Finding Leo: My Crotch and My Faith

This article was first published in PQ Monthly, Portland, in October, 2015.

Disclaimer: This my own story and not intended to depict all trans experiences. You probably knew that already. 

As I write this, I am lying in my bathtub, one leg draped over the side of the tub, and I look over my naked body. I am a trans man, assigned female at birth, and have been transitioning socially, hormonally, and surgically for over a year.

In the tub, I admire my legs that are hairier. You know, dude hairy. Testosterone shots in my thigh every week have done their magic, and I am quite pleased with the result.

Testosterone has done other things: deepening my voice, giving me one chest hair (one!), and acne. Even my hands and feet have changed a little.  I’ve always had large hands and wide feet for a woman, but now, as male, they just make sense. How do I explain to my cis friends that my hands and feet now seem right on my own body?

I scoot down in the bathtub so my shoulders are covered, and then cross my arms behind my head, admiring my flat chest. The scars from my top surgery are fading, and the experience is a distant memory. I feel contentment with a chest that fits.  I wish every trans person who needed surgery had access and funding. I am grateful I was able to borrow from my 401k to pay for relief from the mental anguish over intrusive body parts that did not belong.

I look with gratitude at my naked body that has carried me through this world for 40 years. I admire my arms growing stronger from aerial classes. I wiggle my toes in the water; I am happy. But then, there is one source of continued anguish, my lack of penis.

This is not something I enjoy talking about, but a deeply private source of pain. Many times I wish I could live a stealth life, in which I never had to disclose that I am trans. But I feel compelled to share my reflections as an advocate and theologian, and to stand by my personal slogan, “no fear, no shame, no stigma.”

Sigh. I dread being attracted to someone and then revealing that I don’t have the genitalia they expect or desire. When acquaintances talk about the pain of getting hit in the groin, I nod knowingly while hoping they don’t realize I am trans. I wish I could use the men’s urinals. As often as I think about sex (often!), I think … if only I could experience it with a penis. I feel uncomfortable and sad when people gush about the wonders of a dick, which happens regularly in my experience. Surgery is not an option for me right now, considering the cost and physical recovery time.

So why do I bring it up here? People ask me, as a person of faith, if saying that I am transgender means God made a mistake. The emotional distress of gender dysphoria is real, and yet Christianity has been hijacked and used to bully the LGBT community.  People have used their belief in God to tell the trans community that we are mangling or butchering our bodies, defying God’s will for nature’s plan, or that we are sinful or confused.

That, my friends, is bullshit. 

How can I say this? 

Because God is not an asshole (though I respect your right to disagree).

I am trans, and I didn’t choose this. My body and experiences do not match what my brain says they should be, which can be miserable.  God did not do this to me to punish me,  and God did not make a mistake when creating me.  God does not rejoice in my sorrow, nor does God despise me for finding ways to survive, i.e. transitioning.

Why am I trans? Did God make me trans? I don’t even know how wireless internet works, so I don’t expect myself to know how to explain a mystery of the human body.  And I’m ok with not knowing. There are no easy answers. But I don’t believe God made a mistake, in the same way I don’t blame God for the death of my loved ones, for earthquakes, or for world hunger. I may shake my fist at God in anger or frustration, but still not believe God caused these things. 

Paradox and mystery describe the trans experience for me. Being trans is both a blessing and curse. It is the wisdom of having walked in two genders, and an interesting adventure learning a second gender. Being trans is also a source of despair. It is a mystery why I am this way, and yet it is.  It is.

It’s none of my business if you believe in God. I think you’re still awesome. In my beliefs, God delights in the diversity of creation and treasures each one of us. We all belong. Our lives, our journeys, our bodies are all unique. That is a gift.

So now I climb out of the bathtub and onto my soapbox. No matter what, you have worth and dignity.  You are precious, and beautiful, and mysterious.

My own gender dysphoria is sometimes a struggle. The distress is real, but so is my joy in our community, my love of learning trapeze, my delight in the beauty in the world, my conviction that trans people are a blessing, and my knowledge that my faith is big enough for one such as me.

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