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Follow-up Letter to Editor of CT

Follow-Up Letter to the Editor of C.T.

RE: Your article, “The Transgender Movement” in the Feb 2008 issue

by Jennifer A, Burnett, MD

Jan 30, 2008

 

 

Dear Katelyn,
 
Thank you very much for responding positively to my e-mail and request, and doing it so quickly! PTL! 

I want you to know why I am so passionate in my response to the “misunderstandings” most Christians have about Gender Dysphoria (GD), many of which were expressed within “The Transgender Movement” article. When Christians condemn us and eject us from fellowship (which is an extremely common occurrence!) because we have this unusual birth defect, is a terribly painful experience. It is made even more unbearable because it usually occurs while we are going through the very worst time of our life (during the earliest stages of our gender transition) and we frequently end up losing our whole spiritual support network right when we need it the most! The Body of Christ is supposed to show agape love for ALL its members (John 13:34-5; 15:17; 1John 4:7) and to be turned out in this manner by our Christian brethren is just plain wrong!

To force someone out of their church (often it is a person who has previously demonstrated a deep devotion to Christ and has been highly committed to the ministry of their church for years!) without a solid biblical reason can destroy that brother or sister in Christ and this certainly grieves the Holy Spirit! There is NO specific mention of or prohibitions against changing one’s (outward) gender to be found anywhere in the Bible and those who use passages such as Deu 22:5 and 1Cor 6:9 do so out of context and/or wrongly interpret and apply them inaccurately to the situation of those with GD. 

I have searched the Scripture diligently to try to discern God’s whole truth in this matter. I have come to these conclusions after having done extensive Bible study, using both Hebrew and Greek translations of these and other passages. I have worked hard to help my brethren by trying to explain the truths found in the Bible, through science (which is merely the study of God’s wondrous Creation) and in medical research. I am prayerfully attempting to achieve a “reconciliation” between those Christians dealing with a terribly debilitating medical condition and the (hopefully) sincere Christians who condemn us unjustly, out of their ignorance. Reaching out through writing to CT is my latest prayerful effort.

I have worked with and counseled many wonderful sisters and brothers in the Lord that were born with this congenital anomaly. I have agonized and cried along with them through their pain of extreme displacement and loss during their transitions. Generally, they have done EVERYTHING they could throughout their lives to deal with this horribly debilitating disorder in as godly a manner as possible. Most of those I know have for decades pleaded with their Lord, fasted and prayed and shed many, many tears, seeking God’s healing. Most went to their pastors/elders and "confessed" their gender-dysphoric mental state and attended multiple prayer meetings and special healing services specifically seeking to have this dreadful affliction taken from them. Yet they have frequently been treated very harshly by their church when they failed to either “repent” or “lacked sufficient faith” to be healed.

Of those (99 %+) that are not miraculously healed, many finally seek medical attention for their problem, or for the chronic, severe depression and/or anxiety that GD produces. After receiving  psychological evaluations (e.g. to rule out other causes of gender confusion), appropriate counseling and medical assessment, those diagnosed with GD finally begin on the long road of "transitioning" (just as Julie Nemecek did) in order to achieve the "wholeness" and unity of mind/spirit and body that everyone else in this world takes for granted.

There are many unfeeling/ignorant Christians who would flippantly tell those suffering with GID, “If you prayed for God’s healing and He didn’t heal you, then you should just learn to “live with it”, like Paul had to” (i.e. 2Cor 12:7-10). However, GD is no mere “thorn in the flesh”; it is far more like “an axe already laid to the root of the tree!” Though most who suffer with GD can endure it for decades via compensatory psychological mechanisms (denial being the most pervasive), eventually all these break down and they reach a “crisis point”. It just becomes impossible to go on living a life that is totally contradictory to the gender we know we have always been in our mind, heart and spirit!   

Make no mistake. GD can have a long, protracted course, but it is often ultimately fatal, just like an untreated cancer. Of those patients that I have surveyed, approximately 95% have made at least one serious attempt at suicide due to their condition. Many kill themselves early on because, when they finally admit to themselves that they have GD and understand the tremendous societal adversity they will likely face (from family, friends, employers and, if they are Christians, ESPECIALLY from their own church!), they believe that they will be unable to endure it and so take “the easy way out”.

Therefore, the decision to change one’s (outward) gender is NEVER something any of us makes in haste; nor are we doing this for sinful or immoral reasons. GD is NOT the same as homosexuality; it deals specifically with what gender we perceive ourselves to be, not whom we are attracted to sexually. Everyone diagnosed with GD is made aware that they will likely face extreme criticism and misunderstanding for their decision to transition and that most of their former life will go right down the drain. Nearly everyone incurs terrible disruptions– loss of job, home, friends, church and family are far too common. With such an incredible “downside”, the reason we choose to transition is simply that it is the only hope we have to continue living. Those who have sufficient courage/faith in God often grow even stronger in Christ as they follow the ONLY effective and medically-indicated treatment for their GD, despite (or because of?) it being such a long and painful process.

Some Christians condemn those with GD because they believe that it is against God’s will to undertake medical and/or surgical means to alter one’s body. Yet I am sure that if they were the parents of a child born with a debilitating (or possibly deadly) birth defect like congenital heart disease [or even if it was just ‘cosmetic’, like cleft lip], they would certainly not withhold recommended medical and surgical treatment for their child just because God chooses NOT to grant their plea for a miraculous healing. God has given us a wonderful gift through medicine and surgery to alleviate much pain, suffering and disease in this world. Therefore it is not wrong, after much consideration, counseling and prayer, for a Christian to utilize these means to bring wholeness to themselves and to finally be able to a lead a full, functional life in their true gender.

This leads me to one last difficulty that many Christians have with GD- they judge us solely by our outward appearance. The world (and unfortunately, most of us who should know better) evaluates people entirely by what they see of on “the outside”. This is so very true concerning those with GD. Many say it is wrong for us to “reverse” our gender opposite to that which we were born to be. But God constantly warns us NOT to judge people by “appearance” (e.g. James 2:1-4; 1Cor 4:4-5); for we lack insight into a person’s heart and true motives. They are upset because they perceive that we are one gender, despite our insistence that we are the opposite. They seem incapable of understanding how something so “basic” as a person’s concept of their own gender can be at odds within us who have GD. But appearances can be (and frequently are) deceiving!

This is more specifically addressed in 1Sam 16:7- “God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”  If we change our “outside” to make it match our “inside”, God is not offended by this in the slightest; it is what’s “inside” a person that matters (c.f. Mark 7:18-23) If we “modify” our bodies (following our doctors’ medical recommendations) to conform to our hearts and minds and are thereby able to function far better as our “true selves”, is this wrong? If we can thus serve God with greater joy and far less mental and emotional disability, then I believe that He will be pleased with our prayerful decision. [Also consider Mark 9:47- “If your eye causes you to stumble, throw it out…”]

I bear witness to you that God has ALWAYS seen me as His beloved daughter, Jennifer. I will also state that there was no “mistake” on God’s part that I was created with a little girl’s heart, soul and spirit, even though I had a boy’s body at birth. He designed me this way, “knitting me together in my mother’s womb” (Ps  139:13-16) for a special purpose. And though He did not heal me miraculously as I had prayed for to Him to do for decades since my earliest childhood, He did bring about my healing in such a way that He would be glorified in it and through the new life He gave me. It was not due to anyone’s (particular) sin that I was born with GD; rather I am much like the man in John 9 who was born blind. I also have found that God’s ultimate purpose for my particular birth defect was and is “that the works of God may be displayed in [me]” (v.3).

The above may sound like boasting, but I give Him all the glory! If I could only tell you about the incredible things that I have seen God accomplish! He changed my heart and life completely around so He could use me far more effectively to reach out and help others who suffer severe emotional pain (both those with GD and “normal” people) due to past or present psychological trauma. I have seen Him do real miracles of healing in people; I can only bow down before God in humble praise and adoration for His incredible love, grace and transforming power! 

I am sorry that I went on so long in this “Preface”. Perhaps because you were gracious enough to allow me to send you my full “Letter to the Editor”, I thought you might also be interested in having a little more background on my life and to know more about the many other devoted (though usually “invisible”) Christians who have GD. We are not “evil”, immoral or “lascivious” creatures (most of us remain “virgins” after transitioning); nor are we deceived, demon-possessed (an accusation made against me by a brother in Christ during my transition) or focused solely on ourselves and our own needs.

We usually try to be considerate and understanding of others’ skepticism of us and our motives, especially since it is so difficult for us to explain who we really are “inside” and why we have done such an incomprehensible thing as changing our gender. It seems insane to everyone else why we would just “throw away” our former, (and usually) outwardly successful lives to endure such pain and hostility from society. To that I would respond with a slight variation of Mark 8:36- “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose her own soul?”

Most of us have prayerfully, tearfully and with much fear and trembling tried to discern the will of God and have simply chosen the ONLY way God has made available to us to continue living without either going insane or killing ourselves. We were born with an incredibly debilitating and difficult-to-understand medical condition. And we, who consider ourselves God’s “special” sons and daughters, are honestly trying to do our best, under very difficult circumstances, to live our lives in a way that pleases our Lord and Savior. I regularly pray for God’s love and understanding for my brethren in Christ who are so adamantly opposed to us, that they one day may be reconciled with us, to God’s glory and the healing and strengthening of His Body!

Thank you again, Katelyn, for this opportunity to communicate these thoughts and my concerns with you, and for your patience in reading all of this. May God bless you, my sister, and give you guidance and discernment in your work and in your life!

 

Walking Daily in His Wondrous Love and Grace,

 

Jennifer

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