About 6 years ago, I wrote an article still published on Whosoever titled Christians and Disputable Matters with the by-line of William Stephenson. I write this article as Virginia Stephenson, having transitioned to female in 2001. My journey in gender crossing has truly been a “coming home” experience for me.
The main objection I hear from conservative Christians to my transgender experience, is that I have changed what God made me to be; that I have taken it upon myself to say that the way God made me is not good; and by changing my body, that I have said that God made a mistake with me. I still find it astonishing that they assume to know not only my heart, but God’s heart in the matter.
Nevertheless, I find myself patiently explaining to them how I am not a mistake of God’s. I explain that I was born with a body that was male and a gender identity of female for a purpose, and that my journey from male to female has not resulted in my hiding from God, but has resulted in a spiritual awakening for me. I tell them that by changing my body I am simply building my home in which to live, that my skin is an expression of my heart, and that my body modifications are simply to express myself honestly to the world. I feel at “home” in my body now, when I used to feel like I was just visiting.
The only reason I am a little disturbed when fundamental Christians say their “peace” to me, is that I feel like the whole world should say, “Way to go, Virginia!” in a celebration with me of the incredible accomplishment in “coming home.” I am always a bit disappointed when certain folks do not get it, and go away disturbed by me rather than excited and joyful at my life.
During my years of soul-searching to try to gain the strength to transition to female at my job, I remember having to face many fears of losing things. When I told my employer that I would come into work as Virginia would they fire me? If I was fired, could I find another job? Would I eventually lose my house and my savings? What relationships would I lose from friends and family not understanding? These and many other fears haunted my dreams as well as my thoughts from day to day, to the point that I was unsure if I could go through with it.
Even though the fears seemed real, I was also firmly committed to finally having the courage to be real to the world, to be true to who I was inside, to finally say to the world, “This is who I am” and let the chips fall where they may. To me, it was a question of my personal integrity and honesty. I had counted the cost and had decided that even if I lost everything, that being Virginia was my destiny. All I needed was the strength to walk through the fear.
Buddhism teaches that suffering in this life is a result of attachments, the reliance on possessions or relationships or reputation to the extent that we fear losing them, which causes us worry, stress and anxiousness. Jesus spoke to this in Matt. 6:25-34 when he said:
Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life Look at the birds God feeds them Who by worrying can add a single hour to one’s life? Why do you worry about clothes? Consider the lilies If that is how God clothes the grass of the field will God not much more cloth you, O you of little faith? So do not worry God knows what you need.
During the process of transition at work I finally received the truth of Jesus’ words for me. I also came to see how freedom from attachment to “things” results in a personal freedom from fear. I had read the passage in Matthew many times, but I realized I had never surrendered to the timeless truth of it. Finally I was able to lay down the fear. It felt like coming home.
So for some people I go further than to just say that my gender crossing was not a result of “God’s mistake.” I say to them that who I am is a marvelous gift from God, and that in the process of changing my body to fit “me,” I have discovered what Jesus meant when he said, “The Kingdom of God is within you.”
I tell them: “I am home.”
Virginia Stephenson transitioned to female in 2001 after serving as a conservative pastor from 1978-1985, most recently with Maranatha Christian Church in Florida and New Mexico, then going into business in Albuquerque.