Thanks, But It’s Not Necessary
Last week yet another well-meaning soul sent me information they had read from people who regretted transitioning genders. I have received a number of these emails since the spurious news accounts of Caitlyn Jenner’s supposed transgender regret. I usually click on the links to see if there is any new or helpful information. The story is always the same.
The web site is usually the work of Christian fundamentalists or the product of right wing magazines or newspapers. The narrative is predictable. It is the story of an individual who, through the power of Jesus, discovers his manhood and transitions back to the male gender. What I find lacking on these web sites is any peer-reviewed scientific studies on gender transition regret, though the sites do often reference one single study in which the post-transition suicide ideation rate was 35 percent.
What those web sites do not tell you is that particular study is based on information gathered almost 15 years ago. They will also not tell you of the plethora of peer-reviewed studies showing the reasons for post transition suicidal ideation. It is virtually never related to the person’s unhappiness in their new gender. It is always related to the social rejection they receive, often from fundamentalist and evangelical family, friends and acquaintances. In other words, the people triumphantly quoting this study are the very same people who are, by their actions, causing suicidal ideation!
Peer reviewed scientific studies consistently show 98 percent of transgender individuals who transition are happier in their new life than they were in their previous life. Fewer than one percent de-transition. While I am aware of no studies about suicide rates of those who de-transition, I would not be surprised if it is high. Among the few high profile individuals who have de-transitioned, there have been well-publicized suicides after they have returned to their birth gender.
Since many of these web sites are hosted by Christian fundamentalists, I believe it is important to counter their claims. Many transgender individuals, male and female, find their faith far stronger after transition than it was before. I am one of those individuals. It is God’s love that gave me the courage to be true to myself, and it is Christ’s church that has nurtured my journey.
While the evangelical church rejected me, the progressive evangelical church welcomed me with great joy. My own congregation, Highlands Church, has been a wonderful place focused on loving well, instead of obsessing over right beliefs. It is a church in which God as angry judge has been replaced by the biblical God of love. It is a church not organized to protect the tribe, but a church organizing for the common good. I am thrilled to be a part of Highlands Church and the progressive evangelical movement. (By the way, Brian McLaren’s new book, The Great Spiritual Migration, talks a lot about the shift taking place toward a church organizing for the common good.)
Most of you who take the time to read my blog know I am a person inclined to read voraciously, and I am not afraid of studies that put my current views under a magnifying glass. You can rest assured there are few peer-reviewed studies on transgender issues that I miss. If a serious one comes along that brings into question the efficacy of transitioning, I will be the first to write about it. In the meantime, you can save yourself some time and stop sending your well-intended warnings. I am fine, warmly embraced by a loving family and a thriving church, and more content than I have ever been.
And so it goes.