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The Evidence of Transformed Lives

The Evidence of Transformed Lives

by Jennifer Ann Burnett , MD

May, 2004 (rev. 3/13/08)

 

The disciples of Jesus were generally a sorry lot throughout Jesus’ ministry. They seemed oblivious to the fact that God was literally living amongst them every day. They witnessed amazing healings and miracles on a regular basis. Yet they were weak, prone to quickly forget everything that Jesus had taught them, repeating the same mistakes over and over. Peter, truly the most bold of all of them, cowered before two simple servant girls, repeatedly denying His Master (Matt 26:69, 71); he who only hours before had pledged his willingness to even die for Jesus (Matt 26:35).

Yet, in a matter of weeks, this same disciple was in front of a crowd of thousands, fearlessly risking his life to proclaim the gospel (and earn the wrath of the Pharisees). The remarkably changed lives of the disciples were a very visible witness to the Sanhedrin as they met together later on to discuss this amazing event at Pentecost, for they “began to recognize them as having been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13). One of the greatest evidences of the truth of Christianity was the transformed lives of each of the original disciples, nearly all of whom went to a martyr’s death proclaiming their Lord as Christ the Savior.

I am in no way trying to compare the magnitude of the disciple’s transformation with that of a transsexual who, after fighting against a dreadful burden all his or her life, is finally released to live consistently with his/her true gender identity. Yet, with every one of us, there is indeed a major change not just in our obvious outward appearance, but also in our mental, emotional and especially (for the Christian) the spiritual aspect of our lives.

If God is really behind the release of a transgendered Christian’s afflicted soul, then I believe that there should be ample evidence in our lives of growth our spiritual relationship with Christ, in all those who testify that we are indeed been set free and are following God’s direction in our path of “transitioning”. Though by itself, a behavioral change is not enough to unequivocally prove that God does bless this method of bringing “healing” (i.e. altering the body to fit the inner person) of the transsexual, I feel that it is certainly consistent with our witness that God’s Spirit is working within us.

I know of many Christian transsexuals who feel their lives are indeed being transformed by their Lord. Each has come to the point of first accepting themselves, not as some horrendous mistake, but rather as Psalms 139:13-14 relates. “For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works and my soul knows it well.” On the basis of this, we all believe that we were created by God this way for a purpose, and we therefore seek to know His particular will in our lives and wish to allow Him to use our “uniqueness” for His glory.

I became a Christian in the sixth grade, having invited Christ into my heart as my Savior in a morning church service in 1964. Not much happened in my life over the next 4 years- I had always been a very obedient child who did well in school and stayed out of trouble. But God began to take hold of my life when I was a junior in high school. I became an active participant in Campus Life, my church’s Sunday school and my youth group and in my church’s youth choir. In my senior year I even led a Bible study on my high school campus during lunch.

In college at USC I became involved in Inter Varsity Christian Fellowship and was VP and President in my sophomore and junior years respectively. I went to the world student missions’ conference in Urbana, IL in 1973. In 1974 I spent the summer in Central America with a group called Practical Missionary Training. During med school I joined the Christian Medical Society and attended their conferences. I did a 2 ½ month self-designed elective at a mission hospital in Swaziland at the end of my Fourth Year. During residency I remained as active in the churches I attended as time permitted, often leading Bible studies/discipleship groups.

Since starting practice, I have moved many times between California, Oregon and Idaho, attending a number of different denominations and types of churches. During these times I served in a variety of ministries such as church deacon, adult Sunday school teacher, home Bible study leader and lay church counselor. I have been to 17 different countries serving the Lord. In the last 8 years I have gone on 11 short-tem medical missions with Operation Blessing to such far-off places a Kazakhstan , Vietnam , and India .

Yet in all these things, I lacked an extremely important element in my Christian life, something that would continually cripple me and deprive me of the relationship I knew God wanted for me. I could literally drive myself to accomplish “great things for God”, but when it came to loving Him with my whole heart and having (and maintaining) that intimate, joyous  and fully-yielded relationship that is spoken of in Matt 22:37, Rev 2:4 and as allegorized in Song of Solomon 1:1-4; 3:1-4… I was always found wanting!

I am not saying that there were not periods of closeness to God during this part of my life. There were times when He literally performed miracles in and through me. Over the years there were rare occasions when a person who was deathly ill suddenly responded in my presence as I interceded for them. On a missions trip to Ecuador , a man who had been gradually losing his hearing for years and had been totally deaf for the last 6 months, had his hearing instantly restored as I prayed over him. But the trouble was that I could never sustain any sort of closeness in my relationship to my Lord. I always found myself drifting away, losing the desire to maintain that intimacy.

I believe the root cause of it all was actually simple. I was severely crippled for almost all of my life with my Gender Dysphoria. I always regarded myself as defective, inferior to everyone else. From early in childhood I knew I was different from other boys and so did my peers. I was repeatedly getting the snot kicked out of me because I was the “sissy”, the “weird” one. I was an easy mark for every bully on the playground, even attracting my childhood tormentors from two grades below my own.

Through the years, this led me to radically change my behavior, to put on an entire new “façade”- someone who appeared to be a normal boy/young man, acting as and participating in normal boy things. I was intelligent and extremely well motivated, so I succeeded over the years in performing an elaborate act that conned people into thinking I was really someone who had “his act altogether”. This inner drive for the acceptance of others, this striving to excel in everything I did in order to “prove” to them (and ultimately to myself) that I was “worthy to be alive” is what drove me to many of my above accomplishments.

Yet maintaining this façade and always having to struggle against my own self-loathing took an extremely large psychological toll on me. This in turn led to my repeated pattern of screwing up my relationship with God. All this stems from the sheer impossibility of loving God fully and trusting Him completely when you hate yourself. Inescapable Logic: God made me who I am. I hate who I am. Therefore I hate the One who made me who I am.

Perhaps, had I met an early death from an accident or some disease, I would have never come to the crisis point in my life that essentially every transsexual eventually reaches. The repression, the continual striving to appear “normal” and the incredible psychological burden to maintain such an elaborate façade over decades of one’s life eventually leads all of us to a point where it is impossible to go on any more. We become so depressed and despondent, some even to the point where we think we are losing our very grip on reality! That is when we realize there is no longer any real “choice” left.

If we do not acknowledge who we are inside and deal with it some positive way, then our only other option is death. That is why there is such a high incidence of suicide among transsexuals. That is also why so many intelligent, highly motivated, professional-type people end up transitioning late in their forties, fifties or sixties- they have gone on for so very long because they are desperately trying not to fail all of those who depend on them. But we are all eventually worn down and become unable to repress what we have always known about ourselves from an early age. So we “crash” in one way or another, some more spectacularly than others.

But then from these “ashes”, we can finally begin the long process of resurrecting our true selves from our old false identities. This is a painful course of action, for not only ourselves, but also for our families, friends and nearly everyone associated with us. The only reason we go on through such an excruciating and complex process called “transition” (involving hormone therapy, gender counseling, hundreds of hours of electrolysis (for Male-to-Female transsexuals) and, for most, multiple surgeries) is that there is no alternative, other than psychological (or physical) death.

This was an agonizing process to rethink nearly everything I thought I knew about myself and try to reconcile it with my Christian beliefs and faith in God. But through all this, my loving Heavenly Father was finally was able to make the spiritual breakthrough that I had been needing and longing for all my life. God was able to convince me that He had created me just as I was for a special purpose and that He loved me and accepted me in my entirety, including my “transgenderedness”. It was not a sudden revelation in one sense, yet I vividly remember experiencing His overwhelming love just pour over me like a flood during the next 2 weeks after reaching my “crisis point”.

During protracted times of prayer with my Lord, I wept uncontrollably with joy as He vividly affirmed to me over and over again that I was His beloved daughter, Jennifer , that He made me the way I was for “for the good” (Rom 8:28) and that He had plans for a new and glorious life for me. No longer would I be repeatedly praying for Him to take my life so that my miserable existence would finally end. God told me that it would not be an easy path, but that He would be with me every step of the way, with a closeness that I had never been able to experience before. I would see Him work miracles and marvel at His graciousness toward me. And God is still fulfilling that promise to me even today.

It is easy to make claims that God has spoken to you in such and such a way about something which others may find extremely difficult to believe. But what has convinced those who know me and have observed what God has already accomplished in my new life is that I have truly become “a new creation”. Well beyond the physical aspects, I have changed emotionally, mentally and (the most important) spiritually, even more of a spiritual transformation than took place when I initially accept Christ as our Savior (c.f. 2 Cor. 5:17).

First, I have never known such continual closeness to my loving Father than I have experienced since all this began. My desire in life now is to know Him more and more each day; to experience His intimate embrace during times of prayer and worship, and to glorify Him with my life in any and every way He would desire. Not that I have reached any state of perfection, for I still fail my beloved Master all too often. But His forgiveness is swifter in coming than even my repentance, for I cannot bear for any length of time to be at odds with the God who loves me so very much!

I now find that I do not just love God, but that I am now rapturously in love with Him. When I meditate on His Word, particularly on passages like those in Song of Solomon, I can experience the same type of unfettered love and devotion to Jesus that the Shulamite has for her Bridegroom. My spiritual Lover proclaims to me (despite my own obvious imperfections in body and spirit), “You are altogether beautiful, My beloved, and there is no blemish in you” (S of S 4:7). The promises of Ezekiel 16:6-14 are also God’s promises to me. He has claimed me for His own, has washed me and clothed me in silk and embroidered garments, “covering my nakedness” with His own radiance. I have become lovely and adored in His sight!

Yes, this does take a lot of faith for a transsexual to say, but God has met me in a relationship which I never knew could exist. He has shown me aspects of His character and His incomprehensible love that I had no inkling of before. And I also understand that had I not endured all that I went through, especially my life-long struggle with my transsexuality, I would have been incapable of receiving many of these insights concerning Him and His desires for my life.

In a way, I am much like the wayward sheep that is described in the book “A Shepherd Looks at the 23 Psalm”, by Phillip Keller. If the shepherd finds a sheep that is always wandering off and doesn’t stay with the flock, actually endangering its own life, then the shepherd often must take desperate action. He will break the sheep’s legs, making it unable to move on its own. The shepherd must then carry the sheep everywhere he goes until the fractures heal.

However, by the time this happens, the sheep has grown so attached to the shepherd that it will never leave his side, always staying close to him, following the shepherd every place he goes. For some of us, this process of great “brokenness” and healing results in a relationship that could not come about otherwise. As one prone to wander in the past, I truly feel that the joy of His continual closeness far outweighs all the pain in my life which it took to produce such an intimate a relationship.

Another example of what God has done in my spiritual life is the way I worship Him. Because of my underlying hatred of myself, I was previously incapable to truly worshipping God as my loving Father, because I thought God must hate me too! Also, John 4:23-24 tells us that the true worshippers must worship the Father “in spirit and in truth”. Until I could recognize His love and purpose in creating me as He did, I was incapable of worshipping Him “in truth”.

 I believe that men and women have a very different way of approaching God in worship. I never really knew what a truly worshipful experience was until I began praying and praising Him in the “feminine spirit” which has always been inside of me. I now usually sit in the second or third row of my church, near the center, so that I will not be distracted by the rest of the people (our church has about 250-300 in the morning service). Most of the congregation is very “reserved” during our worship time, whereas I will raise my hands, rock or sway to the music with my eyes closed. Often tears of joy and thanksgiving will spontaneously run down my cheeks.

I was offered a very precious gift last year, while still coming to church as a male during the “stealth phase” of my transition. A member of my church’s worship team approached me after the service. She told me that it was such a “privilege” for her to be up there in front where she had been watching me for weeks, observing me worship the Lord. She exclaimed, “It is so obvious from the way you worship just how much you love the Lord!” I was flabbergasted that someone was actually able to “see” the inward changes that had taken place. I went home and cried “tears of joy” that my Heavenly Father had done something special in my heart and spirit that had brought Him glory!

As far as evangelism, I had always felt it was my responsibility as a Christian to witness to others. By God’s grace, I have done so under many different circumstances and in over a dozen countries around the world. But that was all that it was to me- a responsibility. I had very little passion for witnessing for Christ, largely because my own testimony was so weak. Underneath my brightly polished Christian image, there was a life that spoke of quiet desperation and the inability to believe that God really and truly loved me, despite all the verses I could quote from memory, some in several different languages!

However, since God has done His marvelous work in my heart and mind, things have radically changed. For one, I now have a prayer burden for the many non-Christians God has lain on my heart. I hurt and even cry during my prayer times for them, for God has placed in me the same overwhelming desire for their salvation that He has for them. I have new boldness to share my faith with others. And it comes so naturally, because I now am filled with the joy of the Lord instead of witnessing to others merely to avoid feeling guilty for not doing what every good Christian is supposed to do. I cannot separate talking about me from telling them about Jesus, because He is now the very center of my life and of everything I do and experience.

And because I am transgendered, I have access and credibility with a wider scope of people who would otherwise never listen to most Christians- many because they have received only rejection and condemnation from mainstream evangelical churches. Vocal Christians are an oddity among the transgendered, so we are listened to when we speak. I attended a transsexual support group in Portland for the first time and quickly became the focus of attention (though I was really trying to not be conspicuous) when I shared that God was alive and active in my life. I was repeatedly questioned by the others who could not understand how I could keep my faith when my fellow evangelical Christians are so adverse to transgendered people.

There are many TG’s who would rather pick up a landmine than a Bible, they are so resistant to spiritual things! Homosexuals are also in this same category, mostly because they have been treated with so much hostility by evangelical Christians. Yet these “outcasts” have now become my friends, for we share many things in common (such as our being rejected by our churches when we “come out”). They therefore are willing to listen to me when I talk about the exciting things the Lord is doing in my life. I have become in many cases, the only “letter of Christ” they will ever “read”, because Christ has written it by the power of the Spirit on the tablet of my transgendered human heart (2 Cor 3:3).

And finally, God has given me a burden for my “special” brothers and sisters in Christ; those who feel lost, alone and rejected by what should be their one sure support in this world- their own church. Because an earlier version of this article had been published on the web in March of 2004, a transsexual read it and e-mailed me to tell me she was “putting her house in order” and going to kill herself that very day because she couldn’t go on any more. Many bad things had happened, but “the last straw” came when she was betrayed by a friend in her church to whom she had confided her “secret”. She had been worshipping there unnoticed and not causing any problems, but once the pastor heard and the congregation was alerted to her being a transsexual, the church asked her to leave and not return.

After reading her note of complete despair, I was able to call a number of my TG friends who immediately started praying for her. I prayed and wrote her an e-mail, pleading with her not to commit suicide and begging her to call me so I could talk to her. That evening, I was able to contact her and find out that God had indeed intervened and stopped her from killing herself. In the subsequent days, the prayers and e-mails of our “ Crisis Response Team ” had changed her attitude and outlook on the future. She told me that we had literally saved her life.

I have never before been one to take up an unpopular cause. By my very nature, I unwaveringly sought group approval and would never put myself at risk for derision and animosity. Yet now I find myself actually spearheading an effort that very well may make me unpopular to people and groups across the nation. But each year, more and more Christians are asked to leave their churches, even after decades of faithful attendance and service, as soon as they begin to express their “true selves”. Never mind that they love the Lord with all their heart and are committed to honoring the Lord in all that they do. The highly charged nature of having such a Christian “coming out” in their church often results in a “knee-jerk” reaction of complete rejection, despite the absence of any scriptural prohibition against it.

The outcome is almost universal- The Transgendered are immediately placed into the same category as practicing homosexuals, perverts, the mentally deranged or even the demon-possessed. To make things worse, this rejection usually comes at one of the most vulnerable periods of our lives, when we need all the friends and support we can muster. God has made me aware that I cannot sit idly by and not try to use whatever skills and influence He has given me to help in this situation.

The church’s rejection of the transgendered (and usually anyone else who is socially “undesirable”, for that manner) frequently destroys lives and brings irreparable harm to Christ’s Body here on earth. And if the church can do this to “one of its own”, how can it creditably witness of the love of God to those non-Christians who are enslaved to immorality, drug dependence and any other stigmatized conditions? How can we reach out to the unbelievers who need Christ the most when we destroy those in our own churches who deviate from our accepted social norms?

Christ not only accepted His society’s outcasts who came to Him, He lived and ate among them. The church is not judging by God’s standards, but by society’s customs and culture, which are often anti-biblical and ungodly! The church has separated itself from the very people that God called us to reach, contrary to Christ’s mandate (Matt 28:19-20; 1 Cor. 5:9-10). If the church refuses to show any concern for this group of “socially undesirable” people, how are they going to hear and know of Christ’s love and the saving grace that He has prepared for them?

It is my heartfelt desire to see His Church, the Bride of Christ, purify herself of these ugly stains of ignorance, intolerance and lack of love for others and become once more the life-changing, healing force that Jesus desires us to be in this world. That is why I am writing these articles. That is why I plead for God’s grace that we all might see His great love for every single soul that exists, and be the hands and feet, the face and voice- the very physical manifestation of the Lord Jesus Christ to all who need Him and call upon His name.

And I also pray that all the world may be made aware of the power of the Holy Spirit and God’s tremendous love for us as they witness the transformed lives of His children, of which I am but one (very grateful) example of His handiwork!

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