Silence Is Rusty #5

855-suffering-quotes

“Being a person is hard.”

The day after I told my daughter, Jackie, about my gender dysphoria, this was her primary reaction. For the dozens of people I told face-to-face, and then the hundreds who provided feedback when I went public online, Jackie’s reaction easily was the one that most stuck with me.

I like it because it is a realization about life, with an underlying empathy. What I heard Jackie say in those five words were, “No one gets off easy. We all have our own struggles and trials and hurts. I have mine and you, Dad, have yours. I heard you loud and clear last night, how deep your pain is. I feel for you.”

This is empathy, the finding of a connection with other humans which drives our caring for them.

Empathy feels. Its opposite is an “if you just tried harder” contempt.

Compassion cares. Its opposite is “I don’t care” indifference.

Affinity finds in the other an ally. Its opposite is “I don’t need this” animosity.

Affection forms and then fuels empathy and compassion. Its opposite is antipathy—lack of caring—which inflames hatred, which deepens into prejudice and bigotry and a sense that one is superior to another, which incites narrow-mindedness, unfairness, and separation from those who are different from us.

inspirational-quotes_16345-4

This came close to home in the 1990s when my sister, Sue’s, TMJ grew very serious. After surgery on her jaws she could not talk for eight weeks. The surgery did not provide the healing she sought. Her jaw pain has been awful all these years.

Sue has had to pick and choose when she can be with people. She and I are alike; she is super-friendly and loves talking with folks. But the more she talks, the more pain she has, and the more she has to deal with for days, even weeks after the event.

This caused her to become a bit of a loner. She avoided some family functions. And some of us were not always kind in our assessment, criticizing her for going to that thing but not to this one, of using her ailment to her advantage. Giving her the benefit of the doubt was seldom heard by those who had an opinion about her.

It was when I finally came beside Sue that I grew in my empathy for her. The closer we became, the better I heard her, the more I cared about her. Suffering must get personal, or else we will always work to avoid it.

My earliest lesson was my brother, Jim. Visiting him at Fort Custer, near Battle Creek, we kids were exposed to people whom society dubbed “monstrosities.” Our mother told us that they are no different from us, that we are no better than them. Her guidance absolutely formed me.

Suffering the loss of a child did the same. My compassion exploded for all people who suffer sudden, tragic loss. Then, as a pastor, as I ministered to folks in every death situation, I learned that it doesn’t matter how the loss occurred, but that all death stinks and hurts to our core, and we all need to feel for those who suffer this loss.

When I went public with my gender dysphoria, I finally could appreciate what my sister went through, longing to be understood, for people not to judge what they do not know, and not to decide for me how much pain I was in. One pastor, with whom I used to be very close, reacted this way when I told him that I had grown suicidal and truly feared that I would go insane: “Oh, come on. Surely, it isn’t that bad.”

You can bet that my sister never said anything like that. After Julie, she became my biggest ally.

suffering-is-one-of-lifes-great-teachers-quote-1

These twelve days in which I cannot speak, friends are encouraging me with their stories. One woman explained how after serious dental work she was instructed that for six weeks she could not bend over, sneeze, drink through a straw, go under water (they had a pool), had to sleep sitting up, and could not blow her nose. A man told me of his late father-in-law who had suffered a stroke and became speechless. He got a spelling board, where he pointed out letters. Sometimes he got so frustrated trying to spell he would throw the board across the room.

I remember how often my mom would say why she watched soap operas. “When I see their problems, mine don’t look so bad.” Over the years, many people would quote this to me, but too often it was to downplay their situation. I would not let them do it. Their suffering was their suffering and they did not need to lessen it by comparing to someone supposedly suffering worse than them.

Who says they were suffering worse? Suffering differently, perhaps, but worse? Who decides that? Why do we keep score?  Why are we always deciding for others what their situation is? Why are we so stinking judgmental?

The woman’s post-dental surgery situation, the man with the stroke, and being reminded of my sister’s post-surgery silence all help me keep my situation in perspective. For that, I am grateful the folks shared these with me.

The word which best describes people in their falling short of goodness and caring is the word “selfish.” Our inclination is to think of our self first, and when that becomes difficult because of suffering—whether our own or someone else’s—we are prone to avoid  or remove the suffering. That is what breaks up many marriages, strains families, ends loads of friendships, results in some people killing themselves.

I know that the Lord doesn’t like suffering any more than I but, as I like to say, He is the ultimate lemonade-maker out of life’s lemons. Romans 5:3-4: “We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” While the next verse directly ties this to our trust in Jesus Christ, this is a truth which can be applied anywhere, for anyone: Embrace suffering so as to work good with it.

For the suffering/perseverance/character/hope track to come about, we need to directly deal with our suffering and the suffering of family and friends and community. If we slough it off, we gain nothing. And neither does anyone else gain anything from us.

Being a person is hard. It’s not only hard for me and for you, but it is hard for one hundred percent of us. I long for a world in which all people grasp this.

If we will suffer together, it will happen that we will care for each other. If we will not, the world we have is the one in which we will continue to clash.

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Five days are in the books.

Seven days to go.

A week from today, I see the surgeon and have my first opportunity to hear how my voice will sound.

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Make good use of suffering

I wrote this the fifth day after having surgery on my vocal cords, hoping to raise the pitch of my voice.  I would have to refrain from talking for twelve days.  Many lessons in life were coming together.

855-suffering-quotes

“Being a person is hard.”

The day after I told my daughter, Jackie, about my gender dysphoria, this was her primary reaction. For the dozens of people I told face-to-face, and then the hundreds who provided feedback when I went public online, Jackie’s reaction easily was the one that most stuck with me.

I like it because it is a realization about life, with an underlying empathy. What I heard Jackie say in those five words were, “No one gets off easy. We all have our own struggles and trials and hurts. I have mine and you, Dad, have yours. I heard you loud and clear last night, how deep your pain is. I feel for you.”

This is empathy, the finding of a connection with other humans which drives our caring for them.

Empathy feels. Its opposite is an “if you just tried harder” contempt.

Compassion cares. Its opposite is “I don’t care” indifference.

Affinity finds in the other an ally. Its opposite is “I don’t need this” animosity.

Affection forms and then fuels empathy and compassion. Its opposite is antipathy—lack of caring—which inflames hatred, which deepens into prejudice and bigotry and a sense that one is superior to another, which incites narrow-mindedness, unfairness, and separation from those who are different from us.

inspirational-quotes_16345-4

This came close to home in the 1990s when my sister, Sue’s, TMJ grew very serious. After surgery on her jaws she could not talk for eight weeks. The surgery did not provide the healing she sought. Her jaw pain has been awful all these years.

Sue has had to pick and choose when she can be with people. She and I are alike; she is super-friendly and loves talking with folks. But the more she talks, the more pain she has, and the more she has to deal with for days, even weeks after the event.

This caused her to become a bit of a loner. She avoided some family functions. And some of us were not always kind in our assessment, criticizing her for going to that thing but not to this one, of using her ailment to her advantage. Giving her the benefit of the doubt was seldom heard by those who had an opinion about her.

It was when I finally came beside Sue that I grew in my empathy for her. The closer we became, the better I heard her, the more I cared about her. Suffering must get personal, or else we will always work to avoid it.

My earliest lesson was my brother, Jim. Visiting him at Fort Custer, near Battle Creek, we kids were exposed to people whom society dubbed “monstrosities.” Our mother told us that they are no different from us, that we are no better than them. Her guidance absolutely formed me.

Suffering the loss of a child did the same. My compassion exploded for all people who suffer sudden, tragic loss. Then, as a pastor, as I ministered to folks in every death situation, I learned that it doesn’t matter how the loss occurred, but that all death stinks and hurts to our core, and we all need to feel for those who suffer this loss.

When I went public with my gender dysphoria, I finally could appreciate what my sister went through, longing to be understood, for people not to judge what they do not know, and not to decide for me how much pain I was in. One pastor, with whom I used to be very close, reacted this way when I told him that I had grown suicidal and truly feared that I would go insane: “Oh, come on. Surely, it isn’t that bad.”

You can bet that my sister never said anything like that. After Julie, she became my biggest ally.

suffering-is-one-of-lifes-great-teachers-quote-1

These twelve days in which I cannot speak, friends are encouraging me with their stories. One woman explained how after serious dental work she was instructed that for six weeks she could not bend over, sneeze, drink through a straw, go under water (they had a pool), had to sleep sitting up, and could not blow her nose. A man told me of his late father-in-law who had suffered a stroke and became speechless. He got a spelling board, where he pointed out letters. Sometimes he got so frustrated trying to spell he would throw the board across the room.

I remember how often my mom would say why she watched soap operas. “When I see their problems, mine don’t look so bad.” Over the years, many people would quote this to me, but too often it was to downplay their situation. I would not let them do it. Their suffering was their suffering and they did not need to lessen it by comparing to someone supposedly suffering worse than them.

Who says they were suffering worse? Suffering differently, perhaps, but worse? Who decides that? Why do we keep score?  Why are we always deciding for others what their situation is? Why are we so stinking judgmental?

The woman’s post-dental surgery situation, the man with the stroke, and being reminded of my sister’s post-surgery silence all help me keep my situation in perspective. For that, I am grateful the folks shared these with me.

The word which best describes people in their falling short of goodness and caring is the word “selfish.” Our inclination is to think of our self first, and when that becomes difficult because of suffering—whether our own or someone else’s—we are prone to avoid  or remove the suffering. That is what breaks up many marriages, strains families, ends loads of friendships, results in some people killing themselves.

I know that the Lord doesn’t like suffering any more than I but, as I like to say, He is the ultimate lemonade-maker out of life’s lemons. Romans 5:3-4: “We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” While the next verse directly ties this to our trust in Jesus Christ, this is a truth which can be applied anywhere, for anyone: Embrace suffering so as to work good with it.

For the suffering/perseverance/character/hope track to come about, we need to directly deal with our suffering and the suffering of family and friends and community. If we slough it off, we gain nothing. And neither does anyone else gain anything from us.

Being a person is hard. It’s not only hard for me and for you, but it is hard for one hundred percent of us. I long for a world in which all people grasp this.

If we will suffer together, it will happen that we will care for each other. If we will not, the world we have is the one in which we will continue to clash.

slide_71

 

Give me an F!

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My temporary license, awaiting the permanent one to arrive via the mail.

NOW, I am happy! Downright giddy. Triumphant feeling. Content with everything that I have accomplished and relaxed about the things that I have ahead of me.

Yesterday, I received the very first “F” of my life, and I am so happy to have made the grade. I am the happy owner of a drivers license on which I have an updated photo, my name is Gina Joy Eilers, and my sex is listed with that big, lovely F for female.

I now have the Big Three accomplished.

One: Name change. On Monday, a judge declared me to be Gina Joy Eilers. Because I am not changing my birth certificate, I did not need the judge to change my gender.

Two: Social Security. Monday afternoon, the process to have my identity changed on my SS# was nothing more than handing over my paperwork and the agent making some keystrokes to my account.

Three: Drivers License. One has to wait till the next day after the Social Security office, and I had a very busy Tuesday, so I did not go to the BMV until Wednesday. Jessica was the agent who served me. She had done several name changes, but was new to a gender change. She summoned the branch manager.

They have had it drilled into them that all gender marker change requests must be accompanied by the BMV’s form. I did not have their form. I had my doctor’s letter. I was certain that I had what they needed, but they disagreed and sent me home with the form to have my doctor complete.

You could hear the air seeping out as my hopes were deflated of getting this done without nails on the pavement.

When Julie got home from work, she jumped on this. “They are wrong. The website says ‘or.’ You either need their form OR your doctor’s letter.” She printed the page from their website and I prepared to head back first thing Thursday morning, as Jessica had recommended I do that because things are slow right after they open.

I returned as she suggested, bright and early and ready to make my case. Jessica summoned the branch manager. They pulled out their fine toothed combs and examined their own instructions. The branch manager called Indianapolis’ main office. A few minutes later, she returned with the good news that Julie was correct and my letter had the necessary information.

They don’t know Julie. Of course, Julie was correct.

BMV branches are not able to make the change for the gender marker. As Jessica completed everything she could, we waited for the main office to make the change from “M” to F.” Ten minutes later, Jessica called me back to her desk, announced the good news, I paid the $10.50 fee, thanked her for being so kind and friendly, shook her hand, and departed.

On my way out, I took my picture in front of the BMV sign. As I then walked to my car, it hit me. I was so happy! As my friend, Steve, wrote on Facebook after I got my name change, Gina Eilers was “filled” with Joy!

I got into my car, placed the key into the ignition, and burst out with a triumphant, “Yeah!” I raised my hands in victory and punched at the air. I told myself, “NOW, I am happy. NOW, this all feels so good.”

And with this I realized something really important to me, why I could not gear up for Monday’s court date.

Everything I wrote on Monday remains true. I never wanted to transition, Greg deserves better than all of this, and all that I have done is for the sake of necessity because attempting to resume living as a male is, as I have learned from trying it so many times, a fool’s game.

But, on Monday, there was one more major ingredient to be stirred in, and the waters were too murky for me to see it lurking down deep. I was more concerned about getting my drivers license than I was about getting my name changed. I don’t recall any trans friends speaking of being denied their name change, or even having any trouble with a judge. But, the gender marker on the drivers license? Yeah, I’ve heard too many stories of BMV employees putting up hurdles and not being helpful, of “You need this,” and “You don’t have that”—just as happened with me on Wednesday.

So, even with Monday’s name change in my hand, I could not enjoy it with my drivers license looming. Now, with my drivers license corrected—Gina Joy Eilers, Sex: F—I have walked every legal step.

Successfully.

NOW, I am happy. NOW, it all feels so very good.

I have loads of name changes to make—mortgage, credit cards, magazine subscriptions, and the like—and I am no fan of what feels like bothersome paperwork, but, jeepers, these all will be nothing more than time-consuming nuisances.

Bring ‘em on. I am Gina Joy Eilers, recognized as a female person. Just give me time to get my new signature down pat.

As I waited for the BMV, I sat and prayed, “Thy will be done.” I pray to the Lord, every step of the way, every day, seeking His good and gracious will for my life. I never make a move unless I have the spirit of my convictions about it.

I praise the Lord for abiding with me through all of this. The most-imagined unimaginable thing of my life is a full reality. I am living as, and documented as, a female person, the person my brain always told me I should be.

Really? At fifty-nine years old, is all of this really true? No one is going to pinch me awake only for me to return to my youth and the aching of my heart?

Yes, it is true, and I have the paperwork and the always-painted fingernails to prove it.

I am reminded of some Bible verses: “With God, all things are possible (Matthew 19:6),” and “God works all things for good in the lives of those who love Him, whom He has called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).”

That my trust in Christ is the strongest it has ever been, and that my chief desire is exactly as it was when I was a pastor, to proclaim Jesus Christ, His victorious death and resurrection for the entire world, and His gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation, I have confidence that the Lord is leading me where He wants me, to give me peace with Him and with myself, and to educate the world regarding what it means to be transgender and a Christian.

I like to say that the Lord has never blessed any person, in the history of the world, more than He has blessed me. I renew that saying, today. I am humbled, dazzled, and just plain in the pink with His blessings which I enjoy in this life and which I will enjoy forever.

As I conclude the writing of this piece, I am, as I so often am, reduced to a puddle of tears. Today, they are tears of joy.

Gina Joy.

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Leaving the BMV, victorious!