I have wrestled with spiritual and religious issues all my life and often wondered exactly what it meant to be a Christian. Many people had lists of things that one had to do or believe. I struggled with the varying requirements of those lists until I discovered the simple statement that to be a Christian meant to be a follower of Christ. Listen to what he said. See what he did. Follow in his footsteps. Share the “good news” of his gospel. In all things, let Jesus be my role model.
As I searched the gospels what emerged was a sense of God’s unconditional love and overwhelming grace, compassion and forgiveness. God wants an intimate relationship with me. There are two simple requirements – Love God, Love my neighbor. I thought this was a new concept but discovered it was one of the cornerstones of Judaism. I guess a Jew teaching Jews about the Torah shouldn’t have surprised me. The Sh’ma continues to be at the heart of Judaism and requires loving God with all our heart and soul. Loving God then leads to doing good works or mitzvoth towards others. In Jesus’ time many religious leaders had succumbed to the obligation of the law and forgot about unconditional love. Jesus reminded us all to reach beyond the law to loving relationships, beyond doing good for friends and strangers to doing good for everyone, even our enemies.
That truly was good news but my actual experience was quite different. When I tried to discuss transvestism with religious leaders, most avoided addressing it. There was a small, vocal minority who were anxious to address it, and what I experienced from them was rules, guilt, and most importantly, sin. Not just any sin, but my sin. I was a big sinner while somehow they were much purer, their sins much more acceptable. They claimed to be acting out of God’s love, but the harshness of their legalistic responses caused me deep emotional and spiritual pain.
Effective dialog regarding gender issues proved impossible. Their position was usually marked by a highly selective use of Scriptures, a strong bias towards literal interpretation if it helped to “prove” their point, and reliance on a few convenient anecdotal sources to support their position. They would readily dismiss evidence that might provide an alternative interpretation. They consistently avoided directly addressing the questions I raised which led me to speculate that Politics 101 might be a required course at seminary. Yet with all these tactics they still laid claim to be following God’s word. In the end they would often turn the facts completely around and dismiss me as the one unwilling to face the truth.
I wrote Ministry or Repentance? as a legalistic defense of transvestitism and no one has undertaken a logical assault on its premise or argument. When I called religious leaders to take a stand on the matter only about 1% of the audience responded. The vast majority was silent. I don’t understand how spiritual leaders can remain silent while God’s kids suffer. Would Jesus be silent?
It is time to take another step towards integrating cross-dressers into mainstream Christianity. When I was seeking answers to my cross-dressing questions, one of my correspondents gave me exceptionally helpful advice that I continue to heed – take lots of small steps! My next small step is to put down roots in a supportive church home. I have found an excellent United Methodist Church that is connected to the Reconciling Ministries Network and is supportive of transgender people. I have enrolled in their prospective new members class and look forward to becoming an openly transgender member of the congregation.
Another step is to encourage each of you to also take a small step towards sharing the gospel’s good news -that transgender people are equally loved by God. One of the greatest impediments to progress is a lack of knowledge. There are many erroneous presentations of the Biblical view and few Christians have any personal experience with transgender people. I have begun developing a section of my web site devoted to links to ministries, churches, organizations and other web sites that help cross-dressers and other transgender people find safe and supportive Christian church homes. The same information can help religious leaders understand how others in their denomination are addressing this issue.
Richard Molling is a married heterosexual cross-dresser who began seeking community at age 40 under the name Rachel Miller, which is the pen name he used to publish The Bliss of Becoming One! Integrating ‘Feminine’ Feelings into the Male Psyche Mainstreaming the Gender Community in 1996. An accomplished speaker, Molling has worked for four decades to increase understanding and acceptance of LGBT people.