Acts 3, Adam's sin, bearing our cross, Bible, birth defect, Christian theology, core gender identity, corruption, Counselor, cure, delay, fall of man, fear, gender incongruity, Glory of God, God, God's sovereignty, God's word, Holy Spirit, Jesus, John 9, Joni Eareckson Tada, medical science, mental health, permissive will of God, Satan, suffering, Transition, Transsexual
Many people have asked me why I waited so long to transition, especially when their assessment, based on my testimony and what they see, is that it has gone so well. About a year ago, my client Rachel astutely asked me a similar question, but one closer to my heart. Here’s her question, and my answer (with some recent editing) follows:
Why do you think God made you go through all this? Are you someone he created to remind people that we can become whatever we want to, if we are strong enough and patient enough?
You asked about God. That’s my favorite subject! I consider myself a Christian first (because that deals with eternity), a woman second and a transgendered person next.
Is what happened to me to remind people that they can become whatever they want? Not as I see it. In one sense, yes I am becoming a new identity as I learn and develop a new persona for the rest of the world. But all people are in the process of becoming as they go through different stages of life, school, adolescence, work, family, aging, dying, just to name a few broad categories.
In the broader sense, however, my task was not to become something new. The struggle I had to wage was to become myself … my real self, not the identity that the world handed me (for which no one is to blame, because they were using the only evidence they could have). But yes, I was patient. That kernel of Lois inside of me waited and refused to go away. And maybe I was strong enough, or had the right personality or the right resources (especially the Lord in my life) to hang in there until the time was right.
Some don’t make it. They commit suicide or kill themselves when they violently attack their genitals. Some develop mental health issues such as depression. anger and other problems which mask their repression of their true gender.
In my case, my ability to cope so well may have slowed my progress. Had I gone into crisis earlier, I would have needed to deal with it earlier. But I am so plain vanilla in the rest of my life, it is almost unreal. When my counselor gave me her required intake, she asked me a laundry list of symptoms (eating disorders, problems sleeping, phobias, impulses to hurt myself and so on). I responded “no” to all of them and my subsequent counseling backed it up. My life is akin to the reporter’s alleged question: “Other than that Mrs. Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play?”
I believe God’s timing is perfect. I will discuss in greater detail just what parts I believe God did and did not play in the process. This leads in to the main part of your question.
I don’t believe that God made me go through all of this, whether by that you mean being born with a gender dichotomy between mind and body or you are talking about why I went through it for so many years. (Or maybe you mean both of those.)
Why was I born this way? What’s the bottom line answer to that question?
The physical mismatch with a person’s inner core gender identity is a birth defect. Spiritual corruption or Satan is the ultimate cause of birth defects. In the present age, God has allowed these things, within limits. On a global scale, I believe it is to remind us that we should not set to much stock in this imperfect world. The perfect place we should long for is heaven.
But in some special cases, God allows certain birth defects, crippling accidents or severe illnesses to occur for His honor and glory. A large portion of the ninth chapter of John’s gospel deals with a man who was born blind. As soon as the disciples notice him, they ask Jesus what was the cause of this man being born blind, his sin or his parent’s sin. Jesus replies that neither of those was the cause. Rather, it was so “the works of God should be made manifest in him.” And then Jesus heals the man and the man testifies to the people that his healing came from Jesus.
By the way, this verse is one of the justifications that it is permissible to change the condition in which you were born for the purpose of healing. But perhaps it was only Jesus who was permitted to do this? Not so, for at the beginning of Acts 3, Peter and John heal a man who was born lame. When he enters the temple walking and leaping and praising God, it provides Peter with the opportunity to preach the gospel of Christ in the temple.
Sometimes God does not heal the body. Sometimes the infirmity is not from birth but from an accident. Here is a link to a short video where one of my woman heroes gives a summary of her life story and how God has enabled her to bear her cross.
After you watch Joni Eareckson Tada tell her life story, you might want to go to Joni’s website to see even more about just how much this woman has accomplished in God’s strength.
I know that I could not carry the cross that Joni was required to bear. According to her testimony, she has to turn to God when she wakes in the morning and throughout the day to carry it herself. Then again, she might not have been able to bear my cross.
Getting back to your question: was it God who made me wait a long time before transitioning? The short answer is “no”, but it isn’t a totally satisfactory answer. In Christian theology, a distinction is made between the sovereign will of God and the permissive will of God, as far as it relates to us as individuals or as a nation. The distinction is that God sometimes allows us to do things that conflict with His sovereign will. God has His reasons for making these allowances, including giving us an amount of free will. God knows that He can redeem our going off course without interfering with His perfect eternal plan for the world, and that He will find a way to transform the situation we have created for His greater honor and glory.
For example, it was the sovereign will of God for the children of Israel to possess the Holy Land. It was the permissive will of God that moved Him to anoint a king for them, even though He had warned them against becoming like the other nations and having a king.
So I believe that for the most part, it was the permissive will of God that caused me to wait so long to transition. The reason I believe this is because, as I look back at my life, many of the reasons for the delays are not godly ones. But God still was at work for His purposes during the delay, using me in many years of effective Christian service and to touch many lives in a positive way.
First of all, I do not believe it was God’s sovereign will for me to be born transsexual. I believe that in most cases, God wants people born whole and healthy. In my case, that would have meant having a body that matched my mind, a female body. But when sin and corruption came into the world, the Bible teaches that it allows Satan some power in the world. As I stated earlier, I believe that generally speaking, it is Satan that causes birth defects.
For the most part, it was my hesitancy, my failure to act, that caused the delays. And the main reason behind most of that hesitancy was fear. But fear is not from God. “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” (2nd Timothy 1:7)
There was fear of what my parents would do, fear of how my peers would react, fear of punishment, fear of rejection, fear of ridicule. Based on things I would read or hear, there was fear that God did not approve, while in reality, I didn’t know for myself what God thought of it. (We should act out of desire to be obedient to God rather than fear of being disobedient.)
Then, as I got older, there was fear of losing income, jobs, or career. There was fear of getting caught up in an unhealthy lifestyle, fear of AIDS, fear of the violence that was so prevalent against MTF transsexuals and still continues at a disproportionate rate today. And the other fears of losing friends and family and displeasing God continued.
It is an oversimplification as other factors were involved, but I sometimes tell people that I transitioned because I became more fearful of not doing it than doing it.
Yes, every wagging finger of disapproval, every nasty joke, every report of a transwoman suffering violence or dying of AIDS, every thundering pronouncement from a pulpit or theologian’s pen that transsexualism is one of the vilest sins, every report of a failed attempt to transition: all these came from outside of me. But the way I reacted to them was my choice. Others my age knew and heard all these things and transitioned anyway.
To be fair to myself, many of my generation also tried to “cure” themselves before finally admitting the need to transition. And many of those who transitioned against all the odds did so because they were more desperate than I was. For them, it was either transition, severe self-mutilation or suicide.
The only part of the delay that was in accord with God’s sovereign will was that after I was saved, I needed to know what God’s word said about the matter. And this is the one area where God clearly contributed to my delay. For in the past two years, God has opened my eyes to a number of verses that speak to the issue. It is reasonable to say that I was not able to see these verses because the topic is treated in an obscure manner in Scripture; that I needed more familiarity with the Bible, more maturity, more life experience and even more motivation to look more diligently.
It also took time for medical science in the areas of behavior and mental health to catch up to the truth of what being transsexual really involves. It took time to come to the understanding that this is nature, not nurture. We are born this way. We don’t have a choice in the matter. Until I learned these things, I couldn’t properly apply Scripture to the situation.
Even so, God could have revealed these verses and their interpretation related to gender at any time. It is written in the Bible that the Holy Spirit teaches us all things.
So did God cause the delay and if so, why? Based on what I have written, I will let you sort it out for yourself. For me, I have learned to trust God’s timing and purpose and I don’t need to know every reason why. Considering the nature of God, I am satisfied that while I will have understanding in some things, other things are too lofty for me. Maybe I will find out in heaven, if it still matters by then and is important for me to know.
Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil. It shall be health to thy navel, and marrow to thy bones. – Proverbs 3:5-8