionally abused by adults and peers. But, a child need never have been sexually hurt to experience honest anxiety over these bathroom issues. Children do not have the benefit of maturity, of experience. If they are very young, they might know little about the sexes. If they are teens, they very possibly experience plenty of awkwardness regarding their changing body, sex, the opposite sex, and peers. Add into the mix those who are socially awkward, reared in stricter homes and churches, or are just plain shy. And one never knows when terribly challenging gender identity issues are brewing, or a young person already identities outside of the male/female standard.

I was so shy in high school, with my own gender identity issues always simmering under the surface, that I never once used a regular restroom while in high school.

I loathe the forcing of anything on anyone when concerns are honest. I find the concerns of parents, of women, of children to be genuine.

The cry we hear is “children’s safety.” “Safety” is more than concern for things physical. “Safety” includes emotional well-being.

Last week, a friend wrote, “How come Americans always argue with each other instead of working together to find solutions?” I believe I have fallen upon a solution when I remembered the Americans With Disabilities Act.

When this act was made law, it put the vast majority of American stores, schools, hospitals, churches, and workplaces into the spot of having to change or add to bathrooms, not to mention some entrances, sidewalks, and parking places. This law cost many establishments a lot of money to come into compliance.

But they did it.

And the USA is better for it.

And the number of people with disabilities who use these bathrooms, these good parking places that often remain empty, these . . . is how many? It doesn’t matter. Americans with disabilities matter, and so the law was wise and just and necessary.

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Plenty of other countries already have figured out what we are arguing, but if we must do things The American Way then let us commission some creative designers, builders, and architects to draw up plans to make our bathrooms and locker rooms safe for all, with privacy levels which meets everyone’s needs and standards that span the spectrum of public places.

As several have said, all of the hullabaloo around bathrooms have been a solution in search of a problem. What had been a non-issue to almost the entire population now is being talked about as much as The Donald and The Hillary. Now that it is this huge issue, it must be addressed.

Echoing the Americans With Disabilities Act, I call for the Bathroom Liberty for All Act, which would address both restrooms and locker rooms, and set standards for every setting as affected by the Disabilities Act.

Every American deserves to know that wherever he, she, or they might be, the law is the same, so they don’t have to question whether there is a safe place or what the law is in that place, so their expectations are always the same, just as with disabled Americans.

What do we do in the interim? Well, what did we do for our Americans with disabilities before we made the many required updates?

Until we can sort this out and remodel our bathrooms and locker rooms, let us be honest with our concerns and fair with our neighbor. Drop the propaganda pieces. Stop the shock videos. Cite statistics accurately. Cease with unfairly portraying trans folks AND care for the weak and vulnerable and sensitive of every age and situation in life.

I promise that I will practice the Golden Rule toward you. Will you promise the same toward me?

Let us make into law the Bathroom Liberty for All Act. Let us do it now. Let us quell all concerns so that we can move on and once again provide all Americans what our great land of freedom has always offered.

Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.