I’m having an issue coming to terms with something that’s happening in the life of a woman at my church (whom I’ll call Sue), and was hoping you could offer some insights or words of wisdom about how I might best counsel her.
Sue has a married son. He and and his wife have two young children, and she’s possibly pregnant again. He also has a child from a previous marriage. They are both in their late twenties. (Though I know her son and daughter-in-law, only Sue attends my church.)
Recently, while Sue was away on vacation, her son let his wife know that he wanted to become a woman, and began going to work dressed as a woman. He has only told his co-workers, his wife, and his ex-wife about this change. He swore his wife to silence about it. The mother could tell, though, that something was up with her daughter-in-law, and coaxed out of her what it was. (The son has also sent a friend request, as a female, to a young man who is a member of my church.)
The son told his wife that he didn’t want to leave her, that he wasn’t particularly attracted to men or women, and that he didn’t see gender. She responded that she wasn’t interested in being married to a woman because she wasn’t a lesbian. The son told her he didn’t see what the big deal was, because he had done other body modifications (tattoos, piercings, lobe stretching, subdermal implants, etc.)
Here’s my dilemma: I don’t understand transgender enough to know how to counsel the mother. I want to help her not to add damage to an already out-of-control situation.
Furthermore, I’ve only worked with adolescent individuals dealing with transgender issues. This situation makes me angry because I feel like even if this is genuine, this young man has brought three and possibly four children into the world, and is abandoning his responsibility to them as a father out of a selfish desire to resolve his own gender conflict. I feel like he has lived as a man for 28 years, and should continue to do so until the commitments he made as a man are fulfilled.
I’m concerned about maintaining my integrity as a pastor who is an ally. I want to maintain a legitimate reputation of being a safe resource to the LGBT community, but am unsure how to deal with my conflicted loyalties to this community, and to the children who will be living in poverty if this situation continues to spiral out of control.
So my first question for this good pastor (whom I hope is aware that he can establish a wholly anonymous Disqus account by way of responding to my question in the comments) is this: What makes you think that the man’s children will wind up poverty-stricken if he continues living as a transgender woman? (And yes, I understand that in the first half of that sentence I “mis-gendered” the woman, for which I apologize.)
See what I mean? Why is that inevitable? It doesn’t sound like [she] will get fired from her job or anything. Sound like at that place of employment being transgender might actually be a way to get promoted.So—and this is a serious and respectful question, because children in poverty is hardly a matter of light concern—what’s up with the fear of poverty thing? Is that real? It is truly a given that poverty will result from the father of that family transitioning into the second mother of that family?
If so, then that certainly is a problem.
If not, then my Big Recommendation is to let life take its course. In my recent post, We’re Christians whose son-in-law has come out as transgender, I talked about much of what it sounds like is now concerning Sue and her daughter-in-law. I would (humbly, of course) recommend that essay to her. (And I might my piece Christians: Be thee not discombobulated by transgender persons!)
Bottom line: counsel Sue to sit tight, trust God, trust human nature (and nature generally), and allow what’s happening in her family to unfold in its own time and way.
You can’t rush stuff like this. You can’t direct it. You can’t control it. You can’t really even influence it.
You just have to let it be.
You do, that is, unless kids are being hurt. If in this situation kids are, or certainly will be being, hurt, then of course let’s make sure to deal with that. But otherwise? Otherwise love is love. And if there’s one thing you can say about love, it’s that it always surprises us with its core, organic, inviolate, righteous, healthy, enduring, wonderful, dependably solid goodness. In the main all we have to do is stay out of the way and let that happen.
[UPDATE: The pastor and I have been emailing back and forth quite a bit. Some developments have emerged that have eased his mind about this whole situation, and particularly with regards to the well-being of the children. So it looks like everything with the family is likely to work out. Yayeth! 😀 ]
I’m the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question: