The Pursuit of God

Serious Topics for Serious Christians

Gender Dysphoria: Confronting the Lies that Fuel the Crisis (Help for Transsexuals)

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No one is born thinking one gender is better than another.  It is our experiences after birth which teach us how to assign values to the concepts of male and female.  Kim is a good example here.  Kim was the only female in a house full of males.  Kim’s father greatly favored his four sons while virtually ignoring his daughter.  After years of watching males get all of the attention, affection, rewards and privileges, Kim comes to the very logical conclusion that females are utterly inferior.  By the time she’s an adult, Kim has gone years without her basic emotional needs being met.  Her stressed mind has formed a very strong association between being female and being an outcast.  So Kim wants to be a man.  She really wants to be a man.  As far as she is concerned, being male is her only hope of getting her basic needs met.  As long as she is stuck in a woman’s body, she feels deeply distressed and inferior. 

Then there is Todd.  Todd had a similar experience as Kim, only in his case it was a matter of physical abuse.  Todd’s father beat him brutally in the name of “discipline,” but Todd’s sisters never got so much as a slap on the wrist.  For as long as Todd can remember, he’s desperately wanted to be a female.  Because he can never remember a time when he hasn’t wanted to change genders, he figures his desire to change is just something he was born with. And yet the truth is that he wasn’t born with the belief that males are inferior—he was taught to think that way by the way he was treated.

Then there is Emily.  Emily’s father was always groping her when she was a kid.  Emily’s uncle and grandfather were problems as well.  After hearing endless cracks about her breasts, Emily finds herself desperately wanting to get rid of them.  By the time she’s an adult, Emily’s repulsion to her feminine anatomy is so intense that she can’t even look at herself in a mirror without getting sick.  Even though she’s afraid of surgery, Emily is saving her money to get a sex change operation for the sake of saving her own sanity.  She simply can’t face the idea of spending her whole life trapped in a female body.

Then there is Vince. As a boy, Vince developed a strange growth on his genitals.  After a series of horrific medical procedures, the problem was resolved, but no one realized how traumatized young Vince had been by the experience so he was never debriefed.  Now as a man, Vince can barely use a urinal without throwing up.  He avoids showers and bathes in stages in order to avoid having to totally undress.  He is so intensely disgusted by his masculinity that he’s begun making major changes. He recently succeeded in castrating himself, but that’s not good enough.  He must get completely free of all masculine features or he feels unable to stand his own company.  For Vince, the options are simple: it’s a sex change operation or suicide.  With the help of a sympathetic friend who is very good with cosmetics, Vince has taken to dressing like a woman on a regular basis.  When Vince is able to pass himself off as a woman, he finally experiences some degree of relief.  But whenever he has to face his own masculinity again, it’s mental hell.

Gender dysphoria is fueled by an intense discomfort with your own gender.  What many people don’t realize is how easy it is to get traumatized into this kind of mentality.  Just because you can’t remember a time when you didn’t want to be the other gender doesn’t mean you were born that way.  It doesn’t mean you’re just some freak who got doled out the wrong combination of chromosome soup.  The intense need to disassociate yourself from your natural gender is a way of coping with a much bigger crisis.  And while you can certainly find ways to switch genders, the bigger question is: will that really bring you peace?

When we treat transsexualism as a moral issue and freak out over the fact that a guy wants to dress up like a gal, we just end up acting like condemning jerks.  If you had a knife in your gut, you’d be desperately wanting to get it out.  When humans are in immense psychological distress, they’ll do anything to lessen that distress.  Transsexualism is not hard to understand or empathize with once you stop fixating on the issue of gender.  What does it matter if it’s gender, weight, skin color or some other issue that’s making someone feel horribly uncomfortable in their own body?  What matters is that they’re acutely miserable with no way to escape, because it’s their body that’s the problem.  If you hate your house, you can move out of it.  But if your skin color is the threat, then what are your options?  If you hate the way your ears stick out of your head, you can get them surgically corrected and all of your friends will understand and probably heap on the compliments about how great you look afterwards.  But if it’s your genitals that are grossing you out, then suddenly everyone’s acting like you’re some disgusting freak for wanting to get them changed.  Why should compassion vanish just because the thing triggering the distress is different?  Should it really be treated as more valid if a girl is scared of a large bug than she is of a teddy bear?  Fear is fear, and the person feeling terrified needs sympathy and help, not mockery.

As someone who feels terribly uncomfortable in your own skin, you have two basic options.  You can either try to manage surface symptoms, or you can dig deeper and decide that you want to deal with the root of the problem.  Sure, you can dress up like the other gender just as a woman who is horribly ashamed of her obesity can try to squeeze into a girdle to appear several sizes smaller.  You can mutilate your body just as a black man can use chemical creams to bleach away his rich color.  And while treating surface symptoms like this does bring us a very real measure of surface relief, we’re not getting help with the underlying issue of feeling unacceptable as we naturally are.  Instead, we keep reinforcing the idea that we are intrinsically flawed every time we spend resources trying to hide or alter our natural selves.

In this world, every human ends up getting broken one way or another.  We’re all carrying around some measure of pain.  As a transsexual, much of your stress is linked to the issue of gender.  Fine.  The point we want you to understand is that humans are complex beings, and their struggles always have multiple layers to them.  When we are children, it is very easy for us to form very simple psychological associations which are wrong.  “I’m not valid as I am,” is always a wrong conclusion for any human to make, and yet this is a conclusion which gets pounded into us a million different ways.  The longer we rehearse the core lie, the more real it feels and the more distress it causes us.  By the time we reach adulthood, the lie has become an obsession with us.  It doesn’t matter what feature of your earthsuit it is that you’re fixating on: the core lie is the same.  Who you are is not okay.  You’ve got some terrible flaw that needs to be fixed.  You’re mismatched.  You’re incomplete. You’re not right.

No amount of surgery or make up or hormone therapy is going to fix the fact that you’re clinging to core lies about your basic identity.  God says who you are is valid.  God says that when He put you together, He put together something good.  He didn’t make a mistake.  Well, many of us totally disagree with God’s assessment of us.  While He sees something positive, we see something repulsive.  After all, the world we live in doesn’t agree with God’s assessment of things.  The world we live in treats ugly people and fat people like repulsive rejects.  From birth plenty of us are being told that we’re not okay because we’re not fast enough or bright enough or pretty enough.  We’re told in countless verbal and non-verbal ways that we’re the wrong color, the wrong size, the wrong gender.  While transsexuals often get singled out as being freakishly different than everyone else, they’re really not different at all.  They’re battling with the same core issues that every human on the planet deals with in one form or another.  We all want to be loved and accepted for who we naturally are.  We all want to feel confirmed instead of constantly criticized.  So how do we get there?  How do we learn to get comfortable with our gender, size, color, intelligence, or whatever else it is that we’re fixating on as some terrible problem about ourselves?  We get comfortable with these things the same way that we got uncomfortable with them: by learning to accept an outsider’s opinion.  Only this time, instead of listening to other humans, we need to listen to God.

What makes God’s peace so unique is that it is the kind of peace which relaxes our very cores and then slowly emanates outward, melting away the tensions it comes across.  Managing symptoms is where we all start because it seems like our only option.  Mary gets a nose job.  Tom spends forever at the gym trying to get his biceps big enough to put his insecurities to rest.  Jenny goes for breast augmentation so she can stop feeling insufficient as a woman.  Darren starts pounding the estrogen so he can start dialing down his masculine characteristics.  Peter buys himself a bunch of dresses.  We’re all just managing symptoms—trying to change our earthsuits in an attempt to get core peace while we keep clinging to the lie that we’re not okay as we are.  This system doesn’t work.  We can try to turn our insecurities into fashionable trends in order to validate our obsession with surface patches.  We can legalize some of our coping methods.  But at the end of the day, we’re still hurting.  We’re still feeling broken.  We’re still frustrated with never being good enough as we naturally are.  If we want real peace, there’s only one way to get it, and that is by asking God to help us see ourselves as He does.

God doesn’t strain to love transsexuals.  He isn’t mystified or confused or repulsed by the fact that you’re so desperate to present yourself as the other gender.  God gets it.  God gets all of us.  He sees internal connections that we don’t see.  He knows our history.  He’s lived our memories.  He understands the way that our minds work.  Today you’re going around feeling like your natural self is inferior or vulnerable or wrong or flawed, but that’s not where God wants you to stay. He wants to get you to a better place: one in which your gender no longer defines how comfortable you can be in your own skin or how valid you can feel as a human.

God doesn’t make mistakes.  He doesn’t put together bad blends.  We’re all His handiwork—His one of a kind masterpieces.  God sees immense beauty in us all.  When all we see is some glaring flaw, we need to realize that our perspective of ourselves needs some serious adjusting. We’re not born feeling like mistakes.  We’re taught to view ourselves that way.  We’re not born feeling flawed. We’re taught to accept that something’s wrong with us.  We’re not born feeling unlovable, inferior, or repulsive.  These are all learned perspectives, and what is learned can be unlearned.  The question is: how deep are we willing to dig?

With humans, the issue is never as simple as we’re making it out to be. It’s not just that we’re too fat or too stupid.  It’s not just that we’re the wrong color or the wrong gender.  It’s much deeper than that.  The things we talk about and the flaws we fixate on are just symbolic issues to which many defeating conclusions have been attached.  When we go to God for help, He decodes the symbols for us, and helps us understand what core lies, wounds and fears we’re really grappling with underneath our obsession to fix some critical flaw about ourselves.  God is all about dealing with root issues, because He wants to give us real healing, not just manage symptoms. It’s only with His help that we can finally get the peace we need to stop exhausting ourselves by pursuing solutions that never last.

The world is full of hurting people and most of them are never going to be willing to pursue real help.  It always seems easier in the moment to just manage symptoms.  It’s intimidating to look beyond the symptoms and face the fears and pain which we’ve spent so long trying to bury.  And yet God is always going to push us to let Him help us with our core issues, because God wants us to experience His best.  God has good plans and purposes for every soul.  He wants us all, and we are all precious in His sight.  Gender dysphoria has never been an issue which causes God to back away from us. He sees us all as His dearly loved creations and He calls us all to come to Him.  No one is pushed away.  No one has to adjust themselves before God will consider them desirable.  But what good will such love do us if we’re not willing to receive it?  Ask God to help you understand and embrace who He created you to be.  When it comes to the things that really matter, what gender you are doesn’t even make the list.

FURTHER READING:
Rejecting Labels of Inferiority: Help for Victims of Abuse
Voluntary Castration: The Solution that Makes Everything Worse (Help for Sexually Frustrated Men)
The Mindset of Trauma Rehearsal: Trying to Acclimate to the Unbearable
God’s View of Your Body
Understanding the Love of God: The Five Versions of You
The Purpose of Dysfunction: Understanding Why God Messed You Up
Temporary Deliverance: How to Interpret the Return of Old Struggles

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