A number of people have discerned I am in the midst of a difficult struggle. This week I have written about the specifics of that struggle.
We live in an imperfect world in which everyone bears untold burdens. Some struggles are obvious to all, but most are privately endured. They are a part of what it means to be human and know suffering.
For my entire life I have had to contend with what is psychologically known as Gender Dysphoria. I was aware I did not want to be a boy from as early as I can remember, probably age three or so. As I grew through puberty and into adulthood, virtually no information was available on the subject. The silence of scripture was difficult. I wanted answers and there were none. I read every piece of information I could find that looked at the diagnosis from a biblical perspective, but little of it was helpful. When I chose to enter the ministry, which has been richly rewarding, I knew talking with anyone in the church could jeopardize my ministry, so only a handful of people knew.
Last year I realized hiding the struggle was no longer working. I am transgender. We began to tell a few more people, with the intention of eventually sharing the information freely. In telling my employers, one of their questions concerned my future plans. Not being certain of the course I would take, a separation was necessary.
Gender Dysphoria is a psychological diagnosis in the DSM V Statistical Manual. It is unusual, perhaps affecting as few as three of every 10,000 males and one of every 30,000 females. Outside of the psychological community, most people do not know much about it. Unfortunately a lot of inaccurate information abounds.
Gender Dysphoria describes the struggle of a person who feels they are in a wrongly gendered body. There is incongruity between their perception of themselves and the physical body they inhabit.
No one understands the cause of Gender Dysphoria. Males whose mothers took DES (commonly given during pregnancy from the 30s through the 60s) have a much higher incidence than the general population. Some males with the diagnosis have a part of the hypothalamus that is female in proportion, not male. Studies indicate something happens early in development, around the time of the androgen wash, when a female fetus (we all begin that way) becomes a male. The truth is, none of the theories about its cause have been irrevocably proven to be true.
The commonly used term for individuals with Gender Dysphoria is Transgender (the T in LGBT). Transgender is an umbrella term encompassing all kinds of people – from cross-dressers to transsexuals to drag queens, although these three groups have little in common. Sexual orientation and gender are two separate subjects. Some transgender people are gay, some are straight. My sexual orientation has always been toward women. The vast majority of transgender individuals do not find sexual gratification by dressing in women’s clothing. Theirs is not a sexual gratification issue. It is a gender misalignment issue.
Gender Dysphoria is nowhere mentioned in Scripture. In Genesis we are told God made us as males and females, but that is a general statement that does not take into account people born intersex, or with Kleinfelters Syndrome, or a number of other gender related conditions. The Bible is silent on the subject, though it does show compassion toward those on a difficult journey.
It takes a tremendous amount of energy to battle Gender Dysphoria. In fact, 41 percent of those with the diagnosis attempt suicide. There is no cure, and for most the condition gets worse with the passing of time.
Until very recently only my wife and therapists were aware of my Gender Dysphoria. But carrying the burden alone has been too much to bear. Therefore we decided to proactively tell others of the struggle we have faced. This information was not “discovered.” We freely decided to share it. My wife has been loving, graceful and understanding as she has dealt with this issue. Except for the help of therapists and our children, she has done it alone. Her conviction that God is busy reconciling all things to himself is what sees her through.
With Gender Dysphoria there are no perfect answers. Lots of folks are quite certain about what I should do, but I am the only one accountable for how I live my life. I value the counsel of those who have not walked a mile in my shoes, but then again, they have not walked a mile in my shoes. Ultimately I am the one who must struggle and decide. I am cognizant of the impact of the decisions I make. The burden is great. This much I know. I have lived my life with integrity. I will continue to do so.
I know many will find this news shocking. Because it is unusual and difficult for people to understand, it takes a long time to process. As you come to terms with the reality that I am transgender, I do hope it will not impact how you view my former employers or my family. How you choose to view me is, of course, your decision.
Thank you for taking the time to thoughtfully read this information. As I continue to search diligently for God’s direction, I will appreciate your prayers. My wife and I will also appreciate your respect of our privacy.
Copyright c 2014 Paul S. Williams. This document is not to be reproduced or conveyed in any media, neither print nor electronic, without express, written permission of the author.