Outspoken: My Name Is Rhonda And I Am A Seventh-day Adventist Transgender Woman

“Jesus died to save people not to save theology...not to save belief structures,” says Rhonda, an Adventist trans woman and the subject of the fifth installment of the short documentary series “Outspoken.” The film uses Rhonda’s first name only for the sake of her family’s privacy, though Rhonda herself is very open about her story.

In the short documentary, Rhonda recounts experiencing constant turmoil from her teens to her 60s.

In her early 60s she felt like she was either going to go crazy or commit suicide, she says. She was first aware of wanting to be female at age 4, though she had a male body. That feeling turned to constant anxiety. She pled with God: “Please, please, please do something. Make my mind conform to my body.” She never felt as though that prayer was answered.

She turned to the military during the Vietnam War, hoping it would “make a man out of me.” That didn’t happen, she says pointedly.

She felt a pull return to church after a long time away, but felt as though she couldn’t go into an Adventist church. Still, she didn’t feel at home anywhere else. “I couldn’t accept their belief system.”

“Isn’t there an Adventist church anywhere on the planet where I could go and feel safe and comfortable and welcomed and affirmed?” she wondered.

Without even knowing that it existed, Rhonda found the Hollywood Seventh-day Adventist Church and attended one Sabbath. She was greeted warmly. “What a welcoming place this is,” she thought. “Maybe I’ll come back.”

She did return back, and was eventually asked to be an elder of the church. She was ordained as an elder at the Hollywood Church as a demonstration of the community’s affirmation.

The Seventh-day Adventist denomination as a whole has been far less welcoming. For instance, in April of this year, the General Conference Executive Committee voted a "Statement on Transgenderism" written by the Biblical Research Institute that characterizes trans people as part of "contemporary trends to reject the biblical gender binary (male and female) and replace it with a growing spectrum of gender types..."

The statement goes on to say, "...certain choices triggered by the transgender condition have come to be regarded as normal and accepted in contemporary culture. However, the desire to change or live as a person of another gender may result in biblically inappropriate lifestyle choices."

Daneen Akers and Stephen Eyer, the producers of the “Outspoken” series, released Rhonda’s story at a time when trans people are again in the news, though for an unwelcome reason.

On July 26, U.S. President Donald Trump issued a series of tweets saying,

After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military. Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail. Thank you"

Rhonda posted an article about a trans man on Facebook a few days later with the following paragraph: "Transpeople are just people, but they are the most courageous people you will ever have opportunity to meet once they are out of the closet. They have to be face to face with this kind of hateful rejection and remain who they were always meant to be. This is a trans man, a man of top quality, a man of whom any wise Commander-in-Chief should be most proud."

In the “Outspoken” video, Rhonda recounts the devastating effects of societal rejection on trans people. Some 41% of trans people have attempted suicide and trans people are murdered at a rate higher than any other members of the LGBT+ community.

Rhonda finds some comfort in the biblical account of Paul, described as having had a “thorn in the flesh” that Paul asked God to remove several times. Instead, God’s response as recounted in the Bible was “My grace is sufficient for you. My strength is made perfect in weakness.”

“It kept Paul humble,” Rhonda says. “Believe me, being transgender keeps me humble.”

Jared Wright is Southern California Correspondent for Spectrummagazine.org.

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/8140
1 Like

Rhonda is so brave to share her journey with us. She risks so much more than any of us to speak her story. Thank you Rhonda for paving the way for others.

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Rhonda should be congratulated in telling her story. In so doing she makes herself vulnerable.

As to the “STATEMEMENT ON TRANSGENDERISM” Issued by the General Conference Executive Committee.:

Why would they not have appropriately used Loma Linda University Medical School to draft a statement ( if one was ever necessary ) on this exceedingly complex medical/genetic/psychological condition?

Instead they used a band of naive, cloistered theologians from the Biblical Research Institute, who had the temerity and chutzpah to pontificate on a medical condition for which they had ZERO medical training nor knowledge.
I also doubt if any of them were even acquainted with a transgender individual.

But “fools rush in where angels fear to tread” and so we have this convoluted contorted statement entirely lacking in any human compassion, and embarrassingly unscientific to boot!

Thankfully, Adventist congregations exist ( although they are sadly sparse )
to warmly extend inclusivity to souls who seek refuge from bigotry and discrimination. The Hollywood SDA church is spendidly SPECIAL in this regard. What a shame there are not more congregations like them!

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Rhonda is an amazing woman with a warm heart and a strong Christian life. So far, this has been my favorite of the Outspoken series from Daneen and Stephen.

Thanks Rhonda for your dignity and courage.

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This quote is the saddest part of the article. In one’s walk with God, it should be understood that God will never “make” us do anything against our own will. Understanding this point is crucial. I have at times in my life prayed a similar prayer–only it was for God to make me stop sinning while I was in the middle of it. He didn’t. And He won’t. God is a Gentleman who respects our choice. After all, He gave us the freedom of choice. He will never take that freedom from us.

I have greatly appreciated the book “Steps to Christ” which points out that what the sinner needs to understand is the true force of the will. When we will to do something, with God’s help we can. It is all too easy to feel that the temptation is greater than we can bear, but the Bible promises us it is not. Human nature likes to say it is as an excuse, because the will is not in harmony with God’s requirements. Once we presume that we are tempted beyond what we can bear, or once we choose to believe that it is not possible to change (lack of faith), it is only natural to reason our guilt away through excuses. But no such excuses will bear the final test at the judgment bar of God.

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Why is it that the General Conference Statement on Transgenderism chooses to ignore Matthew 19:12 when formulating their statement on gender dysphoria?

Christ accepted the fact that there were people in His day who from their mother’s womb did not fit the clear male/female definition that this GC statement relies on.

Is it because the BRI and GC cannot bring themselves to accept what Christ accepted? Or is it another example of considering only the texts that can be made to fit our pre-conceived ideas? Surely Christ’s understanding of His own creation should teach us something.

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Dear Rhonda,

I love you, and more importantly- God loves you! You are His child, and I pray that you will always feel Him with you, wherever this life takes you. You are so fortunate to have found a loving and accepting Church family. Blessings to you!

Joey

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Excellent reporting, with a living face! Makes all the difference. Rhonda is a very brave and honest woman and I hope that we can put discrimination of gender an sex behind us.

For Søren Kierkegaard, the key question was not what is the meaning of human existence in a wide, metaphysical sense? But, what does it mean to be an existing human being in the world - an “I”? His theology was rooted in the particularity of every human beings in an existential mode, not in some sweeping theological ‘system’. I agree with him.

To be a ‘me’ in the world, with different others, is a basic human condition that no one of us can escape. And, this should be the starting-point for any healthy, that is, inclusive theological reflection.

I wish Rhonda the very best in life!

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Rhonda is very brave to share her journey in order to help another! Thank you Jared Wright and Spectrum for sharing her story. The Hollywood church sounds like a safe place for any of us to belong!

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Now I’m imagining God in a tuxedo and top hat holding the door for me as we head into the Judgment Bar for refreshments.

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Jared, your response reminds me that my lexicon inclines toward older English usages, and the younger generation may not fully understand. Having read much from Mrs. White, the term “judgment bar” comes from her.

For example, she says:

The people of San Francisco must answer at the judgment bar of God for the reopening of the liquor saloons in that city. --Review and Herald, Oct. 25, 1906.

In light of the above, I thank you for not mistaking me for having advocated such intemperance.

1 Like

I am glad you emphasized this point. Very important. It took Rhonda a while to understand that God is not “out there” concerned with minucia in our lives, especially about those issues that we can resolve ourselves by means of education.

In Rhonda’s case, she understood that she had to rake action herself in order to synchronize her body and her brain. When she finally stopped begging God for that miracle, and took the issue in her own hands, her conflict was in great part resolved.

I know it’s not totally resolved, of course. Not that I know her, but as a Psychologist I know that there is always room for improvement in anyone’s life.
@elmer_cupino

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Freedom of choice is an illusion.we have no say whatever in who we are or what or choices in life are.Most of us if not all are simply a by product of others lust and whatever genetic makeup blind chance gives us.
Wit6h this in mind we should be less judgemental of others or even our selves

If indeed God is love He does have a very strange way of showing it.If we as humans treated our own as God treats us we would be hauled into court and condemned.

However just maybe we have created a god in our image not the other way around which would help explain the perverseness of our existance

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My wife and I thoroughly enjoyed watching the video. The message at the end was remarkably well stated: Jesus died for people, not theology or doctrines.

I wonder whether Rhonda would appreciate this article which addresses the science of her condition and how God judges us by our brains rather than our genitals: http://tinyurl.com/pe8l8z3.

Here is a beautiful song by Kansas that anyone with a soft spot for those who experience gender dysphoria should appreciate: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FL-UiBTfaCU. Listen closely to the words and enjoy the music. Perhaps Rhonda would appreciate it if she has not heard it before.

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I would echo the sentiments of others in support and appreciation of Rhonda’s bravery for telling her story. As someone who cares for transgender children in the healthcare setting, I have a heart for this special population. I been so concerned for the children in our denomination that are transgender and are suffering. The Church’s stand on women in ministry and the aforementioned statement on transgender people leave me very discouraged about our Church. Like Rhonda it’s hard to go to another denomination so I work and strive to make my local church a loving place for all. High praise to the Hollywood Church for being a welcoming place for all and making Rhonda an elder which shows true acceptance!

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Remeber the great Roman Emperor, one of the 5 “Good Emperors” of Rome who said:

“Say to yourself in the early morning: I shall meet today ungrateful, violent, treacherous, envious, uncharitable men. All of these things have come upon them through ignorance of real good and ill… I can neither be harmed by any of them, for no man will involve me in wrong, nor can I be angry with my kinsman or hate him; for we have come into the world to work together…”

Welcome back!

So you’re back to the trenches. Bone up on clonidine, bentyl, zofran and flexeril, in addition to the librium protocol. And most importantly learn how to say, “No, I will not put you back on any benzodiazepines or opioids”

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Rhonda’s story has the stamp of strong authenticity , and I believe everything she reveals about her emotional struggles , and her valiant and far-reaching attempts to harmonise her female mind with the realities of her physical body; Rhonda has found a measure of peace , acceptance ,and fellowship within a certain congregation of Seventh Day Adventists. Bravo to them for their extending the hand of Christian fellowship to a sincere human being who needs their support. I truly hope this lasts till her dying day, when she will then transition to the “other side” of existence and be welcomed by the supreme creator of our being. God bless you Rhonda. Not everyone would seek spiritual communion in a Christian body of believers as you have done after so many years of rejection and /or indifference. Speaking for myself only, I know that were I a transgender , l would never seek fellowship in ANY Christian church, since I would expect the cynicism, and rejection which are usually par for the course, as it were. Not to mention the preachings about what “they would say that the Bible says” about transgenderism. Thankfully I am strictly hetero but were I not I would consider this: I don’t need a pastor, ANY pastor, or even prophet to" guide my thoughts". I can say my own prayers to the almighty and that would have been all I would need.Best to you Rhonda!!! stay strong.

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I really love this one too in a special way, even though I love all of these souls. I think this one with Rhonda is particularly powerful because this is such an underheard perspective. Both Rhonda and the Hollywood church give me hope!

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Fascinating assertion, but one that I do not find in scripture. I wonder if Balaam, Jonah or Saul/Paul felt that God was respecting their choices.

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It would have been nice if Rhonda’s long time wife had been included in this video. I have met her and Rhonda at two different Kinship Kampmeeting now, and have noticed how Rhonda does all the talking, gets all the limelight, and accolades.

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