The Temple in the Mirror


(Spectrumbot) #1

I caught glimpses of my reflection in the intermittent light as it cycled between illumination and shadow in the large windows of the train car. My reflection stared back listlessly, with a face displaying a mix of anxiety and excitement. Beyond those emotions, I was staring at a face I knew well, but one with which I hadn't really ever connected—or even accepted as my own.

At some point in my preteen and teenage years, my former childish enthusiasm about self-identity and growing up fell into an uneasy apathy and a distinct lack of identity. The person in the mirror was just my body. It wasn't me. “Me” was in my mind and subconscious, isolated from truly experiencing the world by a body I barely acknowledged. I would pass by a mirror and look at my reflection for as short a duration as possible. My face was just another in the crowd, not really mine.

But something quite significant had changed in the few months leading up to the events that found me in that train, in the barely familiar city of Chicago, and alone and surrounded by strangers. I didn't fully understand how deep the roots of causation went in my life at that point, but in hindsight, I believe God had placed me on that path—the path of the rest of my life—simply because I had asked Him.

The plea had passed from my mind upward, toward God and the Heavens, while I sat on an uncomfortable, uneven rock in the mountains of northern Italy. I had been abroad across Europe, observing, noting, drawing, and photographing for a variety of undergraduate classes. During that time, an unease had begun growing in the back of my mind. That uneasy feeling slowly became a noise. And that noise rapidly became a deafening din. “You are unhappy and despise yourself,” is one of many ways I could explain what I was feeling at the time. The disassociation between my mind—my self—and my body was rapidly becoming a cavernous maw that threatened to swallow my life whole. What were whispers in my childhood had become that deafening din after 24 years of life.

My eyes red with tears that would not come, in the midst of that unimaginable noise in my mind, the aforementioned plea—really a prayer—fell before God. I begged Him to tell me why that fissure in my mind tortured me so. Why I never fit in with my peers, why compliments and praise fell on deaf ears, and why I could barely face my own reflection. Despite being God's temple, I hated who I was. We cannot function as believers—let alone human beings—if we despise our fundamental foundations of personhood.

With that plea, I laid my life—past, present, and future—to God. I trusted that He would show me the person I was truly meant to be, in time. I struggled with the knowledge that God was unlikely to show me that “true self” any time soon, nor tell me directly. It was a journey I was going to have to take in faith, as with the rest of my life, one day at a time, each step hand-in-hand with Him.

I had no way of knowing, at the time, that what I had felt since childhood, through that moment of brokenness in the mountains (and beyond), was textbook gender dysphoria: a fundamental, underlying disconnect and mismatch between the gender identity of the brain and the physical sex of the body. But God knew, and He took my hand and led me, unknowingly, upon the path that would, in the spring of 2014, find me in that train heading toward the realization and reality of my identity.

The face I glimpsed in my reflection on that train, filled with equal measures anxiety and excitement, was a face I finally recognized and accepted as my own. It was the face that God had given me, entrusted to me, and part of the whole in which He called His temple. It was not worthless or unfamiliar—not to Him. I was anxious of the unpredictable, often unsafe, future that awaited me as a transgender person, but God had never had any such concerns. Since the day I was born, and throughout my entire life, He had been interacting with me, cherishing me, watching over me, and calling me by a name that matched my correct gender identity. I had been too blind and too scared to accept the truth God had been continuously showing me throughout my life.

Denial had reached its end as the train neared my stop. As the train began to slow, I closed my eyes and prayed. I willingly gave up any predictability and expectations for my life and dedicated all that I was and would be, to God. I was done trying to live my life the way that the world and other people thought it should be lived. I gave my life to God and accepted His charge to be the person I had always been on the inside.

With that promise and prayer, I stepped off the train and walked toward the crystallization of my identity and inner self. For me, that process began by starting a course of hormone therapy—more commonly known as HRT, or “Hormone Replacement Therapy”—that would, over the next few years, reveal what had long been inside, and what God had always seen in me, to the world. Broad and phenomenal changes would occur throughout my body, inside and out, and people would finally be able to see a face which I finally loved and cherished as part of the temple God made in me, and which He had, and always will, love dearly.

A note from the author: the majority of me desires to attach my name to what I have written. I want to stand by these words and claim them as my story—a story of which I am proud and inspires me. The reality, however, is that the world is often quite hostile toward the sort of person that I am—especially within Christian environments. For those reasons, and others that go unsaid, I have chosen to write this sliver of my story anonymously.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/6637

(efcee) #2

Thanks for sharing your story. The only way I am able to begin to understand this particular gender issue is for people like you to be brave enough to tell their stories.


(David Read) #3

One question raised by this article is, “why does what I believe in my mind trump objective physical reality?”

The answer is: normally it does not. If I were to believe that I was Napoleon, I would not be given a cocked hat and the green jacket of the chasseurs that Napoleon used to wear; I’d be taken to the insane asylum. Now, objectively speaking, I am not Napoleon, but then a man who feels like a woman objectively is not a woman. Why does objective physical reality trump my belief that I’m Napoleon, but not his belief that he is a woman, when both beliefs are equally contrary to observable reality? Why is his delusion indulged with hormone therapy and, ultimately, gender re-assignment surgery, whereas I am ensconced not in the Tuileries but in the state hospital?

Did not God create both our bodies and our minds? If we privilege what we believe in our minds over God’s material creation, isn’t that a form of Gnosticism? The Gnostics believed the material world was bad, having been created by a demi-urge, while privileging the mental or spiritual world, which they claimed God created. But does Scripture admit of any such bifurcation?


(Steve Mga) #4

Unfortunately almost every person on the planet Earth believes that what we see at birth – head, arms, hands with 10 fingers, feet with 10 toes is WHO a person is. As the body grows it is still assumed that the BODY is Who the person is.
It is the Brain encapsulated within the head, and the body which carries the brain around to meet other Brains in their bodies who is the REAL person.
It is a formidable task to get those closest to one to be able to understand that the body and brain are only linked by nerves, that the body is NOT the person, even if it looks like THE PERSON. And sometimes the Body and the Brain do not match. It is complicated to be able to tell close ones that it is possible to get Body and Brain to nearly match through physiological techniques, and that it is OK to do so.
Many in Religious settings such as Seventh day Adventists have never had to discuss the issue of Sexuality, what it means to have one Sexual Brain and another Sexual Body making the same “person”. It is also a difficult task for these Religous persons in the Seventh day Adventist community, as well as other religious communities to understand that the NOW Whole person Should be able to function in the Religious Community as the WHOLE person based upon the Brain God Gave at Birth and Not based on the Body Parts that carted the Brain about from place to place.
Thank you Anonymous for sharing your journey. Hopefully others can read your story and it will allow them to make their journey to Wholeness pleasant and SOON.
Perhaps Sexuality will be a topic in churches that will Allow WHOLE PERSONS to function as God designed them to from the beginning.


(Ian Cheeseman) #5

As Christians have we not understood that the earth and everything in it is slowly(maybe quickly) getting less and less like what God created? Would that not mean that people and other earthly things maybe portraying things much differently than how they were meant to be portrayed? Would this account for the way some actions and thoughts in some people will be different than would be expected?


(Dee Roberts) #6

The concept of gender identity is clearly not new to the human race. All you have to do is look at scripture to see that eunuchs have been around for thousands of years. Christ even spoke of them and said that they should be included and have full participation in the assembly, whether they were born that way, or made by the hand of man. Most cultures have long traditions and histories that recognize people with dual genders, or “two spirited” as well as people who are similar to the modern western construct of transgender/transsexual individuals.

Thanks to the author for sharing a small slice of such a challenging journey. May God bless you as you seek to be who God wants you to be.


(Cherilyn Clough) #7

Thank you for sharing your story. I do not have the same feelings or issues, but I am an overweight person who has long separated from and ignored my own body so in that sense I can really relate to your pain. I am sorry there are people in this world who would rather judge you than try to understand. I offer you my compassion and prayers for healing and peace with no desire to fix you or change you. Jesus says, “Come to me all who are weary and heavy-laden.” I am so glad to know you and I, and everyone who is not living up to what others think is normal or perfect, do not have to answer to the crowd, but can rest in Jesus. Peace and hugs to you, friend!


(Pagophilus) #9

This article also explains why not everyone who claims that God led them in whatever direction/endeavour was actually being led by God. I’ve heard many things in my lifetime, for example, God helped find me this particular blue car to purchase, God led me to this person to marry (also spoken by homosexuals, which is unbiblical, but is claimed anyway), now I hear God led me to become transgender. No, God made you who you are and YOU chose to go transgender. God did not stop you, And you yourself admitted in the above article that you did not wait for God. It’s that detail that is the most telling.


(Carolyn Parsons) #10

No, you would get some therapy. We don’t put people in asylums anymore for regular delusions.

Because being Napoleon is not gender.

In the case of a transgender person, God must have created a body that was not inline with the gender concept of the mind.

Just like the SDA church I grew up in. Mind over matter, struggle against the flesh and all that.


(Carolyn Parsons) #11

Are you suggesting that transgenders are a sign of things getting worse with humanity? That seems like a way to dismiss the transgender person.


(Elmer Cupino) #12

Only to a certain degree, David. If what you believe is a result of illicit or licit drugs, then the mind does not trump your “objective physical reality” as your reality should get back to baseline once the drugs have been washed off. If it were caused by a medical condition and the medical condition is treated, then the “belief” should resolve to baseline. But there are a number of combinations available in life and what if you were fortunate to have been born a “male” with “female” anatomy, how would you resolve that? Being an attorney, have you ever been approached by a client who wished for legal counsel regarding sexual issues? And what would you recommend? Would you allow your religious beliefs to influence your professional standards?


(Carolyn Parsons) #13

No one chooses to be transgender, Pago.


(Elmer Cupino) #14

Are you implying that there exist a chance of your wife waking up one day in the future and deciding to be a male? Try telling that to your wife, but make sure you are at least an arm’s length away from her.

Then, let us know of her reply.


(Dee Roberts) #15

Current science and research certainly lead to the conclusion that transgender is biologically or organically based in the brain not just psychological. @pagophilus and @dcread and other can choose to draw different conclusions or even reject the body of research that shows that transgender is a result of brain difference, which likely are a result of some mechanism during prenatal development. At the bottom are links to just two recent academic article on this topic.

What I find most disturbing in some of the posts here is the contempt for the lived experiences and other journey of faith. Here is one of the most offensive ones,

now I hear God led me to become transgender. No, God made you who you are and YOU chose to go transgender.

Where is any Christian compassion, all I hear is judgement. Hate the transgender person even though being transgender is not a sin…

http://www.bu.edu/news/2015/02/13/review-article-provides-evidence-on-the-biological-nature-of-gender-identity/


(Pagophilus) #16

We need to unpack the reasoning, which those on the liberal side seem unwilling to do. It’s as if anything said after “I feel” is taken as gospel.

“I feel” is not a good enough reason to do anything in life, and is exactly the reason euthanasia should be banned. How you feel now shouldn’t be the reason to make irreversible decisions, as the way you feel is subject to change, as is your worldview. Then there is the grace of God working in your life.

Where is the hate? There’s no hate, just the picking apart of unsound thinking. We do feel compassion, which is why we feel the need to unpack illogical and unsound thinking, to prevent people making decisions they will regret later which may drive them further into depression and possibly suicide.


(Pagophilus) #17

So the hormonal treatment and the surgeon’s knife just spontaneously happen? Just by themselves? Like the nothing that exploded at the commencement of the big bang?


(Carolyn Parsons) #18

Transgender describes the person, NOT the transition.


(Dee Roberts) #19

Pago, it is your choice to continue to keep yourself ill informed on this issue. Your so called logic is not logic, it is your opinion, and it is not based on scientific fact.

Until such time as you decide to actually look a current factual research, I see no need to engage you further on this topic on this thread, other than to refute your claims, based in your judgement way. Sorry for the rather harsh tone, but you have persisted in your ill informed comments on many threads here over the past several months.


(Carolyn Parsons) #20

Like much of the emotive language of your piece, I can see this interchange with the mirror in my own mind’s eye. Thanks for giving a voice to the avoidance of seeing an incongruent self that many of us experience.


(George Tichy) #21

Pago,
Based on your comments on this issue everyone can see that this is not your area of expertise. Actually, you are saying a few things that are even strange, especially regarding “unpack[ing] illogical and unsound thinking.”

You statements are actually “illogical and unsound,” and I don’t believe that any “unpacking” would make them any better. It’s probably much better to consider abstaining to make comments on an issue that you obviously have very little, if any, practical knowledge.

Silence is more virtuous than irrelevant words.
@elmer_cupino @Guest57