Monday, 22 September 2014

Christianity And Trans

Surprising though it may seem, I do actually try really hard to dislodge my self-absorption about the trans issue.  Like many preoccupations, it feeds on that.  What I should be doing is quietly observing what I feel and letting it wash over me, something which has worked well in the past with other fixations such as limerence (<cough>documentary<cough>).  Sadly, however, this emerged from my female brain this morning, so I'm gonna plonk it here.  Maybe it's my male socialisation making me do that.

A couple of weeks ago in church, I was sitting at the back wardening when a family who used to come turned up there unexpectedly.  They had left for very valid reasons a few years ago to "do church" in a different way and I think they probably attended to support some friends who were taking a prominent part in the service.  They gave me a bit of a sideways look but went and sat down on the pews.  A few minutes later, one of them got up to visit the lav and asked me why I was wearing a skirt, to which my reply was "it's really complicated".  Considering that I was on duty and unable to enter a long egocentric diatribe about the whole thing, this was about the best I could manage in the circumstances.  Nonetheless it is a valid question and I'm sure it does seem peculiar to a lot of people that I'm both a committed Christian and transitioning.  This is just here to explain.

Before I start, I want to point out that there are many sophisticated and prayerful commentaries on the internet about this subject by Christians and this is not going to replace those.  People particularly focus on the group described in many English translations of the Bible as "eunuchs".  I'm not going to do that here and nor am I going to be theologically very deep, but I just want to point out that that stuff is there if you want to look for it, both sympathetic to and opposed to the trans issue, and of course it's feasible to be both at the same time.

It's tempting to commit the secular style sin of a numbered list at this stage, but I will resist that temptation and instead do it as bullet points.  There ought to be about nine of them.  OK:

  • I genuinely believe myself to be female. To others, I may be mistaken about this or it may seem delusional.  Perhaps from a rather conservative Christian perspective, I might be possessed.  However, the fact remains that from my perspective, I am female.  God obviously is not going to want me to deceive others, so I present as female.  All that not wearing skirts, not shaving, not wearing make up and not having breasts was a lie.  Apparently it wasn't even done very well although I didn't know that at the time, so apparently I'm not a good liar.  I've been described as wearing "ladies' tracksuits" - I had no idea I was doing that.  So in order not to violate the ninth commandment, which is an extremely prominent Judaeo-Christian injunction, I now present as female.
  • God already knows what I'm doing, feeling, thinking and so forth inside, so in a way there's no point in not doing this.  Here's some of Psalm 139:
You have searched me, Lord,
    and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
    you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
    you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
    you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
    and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too lofty for me to attain.
Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
    and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
    the night will shine like the day,
    for darkness is as light to you.

So imagine some Christian bloke surreptitiously trying on his wife's bras and panties while he thinks everyone's out (which incidentally I never did because - well, why would I?  God didn't deal me that particular card of fetishism and I'm very grateful for that).  God is of course standing right next to him looking in the mirror and equally aware of his wife rummaging in her handbag outside the front door trying to find her keys.  He already knows about all that.  It doesn't matter how secret you want it to be, it won't be secret from God and whereas you may or may not be right about whether God's OK about it, the fact is, as I'm sure other theists would agree, God is totally, 100% aware of what you're doing and why you're doing it.  That's no excuse for being gratuitously offensive or distracting - God also knows what you're listening to on your iPod but that doesn't mean you should put it on a ghetto blaster and blare it out in the streets - and in fact that was one reason why I sat at the back of church for a while during services - but believe me, God knows.
  • (Sorry, I've messed up the formatting)  The start of my journey as a Christian is anything but honourable.  I committed to Christ rather appropriately on 23rd October 1985 and almost immediately ran into huge problems, not least because I knew I was gender dysphoric and assumed I would be judged for that.  In fact I judged myself.  As a result, after about a year of struggling, I gave up, turned my back on my faith and it took twelve years for me to come back to it.  Those twelve years were lost to the church and in fact I was so vehemently opposed to the Christian faith during that time that I decided it was the worst thing to happen to this planet since the extinction of the dinosaurs.  It didn't go terribly well.  In the past year though, this question arose in my mind:  what would've happened if, when I'd become Christian, I had met openly trans people?  I would not have left the Church in a fit of self-righteous pique.  Moreover, what if, when say a baptism or other public event takes place and non-Christians attend the church, they see me?  What if some of those are closet gender dysphorics?  Might it not make them feel welcome and included and make my faith seem less judgemental and conformist?
  • Since I started taking hormones, I have found Scripture has opened up to me more and become more meaningful, and I'm also more open to letting God guide me.  My prayer life is also richer.  If this is the wrong thing for me to do, why would that happen?  Am I listening to demons?  If so, why is this not the house divided against itself, as Christ put it?  I honestly cannot believe that these things would happen, and of course I'm convinced that they are, without God's blessing on my decision.
  • Galatians 3:28.  Here Paul writes "There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.".  God made me the gender I am for a reason, but is gender-blind in the sense that I am a sinner like everyone else and saved like everyone else.  It's irrelevant to God what gender I am in that sense, and people of whatever gender are made in the image of God and should be treated, and treat others, appropriate to that image.
  • Getting on to the question of clothes in the sense that I might be seen as a bloke in a dress, and of course that's not what I am but let's entertain that for a moment, there are of course still conservative Christians, and conservative Christian churches, who would expect women to wear skirts and dresses and men to wear trousers and the other accoutrements they consider to be appropriate to their gender.  However, this is now becoming quite rare, and whereas the Church should of course not follow the ways of the world simply for its own sake, there are in fact relatively few churches whose women never wear trousers even when at the physical church itself, let alone in daily life outside the church.  It would be hypocritical to expect men never to wear dresses if they wanted to.  Moreover, taking Deuteronomy 22:5 - " A woman must not wear men’s clothing, nor a man wear women’s clothing, for the Lord your God detests anyone who does this." - seeing as I currently only wear "women's clothing", and seeing as I am in fact a woman, from my own perspective I am doing exactly what the Bible tells me to do and in fact doing it to a greater extent than most other women do.  Of course, that's not what God is telling me to do in that verse and I wouldn't seek to impose that on anyone.
  • I prayed countless times for many decades for God to make me happy about being physically male.  There are no unanswered prayers.  However, if an overindulged child prays for another pony or something, she may well not receive what she's prayed for, because sometimes the answer is "no".  I deeply and securely believed, to a much greater extent than in other areas, that God really did want me to become happy about being physically male.  I also wanted to become happy about it.  It just did not happen.  What did happen, and I feel a strong conviction that this is so which I would attribute to the voice of God, was that God answered "no".  God's answer, in more detail, seems to have been something along the lines of "Amanda, I know you believe that you ought to want to be a man, and I know you believe that I want you to become happy about being a man, but I also know that that's not what you really want, so instead of answering your prayer, what you are saying, I am going to give you what you want and make you outwardly a woman as well as inwardly."  The crucial thing to remember about what happened was that it wasn't through my own will.  I accidentally and unknowingly took a strongly oestrogenic herb and my problems went away, or rather they became outward rather than inward.  This is not a decision I made:  it just happened, and I see it as literally an act of God.
  • All sins are equal before God.  If what I'm doing is sinful, it's on a par with many other sins.  I feel fairly strongly about Sunday trading, but my church buys milk on Sundays for the drinks and in fact I have myself bought milk for the church on Sundays.  I don't think that's a problem, by the way.  We're all sinners though, and if what I'm doing is sinful, and the nub of the matter is that I honestly don't believe it is, then so are a lot of other things that I do.  Why focus on an apparently sexual sin more than something else?
  • God created the world perfect and our sin caused it to deviate from that perfection.  God doesn't want people to be diabetic, have muscular dystrophy or any other such condition, not as they stand, although of course God does bring forth miracles out of the direst situations.  God does not want me to be gender dysphoric.  A diabetic who decides they need to take metformin or insulin will not usually be condemned by their church although there probably are a few which would disapprove.  That's to the detriment of the church, not God, because God doesn't usually want a diabetic not to avail themselves of the drugs available for the condition.  That condition exists because we live in an imperfect world.  There are in theory two ways one might deal with gender dysphoria.  One might seek to become happy with one's assigned gender, or one might seek to make one's gender presentation consistent with one's inwardly felt gender.  I'm doing the latter and it's working.  The former didn't work.  To me now, it seems like a diabetic wanting to be happy with having a disease which makes them tired, depressed, thirsty, constantly needing the lavatory and so forth because they don't believe, or other people don't believe, that it's God's will that they take the drugs or hormone which would help them manage the problem.  I don't believe God works like that.  God wants us to be happy and healthy, and to function properly so we can express God's love to others in our actions, and that's what I'm doing by transitioning.
So there you go, another diatribe on trans stuff.  I will get past this and endeavour to post on something else next time but it just came up fully formed so I thought I'd get it down for you.