I have resisted writing this for years. Not because I’m ashamed or embarrassed. Not because I feel guilty or am worried about what someone might think or say. Well that isn’t totally true, I have worried about how it might impact my ministry and I don’t want it to take over my identity. Still, the main reason I have never shared this is because when I think about it, the feelings and emotions resurface and I don’t like that. I don’t like having to deal with them all over again. After all of these years they mostly lurk in the back alleys of my mind and I like it that way.
The first of those memories dates back to the fourth grade. I liked to dress up. I asked my mother if she would mind me wearing one of her scarves to school. This wasn’t some scarf that looked like it belonged to John Wayne. This was a pastel colored scarf and I didn’t wear it like a cowboy bandana. It was more in the style of Olivia Newton John. Now I didn’t think much of it, it was just something that I liked. I realize that if I had grown up today instead of the 70s, someone would have made some very clear assumptions about me. Fortunately I didn’t grow up today.
Fast forward to my teen years and there were some very definite feelings.
(This is getting hard.)
I would sneak into my mother’s closet to take her clothing.
(This is much harder than I would have thought. I have only shared this story once and then in third person and even then it was very hard. Very hard and it did not go well but that isn’t what moves me to share this again.)
Several months ago there was a story about a young man in Ohio who took his own life. The pictures they showed brought back a lot of memories. They could have been of me locked in our upstairs bathroom wearing my mother’s dress picturing myself as a woman.
By high school I can remember the fear. Fear that I would give into these feelings. I was really raised by very understanding parents, but they had no idea. I have only recently shared with them the feelings that I have.
One summer before my senior year we went to visit some friends I grew up with. I stayed the night with one of them. He suggested that we sleep together in the same bed. I did not want to. I wanted to sleep in a chair or the floor. He insisted. I was scared. I remember my fear. Fear that if my friend had certain feelings I would be in trouble. I would have a hard time not giving in.
Fortunately for me, nothing came of the evening and that is the last time I can remember having such a moment. I headed off to college and settled into life.
The sentences that I am about to write come several weeks after the preceding ones. As I watch the coverage over the former Olympian’s transformation and the questions that it raises I have been pushed to finally share my experience.
Pushed because of how our culture handles this story. You see, for me these are feelings. They are very real, very personal and at times very strong. But they are just that, feelings. They do not identify me. They do not make me who I am. I am a child of God. I am made in His image. Yes His image. And I am also broken and cracked, touched by the fall like every other human being who walks on the face of this earth.
My struggle might be different than yours but we all have our struggles. I finally write something because I fear the solutions being offered by the church today. On one side they shun and attack, marginalizing people whom God loves and Jesus died for. On the other side I see those who consider themselves to be compassionate and loving telling people that this is just how it has to be. To be honest I am thankful I never ran into any of that compassion growing up.
As someone who has spent his life wrestling with these feelings, what happens when you chase them and they don’t fill the void? What happens when they don’t take the brokenness away? As followers of Jesus we are supposed to know better, that the solution for the brokenness comes from only one place. It doesn’t come from marriage or children or being able to love whomever we want to love or identify in the way that fits you best. The only hope for our brokenness is Jesus Christ.
My struggles might receive cultural support today. I don’t need it. I need Jesus. He is all I have ever needed and the only one I want. So my relationship with my wife might not look like yours. I am okay with that because it will be a part of me until Christ returns. Until then I am broken and I will continue to fight because of the One who was willing to fight for me.
1The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord
for the display of his splendor.
Note from the editor:
It is not our custom to run anonymous posts. We made an exception because we believe this accomplishes several things that are in line with the content of the post. First, it reminds us that this could be anyone. This could be a close friend, someone in your Bible class or even your preacher or small group leader. It reminds us that the struggle is real and it is to be met with grace and compassion. Second, the post was intended to remind us that we are not defined by our desires and the author does not want that to happen though he believed he needed to share his story. May Christ continue to be formed in each of us as we deal with our own personal temptations no matter their nature.