Toward understanding gender dysphoria

In a post entitled, “Higher Things—Quo Vadis?” which gave reference to me, on the site of The Brothers of John the Steadfast, it was stated that in my interview on Virtue in the Wasteland the doctrine of the Evangelical Lutheran Church and Natural Law were not affirmed. No references were given, though the article encourages its readers to listen to the podcast and judge for themselves.

Specific to my part, I have been in this discussion many times with LCMS pastors and lay folks who quote “male and female He created them” and rest their case. None of them have undertaken a serious study of gender dysphoria, intersex conditions, or their possible causes. Some of them have studied nothing, and some have read things like the CTCR document and perhaps a bit more. Speaking from general ignorance of a terribly complex topic, they have judged me as sinning, of rejecting God’s Law.

On many of my blog essays, I have written of my doctrinal stance, which has not changed since I was ordained twenty-one years ago. If anyone has found error in any of my writings on God’s Word, they have not made them known to me. The singular issue has been “male and female He created them,” which ends the discussion.

I uphold “male and female He created them.” I do not espouse the view which says that gender is a construct. I reject all notions about the body which are in disagreement with God’s Word.

I also uphold the Fall of Adam. I uphold our total brokenness. I uphold that the Fall means more than that we commit sins, but that our bodies do not fully work as the Lord created them, nor does the world work as it did before sin entered it.

We are prone to every sort of dysfunction.

It is to our brokenness that I appeal. My study of gender dysphoria led me to learn about intersex conditions and maladies caused by disruption to our endocrine system. There are several intersex conditions, and there are even more hormonal maladies. Diabetes and thyroid troubles are two common hormonal maladies.

I will speak to two conditions and then make a connection to gender dysphoria.

From the late 1950s to the early 1960s, thalidomide was prescribed to pregnant women to ease morning sickness. When thalidomide was administered early in the pregnancy, the fetus sometimes formed wrong, with some babies born with no arms or legs, or deformed ones. It is estimated that, worldwide, 20,000 to 100,000 babies were affected. Once they figured out what was causing it, they stopped giving the drug to pregnant women. It was learned that in some women the thalidomide disrupted the endocrine system, causing the deformities to the baby.

Autism is a malady which is mysterious in its origins. It is suspected that it might be caused by both the genetics of the parents and by environmental factors. It very likely is, as with the work of thalidomide, the result of the baby’s endocrine system having been disrupted in the womb.

I use these two conditions for comparison because the affects of both are obvious and easy to grasp. The results of endocrine system disruption to the sex hormones are not easy to grasp, unless one can actually see the malformation of one’s genitals.

Just because we cannot see something, or define something, does not lessen the reality of it. Indeed, the cause of autism remains profoundly mysterious. Despite that, no decent person rejects the reality of autism. No one would argue that the one with autism has nothing more than a mental illness. With gender dysphoria, the argument of my opponents is that it is merely a mental illness, often compared to how one suffers from bulimia.

The cause of gender dysphoria is mysterious. As with “thalidomide babies,” I believe mine can be traced to another drug, diethylstilbestrol, given during an eerily overlapping era, to mothers in danger of miscarrying. While, as with autism, no absolute connection has been made, there is much anecdotal evidence.

Diethylstilbestrol is but one of many drugs which have been determined to be endocrine disruptors, as have chemicals and plasticizers. When one wonders why there is so much gender dysphoria in our world these days, I point to these known endocrine disruptors.

While I do not insist on having all of the answers, I have learned much to give me enough confidence that my gender dysphoria is a condition just as real, just as physical, as to those who suffer autism and the deformities of the “thalidomide babies.”

But, with gender dysphoria—even if it is a real, physical intersex condition—traditional Christians, including LCMS Christians, will have grave difficulty with, and are prone not to listen to any discussion of, the remedy being transitioning medically with cross-sex hormones and surgeries, and transitioning socially, adapting to the clothes and name of the other sex.

I do not attach myself to “the transgender agenda.” Indeed, as a Christian, who holds a traditional reading of God’s Word, I am viewed with suspicion by many transgender folks because I am not on board with their entire docket. And then I am viewed with the same suspicion in the LCMS, with folks believing that I want to introduce the entire LGBTQ agenda into the church.

Not so.

I hate that I could not find a remedy that could keep me living as a male. I was constantly fearing that I would either kill myself or lose my sanity. I undertook both pastoral and secular counseling, from numerous pastors and two therapists, striving to remain male. Even as far as I have gone with transitioning, if something were to arise, to give me some confidence that I could have relative peace as a male, I would be interested in pursuing it.

I do not disagree with God’s Law. I disagree with how gender dysphoria is viewed. For many traditional Christians, when it comes to the sexes and “male and female He created them” it is as if the Fall could do nothing to touch this one aspect of our creation. Christians such as I, who are striving to be faithful to the Lord and  have a measure of temporal healing, are objects of condemnation instead of compassion.

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2016: Year of new horizons

2016: Year of new horizons

Magazine article

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

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

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

Reintegrating with family

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

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

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

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

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

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

Making Gina legal

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

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

Surgeries early in 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

Influential podcast

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

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

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

Church matters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Podcast: “The Trials of Gina Eilers”

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Here are the links to Julie’s and my interview with Dr. Dan van Voorhis and Dr. Jeff Mallinson of the show, Virtue in the Wasteland.

Part one:

http://www.virtueinthewasteland.com/episodes/2016/10/4/ep-196-the-trials-of-gina-eilers-part-1?rq=the%20trials%20of%20gina%20eilers

Part two:

http://www.virtueinthewasteland.com/episodes/2016/10/4/ep-197-the-trials-of-gina-eilers-part-2?rq=the%20trials%20of%20gina%20eilers

As Dan and Jeff continually remind listeners, their show is long form.  Indeed, our interview was so long that they have broken it into parts.  Those goofy guys didn’t edit a thing—as Julie and I listened Monday evening, we kept waiting for this or that to be deleted but, nope, each thing was still there—so you get our entire 2 1/2 hour conversation in the two-part show.

They recommend listening while exercising, doing chores, driving, and falling asleep.  I am hoping to set the record for curing the most cases of insomnia.

Seriously, this is very important to me.  I hope it does a lot of good, helping those like me who have suffered or are suffering, those who have not been understood or, even worse, completely misunderstood.  I hope it helps families, friends, and fellow members of churches, that they might finally or better grasp the terrible thing it is to deal with gender dysphoria, and the challenges of transitioning.

For the Christian, the trans person need not give in to every worldly whim, or alter one’s faith to make it fit with being transgender.  As you will hear in the podcast, the trans person who is writing these words abides in the same, traditionally biblical faith to which she has adhered her entire adult life.