A couple of weeks ago I received some e-mail from a former classmate of mine from college. Through one of my former professors she had heard of my gender reorientation. She was pleasant and supportive, but also full of questions.
In the process of discussing my journey I mentioned the Standards of Care (the treatment criteria for transsexuals concerning requirements for hormone therapy and surgery.) Without explaining fully, I said something like: "I also got acquainted with the "Standards of Care." These are the rules we live by." In her reply she asked, "What are standards of care??? How you treat others, how you behave yourself????"
I explained what the Standards of Care are, but her question stuck with me, troubling me and challenging me. Perhaps, it's time we established a spiritual Standards of Care for Transsexuals. However, this would not be related to how others treat us, but how we treat others. Here are a few ideas for such a code of conduct:
1. "Copping an Attitude" is Inappropriate for the Transsexual Christian. Many transsexuals cope with adversity by thumbing their noses at the world and the people in it. If you are a Christian you do not have this option. Being outrageous, flaunting one's gender change, or taking an "I-Don't-Care-What-You-Think" attitude will not help develop effective relationships with our Christian brothers and sisters. It will certainly not help our witness to those in the world.
2. Remain in the Fellowship of the Saints. I went to several churches as Terri before I found one that loved and accepted me. I was asked to leave a couple. Two or three openly condemned me. It would have been "easy" to just say, "Well, they won't accept me. I can serve God just as well without the church." But this was not God's plan for His people. His plan is to be in fellowship. Pray for God's guidance and keep looking. There are places where you can worship God in the congregation of the saints.
3. Concern Yourself with the Feelings of Others. No, one does not live one's life predicated on what other people think. The Bible certainly doesn't teach that. However, it does teach that we are to act toward others in respectful ways which take into account their feelings. If you are following God's path for your life to pursue sex reassignment, you have to know that this decision will impact other people. Your family, friends, coworkers, fellow church members and others will be affected. Find ways to minimize the impact on them. A little consideration will go a long way toward improving your relationships with them and confirm the witness of your experience with Christ.
4. Look for Ministry Opportunities. Satan will tell you that you cannot minister for God because of your gender dysphoria. But remember who he is. He is a liar and the father of lies. Yes, it is hard to minister for the Lord as a transsexual. Yes, you may face opposition. Yes, it is easier to slip in late to service and leave early. But that doesn't change the fact that you are called to work for Him. Opportunities may present themselves in unexpected ways. You might write letters to other transsexuals encouraging them and sharing with them the Good News of Jesus Christ. You might work in the church praying with people at the altar, teaching a Bible study, cleaning the grounds, doing fund raising or a thousand other duties which need doing around the church. Since making myself available for ministry three years ago in my local church, I have been writing Bible study materials for our Wednesday night home Bible classes, helped write for and edit the church newsletter, developed our church web page, and two weeks from the date of this writing I will be teaching a teacher's training course for our Sunday School teachers. Is this because I'm so wonderful? No, it's because God opened some doors and I walked through them. Ask God and he will open doors for your ministries to flourish as well.
5. Being Transsexual Does Not Exempt You from the Duty of Love. I keep coming back to this one because it's one that God has to keep dealing with me about. If you live for Christ, attend church regularly, and get involved in the ministry of the church, mark it down, you will come under attack from others. These attacks may be vicious or subtle, but they will be painful. You must not allow bitterness to grow from them. You must love those who hate you. It's hard to do, but it is necessary. It's not a divine suggestion. It's a divine command. Fortunately, this loving is not always up to us. If I can't love the person myself, I can take myself out of the way and let God love them through me. And, here's the payoff, if I love those who hate me, then the pain lessens because I begin to see them through the eyes of Christ. I see frightened, sometimes tormented people and compassion grows in me and the tears that come to me in prayer are not for myself, but for them. And as I pray for their pain, mine is lifted by the hands of the one who suffered more than either of us ever could. So, I guess we don't need a complicated Spiritual Standards of Care. God's standard is the same as it always has been: "Love one another as I have Loved You."
Copyright ©1999 by the author
Gianna E. Israel