Thirty minutes of asphyxiation. Throat closing in. Dry heaving. The blade tip of suicide scraping my brain just behind the eye balls. Hands to throat. Breathe! Dry heave and fall sleep. Wake with a start. Gasp of air. Wasn’t breathing. Thirty minutes of fear, of absolute terror. What am I afraid of? That people are starting to recognize my gifts. That in my 34th year I’m coming into my own, a certain level of respect and gravitas given me by the community. That it’s tempting to decide not to derail my entire fucking life, and instead try to live a cishet life. After all, today’s recognition and signs of appreciation from people made it seem the more attractive option. Until gender dysphoria comes stabbing with a thousand knifes like a bitch. YOU. ARE. FUCKING. TRANS. Weaving in and out of asphyxiation and sleep (or is it simply loss of consciousness?) and waking. Feeling trapped in this hideous frame. This gross anatomy. Putrid. Feeling the weight of the universe sticking to my skin, crushing me like the waters of some deep abyss of the ocean. If I try to deny it, maybe my dysphoria will at long last have mercy on me and let me die. But I know. I’ve got a reason to live. Ladies and gentlemen I’ll say. Meet Sophia. I love you. Please don’t crucify me. There is One who already took those nails for me. There is One in whose arms I’ve been carried, born to new life. Free from the bonds of decay. One day. My tomb will be open. Please don’t let my body betray and kill me before then.
One of the things about coming into accepting myself as trans, is fear. Fear of the future. A future in which the moment I’ll have to come out will be emotionally draining with lots of bewildered tears and denial and disbelief and hugs and (perhaps even) loathing and the ground shifting beneath the feet of my family and friends, co-workers and church.
While I’ve been on this journey for years and I’ve experienced reaching this point as a long hike in the woods, the moment I come out, for the people I’m coming out to, they’ll experience it as a bullet train ride with no seatbelt or windshield. When I eventually come out, I’ll be asking them to make the journey that I’ve been on for years, in a matter of moments. (Of course, for my loved ones, it won’t be, it cannot be this way; they, too, will need time to arrive. They, too, will need to put on their boots and go on the hike, until they can meet me where I am.)
This fear of the future is also about:
How will I find a new faith community that is inclusive, that will welcome me as a pastor?
Will I be able to keep working in the same company and profession I am in now? Will they be willing to evolve with me? If they cannot, how will I find a new job?
Will I lose all my friends? Will I be severed from my family?
* * *
Imagine: glistening snow blankets the mountain range, blinding your eyes, the cold air burning your lungs. You’re losing feeling in your extremities. You haven’t eaten in days. You thirst. And all you see is the whiteness of ice and snow. Not a single shrub. Not a single creature stirs.
This is how I felt when I first began to realize I’m trans. (Of course back then I wasn’t able to say that—only that I’m someone who experiences gender dysphoria.)
In that time of desperation I once visited Continue reading →
I went to a wake tonight. A beloved elder of the church died, leaving behind his wife, two adult children and two grandchildren.
As the service droned on in the stifling chapel filled to the brim with people clad in black, my mind began to wander…
What would it feel like when I’m not here in the pews, but up there in front as one who is bereaved? The day will come (of course not for a long, long time) when it’ll be my parents’ wake. And then also my older brother’s when we are both old and gray.
Then I thought about my own wake. This is the ultimate switching of places. From the pews, to the front of the chapel, to inside the casket.
In my imagination, I was Continue reading →
This week I’m getting my anti-depression med adjusted so that it’ll last longer throughout the day. And today a fresh wave of depression crashed over me with surprising force. I thought I had to leave work early. Luckily it passed. Nevertheless I’m looking forward to how the adjusted meds will better help. It turns out depression feels like bereavement. It digs down and pulls you under. And I’m glad my meds are helping me stay afloat above it. The reformer Martin Luther also suffered from depression. They didn’t have meds like we do. I’m thankful to be alive in the 21st century.
Irony. It’s the connective tissue between the events of life that turn on a dime to change one’s entire world.
These past two weeks my bouts of depression and dysphoria have been breaking through the efficacy of my anti-depressants.
I take them in the morning. And without fail, in the early evening around five, the meds dip down and they crawl back over the wall into my mind.
Fear. Bereavement for a lost life in an alternate parallel universe. Pain. Longing. “I’m going to kill my self.” And I say to me: “No I’m not.”
But death seems an easy escape.
No need for the 24/7 constant vigilance of putting up a front to remain hidden from the world. No need to despair the prospect of leaving a career at a company whose become family to me. No need to think that many in the churches I’ve served in, and that I now serve in may feel betrayed should I ever live out.
But, no—I’ve a life to live. A future to walk into. Do I? Do I really? #faithfullyLGBT folk online say, Yes! There’s a future for me—Sophia.
Then. Out of nowhere, I’ve been shown the promised land. I’ve been shown a vision of having been on the mountaintop (to echo the words of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.)
Matthew Vines retweeted an article saying that Denver Community Church led by Pastor Michael Hidalgo was making a move for full inclusion LGBTQ+ people in their 1,500-member evangelical church. I remembered this pastor. He was Continue reading →
Had instead this body
remained as it were
Had instead this body
ignored in utero
But this body’s
a phantom. Break every mirror
And this body’s
a monster. Burn every feature
This body betrays
me. This poor unfortunate soul
Dally with the Witch of the
Sea if you’ll kiss
(Will the King of the
Sea grant that his power make
Today was the first day on an antidepressant. Some observations on what I’ve gained, what I didn’t know I had been living without these past few years, living in denial about the fact that I was clinically depressed.
- I noticed at the end of my work day that I was actually able to drive hard putting on finishing touches on a graphic design project under very high pressure—without really fizzing out. I only took one break
- I didn’t know I’ve been living with impaired cognitive abilities, that of making creative connections and problem solving
As soon as I got off work, I Continue reading →
Mark A. Yarhouse’s book, Understanding Gender Dysphoria is a seminal book for me. Because as someone who grew up in the American evangelical church, I needed to hear an initial voice coming from a fellow evangelical who was a psychologist specializing in LGBT issues. In his book, Yarhouse outlines three frameworks through which people tend to view the phenomenon of being transgender:
Integrity Framework saw the binary of male and female as tied to biological features (at its most rudimentary, gentitalia and chromosomes) and therefore immutable.
Disability Framework saw that people who experience gender dysphoria should be treated with compassion since they do not choose to feel this way. Yet this view stays within the traditional Christian view that being transgender is still somehow wrong.
The third framework is Diversity. This view is more prevalent in the broader secular culture. Our gender diversity (which may or may not be binary) and our sexual diversity (LGB+) should be celebrated as contributing to the diversity of our common humanity.
Yarhouse wants to suggest a fourth framework that draws upon the best of the three frameworks: what he calls the integrated framework. He wants to affirm the traditional Christian view of the integrity framework, while operating with the compassion of the disability framework, yet wants to move beyond its condescending and pathologizing view. Then why not simply move to the diversity framework? Because the integrity framework doesn’t seem to allow one to embrace the diversities of human genders and sexualities and celebrate it as something good in and of itself.
Yarhouse’s integrated framework wants to live within the tension of holding onto traditional Christian beliefs while embracing the latest clinical, psychological research into the subject matter.
It is now three years since I’ve been in therapy. Today I found myself having to leave work in the middle of the day because I was roiling under a wave of depression triggered by…gender dysphoria.
And when I’m under this wave, not knowing which way is up or down, and the only light penetrating the depths is the acute knowledge that I’m trans—I have to remind myself that I (indeed no trans person) chose to be trans. We just are trans.
Lately I find myself no longer needing Continue reading →
Friday night. After church. Sitting alone in my car. I could not stop the tears. Depression came over me like a wall of water—a tsunami wave. Exhausted I pulled the lever to adjust my seat and laid there, staring up at the ceiling of my car. There in the darkness, the only words God seems to whisper to me these past three years of my struggling with gender dysphoria came to me again: I AM with you. Such puzzling, empty, infuriating words of comfort.
Then, out of nowhere a new understanding opened up in me: