The Grace and Lace Letter
1998: Christmas Remembered
The e-mail message was from an anonymous source and was titled simply "Stand Before God." Ive seen these before, I sighed to myself, and clicked it to open.
You have a very interesting Web site. I see that you are interested in spiritual things. How will you feel when one day you stand before God and say, ‘I didn’t like the way you created me, so I changed it to what I wanted’?
Have a nice day."
The sarcastic, superficial tone of the note was so irritating, as Im sure it was intended. I should have deleted it without another thought. If it had been a serious, polite inquiry, I would have given a serious response.
I would have said, "Thank you for writing. Please understand that this is a subject about which I have spent much time in thought and prayer over many years. I also wondered about the morality of changing my body.
"I thought of other body deformities - birth defects, visible and invisible. Do we say to children with facial deformities or congenital heart disease, ‘God doesn’t make mistakes, so you should remain the way you were created?’ Of course not.
"How, then, is my condition different? Is it because you cannot see my birth defect? Do you simply disbelieve me when I tell you there was a discrepancy between my body and my mind, present from my earliest memory and which I did not choose? Do you think I’m lying or misinformed? I have lived in this body for decades and I can tell you that it was not my choice to have this discrepancy.
"I agree that God does not make mistakes. I believe God allowed this discrepancy in my life for reasons I do not comprehend, but God also gave me the way to resolve the problem. I believe God loves me even though some of those who claim to speak for God do not love or respect me.
"I realize that your life experience is not like mine. I know that you cannot comprehend this birth defect I am describing, any more than I can understand what it is like to be color blind, for example. But that doesn’t make my problem any less real.
"So, let me offer this hope that we can accept one another’s differences and take comfort in our shared faith in a loving God.?
Thats what I would have said to a polite inquiry.
Instead, I was much more brief.
I sat down and typed, "When I stand before God, I will give thanks that my life was under the control of a loving God and not an anonymous, superficial, clueless bigot."
And I sat and looked at what I had written. It was a quick, reflexive response and it did not reflect a loving or forgiving spirit. I passed my mouse away from the "send" button and hit "delete" instead.
Jesus gave us many teachings which are not easy or natural to follow. "Turning the other cheek" is surely one of those. It’s natural to react to attacks from others in a defensive way, or even a counterattack. It takes much more strength to accept the blow silently. Indeed I am not sure we can consistently respond to an antagonist with peace and love. I think it was only by allowing Christ’s love to overcome my hostility that I could delete that reply.
Transsexual people have experienced antagonism and hostility from many sources: often from loved family members, close friends, or from well meaning but misinformed fellow Christians. What would it mean to "turn the other cheek" to these people? Often they do not want to engage in dialogue with us. The only response they will honor on our part is a denial of our transsexualism, a return to the previous birth-gender condition. We know that such a return is not going to result in happiness or peace for anyone. This is not, should not be, our response.
I would suggest that we consider what happens physically when we literally "turn the other cheek." We end up looking at the situation from a different perspective - a different point of view. Perhaps "turning the other cheek" is a metaphor for getting a fresh perspective on the situation.
For example, if a dear Christian friend from my past cannot comprehend or accept what has happened in my life, perhaps I can ask God to show me the perspective which my friend sees when he looks at me. I will still know its a misinformed position, but at least I will be able to empathize a bit better with him. Then, instead of continuing to plead or argue with my friend, I will realize that the only way I can persuade him of the truth of my life is to go ahead and live my life in a loving way. After time has passed, he may see Gods love still at work in me and may be more accepting.
A different perspective brings balance to our understanding. Love - the love of God as manifest in Christ - can empower us to respond to our antagonists in wisdom and love. By our example we will do more to cause others to accept us than by any argument.