Twenty-five years ago, I knew who I was. But there was no possible way to be true to myself. To try and tell anyone what I knew to be true would certainly cause nothing but pain, heartache and grief for all concerned. I learned to just live in fear. Fear of having anyone know the true me. Fear of having anyone find out about who I was. I learned to hide, and such misery that caused.
Thirteen years ago I joined a church for so many wrong reasons. I tried so hard to believe what they said, even though many things that were preached there I could not accept. Part of why I stayed there for so long was that I was trying to live in denial. I was afraid of what I would find out about myself if I chose to no longer live in denial. I continued to hide in fear, and so much more misery that caused.
Seven years ago, I married the wrong person for the wrong reasons. I knew it when I did it. I was hoping against hope that marrying someone like her would cause me to live in fear of who I was, and that the fear would keep me as who I thought I was supposed to be. The misery I put myself through was nearly intolerable.
What has amazed me through the entire gender journey I've been undergoing has been noticing when fear has been present and when it hasn't. For so long I had been afraid of anyone finding out about my being transsexual. I was afraid of even finding that out myself, or at least admitting it. I was so certain that God could never love me because of my being transgendered. He must hate it. He wouldn't make a mistake like that; a woman's heart, mind and spirit in a male body. I have to pray and pray and pray that He will take these sinful desires away. But in His perfect love, He let me know that He certainly did not make a mistake. He created me as crossgendered. And as I realized that, His perfect love dispelled my fear of coming out to myself.
There were so many fearful points in the journey of gender transition. I remember my first day going out en femme, dressed as a woman. For so many transsexuals, this is a moment fraught with fear. "What if I'm read? What if I have to go to the bathroom? What if I'm arrested? What if someone laughs? What if someone beats me to a bloody pulp?" I prayed before I got dressed and went out. I prayed that if I was not in God's will, that if He wanted me to remain male, to instill in me a fear and dread of what I was about to do. I also prayed that if He didn't have a problem with my being a woman, to give me a spirit of peace and calm. And as I left for my day, there was nothing at all inside me but a complete peace about everything. Again, by trusting in His love, fear had been conquered.
One night I was at my best friend Karen's house. She had undergone her gender transition already, and she and I had many, many long talks. One of these talks was a great epiphany for me. For so long I had been so afraid to look all the way into the very center of who I was; beyond all the things I liked or didn't like, my habits, my body, my personality, my upbringing, and finding just who I was at the core. It was like peeling off layers of an onion, getting past each non-essential aspect of who I was, and coming to my core gender. And, like peeling an onion, it brought a lot of tears. But at Karen's house, due to the sisterly love she shared with me, fear again was overcome.
The day I finally decided I was transitioning was another fearful one. I had already lost two jobs in the past six months over issues with my being crossgendered. I had come out to my last workplace, where I was a private music instructor. My bosses told me that they supported me, but not to the point of keeping me on as a teacher. We had intended that I finish out the summer, and then I would transition. As it turned out, waiting for the end of the summer was harder than just transitioning right then and there. So I simply called them one afternoon and said that I wasn't going to make it till the end of the summer and that I was transitioning immediately, and thereby losing my job. I had no job lined up for the meantime. But as soon as I made that phone call, I was instantly filled with peace and joy. I had never had an experience like it before. All my life, my default emotional setting had been "depressed." As soon as I was off the phone -- having in the past three years endured divorce, loss of two churches, five jobs and many friends -- my default emotion was reset to "joyful." Trusting in God's perfect love cast out fear yet again, and replaced it with blessings I'd never before experienced.
The pastor at a church I had been kicked out of asked me once, "If God wants you to be a woman, why aren't you pursuing that goal full-steam ahead?" When I responded, "What if I felt He did and what if I did pursue that goal?" he said, "You would be dis-fellowshipped." The remainder of my time at that church was nothing but fear and pain and an overall dread of life. It was a dread caused by living in fear by the rules that church tried to set in my life. Once I left that church, I did essentially follow my path of transition, at the fastest reasonable speed. In so doing, I did not live a life of fear, but a life of joy. It has been a joy caused by living in peace in the path God has set before me, every step of the way God's perfect love finding new ways to remove fear from my life.
Copyright © 2001 by the author
All Rights Reserved
Henri J. M. Nouwen
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