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When I left my previous church (by mutual agreement with the pastor) in November 2012, I wrote a letter of explanation to be shared with the congregation, but it did not include information about being transgender. When I found out recently that they had been told anyway, this is the letter I would send to my church if I could.
To my dear sisters and brothers in Christ at CBC,
It isn’t often that a person gets to say goodbye twice, or needs to for that matter. But I believe that I need to. For when I said goodbye the first time, while I did not lie to you, I also did not tell you some significant details. I have only recently learned that you have been told those details. But I would like to tell my own story.
First, let me say that now that I know Pastor’s reasons for telling you, I am in agreement with his reasoning. I do wish that he would have trusted me enough to tell me he was going to do that, but it is a minor issue. The bottom line is that both of us had the best interests of the body of Christ at heart. I was concerned that I might cause a church split, whether I stayed or even if it was known that I was not immediately told to leave. I never considered the fact that in light of my significant involvement in the handling of the church finances, my sudden departure for vague reasons might raise questions. Pastor, with his years of experience and leading from the Holy Spirit was sensitive to this issue. I am grateful.
Indeed, I now believe that one of the reasons that the Lord led me to CBC about ten years ago was that Pastor was precisely the right man to be my counselor at this critical time of my life. I know a few pastors who I sat under who would not have handled the situation well. But I am getting ahead of myself.
I have known of my true gender identity since age 7. That is about the average age at which those who are known as either transgender (more recent terminology) or transsexual (older terminology) discover this information about ourselves. I believe that the main reason I didn’t know sooner is that until that age, the primary division in people for me was between adult and child. By the time that I was three or four years old, I was becoming aware that I was considered smart and could do things mentally well beyond what most kids could do. Yet I was still very limited in what I could and could not do. So I wanted to be an adult.
Yet I didn’t want to be female. At age 7, I knew that I was. So I am very aware of the mental difference between “wanting to be” and “knowing I am”.
This didn’t become particularly problematic for me until I was 10 going on 11. In sixth grade I left public school to go to a private school that had grades six to twelve. I feel that the combination of a maturing body, changing voice and seeing the gradual progress of my school mates from children to older teens was the reason. My future was becoming clear to me, and it was not what I wanted.
It was around this time that I started to pray that God would change my body while I slept and I would wake up with a girl’s body. Surely my parents, teachers, doctors and the church couldn’t argue against that, could they? It was also around that time that I came up with a new name for myself. It was perfectly logical to me at the time, and I was surprised to find that very few of us change our names that early in life. I know of no one else who did it the way that I did. To my way of thinking at that age, if I was going to “reverse” from a boy to a girl, then I would reverse my name. And so, with a few tweaks and permutations, I came up with the name by which I am known today: Lois Simmons. (Much later I added the middle name, Elizabeth, to honor the maternal side of my family.)
Have you ever been in a situation where a child brings home a stray? If the parents don’t want to keep the animal, they do everything in their power to prevent it from being named. They know it will be much harder to part with “Fluffy” than with an unnamed stray cat.
In that same way, naming myself was a tether that kept me even more connected to my true identity. For most of my life, I kept considerable distance away from the transgender community. That was especially true in most of the years after I was saved. And even when I did explore on the Internet, my contact with others was either minimal or none at all. So that extra connection was very important to me. The fact that the name survived for fifty years, waiting for me to stop denial, is significant to me. My imaginary friends disappeared by the time that I also knew that Santa Claus, the tooth fairy and the Easter bunny were not real. Lois Simmons is the real me.
Even if you start my story from the time that I went away to college and started to live on my own, that story is 42 years long until the time that I started living full-time as Lois, six days after I last attended CBC. All the details would be a book, not a letter. But I can summarize it by saying that my true gender identity survived a decade of struggle to start a career after graduation from college. It survived the disappointment of a failed marriage of less than a year (over issues totally unrelated to gender) and then further disappointment when that person seriously came back into my life and departed again while I was attending CBC in 2006-7 (as some of you may remember). It survived the long hours of hard work that it took to gain clients and build a financial business that at one time included investments, insurance and financial planning. It survived 11 years of extreme poverty that came from a failed second business that was a money pit, a poverty that had ended shortly before I started attending CBC.
My gender identity endured after I was born again and began to grow in my Christian walk. It endured through all my service to Christian ministry (you know which one, name omitted in obedience to not link its name to outside activities) and whatever church I was attending regularly (four during my adult life, including the one I attend now, the Spring Valley Corps of the Salvation Army, where I am an adherent member). It endured despite all the wonderful Christian male role models I met in Christian ministry and in those churches. It endured despite all the other male activities I took part in, whether sports, two years as an engineering major, a male-oriented profession as a stock broker or men’s groups in churches.
It also endured all the years I tried to deny who I really am out of fear: fear of losing my career, fear of what the church would say, fear of what God would do, fear of losing my family, fear of what kind of life I might be forced to live, fear that I would look like a freak or a “guy in a dress”. It endured all the times over the years that I would pray for the Lord to take this away from me. (My previous praying for God to change my body stopped after a couple of years.)
It is important to note that as an adult, I have never prayed for God to “make me a woman”. Nor have I asked that of any person. No operation or anything else can make that happen. Either someone’s innate, core gender identity is female or it is not. As Margaret Thatcher has been quoted, “Power is like being a lady… if you have to tell people you are, you aren’t.” When my gender counselor asked me why I was requesting her services, my answer was simply that “I want to know the truth. And I don’t want to make a mistake.”
I have been grieved by some of the things that I have done over the years in my exploration of my identity, especially from late spring to the beginning of autumn in 2011. (When you started to see me clean-shaven, and with longer hair and nails in at the end of 2011 and in 2012, I was already well along in my healing and seeing confirmation that this is who I really am. R. M., thank you for the compliment you gave me.) I am grateful that I never involved anyone physically and never led anyone into a sinful lifestyle online. (In December 2011, I even started to witness to one husband & wife couple who I met on an adult website!)
People who have stayed in my life tell me that I am happier now. That is a wonderful blessing but that isn’t why I did it. I did it to be authentic and that is what I feel I am now. I have more joy, more peace and more self-control. Those are part of the Fruit of the Spirit, which Satan cannot counterfeit. Therefore, they are more important to me.
In some ways, it is better that this information comes to you nearly 3½ years later. Now I can report to you on how things have gone in my life, not on what I hoped they will be. And while I had no idea that this would have ever happened, transgender has become much more visible in society within the past year.
Being part of and serving in the Salvation Army has been a wonderful experience for me. The Lord has honored me by allowing me to become a part of two of the largest worldwide Christian missionary outreach organizations. I am too old to go through the process of becoming an Army officer, but as an adherent member I go out on community outreach up to three times per year, I help with counting the kettle offerings at Christmas and I maintain a list of Rockland churches for the Spring Valley Corps. It was one of the duties I had in my other Christian ministry and it was easy for me to step up and take on that role when I heard that there was a need. For about 15-20 weeks a year, I participate in the Women’s Bible Study at the Corps. Most of the participants have graduated from the Officers Training College and really know the Word! I have learned a lot, and I am blessed that my contributions to the discussions are highly esteemed.
Now when I transitioned, as a person under authority, I willingly resigned from the other Christian ministry. I was making a public declaration that I did not qualify because one of the qualifications of membership is to be male. It would have been hypocritical for me to try to claim the right to remain a member, and despicable if I had followed the advice of a few who wanted me to fight for the right to remain a member. (I dismissed such talk immediately.)
Even here, the Lord has blessed me. One of my remaining friends in the ministry told me that an affiliate program started in 2014. There were no qualifications to join. I became a prayer partner and I donate $10 per month. Because of my regular donation, I received a book on witnessing and occasionally receive some free pocket testaments. And I can also buy more testaments if I run out of the free ones. I recommend it to anyone who would like to increase their witnessing for Christ.
Best of all, I witness and give out many more copies of God’s word one on one now than I ever did as a member previously. No longer carrying around secret shame, I am not encumbered in connecting to others. Slowly the Lord is bringing along my witnessing skills. I praise the Lord for His mercy and grace to me.
I have more to share with you in part two. But it is customary for me to close my blog posts with scripture. Because today is Good Friday and also because I am no longer despising myself in shame, this is the verse that comes to mind:
Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. – Hebrews 12:2