Being Transgender is not a Choice

I knew from the time I started writing blogs, I would be entering a stage where there would be some controversy.  The idea of being a Christian transgender person will fly in the face of many on both sides; the church and the Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual and Transgender community.  The word Christian can spark heated debate on how the church has treated the LGBT community.  To mention that I am transgender in the church has lit a few fires of disagreement.  When you put the two together, you have napalm.  If not handled correctly and without proper education, the firestorm can rage out of control, damaging all with in its path.  But as a wildfire is known to do, it can burn away the old and make room for new life, so heated, healthy debate is not always a bad thing.

In my inaugural post here on ChicagoNow, one of the individuals that left comments made a few statements I believe I need to take time to discuss.  Before correcting some common misconceptions about being transgender, I want to take a minute to agree with one of his statements.

I agree that many in society today believe that the Bible, the Word of God, is full of bigotry and prejudice.  There have been many church leaders in the news recently that have done nothing but condemn the Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual and Transgender community.   Charles L. Worley of Maiden, N. C. preached a sermon that went viral on YouTube.  He preached that he thought gays should be fenced off from the rest of the population so they would “die off”.  With rhetoric like this, how is any non-believer ever going to think that God, above all things, is a loving God?  How is anyone going to think anything other than God is a God of punishment when he really came to die on the cross and forgive our sins?  I praise people like Andrew Marin and The Marin Foundation for their work in Chicago connecting with the LGBT community and spreading God’s love to those that have felt rejected by the church.  We need more people like that working to build someone up in God, instead of tearing him or her down.

Ok, now on to where I think a bit of education is in order to clarify some misconceptions.  And by the way, I forgot to mention this is part one of a two-part blog, so fasten your seat belts, here we go. (I hope I don’t get too technical on you)

First.  Let’s answer the question “Did God make a mistake?”  No!  Does God allow events and circumstances to happen to us?  Yes.  The Old Testament Book of Job is all about that subject.  The issue when it comes to our bodies is the problem lies in that since the fall of man (thanks Adam) our bodies are flawed.  Babies are born every day with physical and mental defects.  The Bible has many examples of people born with birth defects.  Matthew 9:1-3 is a perfect example, in this case a person born blind, that sometimes God something to happen though we may not know the reason until the time of His choosing. “As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind? “ “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.

Okay, so we have established that there are birth defects, which I don’t think anyone here really doubted, and we have established that God may be the only one that knows the reason why someone is born with a defect.  On to how this relates to being transgender.  Transgender individuals suffer from what is called Gender Dysphoria also known as Gender Identity Disorder (G.I.D.).  The American Medical Association and the American Psychiatric Association define this recognized medical condition as a disconnect between the gender assigned at birth and gender roles the brain identifies with.  In basic language the brain’s gender is not in line with the physical gender of the body.  This disconnect can cause increasingly more distress over a persons life span.   Because of this distress and societies lack of understanding, many transgender individuals unfortunately feel that the only solution is to end their life.  A 2010 study, done by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, reported that while 1.6% of the general public attempts suicide, over 40% of trans people do so.  As a side note, I was nearly part of this statistic.

The current accepted treatment for transgender individuals diagnosed with G.I.D. follows a strict Standard of Care set up by World Professional Association for Transgender Health.  Individuals typically go through psychological counseling, hormone replacement therapy, and for many gender conforming surgery (formerly known as sex reassignment surgery).  Male to female transgender individuals go through years of painful laser hair removal treatments or electrolysis, many opt for feminine facial surgery and breast augmentation just to help the body be aligned with the mind and soul.  With the proper support group including friends and family, transgender patients that go through all the steps typically are mentally healthier, happier and more content than they were prior to the beginning of their transition.

Recently, several medical causes have been discovered that are believed to have a strong impact on the cause of Gender Dysphoria.

Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome is one.  With out going into a bunch of medical jargon, this is a disorder where the body is unable to process testosterone, thus the genetic male body can not develop secondary male characteristics and also affects the development of the brain, keeping it from becoming masculine.

Klinefelter’s Syndrome is another.  In this case, males are born with an abnormality in their chromosomes.  They are born XXY instead of XY.  This occurs in roughly one in 500 to one in a thousand live births.  The manifestations of the syndrome can vary widely and just because someone is born with an extra X chromosome does not mean they will be transgender.  Many men will live their entire lives with out ever knowing they are carrying an extra chromosome.  Though no studies have been done, there is speculation that in some cases, the additional X chromosome and the additional genes can affect how the brain is wired during development and causing the brain to develop more feminine than masculine.

These are just two causes that can be possibly linked to G.I.D.  Much more research is needed in this field to have a comprehensive understanding of what affect either of these syndromes has on fetal development and what other causes there are for G.I.D .

So I ask you, if someone is born with a birth defect, is it not medically and morally ethical to do what ever it takes to correct the problem, up to corrective surgery?  Let me leave you with one more example that hits close to home.  When my son was born, by all appearances he looked totally normal, but as the doctor gave him his first physical, he discovered a small but problematic birth defect.  We were informed that this defect would require surgical correction at some point in the near future in order for him to lead a normal life.   At around 18 months old, my son’s pediatrician discovered another defect that would require another round under the knife.  This time around the defect could have caused him major health problems in the future.

So I want you to ponder this question, is my birth defect any different?  Did I choose to be transgender?

Comments

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  • An informed take. Thanks again for sharing.

  • Hi Meggan,

    I am a Christian transgender woman. Thanks for your blog. I reconize myself in everything you've written. Church, family, friends. Being who I am is not a choice. All of it. I don't know where God is leading me, but I'm on this path because He put me here, so I know I'm not on this road alone. I also know I couldn't do without Him. I look forward to more of your posts. Thanks. Sam

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    Why is that trans people feel the need to justify our existence? I am not defective in any way, and I do not have an intersex condition to my knowledge. Your article encourages those who have never experienced gender dissonance to further pathologize us. Your conclusions are also simplistic and misleading. What explains the existance of transmen? Neither AIS or the existence of an additional X chromosome explains why some people assigned the female gender at birth transition as men and live their lives as males. Brain feminization in utero certainly does not explain the existence of transmen. Could it be that transmen are merely following their natural inclinations? What if all trans people are just as natural as non trans people? It is just as natural for me to be a lesbian woman with an exceptional birth history as it is for my mother to be a heterosexual cissexual woman. Neither of us is better than the other, only different. We are who we are due to our natural inclinations. Being trans is not a choice, it is a gift from God.

    We, as Christians, need to accept people as they are and without judgement.

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    It is not a choice to be transgender, but it is a choice to be Christian. I cannot wrap my mind around why any LGBT person would support an organisation that systematically has persecuted and denagrated us and all completely justified by the bible. You talk about the science of being LBGT. Science contradicts the bible, how can you believe in a book that explicitly commands bigotry and misongyny? It is ironic that your name is Trans Girl at the Cross considering that is the type of torture you would receive by Christians not more than 200 years ago.
    There is nothing wrong with LGBT people, that is because we weren't "made" we evolved this way.

  • In reply to Ophelia McGraw:

    Ophelia, If you have ever been personally attack by the church, I want to apologize. That is not what Christ would have wanted. I truly feel your pain. Christ came to this earth to show His Father's love to each and every one of us (John 3:16) not just the straight people, not just the Jews, not just . . you can fill in the blank with what ever classification you want. WE have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. It is not my job or anyone else to tell you want is a sin and what is not. That is plainly written out in the scriptures. My job is to love as Christ loves me. It's not a past tense sort of love. It is an active, everyday kind of love. You are loved by God and as a sister and child of God, I want you to know that I love you as well. If you live in Chicago, I encourage you to contact the Maran Foundation @ themarinfoundation.org. I will leave you with this verse Galations 3:28 "There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." There is no difference between me and you, the President of the United States and the homeless man on the corner, if we believe in Christ we are all one in him.

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    Dear Meggan,
    You are so so right. I am transgender and Christian. I also find the hateful rhetoric of some affiliated with the church disturbing. One thing we have in common is we both have a scientific view of the world that doesn't conflict with religion. You are absolutely correct about the biological nature of transgenderism. The few known biological variations you mentioned are important as an example. The medical literature only provides us with cases that likely have some pathology leading to the tests being performed. Also, some adults who go to a fertility clinic find these underlying traits. These examples reveal a very small part of the population. And the variation within the individuals documented is seemingly infinite. That leads me to believe, with strong scientific conviction, that the numbers of undetected biological gender variations in the general population must be significant and infinitely varied as well. That is a fact I would bet my life on. These variations do not necessarily make one transgender. They make us individuals. Our variety as a species is not only imperative to our survival, it is our gift from God. Our individuality is our gift. To disrespect other's individuality would be to disrespect God. People who refuse to accept us as individuals, and use religion as a reason for their prejudice, are truly lost. It is nice to know that you are out there spreading the word in a loving way. I am comforted by your intellect and your soulfulness. Thanks for listening, love ~ karen

  • I have to respectfully disagree. Being "transgender" is a choice. "Transgender" is a social/political construct that attempts to unite a variety of behaviors that are viewed as transgressing gender norms. By adopting that label, one is saying, in effect, that one is rebelling against their inherent gender. It is an identity and not an objective state of being. One chooses to identify as transgender. I choose not to.

    On the other hand, being transsexual is not a choice. Simply put, I am a woman of transsexual history who has corrected her birth defect and who now lives as just an ordinary woman. I do not, and never have chosen to accept that label. I have had some attempt to impose that label on me, and I vehemently object when they do.

    I agree with a lot of what you say, but I do not agree with your choice of terminology. I am a woman, not a trans woman. No modifiers that denigrate my womanhood. Transsexual is a medical condition I passed through. I am also a diabetic, have high blood pressure, and I have a cataract on one eye, and had one on the other which was removed nine years ago. I offer that information of my own choice, but it is really no one's business.

    I am a devout Christian, formerly Methodist, and then Baptist. I am now Anglo-Catholic, having finally found a church that more fully expresses my views of God.

    It is a funny thing...while I found some Christians who chose to be intolerant, I never really found any who could articulate a valid argument that my being transsexual was a sin. But, much of the behavior of some who identify as transgender is often at odds with the Christian faith. It should not surprise you that you get grief from those who identify with that social and political construct. Still, some of those same Christians who could not show that I was committing sin chose to still exhibit intolerance towards me, not because I was sinning, but because it was inconvenient to do otherwise. I simply chose to ignore their bigotry, just as I choose to ignore the bigotry of those who identify as LGBT who make ignorant and false statements about Christianity.

    I can anger people on both sides, at the same time, in the same discussion. Funny, but I take that as a sign that maybe, just maybe, I'm on to something....

  • Oh, and BTW, Klinefelter’s Syndrome actually has no real connection to being transsexual. I see this used by some who have no understanding of the biology involved. I mean, it sounds reasonable..."I have two X chromosomes, like a woman, so I must be more woman than man." Sorry, it does not work that way. About all the Y chromosome does is determine if, in the absence of other facts, an organism will become sexually differentiated as male. It is not possible for there to be only a Y chromosome. It is possible to be XY, X, XXY, XYY, XXX, etc. But just Y is not viable. There is not sufficient genetic material there. If you have a Y chromosome, it causes certain tissues to go in a certain direction, and become androgen producing. That starts the chain of events that culminate with the doctors looks, smiles, and says "It's a boy!" Or not. But that extra X in Klinefelter’s Syndrome has some effects, most not very good, but it does not increase the odds that one will be transsexual. That is almost certainly linked to hormone levels in utero, which are linked to a number of possible factors including medications, maternal stress, or things like androgen insensitivity...which can vary from partial to complete. There is a lot involved here that we still do not fully understand. That is partially because transsexualism, as opposed to people identifying as transgender, is actually extremely rare.

  • In reply to Just Jennifer:

    I want to thank you for your comments Jennifer. I am glad you have found a place to worship our God. I too have had issues with Christians and their ideas about what is and isn't a sin. I hope to express how I see the scripture in my next blog. I do want to comment on a few things you said. Recent statistics from the Netherlands indicate that about 1 in 12,000 natal males undergo sex-reassignment and about 1 in 34,000 natal females. I have included a web address to a study done that show the prevalence of transsexualism is much higher than many people think. So from where I sit, I would not call it rare.
    http://ai.eecs.umich.edu/people/conway/TS/Prevalence/Repo/Prevalence%20of%20Transsexualism.pdf

    I also want to say I do have a very keen understanding of biology and genetics. I did say in the blog "Though no studies have been done, there is speculation that in some cases," I also said "The manifestations of the syndrome can vary widely and just because someone is born with an extra X chromosome does not mean they will be transgender. Many men will live their entire lives with out ever knowing they are carrying an extra chromosome." I did not say that having an extra X chromosome was a proven link. But when you start talking about dominate and recessive genes, having an extra set of genes, especially if they are dominate genes, can play a huge role in the delevopment of the fetus. I have known several transsexual women that were XXY and it did have an affect on their development.

  • Stay strong, Meggan! You're doing a great job!

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    Remember girl that your stand if also for the generations to come. Its for my grandchildren and great grandchildren who will be born to a world where sexual orientation is no longer an issue.
    On behalf of my descendants, I thank you.

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    There is no transgender hierarchy. Transgender is an umbrella term. Whether someone likes to simply wear women's shoes and masturbate, or if they have genital reassignment surgery at an early age, they are all transgressions of gender. Nobody is more or less of a transgender than anyone else. Our actions are what define us as individuals. Every human being has pieces of both genders, no matter how they look, or what they do. When you show me a man without nipples, or a woman without a clitoris, I might change my mind. Medical diagnosis and treatment, while useful in society, is much too generalized. We all must find a balance of our very own.

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    I cannot agree with Ms. Sommerville's premise, that transgender and transsexual people are defective biologically. The AMA and the PMA do not classify GID as defects, only as inconsistencies between one's identification with a gender versus one's genetic makeup or, as you point out, as a disconnect. A disconnect is not a defect. Classifying it as such only perpetuates the notion that something is wrong with being transgendered or transsexual, a position the AMA and the PMA explicitly reject. It is important to describe their classifications accurately and not to use them incorrectly to bolster a flawed argument.

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    Meggan Sommerville

    Meggan Sommerville is a Christian transgender woman with a heart for educating others about the transgender community and her faith in her Savior, Jesus Christ. Her career life has taken her on a variety of adventures, from being a veterinary technician in the Western burbs of Chicago to being an EMT/Paramedic, EMS instructor, and a paid on call firefighter for Bolingbrook , Illinois. Since 1998, she has been the frame shop manager for a national craft retailer. You can contact Meggan via email at Transgirlatcross@aol.com or find her on Facebook at Trans Girl at the Cross

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