Friday, August 31, 2007

Questions to Ponder

Acceptance or Condemnation

I have offered many essays on transgenderism and the Bible. And while I hoped to do so fairly, it is clear I have my own bias as a transgender woman. In the Overview, I wrote these Lessons were to help you in discerning how transgenders fit within your own faith beliefs. I make no judgment of Right or Wrong, though I feel the essays demonstrate no compelling Scripture that supports the condemnation or exclusion of transgenders from the Christian church.

Regardless of your determination, there are questions that must be addressed beyond "acceptance" or "condemnation". Let's start with Marriage.

In the previous essay, I talked about sexual orientation and how it is applied (or not!) to transgender men and women. So then, whom would you allow me (MtF) to marry? Depending on the particular state, I can marry either a man or a woman - so deferring to the law of the land is of no help. All marriage laws say only that a legal marriage is between a man and a woman - there are no other qualifications. And for this exercise I'll avoid a lengthy dissertation on transgender law - legal identification, birth certificates, etc.

Am I to marry a woman? If you hold the belief that "once a man, always a man" (in my case here), then I would be allowed to wed a woman. But that would, from all other outward and physical appearances, sanctify a same-sex relationship. The alternative then would be to allow me to marry a man. But that would then validate my existence as a woman. Which is it? There is no Biblical - or legal - construct to completely deny someone marriage, it only (presumably) defines who someone can marry. What of an existing marriage?

The next question is Atonement. This is a core belief to Christianity, that one can "atone" for their sin and thus receive God's forgiveness. In fact, this principle separates Christianity and Judaism apart from other faiths. Let's make the assumption that transitioning one's gender is a sin. How then do I, as a post-operative transwoman, make atonement? I asked that of a member of a conservative faith and his thought was "well, I guess we'd ask you to start living like a man again." How is that possible? Especially after surgery - which included breast augmentation as well? And it's not that simple. Sure, I could cut my hair, bind my breasts, stop wearing makeup, put on jeans and a t-shirt, belch when I drink beer (just teasin' guys!)....but that's just for appearance sake. I would also need to make the emotional regression as well. And that is akin to giving me the gun to commit suicide. Given the faith-based opposition to physician-assisted death, I would presume this is something that also wouldn't be encouraged.

The suicide rate among transgenders who have not yet transitioned or had surgery is estimated by some to be as high as 50%! And I've already been to that precipice. I cannot imagine what kind of emotional calamity would ensue if one were to be male, then female, then male again. More importantly, neither do you. Incidentally, the incidence of regret for post-surgical transpersons is less than 4% - I am no longer an emotional minefield.

And if I cannot repent or atone for what you consider to be a sin, then what of Communion? There are some churches that withhold the Eucharist from people who don't vote as the church deems appropriate. Transgenders don't "vote" to transition. Jesus shared the meal with Judas...knowing it was he who would betray him. Are transgenders so vile as to be lower than Judas?

What of Baptism? Oh, wait...that's already decided in the Bible! Phillip baptized the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:26-39). How would a church be able to withhold Baptism from the transgender?

What of Ordination? Can I minister? Can one who is a minister, then transitions, remain ordained? There are many who have done so - Rev. Erin Swenson, Rev. Malcom Himschoot, Rev. Justin Tanis. What basis would there be to deny or remove ordination to a transgender? There are some congregations that do not allow women to be in ministry. Would they accept a transman (like Rev. Himschoot)? Would they remove a transwoman (like Rev. Swenson)? Most faiths that denounce homosexuality still allow gays and lesbians to be ordained so long as they remain celibate. What pretext would there be for transgenders?

My point is that "acceptance" or "condemnation" isn't as simple as it may seem. Christian principle requires that a path (though I may not like to walk it) be made available to all. If being transgender is, in your opinion, a sin then design that path.

A word about Sexual Orientation

It's NOT about our Sex Lives!

As you have probably noticed, none of the Lessons offered include talk about Sexual Orientation. The reason for this is that transgenderism, or our gender identity, is a distinctly different issue from our sexual orientations. One is who we are, the other is whom we wish to love. Now, for those that have surgery, it certainly does affect how we experience or express our sexual lives. And it also follows that as humans, we are to be accorded a healthy sexual life just like anyone else. The common misconception though is that this is an odd expression of sexual desires. It is not.

Another issue in talking about sexual orientation for transgenders is that the commonly used labels - straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual - don't really apply. In my own case, I was a birthed male. Growing up and through adulthood, I was attracted to women - the classic definition of "straight". Following my transition and surgery, I remain attracted to women - which would seem to be the classic definition of being "lesbian". Yet my "orientation" has not changed...only my body. I freely accept the label of "lesbian", but I don't feel I've gone from "straight" to "lesbian" simply because of surgery. As such, I will usually portray myself not in today's current words, but to say that I am "oriented toward women".

Transgenders, like everyone else, hold all variety of sexual attractions, which further confuses most people. We are male-to-females (MtF) who like women...who like men...who like both...and who are not sexually active/interested at all! And we are female-to-males (FtM) who like women...who like men...who like both...and who are not sexually active/interested at all! Expert opinion is that our sexual orientation is immutable, and I agree. Which is why it is odd to suggest I was "straight" and now I'm "lesbian". Again, I don't mind having that label, but it does connote the suggestion of a change in orientation. Only my body changed.

Now let me muddy the waters a bit here. In her book "She's Not There" author Jenny Boylan offers a comment from her surgeon that it was his anecdotal observation that some (perhaps as much as a third) post-surgical transgender women do experience a bit of a shift in their orientation. I personally acknowledge that since I transitioned, I see men in a much different light now and could entertain a relationship with the famous Mr. Right. I've never had an interest in men before. I am faithfully married, so this won't happen.

One last comment is about our potential partners. If this was sincerely some sexual pursuit, then the joke is on us. Once one has gender reassignment surgery, the pool of possible partners drops dramatically. Most straight men are not interested in a transwoman because we "used" to be men. Gay men are not interested in a transwoman because we now look female and have female bodies - things that do not attract them. Most straight women are not interested in a transwoman for the same reason as the gay man. And many lesbian women are not interested in a transwoman for the same reason as the straight man. The same situation applies for transmen. As a result, many transgenders are sexually inactive. And many are asexual - for this is not about our sex lives!

Next Lesson: Questions to Ponder

Thursday, August 30, 2007

This is God's Plan for Me

Psalm 139:1, 13-16

"O Lord, you have searched me and you know me. For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be."

As I freely acknowledged at the outset of these lessons, I am not a theological scholar and I had not been in a church for my own spiritual pursuits for nearly four decades. I did not read the Bible, I was very much Scripturally illiterate - and with no intention of ever correcting that status. So it was only two years ago, in my new life, that I finally came across this passage at the urging of a friend. I cried. It now made sense. This is why I'd never heard God's voice until after I had transitioned. My days had been ordained and unless, or until, I accepted this plan, there would be no message of "Welcome Home, Donna". Yes, I most resolutely believe now that this was God's Plan for Me all along. That God's Plan meant I would spend part of my life as a man, and part of my life as a woman. Upon my acceptance of my transition, I would then receive God's acceptance.

Native American cultures referred to the transgender as "Two-Spirited". Many other pre-Christian faiths also speak of gender transformation. It is interesting to note that Christianity and Judaism are basically the only major world religions or faith beliefs that have no narratives about gender transformation. That is outlined in a later lesson. The point here is that transgenders - or eunuchs - or two-spirits - have been part of the human experience from the start. Somehow we must be part of God's Plan. And Psalm 139 speaks to that issue.

Ironically this is also a passage that some use to argue that we must remain in our birthed bodies. That God knit us in our mother's womb...and that upon exiting our mother's womb we were born one gender or the other. Or intersex. And that changing that birthed sex is unraveling and re-weaving that which God had already knit. I guess it all comes down to how one looks at one's ordained life. The Psalms, like poetry or song, are designed more to speak to the heart than the head, the meaning to be "felt" not "analyzed". It was a bit of a challenge for my head to accept me in a church...until my heart heard the song of Psalm 139. Then it all made sense. Yes, This is God's Plan for Me. And it is this plan that now motivates the undertaking of Chrysalis Mission.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

It Doesn't Matter?

1 Samuel 16:7

"..the Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart" (NIV)

Galatians 3:26-28

"You are all sons of God through faith in Jesus Christ, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourself with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." (NIV)

After all this discussion of male (Adam) and female (Eve) - and those not mentioned such as the Intersexed. After all this discussion about nothing in the Bible that proscribes transitioning from one gender to the other. After all this discussion about the acceptance of eunuchs. We come upon these verses and find out It Doesn't Matter!

Both Samuel from the Old Testament and Galatians from the New Testament suggest that God doesn't consider our gender to be a factor at all. Those baptized into Christ - and in our last lesson we learned there isn't a litmus test for baptism other that acceptance of Jesus as the Son of God - are accepted. All. A sentiment echoed in the well known verse of John 3:16. Whosoever. No other pre-qualifications. No exclusions.

It is thus argued that our bodies, in terms of God's love, are wholly irrelevant. God doesn't see the color of our eyes or the color of our hair, whether we are tall or short, right handed or left, male or female. It is only our heart - our Soul - that matters. Transitioning one's body from one gender to the other not only does not diminish the Soul, it in fact enriches the Soul. Surely God does not find fault with that.

But what of the earlier text from Corinthians - that our bodies are God's temple? Our bodies - in which the "spirit of God lives" - is acknowledged by all to be a temporary home for the Soul. The Soul endures, the Body does not. And Corinthians talks about "destroying" the body, which gender change does not do as was talked about in that essay. God knows the body is but an ephemeral shelter for the soul, which fully explains the message of Samuel. And return to the first essay from Genesis and the suggestion that in "God's image" is not a physical representation, but a spiritual incarnation into man. You see, when it comes to our physical being, our bodies....It Does Not Matter!

Baptism! No Questions Asked.

Acts 8:26-39

"Now an angel of the Lord said unto Phillip, "Go South to the road - the desert road - that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza." So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians. This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the book of Isaiah the prophet. The Spirit told Phillip, "Go to that chariot and stay near it." Then Phillip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. "Do you understand what you are reading?" Phillip asked. "How can I", he asked, "unless someone explains it to me?", so he invited Phillip to come up and sit with him. The eunuch was reading this passage of Scripture: ~~ He was led like sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before the shearer is silent, so he did not open his mouth. In his humiliation he was deprived of justice. Who can speak of his Descendants? For his life was taken from the Earth. ~~ The eunuch asked Phillip, "Tell me please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?" Then Phillip with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus. As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, "Look, here is water. Why shouldn't I be baptized?" And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Phillip and the eunuch went down into the water and Phillip baptized him. When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing" (NIV)

Many are aware of the frequently told story about Phillip and the Ethiopian eunuch, but I've included the entire passage anyway. And while the title of this essay is "Baptism! No Questions Asked.", according to Bible Gateway, some later versions contain a passage at verse 37 that says "Phillip said, 'If you believe with all your heart, you may." The eunuch answered, "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God." This would then be the only "question" asked of the eunuch prior to baptism.

This narrative is one to which theologians refer for the importance of Baptism as a Christian rite. It is also cited by some who believe full immersion is necessary for a proper Baptism. And it is also one basis for the need for a verbal declaration of Christians that Jesus is the Son of God. But no one discusses the person who is baptized in this phrase, the Ethiopian eunuch. In fact, there is precious little theological scholarship or discussion about the role eunuchs play within Scriptures. Why were they mentioned? Why aren't they talked about in confirmation or catechism classes? We hear of the leper, the prostitute, the blind, the lame....but when it comes to the eunuchs, most clergy start to tippy-toe. And yet they are mentioned in the chapters of Kings, Acts, Matthew, Isaiah and Esther. Such is the "invisibility" into which modern day transgenders are frequently cast.

To the verse itself. When I first took a serious study of this story, my first reaction was "How did Phillip - or at least the author of Acts - know this person was a eunuch?" Since the manner of dress was essentially the same for men and women, it would seem that there wouldn't be anything obvious in the Ethiopian's visible presentation that would indicate to everyone that he was a eunuch. The verse outright describes him as a eunuch, he does not "out" himself to Phillip. So just what was it that made it so "obvious"? Some of today's transgenders - especially male-to-females - have difficulty "passing" in their desired gender. If the Ethiopian was truly that obvious to Phillip, then the Baptism that was performed - No Questions Asked - is extremely significant for transgenders, passable or not. This, after all, was a mission ordered from God. The angel told Phillip to do this, and when the job was done, Phillip was taken away for another task....he wasn't "taken to task" for his performance. What more is required to prove God's affirmation and acceptance of the transgender/eunuch?

It should also be noted that this eunuch was an important, powerful person within the court of Candace, Queen of Ethiopia. This reinforces the earlier commentary that not all of the eunuchs of the day were punished slaves or people to be shunned or condemned. This eunuch was in charge of the finances of the realm he served. Anyone in business or in government is acutely aware of "the power of the purse".

And let us consider another earlier the Ethiopian one who "made himself a eunuch for the kingdom of heaven's sake"? He was baptized at the direction of God who would know of the Ethiopian being a eunuch. There was no requirement of contrition or atonement for his being a eunuch. The baptism was performed No Questions Asked. As a personal aside, it bothers me that there are those who deny baptism to some based on a church specified litmus test. That clearly did not happen here, it shouldn't happen to anyone who accepts Jesus as the Son of God.

The next lesson: It Doesn't Matter?

Monday, August 27, 2007

A Better Place Than You!

Isaiah 56:3-5

"...nor let the eunuch say 'Here I am, a dry tree". For thus saith the Lord unto the eunuchs that keep my sabbaths and choose (the things) that please me, and take hold of my covenant; Even unto them will I give in my house and within my walls a place and a name better than of sons and daughters: I will give them an everlasting name, that shall not be cut off." (KJV)

"And let not any eunuch complain, "I am only a dry tree." For this is what the LORD says: "To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose what pleases me and hold fast to my covenant - to them I will give within my temple and its walls a memorial and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that will not be cut off." (NIV)

Again I offer both versions as there is a slight difference, perhaps, between the two. In the King James Version, God's "house" could be the church, or it could be heaven itself. In the New International Version, it more specifically mentions the temple. But remember, this is the same temple from which those with "wounded stones" were to be denied entry. This, then, is completely the opposite suggestion contained in Deuteronomy 23:1. To understand, one must know more about Eunuchs.

In a clinical sense, a "eunuch" is a castrated male, but in ancient times, the term likely also included any male who could not procreate. We have come to believe that the eunuchs were slaves, forcibly castrated, to serve the pharaohs and kings within the walls of their homes and castles. This ostensibly - though medically incorrect - rendered them "harmless" to the women of the court. In fact, there were slaves who were castrated, but there were also those who sought out the positions in the court that were frequently held by eunuchs. They did so under their own need or free will as these were positions of power and respect. That suggests that the eunuchs of the Bible, were in fact, transgenders. It is only better medicine and better surgical skills that distinguishes me from them. Accepting that notion is critical to much of what follows not only in this lesson, but of other verses that also cite the eunuchs.

That said, does this mean what I think it means? A place in Heaven (or at least the Temple) for transgenders better than men (sons) or women (daughters)...everlasting? When I discuss other faith beliefs, we'll learn that many hold transgender souls with some sort of mystical esteem. Perhaps this is what Isaiah wishes to impart as well. In a strictly theological view, Heaven is Heaven - there aren't areas or partitions or some places that are better than others. is an interesting promise nonetheless!

Of course, this segment falls flat if you do not accept the notion of eunuchs being the ancient word's transgenders. And thus this definition from the Bible itself:

Matthew 19:12

"For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from (their) mother's womb; and there were some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men; and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuch's for the kingdom of heaven's sake." (KJV)

Could this be any more plain? "So born from their mother's womb", to me at least, indicates an acknowledgement of the Intersexed. Intersexed people existed then as now. Certainly the people of the time were aware of them. "Made eunuchs of men", to me, speaks to those who were forcibly castrated to serve the powerful. "Made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake", to me, means me - and all other transgenders. Recall the earlier lesson in which I argued that it is impossible for the transgender to be whole and authentic - thus fulfilling God's plan for us- without transforming our gender role and presentation. In fact, there are many that would offer that "from their mother's womb" also pertains to transgenders in addition to the Intersexed, since the condition of gender identity is felt to be from birth.

Initially I wasn't going to include both KJV and NIV texts for each verse - that would help shorten the essay - but when I went to read the NIV version of Matthew a glaring discrepancy arose: "For some are eunuchs because they were born that way; others were made that way by men; and others have renounced marriage because of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it." This is why it is extremely difficult to accept the Bible in literal terms. "Renounced marriage" is not something that is part of the definition of the eunuch. There was many who "renounced marriage" in that day...and there are certainly plenty of modern day people who have "renounced marriage", or are not married, who are not also transgender. This translation clouds the text and alters its meaning dramatically. On the other hand "because they were born that way" is a much more direct explanation than "from their mother's womb". Yes, transgenders are "born that way".

Taken together, these verses from Isaiah and Matthew (the KJV text especially) seem to contradict, if not completely negate, those of Deuteronomy. Both come much later in the Bible, Isaiah being near the end of the Old Testament and Matthew is the initial book of the New Testament. There are other instances where "newer" verses are said by many theologians to supplant, or override, "older" ones.

Your Body/God's Temple

1 Corinthians 3:16-17

"Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's spirit lives in you? If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him; for God's temple is sacred and you are that temple" (NIV)

"Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple is holy, which temple ye are" (KJV)

I have offered both NIV and KJV text on some of the other lessons, but this one clearly has two different contexts. In the New International Version, the word used is "destroy", yet in the predecessor King James Version the word is "defile". Those are two entirely different words, at least as they are used in the modern sense. Such are the hazards of interpretation - something that continually frustrates Biblical study and meaning. But let's not quibble....

As offered, many suggest that altering one's body to fit their self image of gender is "destroying" or "defiling" God's temple. And yet the Bible requires me to do just that! We'll discuss that notion later in this lesson.

This particular passage has been cited for a variety of things. For many, it is directed at suicide - not gender transformation. You'll have to forgive me for a moment while I digress a bit. Like many transgenders - most even - I contemplated and, in a weak effort, attempted suicide. I was fortunate that my effort did no physical harm, though the emotional damage was quite evident. As I talked with a dear friend, he told me about his near-death experience. I don't believe my friend to be particularly religious - I've known him for nearly four decades and I've never known him to attend church. But his message to me was "from God" in a way. Whether you believe in near-death experiences or not, the message remains valid. He told me that as he exited his body - which he could see below - he saw the Light that many recall, and he also encountered several people from his past. These people were not those who were particularly close - a forgotten co-worker from many years ago, a school mate who wasn't much of a friend, etc. It was these people who said they were "stuck", they would not ascend to heaven because they had taken their own lives. This was the one unforgivable sin in the eyes of the Lord. He then made me swear that I would stay safe. We've never discussed God or religion since. And I have affirmatively taken the message given to me by my friend to heart.

Back on topic, this text is also thought by some to preclude any medical intervention whatsoever - no surgeries, no medication, no blood transfusions, etc. It also is cited as a prohibition to the use of alcohol, tobacco or illegal drugs. In the more general application however, we do not condemn the repair of a child's birth defect. We do not condemn the setting of someones broken leg. We do not condemn the healing from flu or cancer fact many of us offer sincere praise to God for the healing powers that has been given to our means of medicine. In my own personal belief, I do not consider transgenderism as a birth defect, or an is a medical situation, however, than can be cured. I also do not consider that I have "corrected" God's mistake. I am not a mistake, and as I said earlier, God does not make mistakes. This notion, too, will be explored in later lessons. Allow me to be frivolous or flippant...I did not "defile" or "destroy" God's temple....I just did a little "remodeling".

Yet let's consider that "remodeling". Our current society accepts, perhaps even encourages, a wide array of plastic surgeries that are intended solely for the improvement of our appearance. Tummy tucks, face lifts, collagen shots, Botox, breast augmentation/reduction, hair transplantation....all this to make us feel more comfortable with our bodies. Surgery for the transgender is no different in its goal.

But I said the Bible required me to do this......

Mark 9:43-47

"If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hand to go into hell, where the fire never goes out. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than have two feet and be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the Kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell." (NIV)

Transgenders will tell you that their body - and most specifically the genitalia with which they were born - causes them to sin. God wishes us to be authentic unto ourselves, that we strive to be whole. For transgenders, that isn't possible without corrective surgery. I'll refer you to one of my earlier posts that explains that, at least for me, I never heard God's voice until after I had transitioned. I'll also reiterate a statement from an earlier lesson that I didn't "cut it off" - a commonly repeated phrase applied to male-to-females that is factually incorrect.

Your choice - Am I prohibited from "defiling" God's temple...or am I required to excise the body part that causes me to sin. One seemingly precludes the other. Another one of those Scriptural anomalies in my opinion.

The next lesson: A Better Place Than You!

And what of Lance Armstrong?

Deuteronomy 23:1

"No one who has been emasculated by crushing or cutting may enter into the assembly of the Lord" (NIV)

"He that hath been wounded in the stones, or hath his privy member cut off, shall not enter into the congregation of the Lord" (KJV)

As Deuteronomy 22:5 is "obvious" in its condemnation for crossdressing, it sure looks pretty "obvious" that this text is aimed directly at me. But is it really?

One thing to note immediately in this verse it that it does not exclude someone from the Kingdom of Heaven, though an apparent exclusion is indicated toward entering the Temple or the Church. There were many who were excluded from the Temple - most notably women - prior to Christ's arrival. Thus, if one takes this phrase literally, it still is not something that brings condemnation upon those "wounded in the stones". However, in a modern day application, we don't exactly inspect all males as they enter churches to determine if they are fully equipped.

I'll also point out that, as far as male-to-female transgenders are concerned, we don't have our "privy member cut off". I won't go into the details of MtF genital reconstruction surgery here, only to say that what was there, is still predominately there - just refashioned by the surgeon. So a literal reading needs to factor this as well.

Still, this verse seems to proscribe male-to-female, post-operative transgenders, though it does not appear to address female-to-male transgenders who obtain "privy members" and "stones". Why, then, would a transwoman be excluded, but not a transman? We return to the goose/gander argument (You'll have to apply your own standard as to which is the "goose" and which is the "gander"!) with the universal application of the text if it is to be used to condemn. Further, there are myriad transgenders - both male-to-female and female-to-male - that do not have the genital surgery, yet do live fulltime in their needed gender. Does this mean that the text, therefore, isn't addressing gender transformation?

In terms of the times in which this passage was written, it was the belief that conception took place solely within the male (the stones) and that the woman only nurtured the development of the new life. As a result, to have damaged testes or not have a functioning phallus in which to be able impregnate a woman was viewed as destroying Life. If one was unable to continue the expansion of the family, one was not "worthy" of the Temple, though they would not be exiled from the family or the tribe.

According to some scholars, this passage may also reflect an effort to maintain the purity or safety of Israel. Reportedly, many neighboring priests of different cultures would castrate themselves to demonstrate their authority or commitment.

Like Deuteronomy 22:5, if one wishes to be literal, then why are the adjacent verses to this passage also routinely ignored or no longer applicable. We no longer condemn the children of forbidden marriages or relationship, we don't consider "nocturnal emissions" as something evil, we don't follow the outline for digging latrines.

And what of Lance Armstrong? He had testicular cancer and had a testicle removed which is part of the medical treatment. Is he now to be thrown out of the church? His life is saved by doing doesn't seem to be God's plan for us to be ostracized for pursuing Life. One of my father's dearest friends was a bomber pilot in World War II. On one mission, his plane was hit with flak and he was struck in one of his testicles, which was removed. Are we to exile a veteran who fought for our freedom, for our right to be free in our worship of God, from God's love? I cannot imagine that is part of God's plan either.

The Crossdressing Verse

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" (NIV)

"The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman's garment: for all that do are an abomination unto the Lord" (KJV)

That pretty much spells it out, doesn't it? You'd think so, except when you consider the time and context in which this verse was originally authored, you have to scratch your head and think about just what is this talking about?

Since at that time men and women dressed essentially the same - there really wasn't "men's only" or "women's only" clothing - then it wouldn't seem to be talking about "cross"-dressing. The research on the meaning of this verse has yielded many different and quite plausible suggestions.

One suggestion centers on deception for wrongful purposes. Proposed by Rev. Hotchkiss, it is her estimation that because women were prohibited from entering into the Temple, the first part addresses women trying to sneak in disguised as men. And it is her opinion that, because men and women were usually housed separately within a family or tribe, the second phrase is intended to keep men from being able to sneak into the women's tents or homes. Thus, deception...not personal the issue.

Other theories offered indicate that this passage is directed at those who would wear the armor and shield of a female warrior goddess in the worship of her. One consistent message from God is to not worship others. Our love for God must be true. Another suggestion is that it is aimed at ending certain ancient fertility rites or sexual practices commonplace in the day. Yet another possibility was that, according to some, there were enemies of Israel who would disguise themselves as women to infiltrate the land. The protection and purity of the tribal peoples was paramount. None of these ideas hint at gender transformation.

Another view factors in the cultural aspects of the verse. As I mentioned, men and women essentially dressed the same, had the same style of clothing, when the verse was written. In more "modern" time, pants as we know them, didn't come into existence for a thousand years after Christ. This verse was from several thousand years before Christ. And yet, it was this verse that Joan of Arc was ultimately convicted. She wore pants and refused to remove them while she was incarcerated in a men's jail as she was fearful of rape. (At the time, the practice was to house women inmates at nunneries). And so she was burned at the stake. And now she is a Saint in the eyes of the very same church that convicted her. Which is it? Were they "right" then? Or are they "right" now?

Scottish men wear kilts. And yet some non-Scottish Christians deem kilts to be the equivalent as skirts for women. While similar in design, the kilt and the skirt were developed independently of each other and with different cultural motives. Scotsmen are often targeted with this verse for their "abomination". Again, given when the verse was authored, it could not have been talking about Scottish kilts.

And in today's culture, it is quite acceptable for women to wear jeans, t-shirts, shoes or boots that were all initially designed for men. Only a few, extremely conservative denominations have any prohibitions to women wearing such clothing. Indeed, it is quite acceptable. And yet the verse addresses both men and women. You'd think what's good for the goose, would be good for the gander (or something like that!) in current usage. Let a girl go to school wearing sneakers, jeans and a t-shirt and no one says a thing - not even the Christians among the staff. Let a boy go to school wearing a skirt and all heck breaks loose - even among the non-Christians! Either this passage applies or it doesn't.

Some would argue that, regardless of the time and place of its authorship, it still is what the Bible says. Then why are we not beholden to many of the surrounding verses of Deuteronomy? Those texts include not yoking an ox and an ass together, not wearing clothing of mixed linens (imagine those t-shirts of cotton/poly blends!), not rotating crops (a disastrous notion if you are a farmer) and requiring the stoning of non-virgins. Again, either these also apply to the present day.....or they don't.

And even after all of that - this verse does not talk about someone changing from one gender to the either. It's about appearance, not identity.

In the Beginning

Genesis 1:27

"So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female, he created them" (NIV)

Where else do you start with the Bible than with Genesis? And this is the most common point raised against transgenders. God made Man and God made Woman and that's that! So because I was born male, changing is against God's determination for me.

This passage is one of the early anomalies - some call inconsistencies - of the Bible. This is actually before the narrative which explains that God created Adam, then created Eve from Adam - that story is in the second chapter of Genesis. Now I'm not a literalist when reading Scripture, but many people are. In a literal sense then:

1.) Who is them if Adam was created first and, originally, only?
2.) Male and Female? Shouldn't that be Male or Female? It could be suggested that transgenders are "male and female", that others are "male or female".
3.) And this doesn't specifically say one cannot go from one gender to the other.

Only logicians or English teachers will appreciate the nuances of those three arguments.

One glaring omission from this verse is the Intersexed, those people whose genetic component is atypical. Intersex often presents in a physical manner with genitalia that is not that well defined. (I won't go into a long dissertation about Intersex, please click on the hotlink to further your study on this important topic). Now remember, God does not make "mistakes"...and to that, I would agree. At the very least then, this phrase - and the subsequent narratives about Adam and Eve in the later chapters of Genesis - is incomplete.

As the Creation story continues, God begins with what are essentially "binaries" or "either/or's" if you'd like: Heaven and Earth, Day and Night, Land and Sea, etc. Again, these absolute depictions are incomplete. We often view Heaven - or the skies - as that which is above us. And that Earth is that which is under our feet. What of the space in between, the space where we are? Just how high "up" is it before we reach the sky? We have no word for this space which is neither Heaven or Earth, and yet both...and the Bible doesn't mention one either. We also know of Dawn and Dusk...those periods of the day that are neither "day" nor "night" and yet both. The Creation story does not include them, yet they exist - certainly part of God's work. And what of the shoreline? Due to the tides along the sea and fluctuations in water levels with our lakes and rivers, there is that portion that is sometimes land, sometimes water - neither and both. Again, the Creation story does not mention this in its absolutism, yet they, too, exist - certainly part of God's work. If these "binaries" truly aren't absolutes, then why would Man/Woman be absolute, too?

But let's look at that Male/Female binary. The original Hebrew word for Earth was "adameh". Some Jewish scholars suggest that "adam" (small "a" intentional here) then is the early word for an Earthling - no gender specified. In fact, when God creates adam/Adam, no gender is mentioned. Only when Eve is created does gender become designated. And yet Eve is not created as a binary - like Heaven/Earth, Day/Night, Land/Sea. Eve is created for companionship - Adam complains about being lonely. Eve isn't even created for procreation purposes! Even if this is intended as a binary - another either/or - we've talked about those other absolutes as having areas in between - neither and both. That standard should then also apply to the Scriptural references to gender. I'll add that some transgenders suggest that Eve was the first transgender as she was a woman made out of a man. I'm not that bold.

One last facet is the issue of the "image of God". Many scholars suggest that God's image is not a physical representation, but a spiritual one. In other words, we were not created as a physical replication of God, but were imbued with God's "image" in our souls. There will be further discussion of this issue in a couple of subsequent essays, but there are numerous references that can be construed to support this notion - transgenderism aside. As such, our physical presentation is not a concern to God.


About the Lessons

I readily admit I am no theological scholar. As a result, much of what is contained in these Lessons is the work of many author/scholars (most of whom are listed in Books and Articles) along with some of my own thoughts. I have not specifically cited each reference in each essay. This is a matter of convenience, not an intention to plagiarize the efforts of others. And, in some cases, the points offered are from more than one source, or are from discussions with various friends. Thus, these essays are a compilation of these sources. I also invite comment, fair criticisms and any additional input you may be willing to offer. Like my Faith, this is a learning process for all of us.

As this effort progresses, I will include how many of the other world faiths view transgenderism, but for now, the focus will be on Christianity and the Bible. I do not offer these Lessons as a means by which to change anyone's faith beliefs, but simply to present how I and others view Scriptural references to transgenderism. Since it is commonplace - though not my personal method - to cite specific verses (known as "proof texts"), the Lessons will approach this subject in this manner. In a general sense, the Bible contains nothing specific regarding gender transformation. We are left to reading certain passages, then making our own determination or interpretation that the passage may have relevance to gender change.

Verses that some view as opposing transgenderism will be presented, and verses that some view as supporting transgenderism will also be covered. As in all matters of Faith, ultimately it will be within your heart to discern your own belief. This comprehensive effort is offered to support your process of discernment.

And now to Lesson #1 - In the Beginning

Saturday, August 25, 2007

The Faith Journey


That was pretty much what my wife said that Sunday morning. But that's closer to the end of the story. How did I wind up in a church?

My coming out did not set well with my parents. We'd been close until that day. Then near silence for well over a year. The distance that developed was so great that when we knew we were going to be moving from Portland (my hometown in Oregon) to Kansas City, I seriously considered not even telling them. Then when I did tell them....the silence continued. I was astonished then when my mother called about two weeks before our departure and asked if I would come visit her. She was 80, recovering from a double mastectomy, was "up" to 72 pounds and she knew the physical distance - more than the emotional one - would mean this could be our last chance to see each other. I went, we had a nice chat. And I went two more times before heading on down the highway. Still, I had to visit early in the morning....before my father arose. He still didn't want to see me.

We arrived in Kansas City on July 15th of 2005. It was a busy time trying to locate a home and the usual resources one needs. On August 14th, I was able to attend the local PFLAG meeting to thank the group's president who was very helpful in guiding our search for those resources. The topic of their meeting that day was about LGBT friendly churches in this area. I tuned out. I hadn't been in a church for my own personal needs since I was 12. Those resources I was going to locate in Kansas City did not include a church. It just wasn't on the list.

As the meeting started to break up, two gentlemen approached me. Paul and Jerry...the Moderator and the Music Director of Country Club Congregational United Church of Christ (I heard Country..weraopdfansfansnznaweowefeweosdnrewau...of Christ. Fortunately they gave me their cards!) offered, "We have this lovely little church. We're really good on the G and the L, but we know nothing about the T. Would you come talk to our church?". Now I'd been a teacher and coach, so helping educate or instruct others was something which I did with fair ease. But do a transgender a church???? I agreed! "Just two things...this' will have to wait until at least October...and DON'T recruit me, I'll simply walk out.". And that was fine by them.

I went back to our motel room, looked up their church on the internet (thank goodness for those cards!)....cute white, steepled building in a lovely neighborhood. And then I called my Mom. She was to undergo surgery the next morning to clear an arterial blockage to her lower abdomen - the suspected reason that she had not regained weight following her mastectomies. Mom wasn't particularly religious - we never attended church as a family - so I didn't mention the invitation I'd received.

Mom never made it to her scheduled surgery. She was hustled via ambulance a few hours ahead of the plan. And the blockages were too numerous to repair, the damage too extensive to remedy. She died that Tuesday afternoon. My aunt mentioned Mom had been given Last Rites. I was surprised. I didn't realize Mom was Catholic. Her mother, my Grandma, was Catholic, but her father, my Grandpa, was Methodist (I think!). I guess it made sense, but it was still a surprise nonetheless. Two days after Mom's passing, my brothers called me to say that her funeral would be that Saturday....."Dad says you can't come".

I'd been greatly hurt by several things my parents had said to me when I finally burst loose with my struggles. I'd been greatly hurt by the silence that ensued. I'd been greatly hurt when my Mother declared to all that I was not to know about her breast cancer and mastectomies. I'd been greatly hurt when my Dad still refused to see me before I left for a home 1900 miles away. But "Dad says you can't come" topped all of them.

That Saturday, I found a quiet place to stage my own thoughts for my Mom. There is a memorial site dedicated to World War One veterans called the Liberty Memorial in Kansas City. At the base of the tower is a reflecting pool. It is made of black granite with water cascading down grooves cut into the stair-stepped terrace that feeds the pond below. Had I been in Oregon, I would have escaped to any one of a dozen places along a stream or river. This was the only peaceful water I could locate. There is also a lovely park along the Missouri River just south of our home, English Landing, which also served as a refuge in the days in between.

Sunday morning dawned and just why I don't know, but I felt I needed to be in a House of the Lord to ask for God's care for my Mom. My wife asked if it was okay with me if she "took the day off", our code for just being lazy for the day. I said, "Fine by me, as long as you don't mind if I go to church this morning." Stunned, stupefied, astonished (add any more of a dozen other synonyms here if you'd like), she said "Go ahead, I understand."

Since I had no intention of looking for a church when I arrived and that I really didn't have any real connection to any particular denomination, I opted to attend the one church to which I had been invited - Country Club Congregational. At least I might be accepted there. I arrived just minutes before the service began, but as I entered the Sanctuary, both Paul and Jerry saw me and cheerfully said "Donna! Glad you came!". And I sat with them, not disclosing why I'd come. I enjoyed the service, listened as the minister, Rev. Sue Thorne, gave a sermon on "Paying Attention to the Signs God Puts Before You" (can you see this coming??), cried during the silent personal prayers and then stayed for some coffee and cookies. I met several warm people who, as I was introduced to them, seemed quite genuine in their welcome. I then met Rev. Thorne, finally explaining why I had come. She was most compassionate, but that is afterall her job isn't it? And then I went back to the motel.

All that week, I kept thinking of the warmth and the welcome extended to this poor stranger. I'd been in churches before. Be the stranger, the is often the coldest of experiences. I saw smiles. So the next Sunday, I went again. This time for me...maybe curiosity, too...not for my Mom. And the welcome was warmly extended again. There is a part early in the service whereby people are asked to stand and "greet one another". (I've since called this our "Community of Chaos" as everyone tries to meet everyone else!). I'd sat in the left side of the church this time, about two-thirds to the back from the pulpit which is also on that side. I no sooner had turned around to say Hi to the person behind me when I got a tap on the shoulder from behind. I turned around. It was Rev. Sue. "Donna, I'm so glad you came back!". Such a simple gesture, such a profound result. I'd never had a minister say that to me...and be sincere in her acceptance. Now if this isn't one of those Signs she was talking about the week earlier....

And on the way "home", it would be our last day in the motel, all I heard was "Welcome Home, Donna....Welcome Home." I had spent 50 years of my life in Portland, all but one as a man. In one month, now as a woman, in Kansas City...THIS is when I heard God's voice calling me Home????? And so it was. And I do pay attention to those Signs placed before me.

May each one of us find our Faith home.

The Prelude to Finding My Faith

Friday, August 24, 2007


Welcome to Chrysalis Mission!!

Transgender people, in general, have a very difficult time finding acceptance within the faith world. Much of the condemnation aimed at gays and lesbians is also directed toward us. As a result, many transgenders leave their heritage faith homes, or never go in search of one at all. We are all God's Children....and the Bible does not contain anything that diminishes our souls.

And yet the transformation undertaken by many is not only Physical and Emotional, but intensely Spiritual. In my case, it is a Jesus led faith. For others it may be something other faith journey. I honor all paths.

On this blog, I will sometimes discuss faith issues both transgender related and not. And I will sometimes talk solely about transgenderism. And I will sometimes just howl at the moon. :-)

Blessings to all!