Unwrapping the Onion: Part 2: Research 101

Unwrapping the Onion: Part 2: Research 101 May 2, 2012

by Permission to Live

This post is part of a series of nine posts. Please click here to start with the series Introduction.

The next day started out the same as pretty much any other day. We had breakfast, and my Hunnie went out to the office. But unlike an average weekday, as soon as he left, I put in a movie for the kids, plunked the baby into the bouncer and rushed to the computer. I hardly knew where to start; it was all so unknown to me. I typed in “what is transsexual?” and sat there staring at the screen. My gut reaction to new things was to learn as much as I could, and I had a lot to figure out. In fact, I spent the next few weeks doing constant research; it was pretty much all I could think about. My kids watched far more TV than usual as I spent hours reading whatever I could find on the subject. When my spouse was home I asked him question after question about his experience, and he tried to answer every question as honestly as he could.

For starters, I learned that “transsexual” was just one of the terms used in reference to people who did not feel that their gender matched their bodies. And since “transsexual” seemed to be used more often in reference to people who were living life in the opposite gender they had been assigned at birth, I started using the more encompassing term “transgender” instead.

The old term “transvestite” that I had heard my parents use was actually a name of a sexual fetish that comprised of crossdressing to get a sexual thrill of some kind. I had never seen my spouse crossdressed, but as soon as he came home for lunch I asked him if he ever did. He admitted that he had been crossdressing in private since he was young, but said that it didn’t do anything for him sexually. Back to the drawing board.

I learned about men who considered themselves “crossdressers” meaning that they dressed up as women sometimes for the fun of it, or to express their feminine side. I learned about gender dysphoria, the name for the persistent subconscious understanding that you were somehow the opposite gender than you had been assigned at birth, and in discovering that, I found that there were people who had been born physically female who had this condition as well. I read about transgendered people who had felt that life was better for them living as the opposite gender, and I read about transgendered people who had decided to get medical treatments to make their bodies feel more in tune with their minds.

Once I felt more acquainted with the terms, I started googling things like “married to a crossdresser” and “my husband is transgender.” Was there anyone out there who had this sort of experience? From what I could see, many people who faced this issue after marriage ended up divorced. The fear was crippling. Divorce wasn’t supposed to be a word that Christian couples even used, and yet here it was popping up everywhere in marriages like mine. I saved countless links organized in folders to read again later or use for reference. It was so much information. I felt overwhelmed. Sometimes I cried at the computer, trying to understand what was going on and what was going to happen to us.

I prayed, again and again, that God would send a sign, or tell me what all of this meant, or at least give me an inkling of what to do. I googled things like “Christian and transgender” and “what does the bible have to say about transsexuals”. And I read through page after horrible page of links from ministries and groups who condemned LGBTQ people and insisted that they were deviant and would cause harm to children.

Many of these links said that they could help fix people with these perverse tendencies, but I still struggled to match what they were claiming with my Hunnie. These groups claimed that they had all the answers as to how these “perversions” were started, so I investigated, but all of the questions I bombard my spouse with met dead ends. He had never been sexually abused. He had never been exposed to explicit sexual materials. He had not had an abusive or absent father. He had not had an overly controlling mother, or a mother who wished he was a girl. I asked if he was gay, but while he admitting to having had same-sex attraction at times, he had always been more sexually attracted to girls, which had given him hope that maybe the gender dysphoria would magically go away if he just got married and had kids and had that role to fill, except it hadn’t. Even wracking our brains together, we just couldn’t get to the bottom of what had caused this problem, it just was.

I was encouraged to find that the teachings of the Catholic church were different than many of the Christian groups I encountered. They didn’t teach that being gay or transgendered was a special kind of sin that was extra evil or caused by anything. Instead, they taught that some people were born with these desires but God decreed that they must not act on them. This was a relief to me: being gay or transgendered was no different than any other struggle. I even felt encouraged in regard to the same sex attraction I experienced myself. Maybe I wasn’t evil or demon-possessed, I just had an unnatural interest that I needed to continue to battle, just like my spouse.

More than anything else I felt blessed to have a spouse who had trusted me enough to tell me his struggle. With our prayers and efforts combined, surely together we could conquer this issue. I wanted to help him in this fight he had been struggling with alone for so long. There was nowhere else to go for help – my spouse was a pastor, and I knew what happened to pastors who were suspected of being gay or queer in any way. My spouse had remained faithful to me and he was committed to our marriage. So he had a strange feminine side that I hadn’t known about, that was OK with me.

He could be a more feminine guy
and we would fight off the transsexual thing together.

Discuss this post on the NLQ forum. Comments are also open below.

You can read more about Permission To Live at her blog – Musings of a young mom.

Part 1

NLQ Recommended Reading …

Breaking Their Will: Shedding Light on Religious Child Maltreatment‘ by Janet Heimlich

Quivering Daughters‘ by Hillary McFarland

Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement‘ by Kathryn Joyce


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  • My cousin is a transwoman. It has been hard for certain family members. Really hard. But for the rest of us, seeing her happy and untroubled with who she is makes us so happy. Some people have surgery to correct their vision. Some people have surgery to correct their appearance gender to match who they really are.
    Thank you for sharing. This must be very difficult for you.

  • sally smith

    Finished reading Melissa’s nine part blog and couldn’t help but feel how terribly self centered both her and her husband are by jumping into a forbidden territory of the mind soul and body and now justifying it with claims of ‘i’ve always felt this way’.. as if somehow that justifies their shameful and embarrassing actions.. what about their children’s feelings, families , friends, and neighbors.. who see and wonder about their strangeness.. the husband as ‘minister’ has too much time on his hands.. I honestly don’t think Meilissa would have gone to the space she is now in if her husband hadn’t indulged his ‘what if’ fantasy and constructed a reality based on every nuance of childhood feeling of ‘wanting to be a girl’.. golly gee we all have male female in us.. and so does God .. He is the author of male female.. however He created each distinctively male and female.. and not to be changed by one because they happen to feel more male or more female .. as the opposite sex..

    the whole transgender thing should be called confusion gender because it is confused thinking!! normal gone awry .. having run wild… very far away from the blueprint of God that He so clearly lays out in His word..

    It is true we need healthy truly Christ centered Spirit led community around us .. keeping us accountable.. .. where were the voices of true Christian brothers and sisters who would challenge this couple and especially the very misguided husband minister.. where were the real men who loved Jesus.. was both Melissa and her husband Christians who just put on the Christian coat taking it on and off depending on their feelings..What God’s word says about man’s sexual identity and how it is to be expressed.. male and female as one.. is truth !!! Moral truth is just as real as physical truth i.e. gravity is truth..whether I believe it true or not.. jumping off a ten story building and saying I don’t believe in gravity doesn’t make me walk away from the experience unscathed. It bears repeating again.. The moral truth that God created male and female and designed both to be in union as such is TRUE whether Melissa and her she husband think so or not.. The fact that they don’t doesn’t take away the truth that they will experience the consequence of their ‘jumping off the moral ten story building.

    It is very sad that Melissa and her husband are . now atheists who believe their Christian experience was a straight jacket preventing them from being their truest self.. They did not know the true God.. having a form of godliness but denying its power.. they denied the power of Christ to transform them into His image not a transgender one!

  • Madamoyzelle

    Nope. It took guts, and it took courage to be their true selves, and not what somebody like you thinks they should be.

    To continue to pretend to be something you are not is a LIE. To continue behaving as though you are male when you are not is hypocrisy.

    Nature makes mistakes all the time. Babies are born sightless or without a limb. And in this case, with the wrong gender. It happens. Get over it.

  • Calulu

    It is courageous that Melissa shared this story with the world and it’s certainly one that needs to be told. It takes even more courage to truly live who you really are in the face of appalling willful ignorance and judgment..

  • Melissa, I’m so glad I don’t think like you. I think you should take a leaf out of Ms Gaga’s book: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wV1FrqwZyKw

    I’m happy for anyone who was born in the wrongly gendered body to find happiness and freedom. Also, I’ve known many transgendered people (I did come from Sydney, after all;)) My kids know all about this stuff and it’s really no big deal to them at all. They can see past all the stuff that you seem to think would make it ‘confusing’. Kids aren’t idiots, give them some credit

  • jason55

    Legalism is defined as; the judgement of conduct in terms of adherence to precise laws.

    ”Accept he who’s faith is weak without passing judgment on disputable matters” Romans 14:1

  • Incongruous Circumspection

    Yes. Too bad she didn’t know the true god. The god of the bible who requires murder for LGBTQ peeps. Yes, now she gets to live! How horrid.

  • nolongerquivering

    Sally – I believe you have written the most vile comment in the history of No Longer Quivering. 🙁

  • Sorry, I realised the poster’s name isn’t Melissa, it’s Sally. Just to fix any confusion

  • A.C.

    Thank you for sharing your story. When it’s not finals, I’ll probably go and read the rest of it…I peaked at the ending, and it brought happy tears to my eyes. I’m so glad that you and your spouse are happy! I’m on the trans* spectrum myself, and I’ve struggled with the fear of being rejected because of my feelings. And I have been. But I’ve also been accepted. Your and your spouse’s story is encouraging–I excited to read the rest later!

  • Sally, if you would want to be listened to and heard, to have your own situation honestly considered without having ears shut to you before you even start– then the whole do-unto-others thing that Jesus said was one of the most important things He was going to teach, means listening to and hearing others without shutting your ears. Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for thinking man was made for the Sabbath, rather than the other way around. It’s the same error to think that Christianity is about rules and laws to squeeze people into conformity with, rather than about people whom God loves.

  • abba12

    Sally… I don’t nececarily disagree with everything you’ve said, but I do know better than to come to a website specifically set up, in part, as a safe place for abuse victims to talk about their personal stories, and attack one person on a personal level about said personal story. If you want to debate transgender, do it when someone posts a research/factual/infomation type article about it, not when someone is sharing their personal feelings and journey.

    I come to this website to hear a different perspective and balance out my beliefs with knowlege of the other side of the coin, but rarely do I comment on these personal stories negatively because they’re not here for me, I am not their intended audience, they’re here for the other survivors of abuse, they’re here to help the writers recover, and I can respect that and keep my nose out of that side of things.

    Basically, there’s a time and a place to debate this. If you want to debate it on an intellectual article then fine, go ahead, but when someone is sharing an experience that was hard for them it is the WRONG time for it. Have a little respect. As an abuse victim myself, whether you agree with the source of the pain is irrelevent, the fact is, for them it WAS painful, and they deserve to be safe to express that pain. Everything is relative, and all you’ve done is tried to dismiss what was real to them, and made yourself look like an ignorant fool.

    Now I have my own opinions on the topic, my own ideas on what transgender is and means and how to respond and view it, but frankly, I’m pretty sure the author in this scenario, writing such a personal piece, dosen’t want or care about my opinion, or yours for that matter. They heard those opinions when they went through this journey, and they can welcome those opinions by opening the topic for discussion, but they haven’t, and what you’ve said in the context you’ve said it has made me very angry.

    (I also, apparently, need to sleep more because I ramble when I’m tired :P)

  • Melissa, there are many wonderful people who have gone through what you have. Thank-you for having the courage to share your story. There many be many readers who need to hear it. I’m sorry that sharing your story opens you up to bullying like Sally’s comment.
    Sally, if you are still reading, don’t get defensive, but realize that you have said hurtful words that appear to be based on fear and anger not on fact or compassion. What are you so afraid of?