Recently in my role as a pastor, I had the opportunity to talk to a m-f (male to female) transsexual. I heard that she had been an attender of my church quite a while ago before I started at the church. So I took the initiative and called her up to see how she was doing and why she had stopped coming to the church. She was glad to talk to me, so we met together in a public place and had a great conversation.
I learned she used to be a man and married, and even though his wife was totally against it, he went ahead and got a sex change, which brought about divorce and alienation from his kids. After listening to her story for hours, I think what she did was wrong in getting a sex-change in her unique situation. But that is not the reason I write this post.
I write just to reflect about how it was for me to talk to her as someone who has struggled much with gender myself. Many times I have thought in my fantasies about getting a sex-change, and thought it would be nice to have been born as a woman. And at the very least, I have the huge struggle with crossdressing in my past, which though different from her situation, has many similarities.
Talking to her on the phone was easy. But meeting with her took a lot of courage. I was very very nervous. I was having to compartmentalize. On the one hand I am a pastor, and I can’t drag my personal junk into the situation. I just need to care for her as a pastor. On the other hand, I almost felt dishonest doing that. How can I talk to her about all this transgender stuff as if I am a neutral party when I am not?
I was even worried that I might get turned on if I could clearly tell that she used to be a man, but now in women’s clothing. Would I start to be aroused thinking about crossdressing? That fear quickly died. As soon as I saw her, I could easily tell she used to be a man. We crossdressers have trained eyes to such things. But it did not arouse me at all. I only saw confusion, and felt immense compassion and understanding. It helped maybe that she didn’t dress super femininely for that meeting. I had no trouble at all talking to her. All my nervousness went away.
Basically, as a good pastor should, I only really listened. She needed to talk. She probably doesn’t have many people in her life to talk to. She has been hurt many times through all of her life because of her struggle with gender. I was not totally surprised but somewhat surprised at how strong of a Christian she appeared to be. She had vibrant faith but had somehow rationalized doing what she did. She had well-thought out reasons and justifications for getting the sex-change, but I still think what she did was wrong and not inevitable.
I subtly made sure she knew I didn’t approve of what she did. I seemed to be such a good listener and so understanding that I didn’t want her to leave thinking I was totally accepting of any and all things transgender. But any judgment was extremely brief. Overall, I just listened and tried to understand.
One point during the conversation was a merging of my two worlds, my past with crossdressing, and my position as a pastor. She was explaining all the steps one has to go through in order to get a sex-change, with the counselors and so on. And I was just nodded and listening. None of it was new to me at all. And I didn’t think about how maybe not all pastors know about such things. All of a sudden she stopped and said, “how do you know these things already?” I was taken completely off guard, because all I was doing was nodding and listening, not trying to show I knew about what she was saying. I confessed to her that I did know about the things she was saying, that I got good training and studying about such topics in college and seminary (which is true, I did have classes that taught about such topics). I find that whole episode funny though.
This conversation made me conclude that I love doing ministry to those who have similar struggles to what I have. She also left very glad to have talked to me, so appreciative of my listening, caring, and understanding. I would love to continue to reach out to people like her. So this website stems partly from this conversation with her. I hope I can help others who struggle with crossdressing or related issues. I think that because of my past, I can come at these issues with great compassion and understanding. The problem I see is that in talking to this transsexual woman, my compassion and care was very obvious, but it’s much harder to type compassion, and I’m sure some of the things I’ve said already seem harsh and not understanding. I might seem like a judgmental obnoxious pastor at times, but I’m going to do my best to let my typing show the strong balance that is in my heart – the righteous hatred of these sins, but also the empathy, understanding, and compassion because I know what it is like.