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.
11 thoughts on “A Little Compassion?”
I thinks it’s great how Cathy has defended you through transition..You know I understand! As far as the negative comments from people, I don’t think it’s any of their business to even comment..Don’t they realize being transgender is not a choice. God loves everyone! It’s great how Cathy and family are so supportive.
Paula and Cathy – I have only known you from a distance but as a “pastor” and “evangelical” I want to offer my sincerest apologies that you have both felt the brunt of we Pharisees. I honestly don’t understand the transition and it was a shock to me but I have followed your posts and I want to understand. A few years ago God broke me. I was a “megachurch” pastor in the Washington DC area and went through an unwanted divorce. I lost everything. I felt tossed aside. I was lost. But God is faithful and I am living an amazing life today. Cathy, this journey has to have been incredibly painful for you – I respect and admire you and I pray that what others intended for evil, God intends for good…the saving of many souls. Blessings!
“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. ”
Exactly. Christianity has turned love into a responsibility and duty and eschewed what it was meant to be: unconditional. The definitions of responsibility and duty that have been passed down by the Conscious Masses Mindset are moveable/conformable. The definition of unconditional remains the same by its very nature, which must include all conditions.
A new awareness of unconditional love has been birthed, and you and Cathy are on the leading edge of it.
Love and comfort to you both from a post evangelical.
For a great example of a person of faith choosing a better response to us you may like Phillip Gulley’s
” A Quaker Looks at the Transgendered ”
I’m learning that non-binary applies to so much more than gender- life is not us or them. It is just us. All of us. There is no other.
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Cathy and Paula, I don’t know either of you personally, only through this website and one sermon I heard Paula preach in Denver. I’m so very sorry for the pain you’ve experienced at the hands of “God’s children”. I don’t understand that kind of response from anyone, let alone those who claim to be God’s instruments on earth. I hope with time there’s healing for you and for your former friends and colleagues a recognition that even if they don’t understand they can at least be kind and compassionate like Jesus.
Hi Paula – I just read your new post. It’s tragic what has happened and will continue to happen. In our group here, we are beginning to go through James. One of the verses that keeps coming the forefront is: James 1:19 about being quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger. Our evangelical “comrades” do not do often show this type of behavior towards individuals like ourselves.
I would love to sit and talk more with you. But my travel to the US has been minimal this year – only one trip to LA to see the accountant, take car of taxes, and a few other business details. I had a bit of a crisis, but I guess it’s a normal part of our dilemma. Am OK, but the process of confronting the issues and unraveling the years of conflict is frightening, at least to me.
I look forward to your posts. I have appreciated the evolution has occurred since we met a year ago and that I sense from your blogs.
On Tuesday, August 16, 2016, Paula Stone Williams wrote:
> Paula S Williams posted: “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 seaso” >
You and Cathy are so loving and wonderful. I can not understand why you are treated so unfairly. We adore you and will always cherish your friendship.
Jim and Jeri
Sent from my iPhone
I know you were making a point to your conservative friends and colleagues, but I’m little offended that you didn’t mention that there were progressive Christians who embraced you. When Christian is used generically unfortunately in our world it means conservative evangelical big box Christians. I’m one too you know 🙂 you are forgiven after a nice lunch together e
Eleanor A. Hubbard
History, despite its wrenching pain,
Cannot be unlived, and if faced
With courage, need not be lived again.
Lift up your eyes upon
The day breaking for you.
Give birth again
To the dream.
Maya Angelou. On the Pulse of Morning
Oops Eleanor. I changed that one reference from Christian to Evangelical. I always try to make that distinction, but sometimes a mistake slips through.
Cathy, I apologize on behalf of the Christian Evangelicals. I wish we could all show and experience the grace, mercy, and love of Jesus Nd the Father. I’m sorry we caused more pain instead of demonstrating open arms, running to meet you, and shedding tears and celebrating joy with you as we are called to do like Jesus. You are welcome in our home.