Friday, October 05, 2012

Eleven new followers!

The Colorful One
Aaron A.
Edgar Figueroa
Mark Wells
Clyde Jones
Thomas Daus

Thanks for reading the blog!

Monday, October 01, 2012

Transgender musings

I've been mulling over a recent interview that Rachel Held Evans did with transgender Christian Lisa Salazar, whom I had the privilege of meeting this past January at the Gay Christian Network Conference. Over the years I've given some thought to transgender issues. For a period of time I exchanged emails with a male-to-female transgender friend who was the process of transitioning. She sent me articles from medical journals (most of which went over my head) and shared with me the human and spiritual side of trying to manage her life as a woman who faces all the challenges of presenting herself as female to the outside world. I'm grateful to her for opening up her life to me.

That doesn't mean I feel qualified to comment in any depth on transgender issues, which is why I avoid the term "LGBT" on this blog. There is, however, one basic issue that has always been clear to me as a non-transgender person. Namely, I have never understood myself to be female simply because of my biological make-up. I'm pretty sure that, for me, identifying as female is something that has been a part of me even before I knew the differences between male and female biology. Maybe I'm talking about having a "female soul," or maybe the scientists would call it a "female brain." But whatever you want to call it, it wasn't like I looked at my biological self one day when I was four years old and said, "Hey, I must be a girl because I have a girl body." Not really. I knew that my mom and my dad were different, both in their emotional make-up and in the way they related to me. And even though I was a classic tomboy who loved rough play and disliked hugs, I understood that at a baseline level I belonged to the girl-Mom camp more than the boy-Dad camp. I may have been a more boyish girl, to be sure, but I was a girl nevertheless. My experience was growing up and taking for granted that of course I look like a girl because I am a girl, and why wouldn't you look like a girl if you are one?

I share these thoughts because Lisa Salazar's experience was so different from mine:

Ever since I can remember, I experienced a disconnection with my body. This sense of disconnection at times bordered on revulsion on one hand, and sadness on the other. From my earliest memory, I felt something was amiss. I did not like to see my private parts and avoided looking down when I was naked. I distinctly remember sitting in the bathtub in three inches of water and carefully laying a washcloth over my genitals to hide them from my eyes as I played with my bath toys. I surmise I could not have been more that three years old at the time.  
This feeling that something was not right was not based on me having seen a girl's body and deciding I had extra parts. I was probably ten years old before I ever saw an image in a textbook of what a girl's body looked like. By the time I understood what some of the anatomical differences were, I was already estranged from my body. So where did this disconnection come from and what did it mean? 

Her experience interests me because I can relate to understanding my femaleness as an innate inner conviction, a fundamental starting point for my subjective identity. I know it wasn't the case that I simply looked down in the tub when I was three and chose to accept my anatomy, whereas Lisa didn't. What Lisa is describing is probably closer to imagining myself, as I am now, being transplanted into a male body and seeing how much I'd like it. I don't think I'd like it at all. "Disconnection," "revulsion," "sadness," feeling like something is "amiss"? Yes, yes, yes, and yes, that sounds about how I would feel. Except that for many people this confusion happens at a very young age and permanently impacts their psyche, their sense of security and self-worth. Those of us who have always taken for granted that we can look at our physical selves and literally feel comfortable in our own skins now realize that we have reason to be grateful for this happy circumstance. It is apparently not the case with everyone.

I often wonder why Christians aren't more accepting of the transgender experience. We are in constant battle against the evolutionists and atheists, who deny the existence of the soul and say human beings can be defined as simply a biological mass of highly complex cells. Why, then, when it comes to transgender people do Christians suddenly insist that the physical body is the be-all and end-all of male and female identity? Aren't we the ones who are always insisting that human beings are more than just erect-walking creatures of evolved ape-flesh? We teach that human beings have a soul, and that sets us apart from the animals. Why not realize that some people may have a soul that doesn't match their body? Perhaps a female soul got paired with a male body or vice versa. And while God did create us perfectly male and female in the beginning, after the fall many strange and tragic things now happen in the world. The secular transgender world may not agree with that conception of their experience, but as Christians we at least have theological categories that can help us understand the transgender experience in a way that would make sense to us.