Kim came to me with honest, hard questions. She was born female, but had lived for years as a male, had undergone female-to-male sex change surgery, was in a relationship with a woman, and had lived successfully as a man for some time. Then came the dilemma – friends took her to a Harvest Crusade where she accepted Christ, then she began questioning her earlier decision to adopt a male identity. If God created her female, was she in disobedience by attempting to reverse the sex she was assigned? Did gender matter all that much to God, or could she simply live a committed Christian life as a man, her sex being a secondary issue? (See yesterday’s post and the one prior
As it happened, her relationship was nearly over anyway, both parties agreeing it was not working out, so the question of breaking that off wasn’t quite as traumatic as it might have been. Still, any breakup is hard, and in general, Kim was considering huge, life altering decisions.
It basically got down to this: Did God still view Kim as a female? If so, could she with integrity go on living as a male? I felt she couldn’t, and said as much.
But while the answer made have been somewhat simple – “If God made you a woman, a woman you will be” – the simplicity of it sure didn’t make it easy. The male role was the one Kim was at ease with, and no doubt living s a woman felt as unnatural to her as it would to a heterosexual man. Indeed, if you told the average guy that God now wanted him to dress, act, and live as a female, he’d no doubt feel much as Kim felt when I told her, nearly in tears myself, that since her life was no longer her own, what felt natural to her was secondary to what God had
So What Else Could Kim Do?
Succumbing to your own inclinations is not the only alternative when you’re dealing with a hard life issue, including transsexualism. When I pointed this out to Kim, her reaction was understandable. “You’ve got some pretty clear answers, Joe. But tell me honestly: if I go home and break up with my girlfriend, then put on a skirt and try to live as a woman, leaving behind everything about my life as I know it, will the church be there for me? Will they welcome me, even though I’ll look like a man wearing a dress? Can I be honest with fellow Christians about the surgery I had? Will I really be a sister in Christ, or will I be the resident freak?”
I thought of my own return to the church after years of public involvement in sexual sin, and my terror that the past would color everyone’s impression of me. Kim’s apprehension had to have been greater and deeper. It was, indeed, a bleak road I was advising her to walk, but hadn’t Saul of Tarsus walked the same one, carrying with him the weight of his past persecution of Christians when he tried joining himself to the church? Hadn’t he faced skepticism as well?
It’s a rare believer who is asked to fill Paul’s sandals, yet Kim was required to do something just that. I could only hope, should she say yes to her inborn gender and begin walking in it again, that believers would come alongside her, extending the right hand of fellowship to her as the friendly Barnabas did to Paul when he began his own journey.
I told Kim as much; she remained unconvinced and undecided. Our session ended with her promising to prayerfully consider all we’d discussed, and to call me for a follow up appointment. We’ve stayed in touch since then, though she remains undecided about her future and her identity.
Caring for Mandy The conversation Kim and I had is being repeated more and more, as more and more transsexuals are facing the same dilemma. And while the trend towards legitimizing the transgender experience is strong, there are hopeful signs as well.
Recently I came across the testimony of a pastor who discipled a transsexual who had had reassignment surgery. “Mandy” originally presented himself as a woman, was converted and baptized, then disclosed his secret to the pastor. The pastor, while making it clear that the assigned sex was the one to strive for, nonetheless continued to care for Mandy, encouraging him to disclose the truth to others gradually and pursue God’s will.
As he did so, his masculine characteristics became more apparent, surgery notwithstanding. His church gathered around him, supportive and accepting, until Mandy decided to live openly as a man. As the pastor describes it: “Mandy became ‘James.’ Great was the rejoicing when a fine, be-suited young James walked to the front on the first Sunday of the year to be ‘introduced’ to the church.
Fifteen months later, James announced his engagement to a girl in the church, but that’s another story.
James was blessed; his church was Christ-like. Other churches should take a cue, and respond likewise to those with this struggle who will no doubt be joining other congregations as well. As the transsexual movement picks up steam, the church as a whole must be prepared to articulate and defend the biblical position, while offering support and discipleship to repentant transsexuals. The transsexual dilemma demands a response, as the culture and the church wrestle with its
And somewhere, amid the debate, my friend Kim faces a decision of
(Special thanks to Kim for graciously giving permission to write about our conversation.)