This shopping season, are you looking a good book for an avid reader? My memoir, A Roller Coaster Through a Hurricane, is a. about my experience as a transgender person. b. filled with humorous, tragic, and compelling events from my life. c. a story how I lived my Christian faith through adversity and rejection. d. my love story with Julie. e. all of the above.
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The first time I dared call a girl for a date could have gone better.
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“You’ve Got Mail” has nothing on how Julie and I came together.
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Personally and professionally, tragedy has been a frequent visitor.
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I detail the transitioning steps for myself and all trans persons.
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I learned a lot by living publicly as a transgender woman.
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That’s but a glimpse into the ride provided by A Roller Coaster Through a Hurricane!
I’m writing about it as I continue to demonstrate that my resuming living as a male changed nothing in my quest to educate regarding gender dysphoria and advocate for transgender persons.
It was a year ago when I received an email from my former therapist informing me that the editors of this book on transgender health and aging were seeking short pieces from older trans persons. The book covers every topic imaginable regarding emotional and physical healthcare for trans persons, and the guest essays provide personal insights into the topic.
At this time last year, I was still living as a female, but I was not feeling female at all. No one, outside of immediate family and a few friends, was aware of what I was experiencing. I knew that if the sense of being male persisted I would be resuming living as a male, and then making it known. Indeed, by mid-April I was going back and forth how I presented depending where I was, then in late May I was back to Greg full time, and on July 9 I made it public.
By the time I decided to submit a piece for the book it was mid-April. I wrote an essay and sent it to the therapist who told me about this opportunity. She sent an encouraging reply, so I submitted my piece.
I submitted it as Gina. I felt a bit disingenuous, not acknowledging what was going on with me. I reasoned that I didn’t know what would transpire, and I was still living as Gina, and I was legally Gina.
In early May, they informed me that my essay would be one of ten included in the book. I was not back full time to Greg, so I left that be. They informed me they would send me a book upon its publication. I received it on March 16.
Regardless of my resuming living as a male, everything I wrote remains true. In the essay, I reflect on an event I had attended in April, mere days before writing the piece. My endocrinologist invited me to a presentation to over one hundred medical professionals of IU Health. A nurse, who has a trans son, gave an excellent presentation, educating about gender dysphoria and one’s being transgender. I then spoke to them for a few minutes regarding my experience transitioning in Indianapolis. Then, I sat with a group for ninety minutes, fielding their questions.
In my essay, I focused on the many doctors trans folks see while transitioning, and the variety of specialists I saw as a trans woman—from two eye specialists, to an oral surgeon, to a podiatrist, to a cardiologist. I stressed that even though my providers all are in the IU Health network, and IU Health admitted they were behind the curve with transgender healthcare, I was pleased to report to them that the care I received from this host of doctors, along with the many nurses, technicians, and office staff I saw, took great care of me.
Transgender persons need good healthcare. They need to know they will be treated seriously, and with respect. And, they need people such as myself, who have been there and done that, who are able to speak up, speak out, and speak loudly, to advocate on their behalf.
Of the few dozen folks from whom I’ve received feedback regarding my book, readers can’t put down my book, they find it riveting, and they state this is a story that needs to be told.
That all is as wonderful as I could possibly ask!
And now I will ask more.
I don’t have a publisher behind me. While I am working on in-person promotion and selling in bookstores, those things will take weeks and months to accomplish.
For now, you can help. If you believe in my story, please promote my book.
Who is A Roller Coaster Through a Hurricane for?
It’s for those who have a family member or friend who is transgender, who has transitioned, or who is struggling with gender dysphoria.
It’s for those who are in the midst of the gender identity conflict, who can benefit from a sympathetic voice, who can use a book to share with those they are aching to tell: “Read this. What Greg went through is what I’m experiencing.”
It’s for those who have transitioned, who are dealing with the fall-out, who could hand the book to their loved one and say, “Read how Greg was rejected and cast out. Read how deep goes the hurt. This is what I’m going through, what you’ve done to me.”
It’s for Christians, who could use a faith-lift, to see how a fellow Christian was strengthened by the Lord, who walked through the valley of the shadow of death and now enjoys green pastures.
It’s also for Christians who reject all things transgender, who need to be educated, to have their eyes opened and their hearts poked so that they might realize we’re all in this together.
It’s for the spouses of trans folks, for whom Julie can serve as a model to help them abide with their marital vows.
And, it’s for everyone who enjoys a human interest story, who can identify with a person who’s been put through the paces of suffering, of learning, of growing, of triumphing in the face of adversity.
With that, I kindly ask you to please share with your family and friends.
Click Share on the Facebook post of this, or share one of my several posts regarding my book.
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.
I found Heyer’s take on gender dysphoria—the condition with which one is diagnosed before transitioning—overly simplistic. The result is that it does not shed light and provide the help I am sure he intends. Instead, it does harm. Thus, my rebuttal, which I submitted on February 19.
Hoping to have USA Today publish my essay, I could not directly refer to Heyer. I did not hear from them within seventy-two hours, indicating they are not interested in my piece, which means I can now post it.
Here are the areas in which I take exception with Heyer:
He regrets the eight years he lived as a trans woman. I speak to that in my paragraph two.
He finds all gender identity issues to be psychological. See my paragraph three.
He asserts that genetics are immutable. See my paragraph four and onward.
He claims many trans persons regret their transitions. See my paragraph twelve.
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I was transgender: I have no regrets
From 2015 to 2018, I lived as a transgender woman. In 2017, I had sex reassignment/gender confirmation surgery. I have since resumed living as a male.
It is common for those who have detransitioned to speak of regretting they had been transgender and underwent surgery. While I certainly wish I could have avoided the crushing gender dysphoria which led to my transition and surgeries, everything I learned, the people I met, and the experiences I otherwise could not have had, leave me grateful for what happened and where I now am. I have no regrets.
Hoping my gender identity crisis was psychological, as I sought to think my way out of suffering during the first months of talk therapy I found a physical reason for my gender conflict and, ultimately, why it resolved. Intense study led me to learn that one’s suffering incongruity between his body/sex and mind/gender is complex and far from understood.
Opponents of transitioning claim genetics can’t be changed and one’s sex is immutable. But, wait. There are women who have XY male chromosomes, and men who have XX female ones. Outwardly, they appear to be the females and males they were identified at birth, but it’s not that simple. They have an intersex condition. There also are intersex conditions which reside in the genitals and hormones, such as androgen insensitivity syndrome.
As for one’s sex being immutable, the word means “unchanging.” but if the person is born with attributes which do not line up with either male or female, the person will experience the consequences. Sometimes, they suffer conflict. This conflict can erupt into dysphoria, which means they have ill feelings about their sex and gender not matching.
Not all people with an intersex condition have an incongruity of body and identity. However, when a person does the suffering is real. It is not simply “in their head.” It is physical. And it often is successfully treated by their transitioning and identifying as transgender.
The causes of gender conflict remain mysterious. Some locate a psychological reason. I believe mine came from my endocrine system having been disrupted when I was in the womb, that my mom was given diethylstilbestrol (DES)—an artificial estrogen—to keep her from miscarrying me. DES has been found to be harmful to fetuses and is no longer prescribed to pregnant women.
Before transitioning, my testosterone and estrogen levels were typical of a man my age. But they didn’t work for me. As I took cross-sex hormones and my levels changed, I experienced great fluctuation in how I experienced myself. At times, I felt totally male. When my hormone levels shifted, my dysphoria returned. After gender confirmation surgery, I stopped producing large amounts of testosterone. Within months, I found myself feeling completely male. That sense has remained stable.
My hormone levels now reflect those of a genetic women my age, yet I feel like a man. I have learned of other men who take cross-sex hormones in order to realign their levels, striving to feel good as males. One man is in his third year. Having shifted his hormones without surgery, he’s found contentment being a male.
While there is yet no definitive proof that a disrupted endocrine system might be the cause of gender dysphoria, there are many maladies caused by altered hormones and we know their causes can be pharmaceuticals, chemicals, and plasticizers. Thus, when a three year old child, who is not yet old enough to have logical understanding of sex and gender, is able to persist, insist, and consistently proclaim that he or she is not the boy or girl as identified at birth, we are wise to dig deeply for a physical reason. A disrupted endocrine system could be the culprit.
As with uncovering psychological causes of gender dysphoria, discussing possible physical reasons indicates there is a malady. Many trans persons insist there is nothing wrong with them. They are fine being transgender. Thus, it is important to be respectful of all people in this delicate matter.
One reads arguments against transitioning, that there are large numbers of trans folks who regret it. Large numbers do not necessarily mean a majority, or even a significant minority. One can find many whose transition has provided them the wholeness of being they sought. I’ve gotten to know some of them. They report enjoying healthy lives as transgender persons.
Sex and gender, chromosomes and hormones, and every human is a complex being of mind, body, and spirit. Let us especially address with respect and patience the confounding condition which is gender dysphoria.
Greg Eilers is a former Lutheran minister, who writes at gregeilers.com. He recently published his memoir, “A Roller Coaster Through a Hurricane—One Wile Ride: My Journey with Gender Identity.”
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Links to back up all factual information in my essay:
Having completed the final edit of my book, Julie said, “I’ve been thinking about writing a foreword.”
“Oh. Wow. Okay. Yeah, I like the sound of that. Do you have in mind what you’d write?”
Giggling, she replied, “No.”
“Well, now that you’ve mentioned it, I love the idea. Just start writing, it will come to you.”
She retrieved a pen and pad. She started writing:
Soon, she was typing. A few hours later, she showed it to me. Immediately, I was dazzled.
I am but a few days from offering the book for sale. I present Julie’s foreword now because she sets the tone for what I’ve written, the spirit in which I’ve described the challenges I’ve endured.
Julie’s spirit shines through her words—the lovely person with whom I fell in love by her words, before I ever saw her face.
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“I would have left in a heartbeat.”
The declaration is volunteered by many, men and women alike, upon hearing the story about a transgender husband transitioning to live as a woman. The question I, the wife, expected—“Did you ever think about leaving?”—is bypassed, and the listeners fast forward to their own bold assertion about hitting the road. As though even asking the question about staying means there is a sliver of possibility they themselves would have to live through something so unfathomable, so unpleasant. Better to nip that in the bud, slam that door shut. Outta here, in a heartbeat.
How a couple handles a big situation has more to do with how they handled all the little things in all the previous years. Since our wedding on December 30, 2001, I’d learned a lot from Greg Eilers about respect, unconditional love, and kindness. We’d built a pretty deep store of those Golden Rule treasures, so it was only natural that we drew upon it when Greg’s gender dysphoria upended our lives.
I couldn’t declare “I didn’t sign up for this”, because this—facing hurdles with my life partner—was exactly what I did sign up to do. I couldn’t turn my back on the person I loved, because I knew he, without hesitation, would face any deluge of difficulties I threw his way. I couldn’t run the other direction because, I asked, what would I want my spouse to do if I were in his shoes? I couldn’t shout “This is not fair!”, because life isn’t about fairness. It’s about being our best for others.
We tend to view relationships as a give and take proposition. That what we give and what we receive is measurable and should somehow balance out the scales. As if every checkmark in the debit column deserves a credit entry on the next line.
What if we saw it this way instead: that both sides of the scale belong equally to both partners, that all the debits and all the credits belong collectively to the team.
Living through a spouse’s gender dysphoria and transition from one gender to another seems a very debit-heavy transaction. It is excruciating to watch the person you love experience the torment of being one gender on the inside and another in public. It is painful to see your spouse feel trapped in an unchangeable life and view death as the only escape. It is sorrowful to mourn the loss of the only identity (husband and wife) you’ve known with this person. It is daunting to fathom an existence where you expect to be condemned and ostracized. It is nerve-racking to think about how your family, your friends, the world will see you.
Life has an abundance of challenges, but the majority of them are understood and accepted. Most everyone will commiserate with you when your spouse has a terminal illness, a disability-causing accident, an affair, a job loss. People can imagine themselves in common situations. They have a frame of reference. You might still feel isolated, but at least you know you’re not the only one.
The crossing of gender boundaries, though, is just too weird, too outlandish, too forbidden for most people to wrap their heads around. You don’t have the luxury of calling up friends and family, of drawing on a readily-available support network, to help get you through this. This—the “my spouse is transgender”—starts out a closely-held yet extremely-loaded secret—a frightening one to share. And when you do begin to share, it’s very often not support you get, but highly-opinionated directives and ultimatums.
It’s no wonder most marriages don’t survive a gender transition.
Jesus teaches us in Romans 5 that we should “rejoice in our suffering”. Quoting scripture doesn’t take the hard stuff away. But understanding the point—looking though our earthly suffering to the ultimate spiritual reward God gives us, eternal life with our Savior—helps us take a bigger picture approach to the struggles we have in life.
Despite the trying times, despite the unconquerable mountains and precarious ravines that riddled the landscape of my spouse’s gender dysphoria, I always had one thing to cling to: hope. Hope for the four things I desired for my spouse—that he stay alive, that he keep his sanity, that he be as healthy and whole as possible, and maybe even that he achieve happiness. Hope that Greg and I would emerge as a couple—however that looked—stronger, better, and deeper in our love. Hope is a powerful little thing. Hope let me redefine the debits as credits.
It is my hope that Greg’s story, and the story of all transgender people, will prompt others to see the bigger picture. To set aside their preconceived notions about what it means to be transgender. To turn their ears and listen to a group of people struggling to be heard. To brave their awkward feelings and step into a space they’ve never been.
Comfort zones are tough to give up. When faced with an unfamiliar situation, particularly one vastly different than we are accustomed to, our tendency is to recoil, get back to the easy. Something new might pique our curiosity, but we’re careful about getting too close, cautious about letting ourselves be vulnerable. Yet, there are some really valuable benefits outside our bubbles: Enrichment. Love. Growth. Understanding. Compassion. Selflessness. Humanity.
Would I leave my comfort zone to stay with Greg? In a heartbeat.
This op-ed, the title of which I discreetly edited for my heading, published in The New York Times on November 24, quickly fueled a storm of conversation about trans persons, surgeries, insurance coverage, and oh so much more. You can read it here:
Andrea Long Chu begins with this: “Next Thursday, I will get a vagina. . . . Until the day I die, my body will regard the vagina as a wound; as a result, it will require regular, painful attention to maintain. This is what I want, but there is no guarantee it will make me happier. In fact, I don’t expect it to. That shouldn’t disqualify me from getting it.”
If Chu were looking to be provocative, to gain a name for herself, she nailed it. But if she wanted to be helpful—
helpful to other trans folks,
helpful to those who are weighing whether to have surgeries or begin HRT,
helpful to those who are pondering bringing loved ones into their tightly held secret that they suffer gender dysphoria,
even to be helpful to ultra-conservative trans-deniers that they might come to understand trans persons
—then I find her to have laid a big, fat egg.
And the egg isn’t only on her face. It’s all over transgender persons and the transgender conversation.
From what Chu wrote about her experience on hormones, I wouldn’t expect her to be overly optimistic that she will be happier after gender affirmation surgery. She wrote this: “I feel demonstrably worse since I started on hormones.” And this: “Like many of my trans friends, I’ve watched my dysphoria balloon since I began transition.” And this: “I was not suicidal before hormones. Now I often am.”
Truly, I am befuddled why Chu transitioned, or, when recognizing these dramatic negatives, she continued.
And who are her trans friends? I’ve not heard these things from the many trans women and trans men I’ve gotten to know.
And I went through gender affirmation surgery. My neo vagina healed nicely. If my body reckons it as a wound, it hasn’t informed me that it does. And, painful attention to maintain the neo vagina? Yeah, there is some pain. For awhile. It wears off.
Sheesh, Andrea. Talk about painting something as negatively as one can.
All of this might arise from her mindset. Earlier in the piece, she wrote, “I like to say that being trans is the second-worst thing that ever happened to me. (The worst was being born a boy.)” [parentheses hers] I understand this thinking and have written about it. Since the mind is the quarterback of the body, it calls the shots, and if a person identifies as female, then the easy, even automatic, response is to wish the body conformed to the brain. But why not the other way around? Could not Chu just as easily, from another mindset, have written the following? “The worst was being born with a mismatch of brain and body. Oh, that I could always have felt that I am a boy to match my body!”
Before writing how she feels worse since starting hormones, Chu says it is wrong for a person to think that feeling better will accompany transitioning. But isn’t that the entire point of transitioning? Isn’t it improved health which is behind every aspect of the process, to get the mind and body and the way one lives into alignment so that one feels better?
When I undertook living full time as a female—and, if you are curious, what happened with me, this year, resuming living as a male, is unrelated to any of this conversation—my twins demons were addressed. My suicidal thoughts almost entirely resolved; only rarely did a short term one pop up. The fear I had, that I would lose my mind—which had grown so severe, so real, that I often thought it would happen any given day—was entirely extinguished.
If I could sit with Andrea Long Chu, I would softly and compassionately ask her why she continued with her transition, and why she is going through with having her genitals reformed. From her essay, for the world of me it seems that she is doing all of this to prove a point, which she makes toward the end of her essay, and on which I comment in my concluding paragraphs.
I’ve read one response from a trans person, who noted that Chu doesn’t speak for all trans folks. She sure doesn’t. To me, not only is Chu not on the same playing field with the transgender population, she’s not even observing from the bleachers.
Chu seems to have forgotten a vital point, especially when someone lives in a way which is controversial—in this case, transgender—and discusses a topic which is controversial—here, gender affirmation surgery and all of the other aspects of transitioning—and writes about it publicly, and all the more so in a world-wide-read publication such as The New York Times: Chu doesn’t speak for all of us, but many—especially the trans-deniers—will hear her as doing so.
I feel that she threw all of us under the struggle bus.
I am confident she submitted this with the desire to do good, to benefit others. I find that she completely and utterly failed.
Chu concludes her essay: “There are no good outcomes in transition. There are only people, begging to be taken seriously.”
Yes, Andrea, every trans persons longs to be taken seriously, and who are you to suggest that there are no good outcomes in transition? Do you not see that your former assertion negates your latter point?
If a thing will not have a good outcome, why do the thing? If a thing will not have a good outcome, isn’t that a thing from which we run, a thing we avoid, a thing to be set aside in search of a thing which will produce a good outcome?
We figure out Chu’s thesis along the way but, finally, nearing the conclusion, she states it: “Let me be clear: I believe that surgeries of all kinds can and do make an enormous difference in the lives of trans people. But I also believe that surgery’s only prerequisite should be a simple demonstration of want.”
There it is. “A simple demonstration of want.” I want it, therefore I get to have it.
No, Andrea Long Chu. Not a simple demonstration of want. Need? You betcha. Need, for the purpose of healing and improved health? You betcha.