1st Samuel 16:7, 2nd Corinthians 10:7, beautiful, Bible Study, Cushing's syndrome, dancer's spirit, Eye of the Beholder, fool, Gender Identity, God, innate identity, inner beauty, Janet Tyler, Jesus, Luke 11:37-40, Pharisee, Rod Serling, superficial society, Transsexual, trapped in the wrong body, Twilight Zone, ugly, underachiever
A well-known and critically acclaimed episode of Twilight Zone was titled “Eye of the Beholder”. For the first nineteen of this episode’s twenty-four minutes, no faces are clearly seen. The main character’s face is covered with bandages as she recovers from an experimental procedure in one last attempt to make her look like the “normal” people of that society. The rest of the characters, members of the hospital staff, have faces obscured by shadows or a thin curtain, or their backs are turned to the camera, or the camera shows only their torso.
The main character, Janet Tyler, talks about how her earliest memories were of people turning away from her when they saw her and another child screaming at the sight of her. She considers herself ugly. The hospital staff, conversing among themselves, share that opinion and pity her.
Yet she also knows that if the procedure fails, she will be exiled to a community of people who look like her, freaks compared to the societal norm. She begs to be allowed to live in the mainstream society, offering to wear a mask or keep her face covered in some way. When told that the state won’t allow it, her response is bitter. These words from that speech are especially salient: “The state is not God. It hasn’t the right to penalize somebody for an accident of birth.” Unfortunately, we still have those who want to penalize people because of how they were born, or who want the government to do their dirty work for them.
At one point, Janet’s doctor is talking with a nurse. He sheds his professional tone during the conversation and displays empathy for Janet. He says that he has seen a good face, the human face of the inner Janet. When he starts to protest that she should be allowed to live in mainstream society, appreciated for who she is, the nurse reminds him to be careful of what he is saying, for such opinions are treason in this highly conformist society.
Finally, the bandages come off. This last procedure was a failure. And here is where the genius of Rod Serling comes into play. Janet is portrayed by Donna Douglas, better known as Elly May on the Beverly Hillbillies (although a different actress is used for Janet’s voice). And the representative of the community where Janet will live out her life is played by Edson Stoll, better known as Virgil on McHale’s Navy. In making the contrast between beautiful and ugly, Serling choose two extremely attractive people to drive home his point.
As the doctor tried to explore before being shamed to silence, what is on the inside does not always match what is on the outside. Furthermore, he was starting to realize that it is the inside that is more important and ought to be cherished more than the outside. And while our notions of beauty are quite different than this Twilight Zone society, don’t we see the same mindset in our culture that values and extols external youth and beauty at the expense of what is inside?
There are two women that I have known for many years. They are both cisgender. And for reasons not of their doing, without having a choice in the matter, their personality and spirit does not match their external appearance. They are aware that I am writing about them on my blog. I am using pseudonyms for them, calling them Alice and Cheryl.
Alice is intelligent and has had a long career in the mental health field. In her youth, Alice loved to dance, even though she knew that her body type and talent would never enable her to have a career as a dancer. From what I have observed, there are people who know how to dance, but then there are people at a higher level who have a dancer’s spirit. Mixing artistry and athleticism, they exude a special joy in the dance as they become one with the music and the stage. Dancers also seem to be more likely to take care of their body throughout their life, for their body is their instrument. As examples, think of famous dancers such as Gwen Verdon, Rita Moreno, Cyd Charisse, Josephine Baker and Mary Tyler Moore.
When Alice talks about dance, her countenance changes to something I never see at any other time. It is her dancer’s spirit, her passion, finding the light of day, even if it is for a flickering moment. You see, I have never seen Alice dance. In her youth, the other driver entirely at fault, Alice was severely injured in a car accident. While she is able to walk, the injuries damaged her dancing instrument and robbed her of it. Like a violin broken beyond repair, it can no longer be played. Her spirit and passion are now bottled up inside.
Cheryl is very intelligent. She works in an office with a combination of managerial and clerical duties. She is good at what she does, but her lack of confidence in her abilities has allowed employers to take advantage of her. As a result, she is usually underappreciated on her job.
She happens to be a former girlfriend of mine, the only one who I have stayed in touch with over the years. Ironically, it was the one breakup of a relationship that I was solely responsible for, and I didn’t handle it as well as I might have. It is a testimony to her gracious nature that she decided to remain friends with me.
One day during our relationship, I described her as demure. In fact, much of her personality is girly girl, the major exception being that her intelligence and broad knowledge make her a far more interesting conversationalist. Had Cheryl advanced up the social ladder, her parties would have been events to be seen at. She would have attracted the most interesting array of guests.
Nonetheless, she was shocked by my description of her. No one else described her even close to being demure. The difference is that I was describing what I saw inside of her. The rest of the world was responding only to what they could see on the outside.
Cheryl was born with Cushing’s syndrome. Visible symptoms, which she evidences, include rapid weight gain and central obesity (confined to face and torso, the limbs excluded), facial hair, and excessive sweating. In other words, it is not the expected look for a demure girly girl.
Cheryl was teased by her younger sisters. That eventually progressed to them disrespecting Cheryl’s intelligence and her worth as a person. Only recently has their relationship become sisterly.
Battling the incongruence between her mind and her body, Cheryl struggled with feeling self-confident, expressing assertiveness and achieving what her mental abilities would have otherwise accomplished. In a world obsessed with a person’s outside, only a handful of people have been able to appreciate how special Cheryl is. The world is the loser because of it. Hopefully, as I have been able to in my own way, Cheryl will finally be able to grow in peace and fulfillment in her life.
If there was a medical procedure, an operation, medication, anything that would have healed the bodies of Alice and Cheryl, would you have denied them that chance? Would you have called it immoral? My transsexual condition is as much beyond my control as their conditions are for them. It was not my choice. I was born this way. And there is nothing immoral about expressing my feminine identity, like billions of other females do.
Because I regular read and study the Bible, whether on my own or in group study, from time to time I come across other verses that relate to the topic of transsexualism. Here are two that I have not shared previously. They both fit the theme of this post.
In the tenth chapter of 2nd Corinthians, the Apostle Paul contrasts the spiritual weight of his teaching with his unimpressive physical appearance. He reminds them that Christians are faced with spiritual warfare, and that our weapons in response are spiritual, not carnal. At this point, in verse seven, he admonishes the church at Corinth, whether as a general warning or in response to reports he had received:
Do ye look on things after the outward appearance? If any man trust to himself that he is Christ’s, let him of himself think this again, that, as he is Christ’s, even so are we Christ’s.
In other words, if you think the outward appearance is the most important (for Paul, or anyone else for that matter), you have another think coming. This verse echoes a stronger statement on the subject in my life verse, 1st Samuel 16:7. For more about that, see my post of 12/28/13.
In a portion of the eleventh chapter of Luke’s gospel, a Pharisee has invited Jesus to dinner. The Pharisee observes something about Jesus that he doesn’t like. Jesus, knowing the Pharisee’s thoughts, responds:
And as he spake, a certain Pharisee besought him to dine with him: and he went in, and sat down to meat. And when the Pharisee saw it, he marvelled that he had not first washed before dinner. And the Lord said unto him, Now do ye Pharisees make clean the outside of the cup and the platter; but your inward part is full of ravening and wickedness. Ye fools, did not he that made that which is without make that which is within also? – Luke 11:37-40
First Jesus admonishes him, for he and the rest of the Pharisees give all their attention so that others will see them as being clean through ritual and traditions, but totally neglect the pollution inside them. Then Jesus reminds him and the other Pharisees present that God didn’t just make the physical body (the outside), He made that which is within a person too: the mind, the spirit, the personality, the identity. Somehow, those Christians who find fault with transsexuals put all their emphasis on God making the outside and forget that God also made the inside. They would do well to remember that it is Jesus (not me) who calls them “fools”.
He hath made his wonderful works to be remembered: the LORD is gracious and full of compassion. – Psalm 111:4