Saturday, April 10, 2010

Transgender And Religion Do Balance

There are too many Transgender people adversely affected by some religions.

There is nothing wrong with having a sense of spirituality until hurting others because they are different in some way perverts it.

The following article does a very nice job of showing how a Transgender person can reconcile their spiritual beliefs with their beautiful Transgender self. Finding this balance is one of the keys to living an authentic life.

Spiritual side of gender

First published in print: Saturday, April 10, 2010

I am a transgender person who is also a Christian. There are some religious groups that adamantly maintain it is impossible to be both, insisting that the phrase "transgender Christian" is an irreconcilable oxymoron. Fortunately, I'm neither an ox nor a moron -- I'm only one of many transgender Christians who strive to live out our gift of gender as followers of Christ Jesus. I see no spiritual conflict whatsoever in this and feel extremely blessed to be the person that I am.

That was not always the case. I knew I was "different" when I was two or three years of age. I soon learned that the fundamentalist religious milieu to which my family adhered did not necessarily appreciate or respect the remarkable possibilities of gender extant within the human family. That belief system was (and remains) rooted in patriarchal androcentrism and an assumption of traditionally enforced gender roles based on one's natal sex assignment. While I knew that my different, internal gender identity was real, I was also strongly influenced by the traditional teachings about gender that my faith community espoused. The confluence of these two diametrically opposing paradigms created more than a bit of cognitive dissonance for me, resulting in feelings of confusion, guilt and shame. Consequently, I learned to hide my transgender self and keep it secret. (That's not exactly a recipe for a healthy sense of self-esteem, to be sure, but this psycho-emotional mechanism helped me cope with a difficult, multifaceted conundrum.)

It wasn't until I entered my late 30s that I began to actively confront the untenable juxtaposition of my religious beliefs with my gender-based reality. I found myself unable and unwilling to continue refuting my existential truth merely to satisfy the unyielding demands of a religious system which abhorred the notion that my core gender identity might not be congruent with my physiology.

It's important to emphasize a scientific fact: gender and physical sex are not the same thing. Too often our culture tends to confuse the two, somehow believing that they are equivalent and interchangeable. They aren't. The World Health Organization tells us, "Gender is used to describe those characteristics of women and men which are socially constructed, while sex refers to those which are biologically determined. People are born female or male but learn to be girls and boys who grow into women and men. This learned behavior makes up gender identity and determines gender roles." So, in a somewhat crude but effective summation, gender is about what's between the ears while sex is about what's between the legs. Sometimes the two characteristics just don't line up in a statistically normative fashion.

Over time I immersed myself in a struggle to reconcile my spiritual beliefs with a growing recognition that I was, indeed, transgender. In an effort toward greater understanding I read everything I could find that touched, however tangentially, on the subject of transgender-related spirituality. Since there were almost no direct resources available at that time, it was not easy to gain spiritual insight into the situation. Nevertheless, through my studies I was eventually able to come to the realization that God had created me, had given me an internal transgender identity, and that it was my responsibility to accept this gift of gender and make the most of it. Since that day I have done my best to embrace my transgender self while always reaching out to the creator who lovingly instilled that foundational identity in me.

In an effort to help others by sharing what I have learned along the way, I have written a few books that seem to have made a difference for transgender persons dealing with their own struggles. I care passionately about making a difference for my community and am committed to raising awareness about the transgender phenomenon throughout society.

It's true that transpeople are "different," at least from a gender-related perspective, but most of us are good people who care about others and do our best to live lives of truth and integrity. For those reasons and many more, I am proud and thankful to be a transgender Christian.

Vanessa Sheridan is a transgender business consultant, speaker and author. She will be a featured presenter at Transgender 2010: The Empire Conference in Albany May 20-22. She can be contacted at

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