Love, Fear, and Gender
When President Roosevelt proclaimed “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” I think he was proclaiming a profound spiritual truth that has very particular application to those dealing with gender identity issues. From a vast arsenal, fear is one of Satan’s greatest weapons. Satan uses fear to keep us from living authentic lives (the fear of what others might think) and adds reinforcements of fear-enabled worry, doubt and depression to mount a frontal assault on our Christian faith and our very personhood.
When transgendered Christians succumb to these attacks it impacts not only our well-being but the very body of Christ. The Rev. John Donne’s “No Man is an Island” stresses how pain and loss in one part of the body impacts all of us. Instead of authentic Christian relationships marked by love, many churches either revel in what they are against or seek to keep harmony at all costs. Both of these extremes are counter productive to genuine love; a love that is kind, doesn’t boast, is not proud, is not self-seeking, rejoices with the truth and always hopes, trusts, and perseveres (1 Corinthians 13). This New Testament love (not hateful or protective societies) is the kind of love that Jesus used to summarize all of the relational and covenantal law with “love your neighbor as yourself”. Why does the Church so easily fail this single command by striving to meet less noble, and ultimately counter-productive, goals?
Because of society’s (and the Church’s) failure to understand (or sometimes even try to understand) those dealing with gender variance, overcoming fear for those that are transgendered is often an ongoing battle. Once we get past the fear of lost relationships should “they know” and discover that genuine friends respond with an unexpected love and support, we are often able to move on to an attitude that says “This is me. It’s important that people know the real me and if they can’t deal with that it is their problem and not mine.” If this is not a militant, with-an-attitude disclosure, it is often a very freeing, liberating, and God-honoring experience as we recognize, reveal, and celebrate how God has made us.
Often though, this is not the end of the fear battle. Many dealing with gender issues are asked by family, churches, or employers to keep who they are a secret primarily because of their fear of not being able to deal with it well should others “know”. Sometimes this fear is couched in an expressed desire to “protect” the transgendered person when, in reality, it is the others who are living in fear. Although this is the fear of others, if we succumb to this standard of inauthentic living, their fear can have a very distressing impact on our own lives.
There is a deep sadness (that can lead to worse problems) for those that try to live a “secret” life. It comes from multiple layers of forced deceit and denial of one’s core personhood. For a male to female transgendered person, dressing in “male clothing” may feel deceitful and uncomfortable. Some can live part of their life this way, but it may still be painful. When we are told to tell half-truths (which are really full lies) to others, we are the ones wounded by the deceit. The fact that some who say they understand the medical and neurological causes of GID call us to this veiled life only adds to the pain. It seems that even though they know this is not sin, they want to treat it like it might be sin. . . the “don’t ask, don’t tell” approach. Why should we be deceitful to protect others from the truth? Shouldn’t Christian love be about seeking the truth, believing the best, and accepting others for who they are? While it is perfect love that “casts out fear”, shouldn’t even our imperfect love be able to defeat Satan’s assault on living authentic lives?
So, where does that leave me? Here is how I will seek to express authentic Christian personhood and live in love and not fear:
May God be glorified in our lives and in the Church as we seek to live with openness and authenticity.