Now a decade later


906 words

The cost of discipline

No good deed ever goes unpunished, right? For all the good Jesus performed during his three years of service, he suffered the shame of the cross. If Jesus is such a laudable model, why can’t we endure such shame of rejection?

What is the greatest shame one could endure today? When I first came out as transgender in the early 1990s, the greatest shame I could ever face would be somehow accused of sexual violence against a child. That is so far from my capacities that it constitutes a rejection of who I fully am.

Tragically, that’s exactly what happened. For all the good my newfound authenticity and deeper gender living could bring into this world, I suffered the shame in 1993 of being wrongfully convicted as a pedophile. It’s as if my spiritual journey forced me to confront my deepest fear, and grow a thicker skin in the face of this cruelest form of rejection.

Painful irony

At the core of this shame sits the irony of me being asexual. To this day I cannot quite wrap my mind around how anyone could actually do such disgusting things. Apparently they do, along with the disgusting act of wrongly accusing others of their own guilt-ridden propensities.

Coming out as transgender resulted from a challenging spiritual journey, not some fling into an unpopular lifestyle. My evangelical roots resisted it at first, as I waited passively for divine healing. But then my prayers were answered by a subtle yet persistent message: Pick up your bed and walk! And to no longer dismiss as unholy what is holy.

Deliverance emerged as I finally began taking full responsibility for my disciplined sexuality. And for the compulsion to outwardly integrate feminine and masculine qualities toward newfound wholeness. Shame dissolved as I owned being both sensitive and decisive, soft-hearted and logical, emotional and reasoned, and much more.

Deviant in a good way

In contrast to cisgender norms, it takes deep discipline to allow this holistic integration. It is the same kind of deep discipline manifest in my type of asexuality, now known as demisexuality. Like the Apostle Paul, I do not burn. I can only feel erotic toward another after emotionally connecting with me on a deep emotional level. She must know my complexities before I can experience ourselves as compatible. This had only once before, when I came out as a “crossdresser” to someone who would later become my wife.

Coming out as trans years later put a strain on our marriage. Her upbringing did not prepare her for a spirituality off the beaten path. Nor for me, as I failed to find better words to account for this “baptism” I was passing through. We remained encircled by a culture still believing in the stereotype of gender nonconforming people as predators.

Stereotypes demand less discipline. It’s easier to believe LGBT people are hell bent to recruit their children than to take the discipline to get to personally know us. Or to know themselves as deeply. It’s easier to indulge their fears, and avoid the discipline to face the unknown.

Making sense of their moral panic

As it turned out, the undisciplined do not like their beliefs challenged by someone they presume to suffer less discipline than themselves. And they may react with little if any discipline, and quick to rationalize their own violent reactions.

It now makes complete sense to me how they projected their own moral issues onto me. Removed from the discipline to fully own their sexuality and gender identity, they tend to be easily tempted by a little cleavage, or short skirts, and a little flirtation.

It’s someone’s fault they are so easily tempted, but apparently not their own. They trust their idealized traditional norms to keep everyone’s sexuality and gender presentation in constant check. And those who violate such norms must be severely punished.

Only a pawn in their game

Now mix in a little stranger danger. A child who has never before met a trans person becomes transfixed. She gawks at what she describes as “a man with lipstick.” When she later gets in trouble for not being home, she claims this “man with lipstick” dragged her and molested her. She echoes the script of their stranger danger, and reinforces their “crossdressing” predation prejudice.

Transgender people are widely accepted now. But not back then. And certainly not in this deeply religious community. Especially not during this tough-on-crime era when the media became swept up in sex abuse hysteria.

The local court joined in the frenzy of baseless accusations against me. The child protection detective convinced herself I must be some kind of sex offender. Despite never being accused by my own children. A trial commenced to debate details that never occurred. And to expound on evidence that didn’t exist. About a “lifestyle” they never tried to understand. It was utterly surreal in how it applied a veneer of discipline to their painful lack of it.

An honor to suffer for whomever suffered for me

Today that trial and its tragic conclusion still casts its evil shadow. I faced down my worst fear, and came through stronger for it. Under current law, however, I must now register quarterly as a sex offender for the rest of my life. Where evil calls me evil, I’m affirmed as good. So I continue to bear the shame of the contemporary cross.

Mainstream apologists need not apply.

Steph is a self-described transspirit, which is a kind of sacred misfit. By transcending conventional limits—gender norms, religious identities, political polarities, and more—Steph experiences a unique connection in life. And suspects others do as well. This blog shares that spirituality, and affirms others of a similar state of being.

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