2016: Year of new horizons

2016: Year of new horizons

Magazine article

2016 opened with my polishing the article which would be published in the March issue of Indianapolis Monthly (IM) magazine, the first writing for which I have been paid. It would be both IM’s first article on the topic of transgender, and their first by a transgender author.

I was happy with the final product—good editors are a huge blessing!—and even more pleased with the reception it received. IM also put the article on their website. Something quickly happened in large numbers. Folks were sharing the article via the many social media, especially on Facebook. To date, it has been shared 1,740 times. For me, this is important because a person wants her writing to be read and education to happen.

You may find the article here: http://www.indianapolismonthly.com/features/the-real-me/

Reintegrating with family

February brought me needing to make two big decisions regarding my extended family on the Eilers side. I longed to attend my uncle’s funeral. Family gatherings were among the hardest things for me to miss during my years as a minister. That was my first hurdle, to decide whether I would go. The second was to determine how I would go, as Greg or Gina.

I was positive I would attend as Greg, needing to gently reintroduce myself to my family, some of whom I had not seen in two decades. After a few days, it felt lousy to think about going as Greg.

I sought opinions. Julie and my sister, Sue, felt strongly that I go as Gina, so I asked two Eilers cousins. They agreed. Finally, I decided to talk to an aunt. She pleasantly surprised me not only by agreeing that I should go as Gina, but really encouraging me to go.

I sat in the back corner. I allowed folks to come to me and approached no one unless I already knew where they stood. I was way more pleased with the number of people who talked with me than those who stayed away.

With that victory, the next month I went to a family birthday party, and then in July a family reunion, both on the Eilers side of my family, but both having a different mix of attendees. Again, way more folks treated me as they have all my life than kept their distance.

Because it is against my nature for people to be uneasy, this was a huge hurdle for me to jump, and to leap cleanly. From here, I could keep on running forward.

Making Gina legal

May 2 saw me before a judge. In the days leading up to getting my name changed, I was in turmoil—the way I have reacted with every step of transitioning. I had to reflect on all I had accomplished, recognize how I had jumped each hurdle, recall how every time I had tried de-transitioning I once again became a wreck, and apply those experiences to this new, huge vault.

Leaving court, I was relieved. It wasn’t until three days later, when I departed the bureau of motor vehicles, that I felt good—wonderful, actually—to have reached this step in my transition. In the nearly eight months since, I have never doubted or regretted this step. Now, it is vital that I properly reflect on my name change as I get ready for . . .

Surgeries early in 2017

In March, Julie and I saw Indianapolis’s new sex reassignment surgery (SRS) doctor. I learned what I had to do to be qualified and prepared for surgery. I went to work on those things.

I was ready to see her again in early December. She pronounced me ready for surgery. Initially, I was scheduled for January 24, but a conflict pushed me back to February 14. That’s okay, because in the mean time, another surgery slipped in to fill the gap.

In the autumn, I had learned that we have a doctor in town who performs surgery on the vocal cords, to increase the pitch of a genetic male’s voice so that it is feminine. Julie and I visited him in early December. He found my vocal cords to be healthy and me a candidate for surgery.

I was shocked at how quickly the woman in charge of insurance got my approval. She called me the week before Christmas with the good news. I could set my surgery date.

The day is January 5. After surgery, I will not be able to talk for two weeks—Hush! I know what you are thinking!—as my vocal cords mend. Hopefully, when I return to the doctor I will have a speaking voice which is appropriate to my living as a female.

I continue to await word from the plastic surgeon who will feminize my face. I was hoping to have my face and voice done close together. That remains a possibility.

Influential podcast

In May, I was interviewed a second time for a podcast. It was good preparation for Dan and Jeff’s late September flying to Indianapolis from Southern California to interview Julie and me for two-and-a-half hours for their program, Virtue in the Wasteland. With a quarter-of-a-million listeners, this would have the potential of really opening the transgender topic to my fellow Christians.

Sadly, some of the feedback was terribly negative, especially against the two magnanimous hosts for doing the interview. Thankfully, the majority of the feedback has been good, with pastors and Christians pleased that they explored the topic.

I am tremendously thankful to Jeff and Dan for taking a chance on us. I hope for more to come from this. If you’ve not heard the podcast, you may find it here, episodes 196 and 197: http://virtueinthewasteland.squarespace.com/episodes/

Church matters

In the spring, I longed to return to the church body in which I had been a minister, the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS), because I am in agreement with the doctrine of the LCMS and correct doctrine is vital to me. The LCMS, being doctrinally traditional and culturally conservative, and my being a former pastor who is transgender, do not go together.

Knowing of churches where we were not welcome, Julie suggested a large congregation, known to be a bit more progressive for the LCMS, where we might find a fit.

And fitting we were, with little concern expressed by the membership, until we became members in September. A firestorm swept from the congregation and into the entire LCMS. I became the talk off many websites frequented by ministers and lay people. The talk was not good.

For the first time in my life, I was spoken about in terms which are reserved for people who are despised and reviled. I learned what it means to be on the wrong end of xenophobia, with many casting disparagements and making judgments without knowing the first thing about my condition or about me. The Golden Rule, which is a precious law for Christians, was thrown to the side.

The outcry went to the top of the LCMS. Our congregation’s pastors were in hot water. It didn’t matter how many hours they had talked with Julie and me, or the Scriptures we searched, or the answers I had, or the confession of faith Julie and I made, but strictly their offense they won the day. Because the problem was not our congregation’s or our pastor’s, Julie and I immediately offered our resignation.

In October, I met with several LCMS pastors, my first attempt to have a conversation to promote understanding. They were kind. They listened. They reckoned me still to be a Christian. Yet, despite their lack of learning about the topic, I was judged a person who is giving into a sinful temptation, and not one who is striving to be healed from a physical malady.

I fear that the LCMS will close the door on learning about gender dysphoria, intersex conditions, and transitioning as possible for a Christian. I have written this to the president of the LCMS.

I am at my wit’s end as to how to proceed, yet proceed I must. If I do not speak up I will not be able to live with myself. It is my Christian duty to use my gifts in the service of my neighbor, and I continue to be convinced that transgender education is a worthy and God-pleasing endeavor.

As 2017 unfolds, I will strive to do as I always have, to love the Lord my God with all my heart and soul and mind, and love my neighbor as I love myself, trusting in the Father’s grace and mercy to me for the sake of His Son, Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit who faithfully abides with me.

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When God said NO to me

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It’s one thing to talk about hard things; it’s quite another to live them.

When, last week, I wrote in the wake of my cousin’s eighteen-year-old son’s death, about how God could answer NO to our family’s fervent prayers for healing and we could still love Him and consider Him faithful to His promises to us, there were a number of challenging things to accept.

This being a Christian is not easy business. Let no one ever tell you that once you are a Christian your life is a cakewalk. No, the life of the Christian in this world is filled with every hardship, every challenge, ever malady, every tragedy, which any person on earth might experience, and the Christian works to see the Lord’s goodness to her or him come what may.

When it comes to talking about God saying NO to fervent prayer, I have walked the walk. Here are the three major times that God did not answer my prayers as I requested. In each one, after I got over His NO, He dazzled me with what He had in store for me.

The death of my son

I have written about Johnathan’s birth and death here and thus will not cover those details.
https://eilerspizza.wordpress.com/2016/01/14/11481/

Naturally, my first wife and I prayed like crazy after Johnathan took ill. Our pastor was quick to come to the hospital, and he prayed with us. As word spread, I am confident that relatives and friends were with us in our petitions to the Lord to spare Johnathan’s little life and us the heartbreak of possibly losing our newborn, firstborn child.

God said NO.

We were, of course, devastated. More than leaving the hospital with empty arms, we returned home with empty hearts.

A funny thing happened on the way to what could have been hard hearts toward God. The Lord healed us. We lost neither heart nor faith. Soon, Kim was longing to carry another child. Ten months and ten days after the birth of Johnathan we welcomed Erin. Two years later came Jackie. Almost three more years till Addison greeted us, and another nearly three years until we wrapped up our child-having years with Alex, in 1989.

Over the eight years since Johnathan, the Lord had worked great growth of faith in me. I had gotten very involved at church. I began reading the Bible on my own. My prayer life was vibrant. I was in Bible study and loved it.

Bitterness over Johnathan never entered my heart. Quite the opposite, I have been able to say that it’s all good. I know that Johnathan belongs to the Lord, that his soul is before the throne of the Lamb of God in heaven, and that on the Last Day he will be raised from the dead in a perfected, eternal, adult body to live forever.

When one argues the joys of earthly life with the bliss of eternal life, there is no comparison. It’s not even a fair fight, whether a person lived one hundred years or one day.

When God said NO to our prayers for healing Johnathan, He both kept Johnathan safe for eternity and blessed me in my earthly walk, increasing my trust to the point where I was able, at age thirty-five, with a wife and four young children, to quit my excellent job, uproot my family, and head off to seminary to study for the ministry. The Lord prepared me for the work, I loved it, and He used me to do well ministering to His people.

Truly, the Lord’s NO had YES written all over it.

The death of my marriage

But didn’t my becoming a pastor result in the undoing of my marriage? While I cannot know how our lives would have gone had we stayed in Montague, I know the things that fell into place which resulted in the divorce, and key things were related to my becoming a minister.

I really should have been out of the ministry before I hit the five-year mark. My church body, the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, takes very seriously the divorce of a pastor. I had only been at Port Hope two months—this was April, 2001—so the congregation barely knew me. I offered to resign from the ministry. When it came to a vote by the congregation, they rallied to me, and for all of my thirteen years with them they were wonderful to me.

The death of my marriage almost destroyed me. Guilt and shame and rejection sent me into deep depression. I was glad that I was still in the ministry—if I had resigned, I had no idea what I would have done, where I would have gone, how I would have supported my kids—but I was one lost, sorry soul.

Though the prayers for my marriage came up NO, I kept praying. I turned the final verse of Psalm 27 into my ardent plea. The verse is this, “Wait for the Lord. Be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” I prayed it this way, “You are the only strength I have, Lord. I take heart in all of your promises. But I am hurting so badly. Please don’t make me wait long to feel better.”

I suppose I began praying that in May. In mid-August, I told my boys, who lived with me full-time, that I would not date, that I would not even look at women, until I got them graduated from high school. Six more years.

I have previously written about how Julie and I met, and how we both were going through divorces and were emailing each other. Find the full story here.
https://eilerspizza.wordpress.com/2015/05/09/wow-um-wow/

Wow, did I not have to wait long to begin feeling better!

Not even a week after my vow to my boys, I found myself falling for Julie. When I admitted it to her, she reciprocated. Living 950 miles apart, we couldn’t date. We saw each other precisely four times before I retrieved her from Iowa the beginning of December. We were married on December 30.

Not only did the Lord turn His NO to my prayers for my first marriage into the most dazzling YES in Julie, so many other good things surrounded it. Kim and her husband, and Julie and I, would come to have an excellent relationship, which was especially important for the sake of our kids. We had them for family gatherings at the parsonage, even staying with us for holiday weekends. They reciprocated at their place.

As for Julie, she had the ability to accept my gender issues and, in 2013, when I had to tell her that I finally had been crushed by self-hatred at being a male, informing her that I might not survive if I don’t transition, she responded this way: “Then we will figure it out.” And we did.

Clearly, the Lord’s NO to my first marriage had His own YES written all over it.

The death of me

The title is an overstatement, but in many ways it hits the mark.

Ever since my gender identity issues took root when I was in sixth grade, I prayed to be rid of this. I spent my life believing I was the most despicable sinner. I was a freak. Nothing but weak.

For about a year, when I was in my mid-teens, I lay in bed every night as I waited for sleep to come pondering what damnation in hell would be like. I was sure I was going there, because how could God love someone like me? I tried to ponder eternity in torment. I would think, “But then there will be one more day. Then one more day. Then one more day.” I was scared stiff.

I tried everything to get rid of my desire. As with so many like me, I hoped love would cure me. Then, I hoped becoming a minister would cure me. Both were naive notions.

I constantly repented. When I owned some women’s clothes, after awhile I would throw them out. I would dig in and try to put this thing to death. I confessed to God what I could only reckon was sinful behavior and tried to live in a manner which He would approve.

I prayed and prayed and prayed and, as far as I am concerned, God kept saying NO: “Nope, Greg, I’m not taking this away. You’re going to deal with it.”

What I did not know until 2013 was that the cause of my disorder was a real, physical malady. I have written plenty about that, so I won’t cite a specific blog post.

In short, I hated being a male because my endocrine system—the body’s hormones—had been disrupted and there was no fix for it to get me to feel like a male. For over two years, I went back and forth—I will transition, I will not—and getting worse along the way.

I prayed more than ever. God continued to say NO, I will not remove this. More than the NO, the answer He had in mind grew in real events and in my faith in Him.  Yet, how on earth could it be my Lord’s good and gracious will that I be transgender, that I leave the ministry, that I risk offending so many family and friends and fellow Christians?  It made no sense for a long time.

He has indeed answered YES to a huge aspect of my prayers: “Lord, if I have to transition, then please use me to glorify Christ and proclaim the Gospel.” This, I have been able to do, even as I also have educated regarding gender dysphoria and what it means to be transgender. The Holy Spirit has clung to me, always directing me to the Father’s mercy for me in His Son, Jesus Christ.

I want to do so much more educating, especially of my fellow Christians. The Lord continues to open doors. I cannot imagine what the future holds. I know that I cannot imagine it, because I could never have imagined the life the Lord carved out for me.

As with my son’s death and the end of my first marriage, the Lord has dazzled me with how His ways are not my ways, nor His thoughts mine, but as the heavens are higher than the earth so are His ways and thoughts higher than mine (Isaiah 55:8-9). I could only view the finite film of my life—with my son in it, and my marriage not becoming my “first” one, and my remaining a male and a pastor—where my Lord always sees the big picture and the good things He intends to do with the bad things in my life.

It takes faith to hold on. He gives the faith. He sustains the faith.

I hope that looking at the NO answers I received from the Lord when YES seemed the only possibility, and what the Lord did to turn those traumatic, tragic, terrible situations from bad to good, gives you hope if you are in a tough spot right now, or whenever you might be.

We know that tough spots will come. My prayer for you is that you are able to lean on the Lord Jesus Christ with your entire life so that, whatever the immediate result, you might be able to trust Him to have in store for you a healed heart, a full life, and a hopeful future, both in this world and in eternity.

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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.

A Lutheran, a Baptist, and PBS

Screenshot 2016-05-31 06.46.43

No, they didn’t walk into a bar and, no, this isn’t the start of a joke. Each of these walked into my life in the past two weeks, and they come together very nicely for this piece.

The Lutheran

It was at Grandma Morrison’s party for her one-hundredth birthday that the seventy-nine-year-old man, whom I’ll call John, somehow managed to sit down next to me. I thought, “Didn’t he get a good look at me? He never would have sat here if he had gotten a good look at me.” Julie’s mom introduced us, and that I had been a Missouri Synod Lutheran pastor. This man and Mom’s family had long ago been in the Missouri Synod, but left in the 1960s for the Church of the Lutheran Confession because the Missouri Synod had some leaders who were teaching new, modern ideas.

John and I began to chat. Early on, I said that being transgender was not a mental illness, but from a real, physical condition. He said, “I understand,” which was nice, and then followed with, “But I don’t agree with it.”

“It.” Typically, “it” means transitioning, “it” often is the perceived sexual perversion aspect of this, or “it” means “living that lifestyle.” I stored his words and waited for an opportunity to speak to them. But, first, I wanted to show him what I was made of.

John and I talked shop.

He impressed me with a keen knowledge of the workings of Lutheran church business, with God’s Word, and with his resume as an involved layman. I hoped I impressed him with my responses to everything he brought up, that I knew my stuff. I also hoped he was finding, in what likely was the first trans person with whom he’d ever spoken, a genuine human being and not some caricature.

After ten minutes, I made my way into explaining about being transgender. He listened intently, giving me good eye contact. He didn’t respond to anything I said or asked any questions, but clearly he was taking me seriously.

In all, we talked for nearly a half-hour. We shook hands and spoke friendly so-longs and nice-to-meet-yous.

I found in John a typical Christian, one who knows nothing and misunderstands much about one’s being transgender, but one who will give you his ear and listen. Maybe, John’s attitude will change, as has the pastor’s who has become a hot topic the past few weeks.

The Baptist

Mark Wingfield is a Baptist minister in Dallas. On May 13, his piece was published on baptistnews.com: “Seven things I’m learning about transgender persons.” It went viral. Wingfield has been the subject of many interviews. I heard him on NPR. He spoke very well.

Here is his essay: http://baptistnews.com/article/seven-things-im-learning-about-transgender-persons/

Wingfield had been in the same camp as John, not understanding and misunderstanding. He undertook listening to two friends, a pediatrician and a geneticist. He still claims he doesn’t know much, but his seven points demonstrate that he has learned much and, perhaps even better, that he has an open mind to learning.

I hope you read his essay. I will only quote one item. I quote it because it is the one that sticks in my craw as I continually have Deuteronomy 22:5 tossed at me: “A woman must not wear men’s clothing, nor a man wear women’s clothing, for the Lord your God detests anyone who does this.”

Wingfield wrote: “4. Transgender persons are not ‘transvestites.’ Far too many of us make this mix-up, in part because the words sound similar and we have no real knowledge of either. Cross-dressers, identified in slang as ‘transvestites,’ are people (typically men) who are happy with their gender but derive pleasure from occasionally dressing like the opposite gender. Cross-dressing is about something other than gender identity.”

Pastor Wingfield has gotten a foot in the door for the Church which can only be helpful. I am very thankful for him, and for news stories such as the following.

PBS

On Sunday, my best friend, Tim Todd, sent me this video:
http://www.pbs.org/newshour/extra/daily_videos/scientists-rethink-gender-identity-with-new-research/

In this piece, Jackie Judd presents an informative story about the science behind transgender. No sensationalism. No bias. No preaching. Nothing but the even-handed presentation of information.

After Judd introduces us to a trans boy, University of Washington psychology professor Kristina Olson is quoted, “Your biology determines a lot of your psychology,” and adding that there likely are biological contributors to our sense of gender identity.

We are then moved into a discussion of the now-abandoned practice of males who were born with ambiguous genitalia on which surgery was automatically performed—the parents might or might not have been informed of the situation—and then presented as girls, given hormone therapy when they reached puberty, and reared as girls. (The genitals were surgically formed into female genitals because constructing a respectable penis is not possible.) The majority of these people rejected their being girls, insisting they were boys which, of course, they were. The lesson? Gender identity if hardwired; it cannot be manipulated or taught.

Next, we are told of post-mortem images of brains of cisgender males and females, and of those who were transgender, with the brains of transgender females having areas resembling cisgender females. (Cisgender means that gender identity and sex anatomy match.)

It has been commonly thought—and I have had suggested regarding me—that trans-identity likely results from being sexually abused, or having a domineering or overly-doting mother, or an absent mother, or a domineering father, or an absent father. Everything in this story, all of the science presented here along with, perhaps most importantly, the testimony of trans individuals, completely dismisses these as factors for those who are truly transgender.

With young children—as young as three—many are concerned that “I don’t want to wear dresses” or “I am a girl!” are just passing phases. They certainly can be, but what of those who persist? Professor Olson, explains the text which accompanies the video, “conducted a long-term study with children using tests that use image and word association to measure the strength of their gender identification. The results showed the children’s thought processes align with the gender they identify with, even if it is not the one they were assigned at birth.”

I most value this news story for its objectivity. It came off as having no agenda other than to provide accurate information.

I value Pastor Wingfield for his attitude, that he knew that he knew nothing and was willing to learn, and even more, by publishing his essay, that he freely placed himself in the firing line of the many Christian detractors.

And I value Christians and fellow Lutherans like John who appear to know nothing, reveal that they likely have misconceptions, but who treat me with respect and give me a fair hearing.

The fight to be understood is difficult, but we are making progress. And progress gives me hope.

Transgender prejudice in the LCMS?

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The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) is the church body in which I was a minister for eighteen years, the church body to which Julie and I returned in April after nine months in the more progressive ELCA. I needed to return to the LCMS so that I might have a voice in it.

Last week, an essay was posted to the LCMS website regarding the current bathroom debate. I exchanged several messages with its author, Kim Schave, in which we were able to agree on nothing except our common hope in Jesus Christ. Three times, I posted comments to the blog. Each one was not approved and they were deleted. My attempt was unsuccessful to get this critique to her, before I posted it.

Her essay is here: https://blogs.lcms.org/2016/male-and-female-he-created-them

Entitled, “Male and Female He Created Them,” quoting Genesis 5:2 in the King James Version, the essay is subtitled “Protecting the Vulnerable in the Transgender Public Facilities Debate.” I found the piece to be a haphazardly assembled series of thoughts. The author told me, “The point of my post was to offer consolation to Christians who have been mocked, ridiculed and insulted for holding fast to the Holy Word of God in this debate over new policies being pushed on us by the LGBT lobby—policies that put the rest of the population at risk.”

I appreciate the desire to console Christians who are often derided, even hated, when their goal is to be true to God’s Word and to protect people. What I do not appreciate is information presented in a way which displays biases, and too often is superficial and incorrect.

Mrs. Schave begins with a series of questions, beginning with, “Have you been called a bigot?” and concluding with, “Have you noticed how the argument has been twisted to claim that we are afraid of those identifying as transgender as the demographic we fear will exploit those in public restrooms and changing areas?” She then proceeds with a series of statistics and news citations which, because of the way she presents the information, the very likely possibility is created that “those identifying as transgender” will indeed be the demographic Christians fear.

She begins her third paragraph: “It is estimated that up to 0.3% of the U.S. population identifies as transgender, roughly 700,000 individuals. It is also interesting to note that there are 747,048 registered sex offenders nationwide in the U.S.” How is this interesting? How do these two categories have anything to do with each other? I suggested to her that by placing these two statistics together she gives the impression that there is a correlation between trans people and sex offenders. She replied, “My intention with quoting the statistics together had nothing to do with linking the two groups and everything to do with demonstrating that there are similar numbers of folks desiring to be protected in the transgender community as there are criminals who have sexually violated others.” So what? It means nothing that these numbers are similar, but placing them together might put an errant, prejudiced thought into the mind of the reader.

The next sentence begins, “While the prevalence of sexual violence among the transgender population is disconcerting…” Following the link she provided, the cited page clearly says that transgender people experience “shockingly high levels of sexual abuse and assault” against them. Why didn’t Mrs. Schave write, “While the prevalence of sexual violence AGAINST,” rather than “AMONG”? Writing “among” makes it sound as if trans people have a propensity for committing sexual abuse and assault.

This immediately follows the previous sentences which cite how many U. S. trans people and registered sex offenders there are. The impression is vivid: trans people are sex offenders. I asked her to correct all of this. It remains.

This sets the tone for the entire essay. How can the reader continue without a bias against transgender people? I do not contend that it was the author’s intention to create a bias. Regardless of intention, the bias has been created.

After citing numerous news stories about perverts in public places, Mrs. Schave moves to a brief discussion of gender dysphoria, beginning with this: “The medical community has thus far not completely caved to the LGBT lobbyists.” She then discusses how gender dysphoria is listed in the Diagnostic Manual as a disorder, adding “much like other mental disorders” without justifying her addition, and then neglects to outline why gender dysphoria needs to be categorized as a disorder so that those who transition, who often desire or require medical care, might qualify for health insurance benefits, which, more and more, cover these things in the manner they insure any viable condition.

The balance of the essay discusses Scripture and a Christian’s response to these matters. She writes, “When we despise the very way in which He lovingly formed us, we sin against Him.” When she mentions the oft-cited Deuteronomy 22:5 against “transvestism,”—now always called crossdressing—and insists that all people are made “male and female” as Genesis 5:2 teaches, she ignores intersex conditions as if they do not exist.

When Mrs. Schave writes, “Given the fall of mankind in Genesis 3 when sin entered the world, it is not a surprise that our view of the sexes would be corrupted,” she forgets that way more than “our view of the sexes” has been corrupted, but our very sexes have been corrupted, just as every aspect of the human condition has been corrupted. There are many intersex conditions, including hermaphroditism, ambiguous genitalia, chromosomal variations, and endocrine disruption.

If I had been created solely male or female, I would not be a transgender person. Mine is a physical condition from the womb as real as for the one inflicted with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, as ever-present as for the one dealing with Multiple Sclerosis, as physically debilitating as for the one undergoing treatment for a life-threatening disease.

Deuteronomy 22:5 does not apply to me (and one wonders why a multitude of verses surrounding it are ignored by the modern church while this one is regularly used) because I am not a male pretending to be a female, or seeking to get my sexual kicks, or trying to deceive anyone. My brain, where my endocrine system was disrupted and malformed, left me with a female identity. After a lifetime of battling myself and my finally becoming suicidal, transitioning to living as a female is for me viable medical treatment.

After citing an LCMS document on gender dysphoria, Mrs. Schave writes, “Indeed it is possible as a Christian to oppose these new understandings being foisted upon us of practices long considered sinful, yet treat those we encounter who struggle with such inclinations with dignity and respect.”

I wrote to her, “Please, learn about this topic before writing about it, before condemning me as a sinner for something you know nothing about—the same way blacks and whites were condemned as sinners when they married each other, but now it’s okay by God’s Word— the same way people with depression were condemned as sinners because they didn’t rejoice in the good life the Lord gave them, but now we know they have a real, physical malady—the same way people were condemned as ‘playing God’ when the first heart transplants were performed, but now these surgeries are accepted by all.”

This summarizes much of why I long to educate in the LCMS. Mixed-race marriages, depression, and heart transplants are but three things Christians once condemned and, without the Word of God changing, now are accepted. What caused the change? Education. Understanding. New and more information about previously unknown things. Yes, even cultural shifts. Gender dysphoria and being transgender is akin to where we were fifty years ago with the three cited issues.

I find my church body sorely lacking in humility. Church leaders are regularly writing about transgender issues as if they possess the final word on it. They argue as if this is cut and dried, strictly applying theology and morality, yet one of the LCMS’ own theologians, my seminary classmate, Rev. Scott Stiegemeyer, wrote last year in our alma mater’s scholarly publication that this is not a condition which is cured by theology and repentance, and it is an intersex condition.

Mrs. Schave concludes her essay, “Often times it feels as though the battle is lost. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:57).” I agree with her on both our victory in Christ and our continuing struggle. I often feel that my battle is lost in trying to educate Christians, and especially the LCMS which is beloved to me.

The Lord has taught me that to whom much has been entrusted, much more will be asked (Luke 12:48). I trust that He has led me to this day, to fight the good fight of the faith, to rely on the pure Gospel of forgiveness, life, and salvation in Jesus Christ, and to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves (Proverbs 31:8), which, among others, would be we transgender persons.

I stand with Kim Schave in our faith in Jesus Christ. I also stand with her in my concern for children and others who need protection. I desire calm conversation in the bathroom debate, with no one foisting an agenda on another. Finally, in all of this, let us speak truthfully, without prejudice, caring for our neighbor as much as we care for ourselves.