A Christian Transgender Asks: “Must I Reject My Religion?”

Over on the Facebook page for Unfundamentalist Christians, Robyn, a transgender woman wrote the below. I thought I’d also run her letter here, because it offers such a unique and fascinating perspective on such an important spiritual question. Thank you, Robyn, for being so willing to share with us such a vital part of your journey. Here is what Robyn wrote:

Why do there always seem to be spiritual implications to sexuality? For a race of people supposedly interested in spiritual development, why do we put so much emphasis on sexuality?

Specifically, what has my gender to do my worship of the Infinite? Does the Infinite itself have a gender or a sex? And if not, why then is mine of so much interest to so many other people?

I was born in a body that came with a penis. That automatically labeled me as “male.” Since then, I have spent a lifetime trying to fit into the socially-dictated role of “man.” It hasn’t worked, and now, 60 years later, I have had enough. I’m through with trying to fit a role that doesn’t fit me. Tired of trying to be someone I am not.

Finally, in 2007, I began to get the help and guidance I needed. Unable to keep a steady job because of mental issues—chronic, debilitating depression—I traveled from California to Seattle, to live with my daughter and her family. I went on public assistance, one of the conditions for which was that I had to go into therapy.

I was fortunate in that there was a post-graduate psychology student doing fieldwork in the same office, and I was able to go into treatment with her. After a few sessions, which seemed not to be helping much, I showed up for my latest appointment. I walked into her office, sat down, and burst into tears. Through my sobs and gasps for breath, I finally managed to say the words that changed my life:

“All I ever wanted was to be a pretty girl.”

Continuing sessions led me to the realization and understanding that I was—and am—transgendered. But more importantly, they led me to the acceptance of my condition, and the acceptance of who I am [1].

It’s been a little over a year and a half since I started my transition from male to female; in that time, I have met with understanding, rejection, hostility, acceptance, and finally, love.

But as I write this, I am still recovering from a serious suicide attempt.

My own religion doesn’t accept that two persons of the same sex can be married. It doesn’t accept—indeed, it condemns—homosexual relationships. The idea that two people can be in love and forge a lasting relationship is anathema to all major revealed religions.

And so we’re forced to lie. We’re forced to lie about our relationship, to lie about our identity. No one in our religious community knows that I’m transgendered. I can still pass as male, although the longer I’m on hormones the harder it is to hide my true self. And I’m tired of hiding. Did I spend the first 60 years of my life hiding from the truth only to recognize it, embrace it, and then go back to hiding it again?

Is there a solution? Can I be part of my religious community and profess to accept its beliefs while at the same time violating some of the most basic tenets of my faith? I cannot, in all good conscience, claim to be a follower of this Path unless I accept all of its Laws and Teachings.

I didn’t expect to fall in love with the woman I did. My dream was to become the woman that I am, and fall in love with a man who would accept me for who I am, not what I am. I dreamed of finding my Prince Charming.

But it didn’t work out that way. My soul mate, my dream partner turned out to be my Princess Charming. And here’s the catch: it wouldn’t have made any difference to me had she been a man. Her body, her gender, didn’t matter to me. Her soul called to mine, and mine responded.

How can this be wrong? How can any all-knowing, all-loving Creator create us like this in the first place, and then condemn us for being the way we are? But there you have it. Will I have no inner peace and tranquility unless I reject my religion? Must I publicly state that I am no longer a part of this community? My own conscience and honesty tell me that this is so.

How can I reconcile my beliefs and my Self?

*****

[1] I use the words “transgendered” or “trans-woman” to describe what, not who, I am. I also use white, of Irish and English descent, writer, photographer, wife, poet, and many other words to describe what I am. But the words are not who I am. The who is easier to answer: I am Robyn. I am me. I am the woman I was always meant to be. I am.

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About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here), and executive editor of the Unfundamentalist Christians group blog.  (In total John's two blogs receive some 250,000 views per month.) John is also co-founder of The NALT Christians Project, which was written about by TIME,  The Washington Post, and others. His website is JohnShore.com. John is a pastor ordained by The Progressive Christian Alliance. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. And don't forget to sign up for his mucho awesome monthly newsletter.

  • senarae

    Robyn, thank you. For sharing and being honest. You are loved for you! <3

  • Act111farms

    “How can any all-knowing, all-loving Creator create us like this in the first place, and then condemn us for being the way we are?”

    He didn’t, He created us in His likeness…perfect!

    It was Adams choice, and our subsequent inheritance of that sin nature we’re all dealing with.

    We can’t lay that on God, putting our own freewill before His will is the source of all man’s troubles.

    And yes, you ARE loved…by me and by God the Father. Personally I don’t see you and I as being any different in His eye’s as far as our need for a Savior is concerned.

  • Ashley Prince

    Thank you for allowing us to see who you are, Robyn. :)

  • FosterMomMonica

    Thank you for sharing. Your struggle, your discovery and the insight you provide is invaluable. It must be so difficult to face a world full of people who don’t understand what it feels like to be you (even if we’re sympathetic), but you are too precious to hide who you are.

  • Ebluehorse

    Robyn, one thing that i am sure of. it doesn’t matter if people try to tell you things that make you feel unwanted, unloved and un-whatever. i know that you are fully every bit as much a child of God as any other person breathing on this planet. God does not answer to any man as to whom He loves, accepts or calls to ministry, for that matter. My nephew has told me that he thinks God has forgotten about him. it broke my heart for him then, and breaks my heart for him, and for you, now. You may feel labeled, and many might try to label you, but you are quite simply a wonderful creation every bit as valid and important as any other. please don’t give up. none of us can know what your journey has been or where it will end. but you are loved and valued. God loves you as His creation. please love yourself in the same way.

  • Anonymous

    Robyn,

    ‘religion’ was created by man. We are created by God. Don’t confuse the two concepts, or you will miss the most important point.

    God loves you and wants a relationship with your soul, not your body. He wants to comfort your hurt.

    Many of us are recovering from legalistic religion, and learning about the acceptance and love of God that was missing from what we were taught.

    Please join us on this journey.

    Peace.

    • Princess Michiru

      Robyn,

      I know how you feel.

      I am a male physically, but, mentally, I am female.

      I accepted Christ through faith alone & am filled with the Holy Spirit.

      My Father loves you.

      Christ loves you

      Read Matthew 11:28-30

  • Anonymous

    Robyn,

    ‘religion’ was created by man. We are created by God. Don’t confuse the two concepts, or you will miss the most important point.

    God loves you and wants a relationship with your soul, not your body. He wants to comfort your hurt.

    Many of us are recovering from legalistic religion, and learning about the acceptance and love of God that was missing from what we were taught.

    Please join us on this journey.

    Peace.

  • http://shadsie.deviantart.com/ Shadsie

    There’s a lot of conflicting views on the Bible’s “gay verses,” so I won’t even get into that…

    What I will say is this: I am 31 and thus far, one of the most important things in life I’ve learned is “screw the world.” What I mean is – don’t let others try to force you to be who you’re not, even if they’re well-meaning, but especially if there’s a spite or prejudice to it.

    Some people (preachers especially, like the ones on TV) will go on about how the world’s going to Hell in a handbasket because everyone has this “me, me” and “do as I please,” attitude – in part I think they’re right, but I also think they tend to focus on the wrong “targets,” if you will, rather than, you know, looking at their business and political associates or taking a long look in the mirror. At your age, I doubt you’re into changing your body for the clubbing and wild sex or whatever it is a lot of conservative preachers seem to think people do.

    The mention of suicide sent red alarms up in me. I’ve been close to that myself, for different reasons. I’m bipolar and, thus, am not exactly what the world expects of me – people all hung up on “normalcy,” even in the Land of Crazy People (Arizona) where I grew up and am glad not to be living now. I actually wonder why the more tradtional religious circles don’t condem people like me, more than those with sexuality issues, I mean, the New Testament has something to say about “fits of rage,” and yet, my struggle with self control when I’m trigged don’t get mentioned all that often… Anyway, one of the things that has kept me from suicide when I’m feeling like it is a sort of “screw the world” attitude, “If they want to grind me down, why make it easy for them? Why let the world win?”

    Then, I haven’t been to church in years and outside of the Internet, am somewhat anti-social… just deeply introverted and don’t have a church community right now to worry about being “contrary” to. I’m so non-social I haven’t even gotten a Facebook yet. I don’t need all those…friends. So, I don’t know what to say when it comes to a church community and whether it is wise or not to be completely open. I know that other people need what I don’t need – the social community and such.

  • Beckydevans

    Robyn, thanks for sharing your heart here. I think you are incredibly brave…and above all… loved. :)
    8 hours ago ·

  • http://blueberrypancakesfordinner.wordpress.com/ Erika

    bless your heart robyn.

  • Vickie

    If you look around at the local Episcopal churches, I bet you can find a Christian community who will accept you as the beloved child of God that yiou are. Fundamentalist conservatives are not the only kind of Christians.

  • renee

    robyn, yes indeed, you are.

    (I’m a unitarian universalist, and you would be quite welcome amongst us… any time.)

  • Patty

    Robyn, You are loved without condition by our God. The love you know is intended to bring you peace.

    May that peace be with you always.

  • Tim

    Robyn

    The idea that we must first adhere to religious precepts to be acceptable to God, is all backward. Scripture relates that while we were yet His enemy, Christ died for us. He accepts us just as we are. We don’t have to change. We need only live (abide) in His love, and He (God/Christ) who began a good work in us, will be faithful to complete it.

    I am finding that the longer I study God’s word, the more I realize I am insufficient to interpret it for anyone else. God is personal. Our relationship to God is as unique as the patterns that came on each finger of our hands, and each toe of our feet. Don’t be defined by others, by sexuality, or by what you may even currently believe. Ask God for wisdom…for revelation…for understanding. Seek God with a whole heart. Don’t let anything that concerns us, separate us from God. Take everything before God and let God sort it out. The big mistake the church makes, is that they think that is THEIR job.

    All love and peace to you, Robyn.

    Tim

  • dangel73

    I saw this on facebook and I like reading John Shore’s posts. I am confused though as I am not sure what to believe about this topic, and topic of bisexual and homosexuality. Does it not clearly say in the Bible, God does not approve of living or practicing this lifestyle? As well as me living in shame for so long, because I feel so wrong for having premarital sex and having a baby–now I’m a single mom–I myself struggle with guilt and right and wrong. I have a friend who recently decided to accept the fact that he is bisexual and just ‘live his life’ and attend a church that accepts homosexuals (I’m not sure if its only acceptance, or if they preach ‘its an ok lifestyle’–which is 2 different things) I know the contemporary church I attend accepts and loves everyone, no matter where they are in life (at least that’s what’s taught) but at the same time the pastor believes that God will deal with us on our own time as we are willing to face and change the things we need to work on in order to grow in him–in other words he believes and I think too, that God wants so much more for us. I of course am struggling in this area, as because of my own low self-worth, I am struggling with years of not believing God wants anything good for ‘me’. So I guess my question is, that if God loves us no matter what or where we are in life now, and God will love us the same next year no matter what or where we are in life, is it still ok to believe that living this way is still sin, not of nor approved of God???

    I apologize if I sound condescending or anything, that is not my purpose, I am just confused and am asking questions, since I do care about my friend and recently a lot of topics I am finding I was brainwashed to believe certain ways by the church (or by simply ‘picking up’ that is what I’m supposed to believe from church) are coming up that I am questioning and reviewing. Thank you.

    dangel73


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