I heard about a story a pastor told to his church congregation this year. He said to the congregation:
“When I was a boy I told my mother that I wanted to be beautiful. I told her, ‘tell me I’m beautiful.’ She said to me, ‘We only say that girls are beautiful. You are a boy, so I can say that you are so cute!’ But I did not want to be cute, I wanted to be beautiful! But you know what? My Father, my God, he has told me, ‘you are beautiful’ and that makes me feel good!”
I really do not know why the pastor told this story to his church. As far as I know it was not connected to whatever the sermon was about. What struck me is that this is the type of story that hits a chord in me because of my gender issues and crossdressing past. Could he have had the same struggle that all of us have had? Maybe. It’s possible of course. But I doubt it, and I doubt he would have shared that story if he did have the deep painful personal struggle that we have all had. Maybe it’s just a universal human desire, to want to be beautiful.
But what does that even mean? We can’t determine whether that’s true or not until we unpack what we mean by “beautiful.” What does this pastor mean when he wants God to tell him he is beautiful, and does it mean something different from when I say that I, (speaking as a past crossdresser), want to be beautiful.
The definition of beautiful from dictionary.com –
having beauty; possessing qualities that give great pleasure or satisfaction to see, hear, think about, etc.; delighting the senses or mind: a beautiful dress; a beautiful speech.
How is this different from “handsome” –
having an attractive, well-proportioned, and imposing appearance suggestive of health and strength; good-looking: a handsome man; a handsome woman.
I’m not really sure how much these definitions help us. If you are like me, being told I am handsome or cute is great! But it doesn’t quite fully satisfy that inward desire I felt all the time or sometimes still feel, to want to be told that I am beautiful.
Do I, do we, desire what the dictionary definition says? Do we desire to have people take great pleasure and delight in the sight of us? Is that really all that different than handsome? If that was all we wanted, being told we are “handsome” should satisfy us.
Or maybe rather we just desire what the connotations of the word “beautiful” are. That is, maybe we specifically desire to be “femininely beautiful.” Maybe we desire the usage of that word as a word only given to females. We want that word which was never applied to us, but only to our sisters, or mothers, or friends at church or school. We always heard adults say to girls, “that is such a pretty dress!” and we felt left out.
I’m not totally sure what to make of all this. I do know that if we stick to the basic definitions of “beautiful” and “handsome” that they can be applied to both men and women, and so that pastor was right. In God’s eyes, Christians, because of Jesus, are God’s children and are beautiful and handsome in his sight. But this probably won’t be satisfying enough to make men stop crossdressing. Just as God being proud of us is not satisfying enough for most people to not desperately crave other people being proud of them as well. Although God’s love and delight in us should be enough, we usually feel like it isn’t.
I don’t have all the answers. But my gut feeling is that when we as crossdressers say that we want to be beautiful, really the true desire, deep down in us, is just the basic meaning of the word “beautiful” and nothing about wanting to be a woman. This is the pure uncorrupted desire that God put in us. And God finding us beautiful is the pure satisfying of that desire God gave us. But somehow, during our childhoods, something got messed up in us. There was a disconnect. Maybe we didn’t get enough attention from our parents. Maybe we felt left out when little girls around us were called pretty or beautiful. And so somehow we started to envy and crave what the girls were getting that we were not getting, and somehow we internalized the notion that we only get what the girls were getting by being girls ourselves. And so instead of craving the feeling of people (and God) taking pleasure in us and us looking good as ourselves, we started to crave the feeling of people noticing our specifically feminine beauty. Perhaps this is one tiny part of the explanation for why we developed crossdressing, or at least why it has such a hold on us.
If this is the case, the challenge is to take more comfort in God finding us beautiful, as men. This takes work, prayer, and meditation, and contentment, but I think it can be done.
Anybody else have thoughts on this?