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DWTS and the T in GLBT

The big controversy in the current season of Dancing With the Stars is the presence of Chaz Bono, born Chastity, the daughter of pop icons Sonny and Cher. The media has documented Chaz’ transition from female to male, bringing “transgender” into people’s living rooms and water cooler conversations.

For over a decade, I have loved and walked with people struggling with their gender identity and unwanted same-sex attractions. When I see Chaz, my heart just aches deeply.

How should we wisely, biblically, and compassionately think about those who feel trapped in the body of the opposite sex? [I am not talking about those who were born with chromosomal abnormalities or an endocrine imbalance, which results in hermaphroditism,  or—the new term—intersex. These are biological effects of living in a fallen world, and are in a different category from those born with normal, functioning bodies who want to change those bodies.]

People who identify as transgender report feeling different from a young age, which is easy to describe as feeling “born that way,” especially when that is the new banner cry of the marginalized, thanks to Lady Gaga’s mega-hit of the same name. But it’s a big (and, I would respectfully suggest, tragic) step from “I have always felt different from the other boys/girls” to “I am a girl in a boy’s body” or “I am a boy in a girl’s body.”

I would suggest that the core misunderstanding of those in the GLBT (gay | lesbian | bi-sexual | transgendered) community is the same core misunderstanding of the vast majority of people: a too-narrow understanding of God-designed variations in masculinity and femininity. (Please see my blog post “The Gender Spectrum.”) Many of my friends who struggle with same-sex attraction confess that they’ve often thought how much better life would be if they were the other gender, but transgender-identifying folks take the fantasy to a new level.

The fantasy that “becoming something other than what I am will make me happy” marks transgender. It’s wrapped up in a deep-seated envy of the opposite sex, and a hatred of one’s own gender. That’s why so many believe that surgery to remove the offending body parts will kill what they detest in themselves, their own gender, and transform them into what they admire and believe will give them life.

Fantasy and pretending are part of childhood, but now thanks to advances in technology, an adult can gain access to medical treatments that will feed the fantasy and turn it into reality—or at least the promise of it. Our post-modern culture invents words and redefines language in ways that adds layers of confusion to the issue: instead of the dual simplicity of God creating male and female, we are now told that there is a difference between sex, gender, and sexual identity. No wonder there is so much confusion about this issue!

“I am a man in a woman’s body, and I need to bring my outsides into alignment with my insides.” (Or the opposite.) This feeling may be strong, but it is not accurate, and it is not trustworthy. We are fallen people living in a fallen world with fallen understanding, and we should not trust our conclusions when they vary so much with what God has said. He declares Himself as our Creator; when God creates a female, which we know by the female body He creates, He is making a statement about His intention for that girl. When God gives us stewardship over His creation, which includes our bodies, that precludes mutilating them by amputating healthy body parts because we hate them.

Our culture looks at life through a purely naturalistic, materialistic lens that excludes the spiritual. Our feelings are part of that total focus on the temporal and transitory. When they are particularly strong, they can be all-consuming, and it’s easy to say they are true—regardless of what God says in His word. Some people insist that their brains and bodies are mismatched, that transgender is a purely biological issue that, thanks to modern medicine, can be addressed instead of leaving them feeling miserable.

We are broken people, and we try to fix our own brokenness with our own broken methods: enter sex-change clinics. One of the heartbreaking aspects of this issue is what is NOT told to those putting their eggs in the sex-change basket. I had a very long talk one night with a MtF (male to female) post-op transgender woman who blessed me with her heart-wrenching honesty. She was so sure than she would get affirmation and praise as a woman, that the hole in her heart would be filled by what she would see in the mirror. Many surgeries later, from penis amputation to cosmetic surgery to reduce her adam’s apple, when she looked in the mirror she saw a man trying unsuccessfully to be what God did not make him to be, and it broke her heart. She said she would give anything to go back to the way God had made her as a him, but now she felt stuck maintaining the charade because that was her identity, both personally and professionally.

This story is one of the reasons psychiatrist Dr. Paul McHugh shut down the sex-change program at Johns Hopkins University Hospital. In his extraordinary article “Surgical Sex” he wrote, “When I became psychiatrist-in-chief at Johns Hopkins, I realized that by doing sex-change operations the hospital was fundamentally cooperating with a mental illness. We would do better for these patients, I thought, by concentrating on trying to fix their minds and not their genitalia.”

I am grateful for the voices of those who have walked deep in the transgender waters and then decided to listen to God (mainly from the helpful website help4families.com):

“I remember reading in the Word that our bodies were the temple of the Holy Spirit, and I wondered, ‘What have I done to myself?’ After reading Psalm 139, I began to cry because it spoke of how God had created me and how He had known me from the beginning.”

***

“I had a hard time having fun, because when I was out with my friends I was jealous of the girls and fun they were having. That started to become a theme in my life, I was jealous of females; their curves, softness, and what I perceived as superiority over men. I hated everything about my masculinity; I had fantasies at times of castrating myself and ending the control of testosterone over my life.”

***

“I told my wife I was leaving and wanted to divorce and transition to becoming a woman. I went out and bought supplies and women’s clothing that night, and went to hotel room. I won’t go into all the details, but as I sat there in all my ‘feminine glory,’ reading on my computer the stories of other TS folks I remember praying ‘God what am I doing???’ And I remember this still small voice ask, ‘Is this what you really want?’ My response was ‘No, what should I do?’ and what I heard still rings in my head to this day: ‘Run!! Run back to your wife.’ So I did, my wife being the faithful, loving, and godly woman that she is accepted me back, and forgave me. . . .

“[Later on] I again told my wife that I could no longer live this life and that I needed to leave to pursue my ‘true life’ as a female. I left my wife that night and told her that I wanted to separate. As I left to go back out and check into a hotel, I was feeling really angry with God. I was yelling on the drive, ‘God, this is bigger than You. I can’t do this anymore, I am so tired of fighting and I just want to live the way that my mind wants me to live.’ I remember God distinctly telling me, ‘I am your Father and you are My son. You do not need to do this; you need to get your significance from Me.’ I yelled back, ‘No God I am done with this crap, this is ridiculous, I am living a lie and I need to be female.’ I wrestled and wrestled with this for hours. Finally I was worn down and just asked God, ‘What do I need to do?’ The answer I got was, ‘Get your significance from Me, not from being female. You need to follow Me and love Me more than this.’

“I was worshiping femininity and was ready to sacrifice myself, my wife and my children on that altar. After searching my heart I also realized that I was angry with God, I think mostly for not ‘fixing me’ the way I wanted. I wanted to pray the prayer and any desire to be female would be gone and I would be some sort of super-man. When God did not fix me this way after years of praying for it, I became bitter.”

***

“If He had intended me to be a woman, He wouldn’t have made me male in the first place.”

***

May those who struggle with the lie that they are not okay as they are, find their significance in God who made them the way He wanted them, who delights in them, who loves them with a tender, compassionate love, and says, “Come to Me. Don’t try to fix this on your own. Let Me pour truth and grace, love and life into your heart.”

Sue Bohlin

Sue Bohlin is a speaker/writer and webmistress for Probe Ministries, a Christian organization that helps people to think biblically. She loves teaching women and laughing, and if those two can be combined, all the better. She also loves speaking for MOPS (Mothers of Pre-Schoolers) and Stonecroft Ministries (Christian Women's Clubs) on the topic How to Handle the Things You Hate But Can't Change, based on her lifelong experience as a polio survivor.

She has a freelance calligraphy business in her home studio; hand lettering was her "Proverbs 31 job" while her children were young. Sue also serves on the board of Living Hope Ministries, a Christ-centered organization that helps people struggling with unwanted homosexuality and the family members of those with same-sex attractions.

Sue never met a cruise ship she didn't like, especially now that God has provided a travel scooter for getting around any ship! She is happily married to Dr. Ray Bohlin, writer and speaker on faith and science with Probe Ministries, and they have two grown sons. You can follow Sue on Twitter @suebohlin.

9 Comments

  • Avatar

    SjM

    ..And the T in the GLBT

    I really appreciate your perspective Sue.  

    In my own journey as somebody who has had a real struggle in her own gender identity I have found that I often meditate on Psalm 139.  I never ever thought I'd ever be comfortable in my own skin.  I never thought that I would ever find any commonality between myself and other women but now I love the fact that when I relate to other men I don't relate as one of the guys and I love the fact that the guys don't relate to me as though I'm one of the guys and I love the fact that in relating with other women I know and have a real sense that I am a woman among many different kinds of women.  

    Actually it was Melissa Fryrear I heard that quote from… "I am a woman among many different kinds of women" .. I heard her say that at a Love Won Out Conference.. it just made sense to me even though there had been this great disconnect.  

    It's a real tragedy that some clinicians are treating the disconnect we can have in our feelings as opposed to treating what is happening for us mentally and emotionally.   

    • Avatar

      Sue Bohlin

      “A woman among many different kinds of women”

      , , , oh, I LOVE that! Melissa rocks, doesn't she? 🙂

      Thank you, Sarah, for sharing your heart and your experience. I love the way our heavenly Father gently heals hearts to bring us into alignment with how He sees us!

      Sue

  • Avatar

    LLM

    thanks for these posts

    Wow! I am so enjoying Tapestry since finding it recently! I have just read this post and  "The gender spectrum" post.  Although I lean towards neo-reformed theology, something that deeply concerns me about this influential and popular theological camp is their obsessive concern and over-emphasis on male and female "roles" – in the home, church, and society. They put men and woman in very small boxes, with no room for anyone to be outside the box or just in a bigger box. I do believe there are God ordained differences between the sexes, but as you word it – there is a spectrum!!! Not every male or female is going to reflect God in the exact same way. The Bible has examples…Look at Jeremiah, a man who seemed rather emotional and cried a lot. Or Deborah, a rather assertive leader who led in battle. These people don't fit in the box!

    I think the neo-reformed mean well – BUT in their obsessive role resrictions I think they are creating the very problems they are trying to prevent!  When you tell someone that they must be exactly a certain way, and that is not the way they are…you make them feel inferior or deficient or defective. You could very well drive them full-steam ahead into the behavior (such as same sex attraction or even transgender) that you wanted them to avoid to begin with!

    The church needs to get better at accepting/teaching that while males and females are different, there is room for some diversity. We need to encourage the Jeremiah's and Deborah's in our midst to be the unique people God has made them…instead of making them feel like defective misfits. As you word it in the other post: "They’re not gay, they’re gifted. If only they could be helped to see themselves that way!"

    Thank you Sue for these posts!! Here is a post I had on a similar issue:

    http://lightenough.wordpress.com/2011/07/29/masculine-and-feminine-stereotypes-and-the-church/

    • Avatar

      Sue Bohlin

      Rejecting the boxes

      Thanks, LLM, for your encouragement. I love hearing from people who want to join me in celebrating God's manifold manifestations of what humanity can look like! 🙂

  • Avatar

    Visitor

    I think you are a creep.

    I think you are a creep. Not everyone is a Christian and you shouldn't force/superimpose your beliefs of how you think God wants people to be on non-Christains. Also, I think your interpretation of the bible is completely false. You are selectively reading to support your preconceive conclusions.

    You are not truly a women of faith. You are just a simple person filled with hate and judgement,  justifying your hate and inability to understand and accept people who are different from you with religion. 

    Why don't you own up to your bigoted transphobic opinons and call them your own rather than pretending it is Christian and supported in the bible.

    • Avatar

      Sue Bohlin

      The creep responds

      Hello, visitor.

      Since I wrote this blog on a Christian website and you freely chose to come here and read it, I think that perhaps you are unclear on what exactly constitutes "forcing/superimposing my beliefs" on non-Christians. It's clear you violently disagree with what I wrote, but no one is making you even read it, much less forcing my beliefs on you.

      I'm always amused when people accuse me of being hate-filled and judgmental, since "hate" has been redefined to simply mean "disagree with you." Wow . . . that is quite a jump! My friends with gender questions, the ones who know my heart, always laugh at that. Because you are the one judging me without knowing me. I wish we could sit down and have a cup of coffee together. I would love to hear your heart and listen to your story.

      I do base my opinions about sexuality and gender issues on what God has revealed in His word, especially the first chapter where He created male and female and called it very good. You may not accept that Bible is true, but that's not because you have investigated whether it is or not. I invite you to consider that the God who made us and designed us with a good plan and purpose, puts guidelines in place for our good. That includes embracing His choice of one's gender.

      Thank you for writing. If you come to Dallas, let's have coffee some time!

  • Avatar

    AshleyTS

    science disproves you…

     

    I really think your artificial leaves out, and seems to completely ignore is the large number of studies that contradict your beliefs. You seem to think that our physical gender is paramount and leaves out the latest research that proves trans-women have areas of their brains wired the same as every other woman, this wiring wasn't put there by choice, but a pre-born condition, and as such would seem to support that god does create trans-women, even if we can't imagine why. I've included some links for you. 

    This is a dutch study that found trans-women to be wired the same as women in the limbic nucleus:   http://jcem.endojournals.org/content/85/5/2034.full

    This study was done using MRI's : http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1743-6109.2009.01484.x/abstract;jsessionid=1BAAB47B54ADB49659AF748FBC640400.d02t03?

    This study was also done using MRI's in a different area of the brain:  http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1743-6109.2008.00981.x/abstract?

     

    All these studies conclude that trans-women are wired the same as bio-women, 

    Also you seem to think that the majority of trans-women regret transition, however this fly's in the face of a large number of studies that show otherwise. The vast majority of trans-women go on to live happy and productive lives, In fact having the highest success rate of any medical intervention ever conceived.

     

    However therapy that attempt to change a persons gender-identity often lead to depression and suicide. The american psychological society has confirmed this and no longer supports attempts to change a persons gender-identity. Even Dr. Zucker (a man know for being transphobic) has admitted that attempting to 'fix' an adult with gender-identity disorder causes far more harm then good.

     

    I am sorry for that one women you talked to that regretted transition, however if you bothered to look, I'm sure you could find thousands of women who are very happy with transition. And any modern studies on regret (ones that are clear to distinguish the many different types of regret) show that complete regret is extremely rare; most regret stemming from things such as "not doing it sooner", or a regret that small minded intolerant people attempt to bring them down or dehumanize their existence.

     

    I realize it is going to be hard for you to believe the study's I've provided as they completely contradict what the catholic church believes, maybe you can attempt to bury these studies the same way the church buried scientific fact that the earth is not the center of the universe or that the sun revolves around the earth…. yes you might bury this science for awhile, but eventually the weight of evidence will be to great and once again the church will have to admit they were wrong.    

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