It is said that one who has never doubted has never had their faith tested, this is never a comfort when you’re experiencing doubt, but it’s still important to remember. We need our faith to be challenged now and then, if only to determine what we really believe or how strongly we believe it. Sometimes we find that we have believed wrongly about something in these moments of doubt, other times we hold on to what we believe already and trust God to fortify our belief.
I recently had such an experience with a friend of mine who is also a Christian. This friend has not had the best experiences with the lgbt community and judges all who are part of the community by those few bad apples he’s met and observed. He also uses his knowledge of scripture to condemn lgbt people, unless they allow God to change who they are, that is. Needless to say, this friend and I do not see eye to eye on a lot of things. He is especially offended by transsexuals; he begins from a fundamental misunderstanding of what it means to be transgender as well as a complete misconception of what gender reassignment surgery is. It doesn’t get better from there, I have tried to help him understand these things as they really are but he will not hear it.
So, recently he introduced me to an old doubt that has come up again and again in my life. “Is it wrong to be transgender?” I sometimes ask myself. “Does God really prefer that we stay within the binary genders the doctors assign us at birth?” I ask myself these questions in moments of doubt and I’m just not certain of the answers. It tests my faith and taxes my belief, so far I have always maintained what I believe and ridden out the storm until it passed. It can be emotionally exhausting and the amount of negative reinforcement I get from other Christians and the culture at large threatens to swallow me up at times.
But just as it’s true that doubt is needed to test our faith, sometimes bringing necessary correction, it is also true that God rewards the faithful. I read a news story earlier this year about a transwoman who heard the call of God to devote her life to Him by becoming a nun. When she chose to accept this call a way was provided for her in the form of a Carmelite order that welcomed her as one of their own. God asked this woman to become a nun, He didn’t ask her to reverse her surgery so she could be a monk, he didn’t chastise her for “mutilating her body”, as my friend would have put it, He told her to be a nun, to devote herself to Him just as she was. Not only that, but He made it possible for her to do so, He opened that door for her Himself.
I think about this story and I just can’t buy that God’s love for the trans community is conditional. My friend would have me believe that God requires us all to identify with the genders we were assigned at birth and that if we “mutilate our bodies” with surgery in order to change them we are violating God’s law. What’s more, he believes that God actually wants him to treat transfolk like the freakshows he sees us as. There is no sense that he should be unconditional with the love he shows or the respect he gives.
I am not a transsexual myself and have therefore no desire to receive sex reassignment surgery, but I fully support any of my trans brothers and sisters who feel they must have it. Their walk with God is as different from mine as their walk with life, I have to believe that those brothers and sisters of mine who have faith are just as beloved to God before and after their transitions. The body is just a shell, it is our hearts and souls that matter most to God.
I still hold out hope that God will change the heart of my friend toward the lgbt community and transfolk in particular. I think in time He will, though doubt currently discourages me on this point. Until such time I simply need to whether the storm and remember what I believe. God will take care of the rest.