I apologize for the long delay before this post. I was partially done with it weeks ago. Then we started to get snow, and my tax clients started to make appointments and send me their information (they seem to be contacting me sooner this year than last, which is good in the long run), then there was more snow to shovel and then a touch of the flu and then, for good measure, more snow. I am told that my area has had about 3½ times its normal average snowfall for the year, and we still have nearly two months when we could get significant snow. And now, the long awaited post:
In my previous post (Importance of Christian Unity on 2/3/14), I discussed Christ’s prayer and desire for unity in the church. I made the claim that unity springs forth from loving one another. And I quoted two of many Bible verses that command brothers and sisters in the church to love one another. Human nature being what it is, love is most likely to develop when we first see what we have in common with someone else.
There are some Christians and transsexuals who would be aghast at the idea that they have anything in common other than being part of humanity. That very division, that so many of them would see each other as being on opposite sides, is a major reason why I started this blog. Therefore this post will focus on what the two groups have in common. Having found a way that both are able to co-exist in me without conflict, I am in an advantageous position to see and discuss the commonalities.
Perhaps the single largest area of agreement within the transsexual community is that we are real, our condition is not a figment of our imagination or a delusion. However, in terms of interests, beliefs, talents, occupations, ethnic background and so on, we mirror the spectrum of these things in the cisgender world. And just as in the cisgender world, there are wonderful transsexuals, there are some who at the lower end of the moral spectrum and many in between. What we have in common is that we believe that it is possible for people to be born with body of one gender and the mind of the other gender, because we have experienced it first-hand. It cannot be changed and persisting in the attempt to do so is dangerous to the mental health and wellbeing of a transsexual. This is what gives us our identity.
Identity is the first significant connection between Christians and transsexuals. It is the fact that both are identities, not that there is much in common about those identities. Just as there is a wide range of personalities, lifestyles, quality and beliefs among transsexuals, Christians are also associated with a very big tent. Christians can be found among every defined race, almost every if not all ethnic groups, from the very poor to the very wealthy, throughout the functional IQ range, from conservative to liberal (whether related to theology, politics in general or any particular issue). I have met or know the testimony of Christians who were born into families that were Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, agnostic, atheist, new age and so on.
In fact, one of the basic tenets of Christianity is that you cannot be born a Christian from your mother’s womb. In contrast, the only way a person is truly transsexual is to be that way from your physical birth. You cannot become a transsexual. And despite those who think we choose this path, that is impossible. Unfortunately, because I and so many transsexuals of my generation felt the need to repress and deny our true identity, it can appear that we are making a mid-life change that came out of nowhere. But if we are truly transsexual, that change came from deep within us, from a knowledge that we became aware of in childhood.
And yet, both identities come from birth. In the case of Christians, however, that birth is spiritual, not physical.
There once was a man named Nicodemus. He was a Pharisee, one of the Jewish religious rulers, and he was an adult contemporary of Jesus. Unlike most of the Pharisees, he acknowledged that the miracles that Jesus performed were evidence that He came from God. Nicodemus wanted to know more about Jesus, but for fear of the other Pharisees’ censure, he visited Jesus at night. When Nicodemus greeted Jesus, here is part of the dialogue that ensued:
Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born? Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. – John 3:3-7
Unless one is born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God; he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. One must be born again to become a child of God, adopted into sonship as a joint heir with Christ. This is what makes someone a Christian. There is absolutely no wiggle room on this point.
The sad irony is that some of the same Christians who whole-heartedly embrace the fact that a person can make such a drastic mid-life spiritual change from fairly early in childhood to an elderly person’s last few breaths, refuse to understand and accept all the growing evidence that transsexuals are born this way, cannot change it, and have every right to make a mid-life transition to their true gender identity.
You will not find anyone who loves to hear a Christian salvation testimony more than I do. For over twenty years, I was a member of a ministry whose sole purpose was to bring the Gospel to the nations so that the power of the Holy Spirit combined with God’s Word could save men, women, boys and girls. We delighted to hear testimonies of how God used our ministry as part of His salvation process in a person’s life. It was a great encouragement to us to continue in the work.
Far be it from me that I should question any person’s salvation testimony. God knows their heart and it is not my place to judge. And especially in the case of a deathbed conversion, I would always side on the side of hope, for the sake of that person’s loved ones if nothing else. And yet from a dispassionate point of view, which is more questionable, a deathbed conversion where the dying person has nothing to lose and no chance to demonstrate the authenticity of their conversion (and no chance to fall away), or a mid-life transition in which a person may risk some or all of the following: the love of family members, the loyalty of friends, career, status, finances, position in their community, and health?
I am not saying that I doubt the deathbed conversions, but that there is even stronger evidence to believe those people who have risked so much to transition. When you add in the fact that most transsexuals have been vetted by a gatekeeper and the vast majority have demonstrated a successful, satisfying life in their “target” (i.e., authentic) gender, there had to be something very powerful and real to bring a person to the point where they risk all to take the path of transition. Indeed, it is very similar to how James and John and Simon Peter and Andrew walked away from successful fishing enterprises (James and John, the sons of Zebedee, are recorded as having servants or employees), and Matthew and Zacchaeus walked away from lucrative (albeit despised) positions as tax collectors.
Why am I so quick to accept any salvation testimony? Because I have experienced it myself. I know first-hand what an amazing, life-changing, spiritual event it is. And rightly so should it be called “born again”, because it is a spiritual rebirth: one who was spiritually dead is now alive. “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (2nd Corinthians 5:17)
Having been born transsexual and born again a Christian, I can testify to two things: the first survived the second and neither one can be changed. And if either of them could be successfully changed, then that identity wasn’t true about me at all. Whether it was wishful thinking or a delusion or whatever it might have been, it wouldn’t be real.
At this point it must be noted that many of those who are born again do risk a great deal to make it known publically that they are now Christian. And this leads us to the second major connection shared by Christians and transsexuals: our experience in living out our new public identity. Here, the commonality runs deeper. There are many places in the world where it can be dangerous to be known as a transsexual. And there are many places in the world where it can be dangerous to be known as a Christian. There are some countries where Christians are a small minority that if a member of the majority religion converts to Christianity, both the person converting and the person accused as the instrument of that conversion are guilty of a crime punishable by death.
If we visit websites such as persecution.org (Voice of the Martyrs) and transgenderdor.org (Transgender Day of Remembrance), the stories are similar. People are murdered for being Christian. People are murdered for being transgender. Sometimes it is official policy, sometimes death sentences are handed down by a court, sometimes it is mob action and sometimes it is the result of hatred by an individual or a few. In every case, it is reprehensible. To take our understanding of the common experience a step further, there are some countries where it would be a tossup as to who is more undesirable, Christians or transgenders.
In addition to murder, members of each group also face official and unofficial discrimination in many places. At any time, both Christians and transgenders around the world face the real possibility of long term imprisonment, torture, beatings, loss of job, loss of one’s business, loss of property, even loss of their own home. Christian churches and meetings are attacked; so are LGBT rights’ offices and demonstrations.
German pastor, Martin Niemöller, spoke or put into print a number of variations of his oft-quoted poem. According to a 1971 interview, this was his favorite version of his self-indictment for his failure to speak out against the Nazis:
In Germany, they came first for the Communists, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist;
And then they came for the trade unionists, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist;
And then they came for the Jews, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew;
And then . . . they came for me . . . And by that time there was no one left to speak up.
I pray that someday, more Christians and transgenders will speak up for each other.