Hug a Transvestite

bruce-jenner-addicted-surgery-ftr-300x225Now that I’ve hopefully enticed you to my blog through a manipulative, provocative title, I hope you’ll stay awhile.

But back to transvestites.

This morning, I had breakfast with a friend I’ve known for 25 years. We sat and attempted to solve the world’s problems for an hour or two, and thankfully, we achieved our goal, so keep reading.

Here’s the solution to the world’s problems: Love people. All people.

When was the last time someone’s judgment of others changed anything for the good? Is ISIS convincing you to adopt their worldview? I suspect (and hope) not. Even if judgment changes external situations, it won’t change anyone’s heart. Speaking as someone who has recently gone through a drastic and difficult (and still occurring) set of circumstances, and speaking as someone who finds it really easy to feel anger and resentment toward any number of people who have hurt me, I can tell you first-hand that people’s love and kindness has softened me and helped begin a healing process that is surely (hopefully) only just beginning. People’s condemnation and judgment have yet to do me any good at all.

Now, I’ve never been a transvestite (thus far), but I have been an evangelical Christian with a Christian job, a family full of Christians, friends who were (and are) mostly Christian. And let me tell you, when your entire existence, from your marriage to your career, revolves around this aspect of your life, it’s a bit scary when your doubts and questions prove too persistent and powerful to dismiss any longer. Like many religious converts, I have ironically waved the white flag, surrendering to the doubts and questions that my faith can no longer quell. Let me tell you, this has not been a pleasant experience in any way, shape, or form. I have no more tried to lose my faith than I would try to lose my child.

The angst has been extreme for me: I’ve lived in a closet of sorts for the past few years, petrified that if I say what I’m actually thinking, I will be left by my wife, disowned by my family, disinherited by my parents, and abandoned by my friends who promise, patronizingly, to pray for me as I walk away into a lonely wilderness.

However!

My friends and family have almost exclusively met my struggles with mercy, compassion, and love. They have expressed this to me in ways that have humbled me to the core, letting me know that their love is far less conditional than I had feared (my issues…not theirs!). I’ve even had some beautiful messages of encouragement from people who tell me, despite what I feel, that I’m more “Christian” now than ever, that God still loves me, and that I’m still able to make a difference for Good in this world, no matter what my philosophical views are right now. Those messages have touched me in a way that is revolutionary and will continue to resonate in my soul as I practice meditating on moments of grace and compassion in my life.

(The voice in Tim’s head: Get to the transvestites, Tim. So far, this paper gets a D- for staying on its stated topic!

The more affirmative voice in Tim’s head which remains mostly silent a lot of the time (pathetic emoji here): But wait! You’re wrong, internal voice of guilt! This post is already very much about the transvestites you promised to discuss. You’re just taking a circuitous route to get there…you know, building the suspense. Cue the Jaws Theme.)

So, where was I? Oh yeah, transvestites:

No matter how you slice it, transvestites still remain very, very much on the fringes of “acceptable society members.” Homosexuality is widely accepted, even embraced. Bisexuality is, well, it’s getting there, but still on the fringe. But that “T” in the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (and for the record, I’m aware that transvestite, transgender, and transexual are not all the same thing…)) acronym still struggles for acceptance. Thus, I picked that one to get your attention by using a radical example of my point….which is:

Underneath Bruce Jenner’s now-feminine appearance is a human being who is, without question, living a difficult existence (after all, even if his current gender transition causes him nothing in the way of angst, he was part of the Kardashian family for awhile, and that’s gotta be rough). Do we have to affirm his sex change to believe that people who are in emotional pain need friendship and support? And one step further: Do we owe it to Bruce, since we’re all friends with him, to tell him he’s making the wrong choice? That he’s dishonoring God? That he shouldn’t feel what he feels?

My point has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with arguing the morality or immorality of getting a sex change, being bisexual, being homosexual, being addicted to pornography, wishing your wife wanted to 50-Shades-of-Gray your unused room in the basement, or even ordinary, daily lust (ladies, I know you don’t deal with this, but Jerry Seinfeld puts it best when he says, “For guys, once you’ve seen one breast…you pretty much want to see all of them”).

No, I want to argue the immorality of judging people rather than loving them.

These days, I refuse to even argue the morality of people’s sexual preferences, assuming consenting adults are the only ones involved. Before we have that argument, I’ll insist on this one: Can you see that the person who’s making this “choice” is inevitably feeling judged, scared, and probably very lonely? And do you believe that people who are feeling judged, scared, and lonely deserve your compassion (this word literally translates “to suffer with” so consider suffering with them). Do you think your friend or family member whose “lifestyle choices” you disagree with might need your human compassion and kindness? And do you think you’re somehow doing God a favor by telling the person they have chosen a sinful path? Find me a person whose sexual preference has been magically changed by someone quoting condemning Bible verses to them. Once you find one, email me and I’ll reconsider my opinion.

For now, my firm belief, my soapbox about any and all “outsiders” is this: If you care about someone who is an outsider, the absolute best solution is to plainly, simply, only love them. You don’t need to argue with them about morality. It doesn’t matter if they “chose” their behavior or were born that way. What matters is that they are hurting because society has told them they are of less value than those in the mainstream.

A few years ago, I expressed similar sentiments in a devotional I gave at a Christian school. I was a bit more tame there and simply told the high school students that there were undoubtedly closeted, hurting, gay people in our midst, and whatever else I know about following Jesus, I know it means loving strangers and even enemies. There was a rather awkward silence that filled the room, and after I was finished, the Headmaster walked up to me and said something along these lines: “Tim, thank you for your transparency. I know that in the wake of what you just said that you will have students come out to you. And, Tim, I just hope you’ll direct them to the Bible.”

I smiled and nodded and thought, I don’t know what to say to that because I literally had just used the Bible to prove that we are commanded incessantly to love people radically, to wash people’s feet, to turn the other cheek, and in Jesus’s case, to pray for the forgiveness of people who are in the process of murdering us.

So, with respect, Headmaster sir, which parts of the Bible would you like me to point these coming-out-students to?

If you want to change someone’s heart, not just behavior, there’s only one route: love them…without trying to fix them while you’re “loving them.” Just love them, accept them, listen to them, laugh with them, feed them, embrace them, and treat them like a HUMAN BEING who is just as confused and broken and hurting as you are. Their hurt and pain are no more right or wrong than your hurt or pain. But they, the outsiders, are forced to live out their struggle in the midst of people constantly judging them simply for having the struggle.

And if you think, “But they’re CHOOSING a sinful life,” I must be a bit confrontational here: So are you. And so am I.

I am selfish, owning far more than I actually need at the expense of people who need the money I spent on the latest iPhone with teleportation powers. I am a glutton who eats when he feels like it, usually without much restraint. This is considered by Catholics to be one of the Seven Deadly Sins, so it’s no small “sin,” yet I keep on eating what I want when I want. I ignore people’s pain far more than I’d like to admit, failing to go very far out of my way to help people I know damn well have very immediate needs. And I’ll confess to at least one (maybe 3 at most) moment of succumbing to Jerry Seinfeld’s view of women since puberty. I am far more familiar with the ways of the Pharisees than those of the Good Samaritan.

I stand at least as guilty as you are of my failures, my “sins,” my weaknesses.

I think the most apt Biblical story here is that of Jesus with the “woman at the well,” who was, to use a more modern term, somewhat of a “ho.” Some people came up to Jesus, quoted to him from his own Holy Book – the Old Testament – and asked permission to go ahead and stone her as the Old Testament commanded. Jesus simply said, “Whoever is without sin, cast the first stone.”

The crowd of stoners (tee hee…get it? Stoners! I wonder if they liked Dave Matthews and Phish) dropped their rocks and walked away. The woman was dumbstruck and changed – truly changed, on the inside. Sure, a good stoning might have done the trick to get her to quit sleeping with every Tom, Dick, and Harry (so many sexual jokes that I am resisting based on those names), but her heart was only able to be changed by compassion, kindness, and mercy. Not judgment.

So, hug a transvestite today. Or hug someone who you’re prone to judging. Ok, you can just love them in some way without actually hugging them. But afterwards, don’t worry about telling them how to get their lives straight. Just keep loving them, no matter what. They’ll be changed, maybe not into a 100% heterosexual, upwardly-mobile, neighbor of yours. But far more importantly, their self-worth will be validated. They will feel less alone, and the more you make a habit of non-judgmentally loving them, spending time with them sans agenda, the more softening will take place in both of your lonely and hurting hearts.

 

**People often ask if it’s okay to share what I write with others, as if I am trying to keep it private. Uh, yes, it’s okay since I do publish this on the interweb. But really, I’d be most appreciative if you share this blog (or post) with others. Who knows where it will lead? Thanks for your help!

8 thoughts on “Hug a Transvestite

  1. OK, Tim, as a Christian AND as someone who completely agrees with you about loving those “who live on the fringe”, I say that people need to let God be God…and let themselves be concerned only with loving others. It is not our place to judge. Jesus did not come to teach us how to do that. I share your frustration with those who are “stiff-necked” when it comes to specific groups of people. It is our job to build bridges to Christ…not to put up walls. Keep up the great writing and the good fight against all kinds of stigma. Your journey is not in vain.

    1. Catherine (or do you go by Catherine Anne? Sorry to not know that!), thank you. More and more, I am confident that you’re right…I’m on a good journey. Who knows what where this strange, wandering path is taking me. But I’m deeply grateful for your kind affirmations! They mean more than you can know.

  2. I could not agree with you more Tim. Jesus’ angst/judgment was saved for evil folks (they don’t read blogs like this) and the religious elite who took the “unconditional” out of God’s love.

  3. “For now, my firm belief, my soapbox about any and all ‘outsiders’ is this: If you care about someone who is an outsider, the absolute best solution is to plainly, simply, only love them.” Tim, the older I get the more I understand the truth of this whether the person is an “outsider” or “insider.” Peeling away the layers, what did Jesus say is most important? Matthew 22:36-40 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law? Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” If only we could just do that. Just that. Wouldn’t that be winsome? But here’s the rub…loving others means we must first recognize our own unloveliness (or sinfulness) knowing that we should be stoned as well. That’s a toe-stubber apparently. For all of us. Thank you for the reminder to do what shouldn’t be such a struggle. Let’s keep on pressing on!

    1. Laura, first, thanks for commenting! I’ve always been touched by your willingness to reach out through email and now here. As a needy person, it’s greatly appreciated! 🙂
      I think we are on the same page about the most important part here – that people need to be loved, period. I am coming from a different perspective on human nature these days than thinking we all “deserve stoning”. I plan to write a post soon about a documentary I saw about Jeffrey Dahmer – probably the most grotesque serial (cereal?…not funny, Tim) killer. I highly recommend NOT looking up what he did to people. But my point is (and will be in a future post) that throughout the documentary, his father spoke quite a bit, and you know what? His dad still loved him, despite knowing everything he had done. Then I heard a Ted Talk about a guy who interviewed the parents of one of the Columbine killers from 1999. When asked what his mom would say to him if she had him back, she said she’d ask his forgiveness for not knowing what was going on with him, and she would forgive him even though no one else would. So, while I’m obviously struggling with my own views of God these days, I do love the notion of how radical unconditional love can be, and I wonder if modern-day Protestant theology couldn’t learn something from Catholicism, which is far less critical of our fundamental human nature, at least in terms of how we’re born and operate as children (later, they catch on to the guilty conscience quite well!). It’s sort of funny that the further I move away from the we’re-all-guilty line of thinking, the more I feel capable of loving myself and loving others. Regardless of who’s theology or philosophy is “right-er,” I feel strongly that our best approach to dealing with other human beings is to meet on the level of our shared humanness – the confusing parts, the sad parts, and the happy parts, too. If we just start there with everyone, I think we can get a long way toward loving people who are very different from us. That’s my long winded 2 cents, and I hope I don’t seem argumentative. That’s not my point…just wanted to fully respond to your comment. Thank you again!

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