The Grace Letter
1998: Christmas Remembered
1999: What's In A Date?
2000: Peace On Earth
2001: Dark Days
2002: The Little Things
2003: Shop Till You Drop
2005: What Are You Waiting For?
2006: Peace In Our Heart
2007: The Greatest Of These
Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye.
Matthew 7: 3-5
Just look in the mirror and see what parts ya got,
"Butch," a popular preacher on Internet radio
Butch, it seems, is a literalist. Everything is just as it appears. You have boy parts or you have girl parts, and that settles it.
The Concerned Women of America (CWA) would side with Butch on this one. At the end of 2005 the Concerned Women were having a hissy fit over Barbie.
From ABC News:
On Dec. 30, CWA, a leading Christian conservative group, noted on its Web site that on the Barbie Web site, www.Barbie.com, "there is a poll that asks children their age and sex."
The age choices were 4 to 8 but children "are given three options for their choice of gender": I am a Boy, I am a Girl and I Don't Know.
Bob Knight, director of CWA's Culture and Family Institute, said Barbie manufacturer Mattel was being influenced by the "transgender movement."
To pose "this transgender question at little girls, they've really crossed the line," Knight said, who added that "bisexuality gender confusion" is the Web site's agenda, which is "very dangerous."
I'm not going to focus on the fact that the spokesperson for Concerned Women of America is "Bob Knight," although I do find it fascinating. It's even more fascinating to think that I'm part of an invisible "transgender movement" that is powerful enough to influence Mattel, Inc. (Sort of like the "Homosexual Agenda," copies of which I've yet to see.)
The point, which Mattel understands but Butch and Bob don't, is that life is more complex than we realize. There are more categories than black and white, Us and Them, boy and girl.
The process by which Butch derives his conclusions involves the thought process of denial. I'd like to focus a bit on denial, and the way it causes a person to judge others based on that person's own limited life experience.
Denial is a psychological defense mechanism in which a person faced with a fact that is uncomfortable or painful to accept rejects it instead, insisting that it is not true despite what may be overwhelming evidence. The subject may deny the reality of the unpleasant fact altogether (simple denial), admit the fact but deny its seriousness (minimisation) or admit both the fact and seriousness but deny responsibility (transference).
Now let's apply those definitions, first to the way others relate to us, then to our lives as transpeople.
Living is easy with eyes closed
Misunderstanding all you see.
The Beatles, "Strawberry Fields Forever"
NONs - non-trans people - have it so easy. Or so it seems to us. Of course, each NON has his or her own unique burdens which keep life from being easy. But gender conflict is not one of those burdens. Since gender conflict is not part of the NON's life experience, it is easier to deny that it is real in anyone's life. "You are being deceived" is a common response from a sincere Christian NON who believes we have fallen into the clutches of Satan. It doesn't help for me to assert "I have been through this line of reasoning many times and have prayed for deliverance. God gives me peace and assurance." They will have none of that, and they transfer their denial to me, misunderstanding all they see, claiming I am the one denying the facts.
It's a very short trip from denial to judgement. If I am perceived to be in denial of reality, then in their eyes I am wrong - I am living in sin and must be shunned until I repent.
Could it be - just maybe - in their judgement, they misunderstand all they see because they have a plank in their eye? But who am I to judge them?
One of these things is not like the others,
One of these things just doesn't belong,
Can you tell which thing is not like the others
By the time I finish my song?
The uncomfortable, painful fact was that I was not like other boys. It was uncomfortable because of my conditioning, being raised as a boy even though it didn't seem right. Since I wished to avoid the discomfort, I simply denied my difference. Many trans people spend years in this stage. We look back from the wisdom of our years, and we remember completely denying that which made us feel so much pain. Deep inside, I knew I just didn't belong.
As we grow, one day we accept the reality that we are not like others who have similar "parts." But we minimize. We deny the seriousness of our gender conflict. No big deal. I can just dress up a few times a year. No one will have to know, and it will never go further than that.
Have you felt that way? How is it working out for you? For most of us, the eventual answer is "it isn't working out." This is the stage of impending crisis, as we realize the seriousness of our truth. Now we begin to practice transference as we confront God: You made me this way. Now please, make it go away so I can live a normal life.
With the failure of transference, we have gone as far as denial can take us. It's time to look at our denial as the first of five stages in dealing with loss, as Elisabeth Kübler-Ross famously described in her 1969 book On Death and Dying.
Stage Two is anger. How could you do this to me can apply to gender conflict just as it can to a diagnosis of severe illness. I'll have more to say about Stage Two later.
Stage Three, bargaining, is not always a component of our dealing with gender conflict. It was important for me, however. Let me put this in the background until my son is grown. I found that bargain actually worked. But once the bargain was done, I hit the brick wall that is Stage Four, depression, and nearly didn't recover.
Finally I arrived at Stage Five, acceptance. For me the obstacles to be overcome were mostly spiritual. Once I understood God's love and acceptance of me, it was not difficult to accept myself.
Unfortunately, even though I worked into self acceptance, I still experienced the grief of loss of loved ones. That rejection precipitates the whole cascade of stages over again. It is so easy to become caught in the anger stage at this point, and I know many persons who harbor continuing anger over the rejection they have experienced. This anger can destroy us. I would dare say that it is the plank in our eye, which we do not acknowledge because we are obsessing over the speck of sawdust from our ex or our child.
What Plank? We exclaim as we stagger blindly through our losses.
Can we remove this plank of persistent anger towards those who once loved us? How can we see them clearly unless we do so? If we do remove the plank, what will we see?
Perhaps they will still reject us. After all, such is their decision to make. But by overcoming our own anger, we can move on to acceptance of life post transition. We have suffered loss, but we are alive - perhaps more truly alive than ever before.
Sawdust removal is not my specialty - they will have to arrange for that themselves. I have my hands full keeping the planks out.
This is Not a Pipe
(The Treachery of Images)
Is this a woman - this person standing before you?
Is the decision yours to make?