The Grace and Lace Letter
1998: Christmas Remembered
"Amazing Grace" is considered by many to be the most beloved hymn of the Christian faith. It was composed by a man named John Newton who wanted to give God the praise for changing his life. Prior to experiencing this changing power, Newton was the captain of a ship transporting slaves from Africa.
How do you miss that which you have never had? How are you aware of its absence?
Suppose, for example, that the ability to communicate with others telepathically, without speech, was a natural ability of some humans but not others. As someone without that ability, what would be your feelings about those who were gifted? I would speculate that you would gradually become aware that these persons were experiencing life on a level you could not attain.
Your reactions might include any of these:
You might observe the interactions between those gifted ones and copy their mannerisms. The resulting behavior, while awkward and strained, might allow you to exist undetected in the circles of the gifted - for a time.
You might become depressed over your deficiency. Perhaps you would try to learn to live in denial of the fact that you are different. Life can be lived, after all, on a superficial plane. But in the solitude of your thoughts, you would be aware that life would pass you by without the experience of fulfillment.
Perhaps you would pray every day for the gift of telepathy. In all sincerity you would open your life to God for healing and restoration. As time passed, and no answer was forthcoming to your prayer, you might even become disillusioned over your relationship with God.
Finally, you might do extensive research and find that a neurosurgeon in a distant city had developed an operation that would permit persons like yourself to communicate wordlessly - perhaps not as perfectly as those born with the gift, but enough to take away the anguish of being different. You knew that whatever the consequences, you had to take the chance to be whole.
Others who learned of your plans might call you crazy, to risk your seemingly comfortable life on a procedure they felt was unnecessary. Friends and family might shun you, but you would persevere. You would save your money and risk it all on the surgery, and when it was over, you found a peace which had been missing in your life since you became aware of your difference.
Many of you reading these words will relate to such an example. You were born with a difference which was also invisible to an observer, but very real to yourself. You have gone through similar stages in your adaptation to having an internal gender conflict. You prayed for healing, for relief, and - surprise - you never experienced any such relief. Not only were you not "healed," you were besieged with Bible verses, in context or out, thrown at you by persons who wanted to convince you of your sinfulness. Once you finally convince them that Deuteronomy 5:22 doesn't refer to your life, they hit you with First Corinthians 6:9 (King James only, of course).
Finally you come to understand that it is not your sin, nor that of your parents, that you were born transgender. You can then move toward healing. Healing will come only by changing that which can be changed - your body. You make the financial, social, and family sacrifices of transition; and at the end of the transition there is peace and relief.
Did this experience turn you away from God? Let me suggest that you don't have to abandon your faith experience in view of your life experience. God can love us and use us, not in spite of who we are, but because of who we are. You must, however, re-examine some of the things you were taught.
John Newton was a slave trader - someone who had no empathy or consideration for the lives of others. Probably, after his conversion, he found himself associating with the religious elite who had been groomed from childhood for theological careers. Isn't it interesting whose testimony we still share over two centuries later? It's not the professors of religion, dissecting each verse in myriad translations, deciding what God really meant based on their own prejudices. It's the ship captain, expressing in common language how God had brought that completeness in his life, had given him a new love for other humans.
There are verses in this book we call the Bible which I do not understand. I'm sure that some learned persons would love to explain those passages to me from their point of view. But I prefer to listen to what God has to say on these, and all, subjects.
My God is a God of love. (If God is not a God of love, we are all totally screwed anyway. But back to the subject.) My God is interested in my sharing his love with the other people in my world. My God really doesn't worry about what clothes I happen to be wearing, or whether I have made changes to this physical shell which won't survive past this lifespan anyway. My God is much more concerned with my efforts to feed the hungry, treat the sick, and minister to those in need.
I could spend my life worrying about individual verses and trying to explain them away to fit my life circumstances. I choose instead to live in love and follow the God who has opened my eyes. I know what I know - if you know what I mean.
"One thing I do know..." I'm not speaking only of the congruity, the relief from conflict which accompanies successful transition, although that relief is surely a blessing. Those of us who do complete transition understand this relief and need no explanation. Others can never experience it personally, but will see the peace in our lives and know it is real.
I am also speaking of the opening of my eyes which comes as a direct result of being transgender. Without this "difference" in my life, who would I be? I wonder if I would have the tolerance for diversity which has become a part of my identity. One thing I do know is that this difficult life experience has brought me closer to the God who is the source of all love and the ground of all being. It has made me understand that the important goals of life are living and loving to the fullest, not trying to follow a set of rules that take us further from love.
For that knowledge, which is available to anyone who will open his or her heart to God however God is perceived, I am grateful. I hope you can know this one thing for yourself also.