Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The Christian Closet: CJ

CJ
CJ wanted to use a dragon for his photo...


Name: CJ

Age: 19

Gender: Male

Sexual orientation: Gay

Religious denomination: Nondenominational (As of now at least. Denominations aren’t the most important thing in my being a Christian, I’ve regularly attended four different denominations throughout my life.)

Education/career: Communications

Favorite food: I’m mildly obsessed with sandwiches. I love pomegranates, cherries, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, persimmons, and oranges. Cucumber and spinach are daily staples of my diet. I have a love/hate relationship with chocolate because it sometimes gives me headaches.

Favorite book: One Child is a really good book I recently read.

Favorite movie: I don’t like being confined to an absolute favorite, but I loved Inside Out. Go watch it if you haven’t yet; it’s fantastic.

Favorite color: Blue. My second favorite color is green.

Hobbies/sports/interests: I play guitar. I like singing, I ride my board everywhere, and I really like this game called the Resistance.

Dreams/goals in life: I’ve probably cycled through over a million dreams on a daily basis. I like to dream big, but I really just want to have opportunities to have fun and grow in life. I want to do something people-centered that will make a positive impact, but I’m still open to how that will be.

Myers-Briggs type: ENTP


When did you first realize you were gay and transgender?

That is a complicated question with a long answer. Being transgender isn’t something that you choose, but because I’ve always been this way it took a while for me to figure it out. For example, my dad likes to tell us that before he got glasses he didn’t know he needed them, he just assumed that was how everyone saw. Before I heard about being transgender I thought that everyone felt out of place in their gender at times, and that maybe I had it a little worse but that I could live with it. Until I hit middle school things were fine. I was allowed to both the “girl” and the “boy” things, I could wear whatever I wanted, and play with whatever and whomever I wanted, however I wanted to. Because I was bullied I didn’t really have anything to lose, I wasn’t going to be better liked for conforming to gender stereotypes or anything else.

Middle school is where things started changing. Everything became very gender-segregated, especially at church. The boys would sit on one side, and the girls would sit on the other. Small groups were based on grade and gender. Certain talks were split into genders. Let’s not forget the events that assumed that all girls wanted to craft and chat and do other such girly things while all the boys wanted to do was play sports, video games, and break things nonstop. I can’t even begin to describe how jealous the girls were when it was suggested to have a boys only laser tag lock in. While much of the segregation was initiated ourselves, it was further encouraged by the youth group leadership. Even during co-ed events we tended to be split into gendered teams, or gender tables, or some other form of gendered grouping.

"Being trans is not an easy thing. There is an intense amount of controversy surrounding it. So while there were times that I had thought that it would be so much easier to be a boy, or even entertained thoughts about what it would be like to actually transition, I decided that I had to be a girl."

High school got better. Perhaps that was because many restrictions were lifted and we became more in charge of making our youth group how we wanted it to be. Maybe it was because of the influx of couples. I’m sure the youth leaders recognized how many people came just so they could talk to that cute boy or girl they had their eye on. But even still the gendering was continued. We were either separated into gendered small groups, or told we had to break up into groups with both genders. The messages we were taught were steeped with gender. My youth pastor (although I love him dearly) was particularly bad at this. He would give message after message with the assumption that porn was a male sin while gossip was a female one. The girls in my youth group would constantly talk about how they definitely struggled with lust, and how they wished youth group would address that. The boys even admitted that they could, at times, be far worse about gossiping than the girls were. I think most of us left quite a few meetings feeling misunderstood and left out of the conversation.

Where in all of this did I realize that my gender didn’t quite fit? Well, everywhere and nowhere. I realized that I was different, and I also realized that many people didn’t quite fit in. Let me tell you now that being trans is not an easy thing. There is an intense amount of controversy surrounding it. So while there were times that I had thought that it would be so much easier to be a boy, or even entertained thoughts about what it would be like to actually transition, I decided that I had to be a girl. At least that’s what the church, and at the time most of the world was telling me. But the church and the world have been changing. I remember the discussions I had with friends about homosexuality and bible verses being interpreted incorrectly. High schoolers aren’t always the best at giving a sound argument, and so I was left very confused at how they thought they were making sense. I had pretty much confirmed what I had been told about gay marriage. Until the transgender thing started really jumping out at me.

"I didn’t want to be trans, and yet I craved it. To be able to just be who I felt I was, without an overwhelming amount of condemnation that I was, in fact, not really anything I was told a woman should be."

I didn’t want to be trans, and yet I craved it. To be able to just be who I felt I was, without an overwhelming amount of condemnation that I was, in fact, not really anything I was told a woman should be. I started looking into concepts such as gender, gender expression, gender roles, and sex. I soon realized that I had gender dysphoria. That was safe right? I can still be a Christian and wrestle with the burden of my gender feeling wrong. Just because I felt that way didn’t make it true. Expect I was left with the question: now what? So I searched. There weren’t many resources on gender dysphoria, or on being trans, and there were even less that brought Christianity into the equation. Then one day I YouTube-searched 'transgender and Christian,' which is the name of the series this great guy named Austen does. He address many of the issues surrounding theology and transgender. I honestly didn’t fully agree with his logic at first, but I did acknowledge it actually held some weight and had a lot of good points to it.

"I personally believe that everyone is created the way they are for a reason, including your sexuality, gender, sex, and your physical and mental state.... God uses things that we think are broken, or wrong, or less than perfect, to show us that we have a skewed idea of perfection.... I don’t believe that I’m wrong, even though at time my body feels wrong, I believe there is a purpose in that. God made me how I am for a reason."

I think the existence of intersex people is what finally cracked me. I looked everywhere to find a logical explanation for how they exist. The best anti-trans argument I found said that they were only an unfortunate happenstance of a fallen world. But what does that mean for them? I personally believe that everyone is created the way they are for a reason, including your sexuality, gender, sex, and your physical and mental state. I believe that the most disabled person in the world has as much, if not more (2 Corinthians 12:9), potential to serve God as anyone else. I believe they are just as fearfully and wonderfully created, and I don’t believe that the way they are is only a mistake. God uses things that we think are broken, or wrong, or less than perfect, to show us that we have a skewed idea of perfection. With this in mind, I also believe the same of intersex people. I believe they are intended by God, and that He loves them and has them here for a spectacular reason. I don’t believe that I’m wrong, even though at time my body feels wrong, I believe there is a purpose in that. God made me how I am for a reason.

Are you out? If so, when, how, and/or why did you come out? If not, why are you staying in the closet?

I am not out, except to a few close friends. I’m at a school where being out as trans wouldn’t be safe. My family is also not accepting of LGBT “lifestyles," and thus I am delaying having to open a can of worms (aka being lectured and told to pray more), or losing their financial support. I’m fairly certain that I want to go on testosterone, but I have plenty of time to become absolutely certain before I graduate.

How have Christians hurt you as you struggle with your sexuality/gender?

I’ve found gender roles to be very hurtful, and not even just to me. Plenty of cisgender people don’t fit into the masculine and feminine ideals many churches try to shove them into. I didn’t feel like a woman, but I didn’t fit all the expectations of a man. Especially because I’m attracted to men, and have a much harder time interacting with women, I lumped together gender and sexuality, and I think that was because of the mindset I had been raised with in my church.

"Plenty of cisgender people don’t fit into the masculine and feminine ideals many churches try to shove them into."

How have Christians helped or encouraged you as you struggle with your sexuality/gender?

In my experience, individual Christians are much more likely to open up about how they don’t fit expectations, and where they feel they fall short. This has really helped me to see that our gender role ideals aren’t biblical gender role ideals. Even if you only believe in two genders which correspond directly to sex, I think you can agree that we definitely fall short in describing them. There has been a lot of combating the typical ideas that “boys will be boys," or that girls are weaker, and many other harmful stereotypes. While some churches still support this notion, I don’t find many Christians who do. There is now more of the idea that you make the experience of your gender, as opposed to your experiences making your gender.

What is one thing you wish straight cisgender Christians understood?

That just because something is difficult, uncomfortable, or different, doesn’t make it not of God. For example, I had a spectacular wipeout on my board last month, tore up my knee, and was limping for a week after. This one girl came up to me to pray for my knee, and told God to heal it because it wasn’t his will for me. I’m actually pretty happy that it didn’t heal. I don’t know what God’s plan was when I wiped out, or if it was merely the consequence of my own inattention. But I like to think that something as stupid as a scraped up knee can be used for the glory of God. It’s not that I didn’t pray for healing myself, but if God wants me limping around the campus for a week who am I to demand that He give me the easy way out? I want what God wants for me, gender, sexuality and clumsiness included. Some of situations that you try your hardest to avoid are the situations that will bring God the most glory, and perhaps be incredibly enriching to your own life. So please stop trying to pray away my injuries, my gender, or my sexuality as not of God. Instead pray for God to be effective in my life, or for God to bless me, or for me to be able to best do what I’m supposed to do. Also, remember that in your own life God is working in His perfect way, not yours.

"Please stop trying to pray away my injuries, my gender, or my sexuality as not of God. Instead pray for God to be effective in my life."

What is the one sexuality/gender question you're most tired of hearing?

When did you know you were trans? Obviously this is a tough question for me to answer. Perhaps you could instead ask how I learned I’m trans, or what the process discovering that I’m trans was like. For many people this is a process, not an all at once occurrence, so feel free to ask for their story as long as you have plenty of time to hear their answer.

What is your greatest fear about being transgender?

I’m afraid that I will get cut off from my little sister. She is quite young, and I would hate to have this ruin our relationship. I can deal with my parents or older siblings, but I don’t her to be stuck in the middle of a tense and forced situation between my parents and me.

What is your favorite thing about being transgender?

I’m in this wonderful position where I can give some great people advice. If you need some help in approaching a person, I can help you do so. Because I was raised as a female, I know what many of the expectations females are raised to have, and because I have many male friends and it’s my own gender I know many male expectations. I had to learn how to help other people understand what it’s like to be me, and learn how to understand what it’s like to be them. I’ve lived in a few very different places, and have family all over the world. You can learn to interact positively with anyone, and it can be quite fun. The key thing to remember is that everyone experiences the world differently, but we all want to be loved, respected, and understood.

"The key thing to remember is that everyone experiences the world differently, but we all want to be loved, respected, and understood."

1 comment:

  1. Wow, I really appreciate your story and following criticisms of the church because despite the importance of your individual story, I also think there's a universal nature to it, too. It seems to me that these strict gender spheres hampered your self-identification process at first (I guess? I don't like the verb I chose), and those spheres still make it difficult for other Christians to always meet you in love. Which is lame. But I like that you point out that even if the world were that gender binary, those gender norms would still be hurtful. And are still hurtful. I wish that was pointed out more. In the end, I think you come at the role of gender in the church with two very powerful stories... They mean a lot.

    Thanks for sharing your story, CJ!

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