God is Faithful
It’s been about 25 years that I have been wrestling with my gender identity. Feeling disgust about being a man and desiring to be a woman. Wow. In some ways, it’s crazy to me that I have walked so long with this. I can think back now to so many memories on this journey and it overwhelms me a little with all that has gone on.
Yet, through it all, I have grown, I have learned, and I have seen God’s faithfulness and His love in so many steps. I have seen how God has led me to a place where I have to die to myself and live for Him.
I was born into a family that loved me and loved the Lord. My parents are both followers of Jesus and they worked to disciple their kids to follow him as well. That is something that I am deeply grateful for them for. I am the oldest and I have 2 younger brothers. I put my faith in God at the young age of five. My adoption into God's family and the presence of the Holy Spirit in my life has provided a tether that I have been tied to and protected by through the following decades as I have worked through my gender identity issues.
Even in my brokenness, God is faithful! I was never too broken for God to work.
When I was entering puberty, I began to struggle with my identity and who I was. I didn’t know how to handle these feelings or really even what they were. I had this desire to escape and began with fantasies about being something or someone else. I imagined myself as a cartoon character. This seems harmless enough but I would imagine what it would physically be like to change myself into that character and live like them. What I would feel like and how I would interact with people. Then that morphed into fantasies about changing myself into a cat and what it would be like to live in the body of a large cat. I loved art and drawing so I began to draw diagrams of how I could surgically be transformed into a cat and the process that I would need to take. The feeling of walking down the street on four legs as a big sleek graceful cat. Finally, when I was about 11 or 12, everything changed. I was introduced to the idea of transitioning from male to female.
When I was young, there would often be a daytime talk show on television. We would have them playing in the background. One day in particular, a talk show was on and I was the only one in the living room at the time watching it. The theme of that day’s show was to invite an individual on-stage and have them talk about a childhood friend that they had not seen in years. A picture of the young friend they were talking about would project on the screen behind them as the individual shared stories of this person. Finally, the host would then welcome the long lost friend onstage and they could see how much had changed.
One individual in particular talked about a boy that he had been close to. I remember that the guest shared how the how the two of them would play basketball together. The host of the show then welcomed the friend onto the stage…and out walked one of the most beautiful women that I had ever seen. The crowd erupted and cheers were shared. The host and audience began talking and asking questions about how this person transitioned from a boy playing basketball to a tall, slender, beautiful woman.
I remember watching this scene and it was at that point that I realized my desire to be someone else was entirely possible. The image of the boy's picture projected in the background and the woman sitting in a gown on-stage seared itself into my mind and I became obsessed with the concept of transitioning from a boy to a girl. It seemed like it would be a dream come true.
To me, it made sense. Growing up, I would look back and see tendencies that could easily be interpreted as things that drew me to the female and that supported my felt longing to be the opposite gender. Growing up, it seemed that my closest friends were, more often than not, girls. There were times when people would make fun of my friendships. Yet, it always felt more natural or comfortable to do things with girls than with boys. I very much resonate with things that were stereo-typically female more than male.
From then on, I felt that I knew that a female was what I was supposed to be. I was a girl and I needed my body to show it. I would often plan and imagine how and when I would make the transition. I couldn't wait to be out on my own and begin living as a woman. But I kept this all to myself and didn’t share it with anyone as I was scared to. I just knew that this was not something that I could talk to my parents about as they would not approve or support this. I don’t think that I could explain why, but I was certain that they wouldn’t. With that, I knew that God would not approve of this either (though, again, I was not really able to state why). In several ways growing up, I had a very judgmental and condemning view of God and therefore guilt, shame, and fear rolled up to help keep me from pursuing a transgender life more than I did. Yet, as often as I could, I would actively engage in feeding my craving and fantasy but in secret. I became very good at covering my tracks.
Yet, even in my confusion and secrets, God is faithful! When I have an incorrect view of who God is, He sees me for exactly who I am and He loved me the same.
I remember fairly quickly I started to dress up in my mom’s clothes. My mom is a very short woman and, at the age of 12, we were about the same height. I would often sneak into my parent’s closet while the family was away or in another area of the house, and I would dress up in my mom’s clothes. I would wear her clothes and makeup then stand in front of the mirror longing to be the person I saw. I would then take great care to clean everything up. To put everything back exactly the way that I found it and hope that no one would find anything out of place or suspect anyone had been there. As far as I know, I did quite well as no one seemed to catch on.
I began looking ahead to getting out on my own and entering college. Once I got out of the house, I could pursue my dream of becoming a female and I could not wait….literally though, I felt that I could not wait. As I kept getting older, as my body slowly started to change. I watched myself becoming more masculine and it was not a welcome sight. Puberty was not my friend.
I remember one night quite vividly. It was the night before my 16th birthday and I was getting ready for bed. I remember that I prayed that night that God would make me a girl. That was not something that I often did because, again, I felt that this was not something that God would want. But, I longed so desperately for it to be true and that night I went ahead anyways and prayed that I would wake up the next morning as a girl. I begged God that the next morning I would wake up as though I had always been a girl. That I had always been a daughter to my parents and always been a big sister to my younger brothers. I’ll never forget it. For some reason, I just knew I was going to get my wise. That I was going to go to sleep that night and wake up the next day a girl. It sounds ridiculous and I can’t say that it was in any way a rational thought. But I remember going to sleep and imagining that the boy version would disappear and I would wake up and be the person I wanted to be.
Needless to say…that didn’t happen. I was very disappointed and a bit crushed. Yet, at the same time it scared me as it was such a strong desire and that feeling that I was going to wake up and be a female was so strong. In typical fashion, I also felt guilt and shame as I was chasing something that wasn’t right. There was this brutal battle within my heart and soul.
Just as I would pray to become a girl, I would also beg God over and over to please take this struggle and these feelings away. There were times that I would cry and writhe about this. I longed so much to change my gender and to be a girl but I knew that it wasn’t right and I just begged God to take this away. I remember pleading with God to tell me why I have to deal with this. It became a daily thing. To this day, I can’t remember a day going by that my desire to be the opposite gender hasn’t played a role. I prayed and struggled but the feelings and desires were still there.
Even in my pain and hurts, God is faithful! He provides hope where there is hopelessness. When my hopes and prayers are not in line with his will, he patiently loves me still.
Honestly, I think that I probably knew fairly early on that I wouldn’t actually transition from male to female. As much I have this longing and incongruence within me, yet my loyalty to my family, I couldn’t bear the thought of the hurt and pain that I would bring to them if I did pursue life as a female. The thought that I might not be welcome to see them again if I did transition was something that I couldn’t face.
I guess you could say I was a rather skittish person. This subject was never really talked about with my family because it wasn't something that was really talked about in society at that time. My parents eventually found out about this when I was in high school. There was hurt and pain expressed and it reinforced my feelings that if I ever did pursue a change in gender, it would very likely destroy my relationship with my family. After that it was rarely discussed.
I eventually went to college and this was supposed to be the point in which I would live the life I wanted, be the person I wanted, and transition to female. Plagued with guilt and believing that it would destroy my parents…I couldn’t do it. It was disappointing in the most severe sense of the word. I knew that I would not pursue this lifestyle though it felt that everything in me wanted it. As much as I wanted to, as much as I played around in secret with crossdressing and engaging with transsexuals online, I couldn’t go through with anything beyond that. I was crossdressing regularly in secret. I would purchase some clothes, dress up, feel guilty, and then throw the clothes away. It was a bit of a cycle. I remember buying menopause pills from the store because I had read that they contained small doses of hormones. I took one dose, was overwhelmed with what I felt I was doing and began to feel very guilty, and flushed the rest of the pills down the toilet in my college dorm.
I think that the biggest issue for me during my journey has been the loneliness that comes with this. I felt that this is a great taboo issue that extra special dirty people wrestle with and it made me feel very much alone. When I did gather up the courage to talk to someone and share my story, hoping for some discipleship and help, I was generally met with a deer in the headlights look, some goodhearted intentions to pray with me but a clueless element as though unsure what to do with this. Then the issue never came up again. I remember visiting with a counselor at the university I attended. Gathered up the courage to tell him what I was doing and this struggle. His response was surprise and told me that he generally helps students who struggle with homesickness. I met with him a few more times but it was not helpful at all.
Even when others have not been available, God is faithful! He has never left my side even when I was unaware.
Again, through these disappointing experiences, they just pressed harder and harder into my mind that I am alone in this struggle. There are those who wrestle with it and apparently find relief in pursuing a change of gender through therapy, hormones, and engaging as the opposite gender. I, on the other-hand could not be that person. I tried to find support somewhere but could not. I would look up information online for “Christian transgender” or “Transgender ministry” or something like that. The results were discouraging in many ways. I would find several sites that were touted as Christian and that were in full support of transsexuality and the idea that I can be a good Christian man who engages in the proper treatments and becomes a good Christian woman. I could not find any resource for those who believed that this is incorrect. At the time, I had trouble at the time putting my finger on why it was incorrect but I knew that this was not something that God would be honored in my pursuit of.
It felt very lonely. I went to a college men’s group for a period looking for some accountability and help. But no one there seemed able to relate. The focus was on staying pure and fighting manly problems like pornography and masturbation. It just felt like I didn’t connect as my problems didn’t seem quite the same (though some of the issues definitely overlapped). There were a couple of guys that dealt with homosexuality and that felt close to my issue. But I didn't have the brains to invest in those relationships and I was very reserved and didn't have much in the way of friendships formed from the group.
Finally, I finished college, I got married. With my relationship with my parents distancing as I was out of the house on my own, I now had someone else to fight for. I remember getting married and in some ways I really hoped that being married would help to take away the longing to change my gender. The hope was that this would ease the battle and make the struggle less intense. But it didn’t. It did not take the desires away but God has used my marriage for our better. I believe that if it wasn’t for my wife, I would be living a life immersed in my gender confusion and struggling to find value and worth.
Even when life changes, God is faithful! He provides the people around us when we need them.
After my wife and I had been married a short time, I finally found a resource that provided that additional help and community that I had been desperately struggling for. I came across a ministry that dealt specifically with gender identity confusion and addressed it from a Biblical perspective. I view it as grace from God that I came across the first person I had ever visited with who understood this struggle. He had walked this path longer and father than I had. He also understood the deep grace and healing that God brings. For about a year, I met with the Director of this ministry over the phone once every other week or so. It was through these conversations that my view of this issue radically changed.
I was provided with information and resources to help me. I was also able to speak freely and openly with someone who understands this struggle. I dug into the reasoning behind the struggle and explored the “why”. I started to see how the trauma and pain that I experienced in numerous areas growing up led me to seek an escape. As a young boy, this retreat to the feminine was that escape. Jesus said in John 8:32, “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” As much as I want to believe that I’m a woman in a man’s body, there’s nothing but my one imagination telling me that. It’s just not true. I desire to live in the truth.
Over the years, I have realized that, no matter how hard it might be to find at times, I need to pursue community with others. I have taken part in Celebrate Recovery and Help 4 Families now which have been God-sends for me. God is so faithful! He never gave up on me and He is now using the relationships that I have with others who are walking through similar journeys as, together we struggle with transgender issues but God is restoring us. He is also allowing me to use my story for others. It has been an incredible journey to see how God can take something that is sinful and isolating and restore me and use that struggle to let others know that they are not alone. I’ve been there too and I know that God is always desiring them to know and rest in Him.
God is so faithful. Through continued accountability and being surrounded by a loving wife and community, God has been faithful to keep me focused on what is important. The feelings are not gone, and the desire is still there, but, unlike before, I am not walking this path alone and my God is stronger still! My journey of sanctification and restoration continues but I know that there is nothing that is not possible.
God is so faithful!