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Forward to My Autobiography

Foreword- The Prayers of a Little Child

by Jennifer Ann Burnett , MD

 August 7, 2007

 

“Now I lay me down to sleep,

“I pray the Lord my soul to keep.

“If I should die before I wake.

            I pray the Lord my soul to take.

 

“God bless Mommy and Daddy and my baby brother,

            and all my friends and relatives.

“And make me a good boy,

                        Amen”

 

            The prayer of a little child, as taught by a loving mother, recited diligently at the bedside every night; on bended knees with hands folded in front- the model of “Mommy’s Little Angel”.

But it was not the words said out loud that really mattered. For after being tucked snugly under the covers, kissed on the forehead and the lights turned off, this child lay in the darkness and breathed another, far different prayer. It was not as poetic and the words varied quite a bit from night to night, but the “gist” of it was always the same. This prayer came directly from the heart, took far longer to express and was often uttered repeatedly, as if to “counteract” the very last part of the prayer that was recited just before.

It was a prayer that the child’s parents would never have understood back then. Even this “little angel” didn’t comprehend what she was saying, though she had known by the age of four that something was very much amiss with her “outsides”. She also knew that this was something “bad”, for when she had tried to tell her parents on several occasions that she wanted to play with the girls instead of the boys (who were far too rough for her liking) and was more interested in their girls’ clothes and toys than the ones she had, she had sensed that her parents were upset by these disclosures.

For this reason, she soon learned to keep these thoughts and desires hidden, so as not to upset anyone and earn their disapproval. Little children often may not understand everything, but even at this early age, they are good at “reading” what adults say, not only in words but also in expressions and gestures. They know what pleases their parents and if they are sensitive and feel insecure in themselves, they begin to “adapt” and model the behaviors that will win their parents’ praise.

Therefore, the words of her own special prayers were whispered in the darkness, sometimes with tears streaming down her cheeks. This was especially true after going through the difficult times of being repeatedly teased and mocked by her supposed “peer group” of little boys. It was not uncommon to be pushed around at recess, called a “sissy”, and worse. She was an easy target for any playground bully, even those who were several years younger.

Her prayer to the God that her mother had taught her was always there, up in heaven, watching and listening to her, revolved around this common theme: “Dear Lord, Please, when I wake up, let me have an “outside” like all the rest of the girls. I don’t know why I look like a boy, but I know I am a little girl on the inside. Please let me be a little girl on the outside too when I wake up tomorrow. O Lord, Pleeease!”

Occasionally she would softly cry herself to sleep, saying this prayer over and over. Often she would dream- wonderful, magical dreams in which she would somehow be transformed into the little girl she always knew she was meant to be. Then she would be able to play dress-up with her best friend Paula. And then Paula’s mother would let her put on the pretty clothes, make-up and even a little perfume like Paula did, instead of being forced to dress up and  play “the daddy” all the time.

But each morning, she awoke as the same little boy “on the outside” that she had been the night before. It was not an easy life, but through the years she learned to suppress the outward “girlish” behaviors and mannerisms that so easily branded her an outcast to the mean boys in her neighborhood. She would learn to “walk the walk and talk the talk” so as to fit in and thus avoid the painful downside of being so different from the others.

Because she was naturally smart and highly motivated to please people (for children with Gender Dysphoria (GD) often have serious self-esteem issues, stemming from feeling that they are “abnormal” and “defective”), she excelled at nearly everything she set out to do. Though contact sports were an anathema to her, she would try her best to earn her father’s approval, even if it meant being a part of a junior ice hockey team! She became a “Straight A” student and forced herself to overcome her natural shyness; becoming a leader in various school clubs and in her church youth group.

There really was nothing she could do but play the cards she was dealt in the best way possible. And she became very good at playing that game, creating a successful male façade that fooled everyone. She was so good at it she could manage to even fool herself for years at a time. (Another very common trait in those who suffer from GD.)

Yes, there were some very tough periods in her life when that incredibly thick, strong wall she had erected around her “true self” (and all the feelings that went with it) would temporarily break down. Then she would have to actually ponder who she was “inside”, a very painful and often terrifying process. To be forced to consider the implication of what this could do to her life if anyone found out- Well, that could put an end to everything she had worked so hard for, and that was beyond her ability to conceive.

So, after a short interval of introspection, she would again be psychologically able to stuff back those thoughts and emotions into the “strongbox” she had created for them and bury it deep down, in the darkest, most hidden place in her soul. Then she could resume the roll that everyone else expected of her, for she had become a consummate actress in an incredible play that would successfully go on for many decades to come.

And so those special, heartfelt “prayers of a little child”, whispered repeatedly in the darkness, gradually fell away as the years progressed. After much time, this little girl would come to believe that either God wasn’t listening or He just didn’t care about her plight. But as her mother had taught her, God is always listening. Though His answers to her prayers would take far longer than she expected, they would come exactly at the right time for her. And they would take form in ways that she never imagined back then, but would ultimately work out for the very best for her.

 Because of all that she went through during her often-painful her life, this little child would finally come to know that her God is far more loving, compassionate and tender than she had ever conceived of before. She would then understand how her Lord could use these mammoth adversities, even the greatest “defect” in her life, to bring about an incredibly deep and abiding relationship between her and the very Creator of the Universe!

Christians who have suffered with GD often go through periods of deep depression, pain and sorrow. They are frequently abandoned by friends and family and even rejected and “brutalized” by their own church. Brothers and sisters in Christ that are supposed to love and support them can become their worst adversaries. They often fall into such a state of hopelessness and depression that suicide seems like a very viable option. Yet God can use all of this to transform them into His “special children” that He has always intended them to be.

 

This is a story of one such special “daughter of God”- a tale of pain and sorrow being transformed into joy and peace. It is a journey from darkness and defeat into victory and light. This story proclaims the grace of God and His incomprehensible love for even those who are society’s (and the Church’s) misunderstood, maligned and rejected. This is my story, yet it is also very much God’s story- of how His love transformed a confused, “defective” little child into a woman of God whose heartfelt desire is to please her Lord in all that she says and does. (No, I am not “there” yet, but PBP-GINFWMY!)

Thus, my hope and prayers are that the Lord will be glorified by what is written in the forthcoming pages and that all who read it with a prepared heart and a Spirit-controlled mind will learn more about the One of whom it is said:

 

 “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor? Or who has given to Him that it might be paid back to Him again? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever, Amen” (Rom -36, NAS)

 

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