A Little Compassion?
After I transitioned I heard from many who were confused, hurt and angry. Day after day, email after email, they let me know. All claimed to be writing out of concern, but their concern was often wrapped in barbed wire. After a season of receiving these messages of condemnation, I began protecting myself. More accurately, Cathy began protecting me.
There is a moment in the movie, The Danish Girl, in which Gerda, the protagonist of the movie and wife of a transgender spouse, speaks a line that brought me to tears. She told a surgeon, “Einar believes she is a woman, and I believe she is too.” The movie was excruciating to watch, because it was about a loving spouse’s faithfulness through pain, something I had been observing closely. While Cathy struggled mightily, she protected me fiercely and well.
We both came to know which letters and emails to open. If they were from non-Evangelicals, they were safe to read. If they were from Evangelicals, Cathy read them first. Many were deleted after she read them.
Ironically, since I transitioned Cathy has experienced as much rejection as I. Most Evangelicals have avoided Cathy like the proverbial plague. Some are angry she did not choose to condemn me. Others simply do not know what to say. But evidently, finding an encouraging word for Cathy is beyond their collective ability.
I find that silence to be incomprehensible. I mean, what did Cathy do? What was her infraction, spoken or unspoken? Was she judged and found lacking simply because she had the misfortune of having married someone who is transgender? Based on the lack of response, that is certainly a possibility.
I have tried to understand the silence that often plagues the Evangelical community in a way it does not affect others. I believe it is based in a narrow worldview that finds strong support for its own kind, but little support for those who fall outside self-imposed Evangelical walls. The response to Cathy is certainly not consistent with the teaching of Jesus. But it is consistent with a tribe whose actions arise from a narrowly sectarian understanding of life itself.
These are the same people terrified to admit evolution might be true, or that LGBTQ people might be a threat to no one, or that theological truth may not strictly be the possession of their own peculiar sect. With a tiny handful of exceptions, and you know who you are, the lack of a Christian response to Cathy might be based on a lot of things, but it is certainly not based on the teaching of Jesus. That response would be love and compassion, empathy and understanding.
If I sound angry, it is because I am. While Cathy protected our family, Evangelicals stayed on the sidelines, where they did not do one visible thing to comfort her.
When your ignorance about a subject causes you to avoid the Christian responsibility of showing love, then it is time to jettison your ignorance about a subject. Cathy’s non-religious friends did that in spades. As for most of the Evangelicals, it looks like personal comfort trumped compassion. I never would have expected it. I thought better of the members of my tribe. I knew they would reject me, but the rejection of Cathy has been unconscionable.
And so it sadly goes.