Not happy, but healthy

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I have appreciated every person who has been kind to me, offered their encouragement and support, and especially those who have not been afraid to be public about it. At times in their cheering me they have said things in ways which I would not. I focus on one topic:

  • “I’m so glad you are happy.”
  • “As long as you’re happy.”
  • “You deserve to be happy.”

Have you guessed the topic?

We all can quote plenty of advertisements that use happiness as the goal to get us to buy the latest this or that or the other thing. And as soon as our happiness has worn off from the previous thing, we move onto the next thing even if the previous thing, say one’s current cell phone, still works perfectly fine. Nope, now that the new model is out so is my happiness with my current one.

Our culture is bent on being happy.

A Lutheran man, with whom I have debated every issue under the heading of transgender, told me that he conferred with some pastors. He said that one of them commented: “The basic idea is extremely troubling: I wasn’t happy; now I am.” Where did this pastor get this idea? He didn’t get it from me.

I asked the man to please inform the pastor that happiness was never my goal. I dared him to find the places on my blog where I have talked about striving for happiness, that he would not find such talk from me because it has never been my attitude.

Good health is my worthy goal. Contentment, not happiness, is my desire. Where the final two of the ten commandments warn us not to covet, we see contentment as coveting’s opposite, to be satisfied with one’s situation in life, and doing so in a manner which is wise and healthy.

Ah, to be healthy! Where do so many go when asked how their lives are? “I am thankful that I have my health.”

I did not have my health.

If I had not been crushed by gender dysphoria, I would have cried from the mountaintops what a happy life I had. My marriage was simply the best. I was pleased for my children, and that they gave me seven grandchildren. I had the job for which I was perfectly suited and I loved. My health has primarily been outstanding throughout my life. I enjoyed good hobbies—jogging, gardening, reading, writing. I had a good income, a wonderful house, a splendid community, loads of friends, and all of the material things that I needed and many that I didn’t need but when I wanted them I could afford to go out and get them.

Remove my gender dysphoria and I was as content as one can be. I experienced profound thankfulness to the Lord for His goodness to me. I have said many times that my Lord has blessed no one more than He has blessed me. I absolutely mean that . . . even with the gender dysphoria.

Did I transition in order to be happy? Absolutely not. I transitioned so that I might be healthy, so that I might be able to live a life in which I could benefit my family and community.

Where I was, I was of benefit to no one. When I was suffering the worst, I despised everything so much that I was stymied. And my mood was ugly. And I hated what I was putting Julie through.

I could only see three things as the possibilities for me as a male:

  • I would commit suicide, or
  • I would go insane, or
  • in order to extinguish my mental anguish, I would be so heavily medicated that I would be a shell of a person and unable to do anything.

I had to take action. If transitioning would get me healthy, allow my mind finally to relax, I could remove the three fears and I could once again be a productive person, making good use of the gifts with which I have been blessed.

Not only was happiness not my goal but, now that I have transitioned and am healthy, there are plenty of things about which I am not happy, including

  • the ongoing trouble for the many who have been offended by me;
  • fighting with my fellow Christians;
  • the battle that I have undertaken and at which I resolve to continue to work hard: educating my fellow Christians, especially the leadership of my former church body;
  • my body shape;
  • my hairline and very thin hair;
  • all of my upcoming surgeries;
  • the financial strain on Julie and me;
  • and that I can no longer do the job I love in the place where I want to be, the LCMS.

None of those were issues for me before. The question has thus become: are the new troubles worth it? Was the trade-off reasonable? Am I more happy than I had been? (Oops! I just had to add that.)

I am pleased to say that my answer is an absolute YES. While I do not prefer the new troubles and would shake them free if I could, they go with the territory. While I wish no one were offended by me, I have strived not to offend anyone but to live as an honorable, ethical person. I have worked hard to educate them. For my fellow Christians, this education goes to the heart of my transitioning publicly because my experience informs me that LCMS pastors and lay persons do not understand gender dysphoria and being transgender. As for my body and hair, I can abide with what I have, and am way more grateful for what I have than for what I do not have. The surgeries are a necessary evil, if you will, as is the financial strain. Thankfully, we are hanging in there financially, and we are people who do not go crazy spending money. Finally, while I still miss being a pastor I am okay with it so long as I am doing things which are beneficial and fulfilling, which I am doing most of the time.

Everyone wants to be understood. We long to be respected. Both of these are vitally important to me. Sadly, too many people judge me before or without hearing me, and come up with unfair assessments such as the pastor who found my goal only to be happy.

Am I now happy most of the time? I am pleased to report that I am. Happiness is a byproduct of getting healthy and the ability to be content again—a byproduct, but not the goal.

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What if I’m wrong?

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What if, by transitioning to living as a female, I have put my eternal life into jeopardy, and even now have doomed myself to damnation in hell?

The answer to the title question—what if I am wrong?—is found in the answers to these questions:

  1. How are we saved?
  2. Who does the work?
  3. What is our part?

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This essay is divided into three parts. I have written in detail for those who are new to my blog. Because many will want to get right to the question, I have placed the ultimate section first. If you are not familiar with my story, you would be well-served to slide down to parts one and two, which follow the conclusion of the first section.

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Part three: What if I am wrong?

Despite the outward troubles which came from publicly transitioning—family, church, and friends who were hurt and confused and offended—finally, I was feeling like myself. In 2016, peace has settled into place so wonderfully that the struggle of my life has become something I view as if watching a movie of another person’s life.

As of early September, my situation has now become widely known in my church body, the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS). Many pastors and lay people have contacted me, either asking me loads of questions about all of this or simply convicting me of sin. Among the questions is the big one.

What if I am wrong?

This question must be answered in light of the life of every Christian. Does one’s stand before Holy God rely on his being right in all of his actions? For having made every correct decision? For having recognized every last error and specifically repented of it? For being absolutely positive that he is not, right now, in error with a precept of God and unable to repent because his mind-set is wrong?

  • How are we saved?
  • Who does the work?
  • What is our part?

1. How are we saved?

  • “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast (Ephesians 2:8-9).”
  • “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins (1 John 4:10).”

2. Who does the work?

  • “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21).”
  • “God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them (2 Corinthians 5:19).”

3. What is our part?

  • “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins (Ephesians 2:1).”
  • “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one (Romans 3:10-12).”

Summarizing the three questions in reverse order, we were dead in our sins, Jesus Christ sacrificed Himself for our sins, and for Christ’s sake the Father attributes to us the salvation which His Son accomplished.

Romans 5:8 informs us: “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” This begs my questions: If God so loved us to atone for our sins while we were dead in them, does it fit His character that He would be unwilling to live for us in the worst times of our lives? When we are completely beat down and broken? When we find ourselves totally befuddled with our situation?

I have said it before, and I do not shy from continuing to say it: I would not place my eternal life into the hands of a fickle deity like that, who would abandon me when I need him most.

I have, indeed, continually and gladly placed my life in the hands of the God who promises to acknowledge me before His Father in heaven as I acknowledge Him on earth (Matthew 10:32). By the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit, I have never ceased acknowledging and confessing Jesus Christ before men. Indeed, my zeal for proclaiming Christ has consistently deepened.

I shifted my question from what if I am wrong to how we are saved because so many pastors have turned this on its head, placing a heavy yoke onto my shoulders, accusing me of having lost my faith—even of God’s having given me over to my sin—because I have sinned so badly, causing me to constantly beat off the old guilt-play, that I have to get my act together before the Lord will love me again.

Based on how Christ died for us while we were yet sinners, and how I have clung to Him every single day of my struggle, I suggest that if God abandoned me in my greatest time of need then the following Scriptures are false:

  • “No one can say Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:3).”
  • “Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief (1 Timothy 1:15).”
  • “It is by grace you have been saved through faith, it is a gift of God, not by works, that no one may boast (Ephesians 2:8-9).”
  • “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1).”
  • “God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him (John 3:17).”
  • “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you (Hebrews 13:5).”
  • “A bruised reed, He will not break (Isaiah 42:3).”

I was, have been, and remain the bruised reed. I implore my fellow Christians with this question: When I need Christ the most, that when He’s going to break me?

Not only does this make no biblical sense to me. It goes against everything I have learned about the Lord’s character from His own Word.

When did the seven quoted Scriptures cease to belong to me? By the work of the Spirit in me, I have never wavered in my faith, never ceased being in God’s Word, and never had a day go by when I did not place myself before the Lord in repentance and prayer.

Therefore, repentance always looks the same for me: I throw myself at God the Father’s mercy for the sake of Christ.

Thankfully, we are not saved by being right about every move in our lives, and the Lord does not say, “Oops, you just did the ONE thing that will cause me to remove my Spirit from you!” When it is clear that we are sinning, we shall not do so. We shall not take another’s spouse, or steal, or lie, etc. But when we are in situations as challenging as mine has been? The Lord doesn’t sit in heaven just waiting for us to do make the wrong move, ready to kick us out as if we are contestants on some game show.

No, the Lord is not fickle, and He is not a man to act the way we would. He is longsuffering, merciful, and faithful.

This never means that we can do as we wish when right and wrong are clear. What it means is that we do not live in fear, but in faith and trust, secure in Christ’s finished work. Christianity is based on Christ’s salvation, not whether we make every right move and don’t blow the big ones. Christians are habitual blow-the-big-ones people.

“While we were still sinners, Christ died for us,” and while we remain sinners in this life Christ’s death continues to atone for us. Having been resurrected from the dead and ascended to heaven, He lives to serve us. He sent His Holy Spirit, who leads us to Him. When I was nineteen days old, I was given the Spirit in Holy Baptism, including every baptismal gift of which God’s Word speaks, including this one: “All of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ (Galatians 3:27).”

I am clothed with Christ. When God the Father sees me, He sees His Son, whose righteousness covers my unrighteousness. I rejoice in this truth! I praise and thank the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit for this gift!

What if I’m wrong? Praise the Lord that my salvation relies on Christ’s being right. He is the Righteous One. He is my Savior.

~ To Christ alone be the glory! ~

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Part one: Birth to retirement

When I was a child, as I lay in bed every night longing to be a girl, the Law of God weighed heavily upon me. I was carrying such a burden, thinking I was unlovable because of my desires, that for about a year when I was in high school I spent every single night trying to go to sleep as I pondered what life would be like in hell for eternity.

I would think, “It will eventually end. It has to. Everything finally comes to an end. But, no, just when I think it will be done, there will be one more day. Then one more day. Always one more day.”

I was scared to death. That is no way to live as a child of God.

In my early twenties, I became a Lutheran. I finally heard the Gospel in a way that it was for me. I became free!—freed me from a fear-faith because I finally knew that the Lord Jesus fulfilled the requirements of righteousness in my place.

My gender identity issues consistently deepened. Despite that, in my thirties I was motivated to enter the seminary, from which I was approved for the ministry. I served as a pastor in the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) for eighteen years. At about the fifteen year mark of my service, in my early fifties, my gender identity issues took a turn toward my hating myself. In 2013, I finally experienced full-blown gender dysphoria, the deepest ill feelings over having a male body and life when my brain was screaming FEMALE.

I retired from the ministry in 2014. For more than two years—from early 2013 to mid 2015—I fought transitioning to live as a female. I began and stopped hormone replacement therapy three times. I attempted outwardly transitioning once, beginning on January 1, 2015, and then stopped after six weeks.

The more I fought, the worse I got. Each time I ceased taking HRT, after a few weeks I crashed worse than the time before, akin to what a person with depression might experience when cutting off medication and it is no longer in her system.

Suicide or insanity were the only results I saw from myself if I remained a male. Suicidal ideation began early in 2013: “You hate being a man. You can’t be a woman. Just kill yourself.” I had a plan: I would get my car going as fast I could on one of Huron County’s country roads, unbuckle my seat belt, and aim my car for the ditch.

By early 2014, I thought I was only days from losing my mind. At that time, I wrote this: “Going insane is a long, slow, gradual process. After nearly fifty-seven years of life, I believe that I am almost there. I am on the brink of insanity. I am being torn in half. The more I tear, the less of me there is left to tear. I’m almost torn all the way through.”

The Lord held me together. I was able to continue working until I retired on June 30, 2014.

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Part two: Crashing in Indy

The final weeks as a pastor, I had experienced a surprising level of peace with myself. At my final monthly pastors’ meeting, I told a couple of the brothers who were in the know: “I am feeling really good about myself. I am wondering if I can attribute it to my retirement only being days away. This might be what I need, to get out from under the pressure of the ministry. I sure hope it is.”

Three days after I retired, Julie and I moved to Indy. Three days after moving to Indy, I crashed. So much for being out of the ministry.

After month of fighting, I restarted HRT. A month after restarting, when my estrogen increased enough and my testosterone decreased enough, the peace returned which I enjoyed the previous two times I was on HRT.

KEY NOTE: To you, who insist that gender dysphoria is a mental illness, explain to me why being on HRT, reversing my hormones brings peace—a physical thing, not a result of my self-determination.

As sometimes happens with those on depression medication, I mistook the HRT-provided peace with a newfound strength to fight off my gender dysphoria. I stopped taking the pills. I vowed to Julie and to my children that I would never again even allow myself to consider transitioning, that it was necessary for me to have such a resolve if I were to beat this and remain male.

That lasted for five weeks.

As I could have and should have predicted, when my hormone levels once again reverted to those of a typical male, my brain once again caught fire. I was filled with a new level of self-hatred, of what I have described as a two-person struggle. My dis-ease with myself forced on me an inability to see anything good in life, despising Indianapolis and longing for Port Hope and my former ministry, for things and places I knew and loved.

I hated everything.

This was October, 2014. In November, I went home to Michigan for (my final) family deer camp. The times that I would retreat to the trailer to read, I spent crying.

I still was not back on HRT. It was now late December. I decided that I had to try living full time as a female to see if it might ease my pain. I was determined to do it long enough to give myself a reasonable experience from which to make a decision.

Three weeks into it, I restarted HRT. Six weeks into it, I was feeling so good that—you should know what is coming—I was able to resume thinking I could live as a male. I stopped living as Gina. I ran out of my HRT medicine, which was from my former doctor in Michigan.

Soon, I was back on HRT, having been approved by my new therapist in Indy. By late April, after the worst therapist appointment I ever had—I spent the hour screaming and bawling, at odds with every last thing in my life—I finally sensed the Lord saying YES to the prayer with which I had beseeched Him for months. It was time to go public.

I did that on April 29. Because I was fighting to remain male, I had support from the ones I feared the most, my former brother pastors.

I (naively) had hoped that going public would strengthen me for the fight. It did . . . for a matter of days. Over the next two months, I sunk to the lowest of lows. We bought our house at this time, and my doing almost all of the packing and moving by myself was a saving grace.

A month after we moved, I was back to needing to try living as a female. This time, it stuck. After six weeks, feeling so right about my being, I went public, posting online that I had begun what is called the Real Life Test. On August 19, I changed my online identity and photo to Gina.

I settled into Gina. It has been fifteen months. Finally, enjoying blessed peace inside myself, I have no thoughts of going back, of trying to be a male, of once again fearing the big three: suicide, insanity, or having to be so heavily medicated in order not to feel the self-hatred that I would be left a shell of a person.

And all the while, from first considering transitioning early in 2013, I have been asking myself the eternal question: What if I am wrong?