I Don’t Get Transgender People

I struggle with a lot of stuff. You might have heard. Some of my struggles have eased over time, and others remain . . . well, a struggle.

I am a critical person. I don’t always show it, but I certainly think and feel it. I’ve been self-critical as long as I can remember.

Tom, you’re unattractive and quiet and weird.

Tom, you’re not a good writer.

Tom, you’re a horrible friend.

The cynical list goes on and on, but I’ll halt the brakes on the Self-Deprecating Express. It can get ugly, but my critical affinity gets worse.

I’m not just critical of myself; I’m critical of others. I’m especially critical of others I don’t “get” or understand. Braves fans, Harry Potter nerds.

And then there are others I don’t get like transgender people.

Transgender People

Image courtesy torbakhopper, Creative Commons.

I’d been attracted to other boys since second grade recesses, and yet I always hated gay people. Growing up, I’d see fictitious or otherwise “real” gay people on TV, and I’d scoff.

What is wrong with them?

Why do they act like that?

Don’t they get they’re living outside God’s obvious design?

Needless to say, it’s been quite the journey: coming out to myself firstly, and then to others. I slowly started seeing my story in gay people’s stories, and I found I didn’t hate gay people anymore. As a same-sex attracted guy, I got the L, I got the G, and I guess I empathized with the B of bisexuality too.

The LGB part of the equation got easier to get. But for years, I’d struggled to understand another letter in this labeled ladle of alphabet soup.

The T. I never quite “got” transgender people.

Whenever I heard about a woman wanting to be a man or vice versa, I never understood. And when I didn’t understand, I got critical. The whole notion of being “trapped” in the wrong sex or even the process of changing one’s sex seemed absurd and even further beyond God’s sexual design than homosexual acts.

As a same-sex attracted boy who became a same-sex attracted man, I’ve never once thought myself enslaved in the wrong gender. For all my physical and emotional insecurities as a boy-turned-man, I couldn’t imagine dealing with menstruation and breasts and countless other stuff that’s made me thank God I’m not a woman.

To exist as anything other than male makes no sense to me. And so, my critical flames have blazed at the thought of transgender people:

Why do transgenders want to be something they’re not?

Why can’t transgenders just accept how God made them?

What’s wrong with transgenders?

A few weeks ago, however, I started growing more curious about transgender people. Why could I relate with the L and the G and the B, but not this mysterious T? I watched a couple documentaries featuring transgender adults and transgender children, the latter an even more foreign concept.

I was already walking this journey of better learning the transgender mindset — and then in the midst of my journey, some horrific news broke.

A transgender teenager had killed himself. Herself.

I read Leelah Alcorn’s suicide post (since deleted by Tumblr) and got sucked into Leelah’s story: a teenager born as Joshua Alcorn, pushed over the edge by overbearing Christian parents.

The more I read, the more I watched, I couldn’t escape this transgender tornado. I found myself resonating more and more with these gut-wrenching stories.

Theirs were stories that looked hauntingly like my own.

#RunningTo: Milwaukee, WI

I’ve never identified as a woman, but I can’t tell you how disjointed I’ve often felt among my male species. Throughout high school and college, I just didn’t get the other guys. The straight guys. The jocks. The jerks.

I didn’t get how guys could hit each other on a football field or in a hallway and grow chummier.

I didn’t get how guys could burp and joke and never cry and always seem fine.

And I didn’t get how guys could strip naked in a locker room without thinking twice.

I constantly compared my body to other guys’, and I wasn’t as big, wasn’t as muscular, wasn’t as “masculine.” My hyper-inflated emotions far eclipsed their seeming lack of any feelings.

At times I have felt more like a third gender: certainly not female, but not quite fully male. Something confusingly in between.

And so, while I’ll never completely understand the transgender experience, I’m gaining some perspective.

To some minute degree, I am getting transgender people now. My heart aches for transgender kids like Leelah and transgender adults who feel unbearably alone in their feelings. Their simply being.

I feel their hurt, and I’m feeling more for others different from me. For better or worse, I think all this traveling from the last year has deepened my empathy.

#RunningTo: Symmes Chapel

Throughout my #RunningTo quest across the continent, I’ve stayed with a middle-aged lesbian who lost her partner to cancer, and I’ve stayed with fellow “gay” or same-sex attracted Christians who, like me, are laying down their homosexual desires for the hope of something better.

There is one story, and there is the other; they are opposites, and yet they are the same. With every passing pit stop, I’m seeing gaps shrink between what once was so foreign. It’s amazing how sitting across from someone at dinner can help you see more your similarities and less your differences.

My massive road trip has helped me “get” people more. I’m getting transgender people, and I’m getting a clearer vision of humanity’s splotchy collage.

Understanding comes, but it only comes one story at a time. Sometimes those stories come to you, but often you must go find those stories yourself.

Oftentimes, the other story is just as misunderstanding of your own. And what an amazing thing it’s been when both sides of the window are no longer clouded but oddly clear.

  • Rebecka

    Yes! I loved this line ” It’s
    amazing how sitting across from someone at dinner can help you see
    more your similarities and less your differences.” I
    wish we could all, myself included, just talk to each other and listen to each
    other’s stories instead of making up our minds about those we see as different in

  • Phile

    Hi =) hmm.. when i was a little boy, my dad was the image of man to me. He was hot-tempered, impatient, heartless, uncaring towards his children’s feeling. He made me being a man as a terrible thing. My sisters were also very hot-tempered. So i grew up not wanting myself to be a man (i dont wanna be like my dad), and I am not interested to have relationship with women as i dislike the image if women that my sisters portrayed. But, you know, you can’t really blame kids’ way of thinking. I was determined to be a good woman (it means rejecting my gender but in the same time not to be like the woman my sisters were). But as time passes by, things changed for me… I no longer wanting to be woman, but i still am only attracted to man only. I understand the struggle those transgender or trasvestite is facing. So, i won’t say they’re wrong to be like that. Sometimes, its your family background that causes someone to develop transgender personality. I still love them, they deserved to be loved.

  • Bryon

    I read this article after reading the recent article posted about prejudice. I think in some ways, these bakers (see the other article for reference) are afraid of what they don’t understand. What we DO understand though is pain and suffering. It is what binds us together, and sometimes what repels us…if we don’t want to face our own pain. It takes a lot of courage to be compassionate with someone else’s experience and put ourselves in their shoes, especially when the suffering is brought on by something we disagree with. I’m studying to be counselor and this is the paramount problem with the counseling profession right now. If you go to the American Counseling Association website, most of the articles are about treating homosexuals and transgender people. It is a difficult concept for many people to wrap their minds around; even if they support the individuals who are affected by these differences. By speaking out our story Tom, we help others find compassion, and hopefully find more of the heart of God. He weeps with us in our suffering, straight or gay, bi or transgender, saved or not saved. I think when we see God that way, we have much more compassion for ourselves, and consequently, for others.

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