My book is now in print!

A Roller Coaster Through a Hurricane—One Wild Ride: My Journey with Gender Identity is now available in print. You may order the paperback edition here:

The back cover copy:

Greg Eilers was at the center of privilege: a respected minister in a conservative church, a middle-class male in a rural community, a family man with a wife and kids. But he harbored a deep secret—a lifetime of questioning his gender identity. In 2013, the questioning had morphed into crushing gender dysphoria, and Eilers found himself in a battle to save his life and sanity. He also found himself in a conundrum: gender identity issues don’t fit with a traditional life and conservative values. How could a man who followed all the rules, and made the church his life’s work, be transgender?In 2015, Eilers transitioned to female to resolve the internal struggle. The road to inner peace, though, was rife with sacrifices. Transitioning took him from the job he loved, put his relationships to the test, and cast him to the margins of society. Scorn replaced privilege. Then, 2018 brought a development just as confounding as 2013’s struggle, and Eilers faced yet another transition.Through it all Eilers held firm to his faith, and found room in the Gospel for an outcast such as himself. He resolved to speak out—to share his story so others would know they’re not alone, and to speak up—to educate the public about transgender and bring dignity to a highly misunderstood group of people.A Roller Coaster Through a Hurricane is a memoir, a unique transgender experience, and an inspiration to the Christian church to lovingly minister to transgender persons.

What readers are saying

17 of 18 readers have given the book FIVE STAR reviews. Snippets from some of their reviews:

  • Richard wrote: [Greg’s] superb and very readable style draws you in and tells you stories – important and true stories of human pain and resilience.
  • Colleen commented: When I started reading this story, I could not put it down. And now, I’m reading through for the second time. I am entranced all the more.
  • Jocelyn said: I had the hardest time putting this book down. I really enjoyed learning about a condition I don’t know much about and getting to know a genuine and wonderful human.

Advertisements

2018: goodbye, Gina; hello, Greg

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’m still a numbskull

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friends gained . . .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

. . . and lost

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

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

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

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

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

They just left.

Why?

Did I offend them by detransitioning?

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

Accepting . . . except when they are not.

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

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

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

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

Publish it!

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

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

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

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

Robert had a double mastectomy

Screenshot_20180924-090239.png

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

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

I wrote about Robert in Using HRT to remain male.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Two more rays of hope

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

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

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

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

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

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

IMG_20171217_130326246.jpg

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

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

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

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

IMG_20171218_151813692a.jpg

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

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

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

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

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

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

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

I had a secret

Two years ago, today, I flipped my life on its head. I exposed myself. I left myself wide open to rejection, to ridicule, to accusations of every sort, even to hatred.

top-secret.jpgI emptied the contents of the envelope.  I told my secret.

We all harbor plenty of secrets. There’s no reason anyone ever needed to know that I once shoplifted. Sure, I was ten, and the item was a penny piece of Bazooka bubble gum, but that doesn’t change the fact that I stole something. (I used this when teaching my students the commandment, “You shall not steal.” It worked well as a lesson, and the youngsters loved that their pastor had been a regular kid.)

Many secrets should remain just that. Many secrets do no one any good to tell them. A woman once told me that she questioned who was the father of her son. She wanted to have a DNA test performed. I asked what her motivation was. She spoke of her guilt, of her having had an affair while married to the man whom her son never questioned was his biological father. Because her desire was not to help her child or anyone else, but only to try to shed her guilt, I urged her to keep quiet and move on. She did not. Nothing good came of it.

I had a secret, a terrible secret. Would the telling of my secret be a selfish act, or could I make good use of telling it?

When talking about becoming one of His disciples, the Lord Jesus spoke of counting the cost. “For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it (Luke 14:28)?” I did a lot of cost-counting in the two years leading up to April 29, 2015. I believed that I had made my Pro and Con lists accurately, that I had assigned an honest value to the Pro items and a true cost to the Con items.

Weighing every factor, the desire to achieve good with my secret won the day. I would go public. I started a blog. My many Facebook connections would be my best way to spread the word.

After breaking down in my therapist session on April 23, I posted about that on April 24.

https://eilerspizza.wordpress.com/2015/04/24/therapy/

I had been in therapy for exactly two years and felt like I had gone nowhere. Every step forward was followed by an equal step backward. I had been in therapy for over a year before I retired from the ministry, and now nearly a year into retirement, and now I said that I would tell what forced me into retirement, what had been plaguing me my entire life, what was at that time seeking once again to crush me.

To finally get me to try killing myself.

And if I did not kill myself, I would literally lose my mind. I would become the guy in the corner, the one over there, drooling, being fed every meal, with that distant look in his eyes which left every visitor asking, “I wonder what Greg is thinking about.”

Between April 24 and 29, I posted several essays to help set the table for making known what I had kept hidden. I was thankful for the many who rallied to me, assuring me with comments like, “There’s nothing you can tell us that will cause us to hate you.” I appreciated those sentiments, but inside I said, “You have no idea what I’m going to say.”

And some would in fact hate me.

I opted for April 29, because the 30th is my birthday. I didn’t want to sully my birthday. At 7:45 a.m., I placed on the screen my secret-revealing post, “Who am I?”

https://eilerspizza.wordpress.com/2015/04/29/who-am-i/

I edited it for the umpteenth time. I walked away from my computer. I was scared.

I had been praying about this for months. I prayed once again, “Lord, is this what I should do? Is this the time? It finally feels like it is the time.” I returned to my computer. I had that odd combination of confidence that it was the right thing and total fear for going public.

At 8:00 a.m., I hit Enter.

That was two years ago, today. In those two years, I attempted transitioning, found it to be healing balm, and undertook every possible step, culminating in sex reassignment surgery eighteen days ago. Over the two years, I both gained a lot and lost a lot.

Since, in the nearly two years before this, I had already told my kids and siblings, and a few of my closest friends and several pastors and church leaders, I already had a good idea that things would sort out with those who would be supportive, those who would struggle, and those who would reject me.

Of all those who flat-out rejected me, one stands out as the worst. One of my best, oldest friends unfriended me from Facebook. No, not after I announced that I was transitioning, but simply when I told my secret that I suffered issues of my gender identity.

He didn’t say a word. He simply walked away from over thirty years of friendship.

Thankfully, for every hurtful story I can tell there are many happy ones to recount. And not only with individuals, but with the work I have been able to do—speaking, writing, being interviewed—which never could have been if I had not bared my soul.

Am I glad that I told my secret? Truly, I wish I never felt that I had to. Even now, I can say that my desire would have been to have enough strength to fight this off, to still be a pastor, and not to have caused great turmoil in my family and in so many other areas of my life. When I crashed in 2013, only Julie, my first wife, and one minister knew my secret. It would be great to go back to pre-2013 times.

Ah, but one cannot go back. One can only live in today and move into tomorrow. Since I had to deal head-on with my situation, I needed to count the cost how to build something good out of it, set out to do the hard work, and perform my task well.

A secret should never be told for self-gratification. I feel good that I can say that I did not tell mine for selfish purposes, but to educate, to erase misunderstanding, and to help those individuals and their loved ones who are in the same spot as me. Because of that—because of the feedback I have gotten and the nearly 50,000 visitors to my blog—I can say, yes, I am glad that I told my secret.

The Pro side of the list had a greater value than the cost contained on the Con side.

I no longer had a secret. I had a story.

4544af615f53949d0a5e90d95e8c2a9e