What Have Transgender Christians Actually Done (Wrong)?

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So here’s a thought. I know the organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses believes that a transgender person — or at least one who cannot, or just won’t, keep outwardly living their lives in a manner completely contrary to their gender identity — is fundamentally, and very reprehensibly, doing something wrong. At least, to whatever extent is actually possible, I’m pretty sure I’m understanding that belief right, although the only concrete things I really have to go on are a few very old Watchtower Society publications that briefly touch specifically on the subject, and slightly more substantially, the actions of  brothers whose job has been to represent the organization and its beliefs.

The thing is, I know more transgender Christians now, than when I first started writing this blog. I am one, of course, and I’ve since encountered some others. Some of us are men living as men. Some of us are women living as women (I’m one of these, by the way, if you weren’t quite catching that.)

And still a few others are men or women struggling as best as they can to live as the opposite, for as long as they can manage it, while navigating the immense emotional and psychological challenge of constantly putting forth an image of, and being continually treated as, something they absolutely are not. I believe those who do this, do so fundamentally for what they believe to be the sake of others whom they dearly care about, but whom they expect, probably rightly so, will have a tough time dealing with the actual truth. So tough a time, in fact, that these transgender Christians trying to carry on in such a way might worry that if they ever stop hiding the the truth about themselves, they might in fact soon find themselves ostracized and shunned by those very people, even as the misremembered, misunderstood (and by the way misgendered) memory of them is occasionally “mourned” in hush-hush tones by those same folks as having fallen victim to the wickedness of this system of things.

Now that I’ve voiced it, I confess, just one of those things actually does sound kind of really wrong. Not that I particularly can fault a transgender brother or sister who might try to live that way, mind you, but it’s hard to justify the latter sort of ongoing pretense as having anything to do with pleasing the God of truth, Jehovah.

Yes, for the sake of holding on to acceptance by other Christians who may be confused by us being transgender, perhaps, it’s understandable why some would give it a sincere try. To “avoid stumbling” others, is another phrase that some might offer to explain, or even commend, continuing in such a course, although I would argue that truth does not cause “stumbling.” Truth might be eye-opening, challenging even at times. Truth might take time to digest and become comfortable with, especially when that truth falls outside the scope of someone’s experience and expectations. Truth handled poorly, without tact or consideration for others can possibly cause some degree of stumbling, but even there, hiding truth is never a proper answer. Not for the sake of others comfort, not for the sake of their “faith”, not for the sake of “acceptance”, and surely not for thinking that hiding truth is somehow going to be pleasing to Jehovah.

Okay, to be entirely fair, I absolutely know what some of you are thinking — and to your own minds, compassionately so (you’re completely wrong about the compassionate bit, by the way, though I know you probably sincerely believe it): “Taryn, you are misguided. You are not a woman. And those transgender men you’re calling men are not men. There’s your problem, right there. You are the ones living as ‘something you are not’, and that’s what Jehovah hates. That’s why what you are doing is so wrong!”

I could go on and on and on-and-on about things like mounting bodies of evidence, and countless life experiences, example, after example, after example that all say otherwise. I could write at length, and sometimes I have, as to how there is no logical, scriptural reason to suggest that transgender folks are lying to you about this, or even that we’re mistaken about ourselves (whereas you believe you somehow know better and are not mistaken), nor that any of that whole growing body of highly credible scientific, medical, psychological and other worldly evidence out there about us can’t possibly be real, and isn’t true. (In fact, it’s actually quite the opposite, isn’t it? The scriptures absolutely support that all kinds of things now can and do happen when humans are born. There’s every reason to conclude that what all of the above is telling you happens with transgender persons, is actually the case for us.)

I could especially go on about how, regularly, with horrifying consistency, a transgender person living the only way that you would suggest to them is the “right” way, on an ongoing, life-long basis, ultimately has disastrous personal consequences, while finally giving up the pretense is life-saving, even spirit-saving — despite whatever challenges we may face from the world around us, including folks like yourselves, who don’t understand it, and often refuse to try.

Today, though, I just want to put a far simpler and more practical consideration to you.

We don’t think what you think about us.

No, it’s actually more than that we just don’t think that. We know the exact opposite to be true. We know our gender. Yes it doesn’t match parts of the bodies we were born with, but we still know who and what we really are — and we know that far better than you think you may. Therefore to do what is right we cannot do what you want, because to us — and therefore for us — the latter is the lie. It’s actually going against what we know ourselves to be, and once we have clarity about that, to continue to live that lie regardless, that is what would frankly be entirely wrong.

It’s only proper and completely in harmony with God’s Word to think that especially Jehovah, who more than anyone sees the whole person,  completely understands that about us. For the rest of you Christian brothers and sisters who would still condemn us for living faithfully, to the best of our ability, in accord with the women and men we know ourselves to be — all I can say is that I think it would be truly wonderful if those among you who claim to absolutely love the truth, would open your eyes and work a little harder at actually understanding this bit of it.

 

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Hormone Replacement and Christians: What Should Your View Be?

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Next he (Jesus) said to them (the Pharisees), ‘Is it lawful…to do good or to do harm, to save or to destroy a soul?’ (Mark 3:3-4)

Previously, I’ve written about the vast relief I’ve been able to experience since coming out as transgender, and taking steps to improve my health and well-being as a transgender person. Since a number of Christian faiths, Jehovah’s Witnesses among them, profess to believe that such steps are inherently wrong, and somehow offensive to God, I thought it might be beneficial to have a closer look at one of the most typical steps nearly every transgender person will sooner or later consider: hormone replacement therapy, or HRT.

To be perfectly clear, HRT is not a therapy unique to transgender persons. For example, it is often considered in treating certain problematic symptoms of estrogen loss, especially in menopausal women. While not as commonly referred to as “HRT”, hormone treatments are similarly sometimes recommended for men to combat the effects of lowered testosterone levels. In such cases, HRT comes with both potential benefits and risks, but frequently the benefits win out, since hormone loss in itself also poses the risk of sometimes serious negative effects.

It’s true that in the case of transgender persons, we are not usually combating hormone loss, but we are instead combating a major hormonal imbalance, which we were unfortunately saddled with from birth. And yet I’m sure some of you will immediately be inclined to say — with no legitimate basis in scripture, mind you — that what I am calling an imbalance is the hormonal balance God intended for me to have. Really? Then why, six months into HRT (finally, and I say, thank Jehovah), do I feel better than I have in at least ten years, if not perhaps, my entire life? Why have I only now, finally been able to stay completely off of antidepressants, which I’m sorry to say never had more than a limited benefit for me, and begin moving unflinchingly forward in my recovery from serious setbacks in my life, setbacks that I might add were entirely due to personal life traumas, and ensuing depression, anxiety and PTSD, that all occurred well before I ever decided to “come out” as transgender?

There can be no argument that poor hormonal balance can absolutely wreak havoc with both our mental and physical well-being. You might even be excused for having assumed that the right hormonal balance would be dictated solely by a person’s observable sex characteristics at birth, or to be more blunt, by their genitals. But all the actual evidence, not least of all, the actual experiences reported by so many transgender persons, including myself, plainly suggest that for transgender persons, that is just so very obviously not the case.

Would I have better weathered the storms that arose in my life, without suffering nearly as much or for so long, had I already had, what for me, is very clearly the proper female balance of hormones by the time all of those things occurred? I cannot, of course, go back and relive those days to prove the point for a certainty, but based on the clarity and vitality I feel now that I can plainly see in retrospect was absent then, I certainly believe that I would have.

More to the point, I know what I am experiencing now, and that this is unquestionably the right balance for me — for both my body and my whole being. There is a reason I consistently identified, not as a boy, but as a girl from the earliest age I can remember, and though I hid that fact from others for the greater portion of my life, whatever biological basis exists for that being my life experience, for that very same reason, so very far from being “wrong”, HRT is doing for me, and other transgender persons, exactly what it is medically meant to do — it is helping to correct a long-standing condition that had previously been causing a wealth of health problems, both mental and physical, in our lives.

If any of you can still believe that to be “wrong”, I suggest you seriously reconsider the context of the verses captioned at the outset, lest you risk being Pharisaical, rather than Christian, in your thinking.

 

 

 

 

The “Good News” for Transgender Christians

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“Jehovah’s spirit is upon me, because he anointed me to declare good news to the poor, he sent me forth to preach a release to the captives … to send the crushed ones away with a release, to preach Jehovah’s acceptable year.” (Luke 4:18-19)

All mankind, of course, was — and still is — in need of release from the conditions described in the prophecy of Isaiah from which Jesus was quoting. But as a transgender Christian, I feel a special affinity with this verse. The common experience of nearly all persons born transgender, namely that of being pressured into living for some (and often very, very many) years as what for us is absolutely the wrong gender, is devastatingly crushing in ways that are difficult for those who have not experienced it to understand.

Yes, I said “born transgender.” More and more readily accessible evidence points to this as the reality. If you’re here because you’re a trans person searching for answers, then you are likely already aware of this growing body of evidence, but you also likely don’t need science to confirm what your own experience has already taught you. If you’re here because you know someone else who is transgender and are wondering what is true and what is false then the unbiased research is out there for you to find — I don’t intend to belabor it here — but I will simply tell you quite frankly that so very many of our stories as trans persons share this same common thread of simply knowing our own gender, quite innocently from the earliest age we can remember, pretty much just as everyone else does — the only difference being that as trans persons, we eventually realized at some point that our parents and others generally seemed oddly convinced (for reasons that wouldn’t really make much sense to us for years to come) that we were that other gender. And then we invariably tried living up to the expectations of others in that regard for some period of time, but the longer we remained in denial of the simple, inborn truth we already knew about ourselves deep inside from the beginning, the more problems that invariably caused us: growing problems such as overwhelming anxiety, deep depression (often reaching a point of developing suicidal thoughts or tendencies), and as in my case, frequent and eventually debilitating dissociation.

For me, as for so many of my transgender brothers and sisters, “coming out” — first coming to grips with and really accepting what I’d essentially known about myself all along, and then transitioning, and especially finally achieving a better hormonal balance for my real gender (namely the one that aligns with that inner sense of self that I was born with) — has truly been a liberating release. Yes, the physical relief we experience from that is still limited — just as Jesus’ restoration of literal sight to the man who was born blind was also limited. The ultimate solution for every one of our ills lies in the new system, and the rule of God’s kingdom over this earth. But I can also tell you, the relief and joy is so very much akin to what that blind man must have felt.

Now, if you are one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, then you also know what the organization bearing that name is essentially telling you: while the latter man’s relief and joy at gaining sight was surely well-founded, and a gift from God, any comparable joy and relief I may feel today as a transitioned transgender person is just wrong. Never mind that all my symptoms of depression, anxiety and dissociation are vastly diminished. Never mind that my physical health is better, and my body is finally beginning to feel, not perfect of course (only Jehovah can ever make that happen), but at least far more right than ever before. 

So what is the truth here? My “release”, as it were, has certainly come at a cost. In fact that would sadly be true regardless of whether I was one of Jehovah’s Witnesses or not. Transgender folks unfortunately still often face a good deal in the way of discrimination, and some people can get downright ugly when they learn we are transgender. So if you’re thinking that transitioning doesn’t solve all of a transgender person’s problems, or even that some feelings of depression, anxiety and the like could well remain, especially given the way the world, and perhaps even some former friends, might be inclined to treat us, you’d be right. But then the same was true of that blind man that Jesus cured on the Sabbath, wasn’t it? You may recall that the religious leaders of Jesus’ day threw him out — disfellowshipped him, as it were — and so his temporary, physical release also came at what may have seemed to many a steep price. It is also clear it was a price he was joyfully willing to pay, because he knew from whence his relief came, despite the Pharisees hypocritically claiming it to be somehow evil and wrong.

I can honestly say that I feel the same way. I have discussed at some length in other posts here why I am firmly convinced there is no scriptural basis for concluding a transgender person living honestly in accordance with their gender identity is violating Christian principles or disrespecting Jehovah in any way. (And if your mind leaps to Deuteronomy 22:5, before you doubt either my integrity or the sincerity of my concern for Bible principles as a Witness and Christian, I would ask that you please first seriously consider this and this.)

This is also why, despite the cost, and in particular, despite the pain of being separated from some of those whom I dearly love, but who in accord with the decision of the modern-day counterparts to those religious leaders of Jesus’ day, will no longer associate with me, I can be genuinely happy. Happy — but at the same time (just as I’m sure was the case with that formerly blind man), unable to remain entirely silent on this matter. Because yes, I am grateful for the release and relief that my transition has brought — but I am even more grateful for the knowledge of Bible truth — the Good News that has given me the ultimate hope of the “real life” in the future.

Jehovah’s Witnesses as an organization are largely doing a wonderful and faithful job spreading the truth of that Good News. I speak up from time to time, however, as I do here, because the organization’s wrong, and frankly baseless viewpoint concerning transgender persons — which is essentially that the only way we can be pleasing to Jehovah is to remain seriously damaged and “blind”, and that any relief we might otherwise be able to experience by transitioning is just wrong and evil — absolutely works against that Good News, and in fact it places a needless and harmful obstacle in front of all sincere transgender persons whose hearts may well be favorably inclined to the truth.

“You Know Why We Don’t Talk…” and Other Fallacies

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I can only imagine what goes on in the mind of my adult daughter, one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, who clearly believes she can have no contact — excuse me, no “unnecessary”contact — with me, and faithfully holds to that position. I have no objective measure for what she considers “necessary” either, only that it is obviously unimportant whether I am well, or even alive. It is similarly unnecessary to respond to occasional attempts on my part to find out how she is faring, or whether the close friend she moved out to live with, who I later learned (not from my daughter, naturally) developed cancer is recovering, worsening, or even dead. I fully expect that one day my daughter will be married (if she isn’t already) and I will have grandchildren I’ll likely never meet, and it will surely not be “necessary” as far as she is concerned for me to ever hear a word about any of it.

I recently had cause to try contacting her, however — painful as that usually turns out for me since any attempts at communication typically receive not the slightest acknowledgement. But as her grandmother (my mother-in-law) whom she has also not seen in years was ill in the hospital, and things were not looking too good, I made the attempt.

So I was moderately surprised when my daughter actually responded to me via text message. Nothing of a personal or caring nature, mind you, but at least she thanked me for letting her know she appreciated this as an evidently “necessary” communication. But during the brief exchange, which was as unsatisfying as ever, she also made the particular statement: “You know why we don’t talk.”

That phrase has been kicking around in my mind for weeks now, because in all honesty, nothing could be farther from the truth. On the surface, I “know” that she views me as a “disfellowshipped” person. But with so many questions surrounding even that, there is frankly no way I can possibly know what her thinking is without discussion. The tyranny of the situation is such that, from her point of view at least, no discussion of any sort is “allowed.”

Even the elders, apparently, are not allowed to discuss anything with me. I was told by one of the brothers shortly after their decision to expel me that he would like to offer his help. He explained that if I wished, he could provide me with written material — articles — but emphasized that I would not be allowed to discuss anything or ask him any questions, only to say whether any material he decided to provide “helped” me or not.

Just in case you may be wondering about the scriptural basis for that kind of insane approach to “helping”, I’m fairly certain there isn’t one. I can’t see any practical basis either. “Hello, I’m your medical doctor, and I believe you have a serious condition. I’d like to help, so I’m going to experiment with various treatments, but you’re not allowed to ask any questions or describe any of your symptoms — you can only say whether you think the thing we just tried improved your condition or not. Yes or no.” Hmmmm…I think I want a different doctor.

Still, I responded to his offer, merely asking if he would please focus his initial attention on searching for material to address the areas I’d already explained at the hearing were sticking points for me. In doing so, however, I apparently overstepped the boundary of whatever minimal communication he felt was “allowed” because I never heard from him again either.

So really, given such an ultra-tight-lipped policy, along with the manifest unwillingness, inability, or both on the part of the congregation elders to provide any kind of relevant information regarding their stance even to me, I have to conclude that if anything, my daughter has even less of an idea as to why she isn’t talking to me than I do.

I can’t help thinking that this, too, seems out of harmony with the scriptures. Yes, we know that in Paul’s day, the Corinthian congregation was urged to stop associating with a particular member — but Paul made sure that they all knew exactly why. He did not ask them to shun fellowship with this person on his word alone — indeed, how could anyone in good conscience treat a fellow Christian in such a manner without clearly understanding the reason for doing so. And what was the reason? In this case, the man had taken his father’s wife as his own — something that, as Paul put it, was unthinkable even among non-Christian’s.

So then, I have to assume my daughter at least thinks I’ve done something wrong of similar magnitude. But what does she imagine that to be? Is my living as the transgender person I am enough of a reason?

In my view, the answer is no.  Jehovah’s Witnesses’ official stance, as far as I was ever able to tell, hinges first and foremost on an opinion as to whether there is any legitimacy to a transgender person’s gender identity (i.e., can a transgender woman in any way, in whole or in part, rightly be considered a woman — more and more research says absolutely, “Yes,” and in a very biological way — while the brothers simply remain inclined to think, “No”) — followed up with the subsequent opinion that exactly one scripture in the law of Moses, the letter of which we are no longer under (although we rightly draw principles from it) must be interpreted to apply in one very specific way to transgender persons, that interpretation itself being based on the first unsubstantiated opinion, mind you. So are two opinions and the resulting application of a single scripture, decidedly lacking in support from either additional scripture or secular evidence, really sufficient grounds for a potentially life-shattering decision to remove a fellow Christian from the congregation?

(I’ve previously discussed my rather bizarre exchange with the brothers on the subject in more detail, but I think it is also worth pointing out here that while they were quite adamant that they could never accept me as a transgender woman, rather confusingly, they never said that my own reasoning as I explained it to them was incorrect, from a scriptural perspective or otherwise.)

So now, should I assume that my daughter and other fellow Witnesses simply disagree, and to their thinking, there is ample evidence for the brother’s decision — but simply evidence that no one will share with me, because no one is going to speak with me anymore? Perhaps that is the case, but really, I suspect it is as likely if not more so that they are simply unwilling to give the matter any further thought at all. It’s certainly more convenient, in the supposed name of “unity”, to simply treat all of the society’s opinions and the brothers’ judicial decisions as equally soundly rooted in gospel truth.

And then it’s a further “unifying” simplification, I suppose, to encourage congregation members to treat every disfellowshipped person in the exact same extreme way, to have as little contact as possible, even with family members, and regardless of the supposed offense. So where does that idea come from? Because in his letter to the Corinthians, though Paul advised the congregation to stop associating with the sinner in question — not even taking a meal with the person — he certainly stopped short of instructing the congregation to refuse any and all communication of a civil or familial nature.

The idea that “no talking” whatsoever should even be permitted is taken from a different scripture in 2 John, which says that even saying “a greeting” to certain persons would make one a “sharer in their wicked works”. But the context of that scripture makes it plain it’s not speaking merely of someone who might be guilty of just any sort of sin, but rather specifically of an apostate — one who “pushes ahead” and does not remain in the “teaching of Christ”, but instead tries to bring in false teachings to corrupt the congregation — thus making themselves, not merely a sinner, but an open adversary of the Christian congregation and Jehovah himself.

So again, I’m left to wonder…does my daughter think that also applies to me? Have the elders told her that it does? Or is she simply adhering to the prevailing custom the Witnesses have of utterly shunning every disfellowshipped person in the exact same way, whether strictly warranted scripturally-speaking or not? I may never know for certain, because no one will say, at least not to me. Regardless, they certainly treat me as if that were the case. But all I’ve ever done with regard to this matter is to seek scriptural clarity. And failing to see that there is any such clarity behind their stubborn stance with regard to transgender persons, yes, I have blogged about it here. But I’m confident that any honest person can see that there is not a trace of malice or ill will in anything I’ve ever presented — only my own truthful observations about the experience. If I am “attacking” anything at all here, it is only what I continue to sincerely see as a singular injustice, and in reality, what appears to me to be an offense against the truth — I am certainly not attacking the truth, nor any of the plain teachings of Christ, nor the Christian congregation itself.

I happen to think my daughter, Christian elders and other former friends within the congregation might even be capable of realizing much of this. Except of course for the fact that “we don’t talk.” And they’re faithfully sticking to that, though Jehovah only knows why…because I certainly don’t.

Love of the Truth

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“By their fruits you shall know them.” So said Jesus of those who would adhere to the truth of his teachings, as distinguished from those who would diverge.

Jehovah’s Witnesses as an organization have manifested a great deal of fine fruit. There is a good deal of genuine love among the vast majority of those who call themselves brothers and sisters. Certainly as a whole, they don’t take part in divisive politics, or secular fights, or wars, or a good deal of other ugliness that for so many other folks — even those who consider themselves first and foremost to be Christian — tends to readily usurp their worship of God and love for their neighbor.

But a key thought keeps coming back to mind. Love of Jehovah and genuine faith in Christ ultimately also require an unswerving love of truth.  (2 Thess 2:10)  Where even long-held beliefs and ideas are found to differ from truth, a lover of truth will “make the mind over” and change. Where peers, even highly-respected peers, possibly even in large number, suggest ideas or actions that don’t gibe with truth, again, a lover of truth will not yield to the majority or to the pressure of mere men, no matter the cost.

It’s extremely important to note that while Jehovah’s Witnesses generally refer to the religion itself as “The Truth”, it is not scripturally speaking a “religion” that is to be loved, nor a religious organization. It is real, live actual truth. And plain and simply put, despite the best efforts of imperfect men I happen to still believe are well-meaning to faithfully direct the organization, it is a simple fact that not everything printed in the Watchtower magazine, or suggested with regard to handling of matters in the congregation, “judicial” or otherwise, has either the ring of absolute truth or the clear weight of scriptural truth behind it.

The unity Jehovah’s Witnesses cherish is a wonderful thing and beautiful to observe everywhere that it is solidly founded in real truth, but when their unity of thought and action crosses into areas where it leans fundamentally upon the words and ideas of men — not so much anymore. By comparison to the vast, obvious good fruit that is produced when the Witnesses as an organization (or any people for that matter) adhere to the obvious true teachings of Christ, and share these with their neighbors, the fruit of confusing the truth with every word uttered by congregation elders, or by the governing body, or ever printed in a Watchtower magazine is not nearly always so good.

Nor should this really be surprising. “We must obey God rather than men,” is a scriptural principal that doesn’t add, “unless the men in question hold various positions of oversight and responsibility within the Christian congregation.” Nor does this simple truth in any way contradict all the good the Christian congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses accomplish, or that their work as a whole bears all the signs of having Jehovah’s blessing and spirit.

Rather it’s a logical consequence of yet another scriptural truth: “It does not belong to man who is walking to direct his own step.” If the imperfect men leading the organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses could do so without error, without occasionally causing harm rather than good, without occasionally adopting positions based on something other than solid truth — then they could in fact, even in their imperfect human state, successfully rule all of mankind. And that, we are told in no uncertain terms, is something no human perfect or otherwise, can do.

The fact is, whenever various stances the organization has taken step beyond the boundary of plain scriptural counsel — when they, for example, disfellowship certain individuals on the basis of holding a viewpoint rooted in scripture itself, but a viewpoint that might happen to question a particular point of organizational teaching which itself appears to be founded on some measure of speculation — the organization and the brothers are showing a certain lack of love of actual truth, or at the very least, a preference for love of the organization over whatever really may be the truth in that instance.

And the fruit of such actions is bitter — alienating individuals and family members, separating genuine friends from one another, and as most faithful witnesses seem to view their obligation to “the truth” (as in the organization), preventing any display of love, affection or concern for the affected party, very likely for life. Because unlike disfellowhipping involving matters of clear scriptural sin, when concern for actual truth has been pitted against an organizational stance and lost, it is not very likely that the lover of real truth is going to be able to give that up to “turn around”, and “repent” from something that not only ought need no repentance, but would actually amount to a violation of personal integrity to assert,  in order to  “come back” to the welcoming arms of men rather than Jehovah, the arms of those who in this particular matter at least appear to love the truth less.

The truth is that it is never wrong to seek greater clarity when a particular statement or teaching or practice does not seem entirely right in light of one’s own understanding of truth as illuminated by the scriptures. We must serve Jehovah with our own minds and our own power of reason, after all, if we are to serve him at all. Nor is it ever wrong to act appropriately in harmony with what we perceive as true and right. There is nothing inherently disrespectful in doing so, neither towards the organization nor towards Jehovah himself — quite the opposite, in fact. Yet in truth, some are labeled “apostate” (and subsequently treated as despicable outcasts) for this  sort of reason, and this sort of reason alone.

I’ve deliberately not tied the discussion thus far specifically to my being a transgender Christian — I’ve covered that at length in some other posts (such as this one on the subject of .”Fleshly Thinking“, particularly with respect to transgender individuals, and a separate discussion of my frustrating failed attempts to get some scriptural clarity on the organization’s view of transgender persons). That’s because I strongly believe, while yes, this absolutely affects me in my personal situation, it’s a somewhat broader and more systemic problem than that where the organization is concerned.

In short, however, with respect to transgender Christians, the organization continues to disregard what is becoming a growing body of secular evidence that we are born biologically a cross between genders, and leans for no good scriptural reason on the viewpoint that certain bits of our physically visible biology at birth trump all else and are just more significant than our “irrelevant” innards — our brains and minds and figurative hearts — in determining how we need to live as Christians. Nor does the fact that all efforts at trying to live that way almost invariably fail to work in the long term for the transgender person appear to sway them to reconsider how their position might not, in fact, be based on either truth or sound scriptural understanding.

The fact remains that for me, the truth is I was born a transgender woman — living as a male was a long-term pretense, a pretense that despite all efforts including spiritual ones, increasingly did not work, growing to affect every aspect of my life and my failing mental health in particular. Whereas living as myself is one no longer. And with regard to the scriptures, I cannot find, nor have I been shown, any scriptural basis to concluded that it is against the law of Christ for me to do so, or that I must also teach others like myself that it is unquestionably wrong to do so (as remaining a member of the organization in good standing would also require me to do).

I genuinely love all the good the Witnesses do as an organization, and all of the real, fundamental Christian truths they have done more to spread worldwide than any other group on the face of the earth. However, the truth is, even if I were somehow able to do what they insist is the only thing I can ever do to become part of the congregation again — without actually losing my mind, or holding deep bitterness in my heart for being forced back into an unhealthy pretense that I only finally managed to escape — I actually consider myself morally obligated not to ever do so, and to rather hold firmly to my position right here, where I am, which is for the time being outside the congregation that will not have me — as a genuine lover of the truth and a transgender Christian.

A Matter of “Fleshly Thinking”

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Jehovah’s Witnesses as a whole recognize, as spiritually-minded Christians should, that thinking “in harmony with the flesh” — meaning the sinful flesh, in particular, when those thoughts conflict with the thinking of Jehovah and his Son Jesus as revealed in the scriptures — is a danger. For example, when Peter sought to dissuade Jesus from following through on his sacrificial course, Jesus sternly scolded him, saying “…you think, not God’s thoughts, but those of men.”(Matthew 16:23)

Of course, one of the signs that we may be ignoring the thinking of God in favor of our own concepts, and perhaps misconceptions, is when we are paying too much attention to the flesh, literally. Peter, in the cited example, was surely guilty of this, since he thought only as far as the idea that his beloved Lord was about to die (in the flesh), and that this was obviously a terrible thing and therefore ought not to happen. “Be kind to yourself, Lord,” he said, clearly showing that he was not considering all the benefits to be derived from Jesus’ casting off of that fleshly body, nor the superior life and role that Jesus himself would secure for himself upon his resurrection thereafter.

Now it occurs to me, in the case of transgender persons, that JWs themselves remain the ones guilty, quite literally, of pure fleshly thinking. I have considered elsewhere the limited — and to my mind, inadequate and sorely misapplied — scriptural basis upon which the organization routinely disallows and/or disfellowships transgender persons. This time, I want to take a look at the situation from a different angle. And the argument I have in mind is relevant, I believe, not only to Jehovah’s Witnesses, but to each and every religious sect that looks upon transgender persons with a mix of disdain and horror, and as somehow inherently living “sinfully”.

Let us suppose that a man, let’s make him a brother and an elder in the Christian congregation, is driving alone in a fairly isolated area when he is involved in a terrible automobile accident. His body is mangled beyond recovery, and yet he somehow arrives at the local hospital trauma center still alive — though not for long if something cannot immediately be done. His only hope is the newest of cutting edge and admittedly controversial procedures — a full body transplant. The odds of having a body donor are already infinitesimally small, since a viable donor must have a relatively healthy body, while being declared conclusively brain-dead; the relatives of the donor must agree to the procedure; and then there is only a small window of time where the body remains viable. Additionally, doctors must agree that the recipient has no prospect of recovery without the procedure, while at the same time, the recipients brain is deemed free of unrecoverable damage. Yet all of these coincidences fall into place for our brother. As he in no condition to be be consulted, and no family can be reached in the limited time available, the surgeons move ahead with the procedure. Twenty-four hours later, the brother is recuperating well, with a prognosis of full recovery, thanks to his new body — that of the unfortunate coma victim — a woman named Susan, of the about the same age as our brother — who lapsed into brain-death the same day as his accident.

So now we see the dilemma. Is our brother, because of his new body, no longer a man? Will he have to give up his role in the congregation, and learn to dress, groom and present himself as a woman from henceforth, because that is the body he now finds himself in? Will he even have to give up or else change his sexuality? Literal fleshly thinking might answer, “Yes!” But how much sense does that actually make? Is he not the same person now as before? And even if that might be difficult for some people to see or accept, wouldn’t our creator, especially, continue to view him in the same light?

Now, some of you might be thinking this is too unrealistic a dilemma. What these surgeons did was unconscionable! They should never have acted without consent. And if such an operation were really ever to become possible, I’d certainly never agree to one! I’d rather die first.

Well, if you are thinking at all along those lines, then welcome to the dilemma transgender persons are born into. And yes, thoughts of death quite possibly being “better” do occur to us, too. Because like our hypothetical brother, we also find ourselves in a body that does not match our brain — does not match us — the only difference being, we start life that way. We get no opportunity for choice or consent. The choice is only in what we do with what we are given, the same as now confronts our hypothetical brother.

So do you believe this brother, to please God, would now need to live the rest of life in the flesh as a woman? I have a difficult time believing anyone who would answer yes to that question. Still, then, let’s turn this around for just a moment…

…what if our accident victim was a transgender woman. Not an elder, or even a member of the congregation, obviously, because that is something JWs and some other sects view as reprehensible and ungodly. Now, after recovering from this accident, far from being disturbed by her new body, she may well be overjoyed with it! Would those of you who rejected her previously as being “sinful” now accept her with open arms? By the same fleshly standards you presently apply to transgender persons, how could you possibly say that you would not? And yet, she, too, is the same person she was before. If you can accept her afterward, why not before?

Yes, this is all hypothetical. We do not have brain and body transplantation. But before you dismiss the argument outright on that basis alone, consider: the creator himself is capable of providing a perfect solution. He has virtually promised to do so in the future. So which do you think he is more likely to do for the person born transgender? Give them a body that better matches who they are? Or change who they are to fit in the body they happen to have originally been born into?

Unbelievably, at least one JW elder expressed to me with the utmost certainty that Jehovah was bound to do the latter. Only Jehovah knows for sure exactly what he will do, of course, but for that brother to be so convinced that my heart and mind wouldn’t matter to Jehovah and my physical body alone must be the clear determining factor — that is absolute hubris, and the epitome of fleshly thinking.

Here is the equivalent circumstance, expressed using our hypothetical example one last time: once again, our accident victim is a transgender woman. Meaning of course that her body was (ostensibly) male at birth, but in her own heart and mind, she has never been male. So in particular, she is utterly convinced now of her femaleness even if others cannot grasp this, and she lives her life accordingly. Let’s go as far as to say she would like to be part of the Christian congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses, but isn’t accepted there, simply because she is transgender.

This person would, of course, be just as happy as before to end up in a 100% female body! But this time it’s not to be. This time, the only damage she encountered in the accident was to her brain. It’s been destroyed. And as it happens, some other trauma victim — let’s make him another Jehovah’s Witness — is lucky enough to be able to survive by having his brain transplanted into her otherwise intact body.

Now we can be completely sure you would happily accept her into the congregation, can’t we? There’s an “M” on the body’s original birth certificate, and the brain of a brother in that body. You can be sure there will be no more preferring dresses to suits. No more using a female name. Maybe her body has some more feminine features by now, but that won’t be a huge problem either. The new recipient might set about altering those, or else just do his best to hide whatever bits of his appearance don’t feel masculine enough. So yep — we’re all good. Except for the fact that she’s dead. That’s not her in there anymore. Congratulations. We’ve killed her, but at least she’s finally acceptable to you.

And that is what this sort of fleshly thinking and hypocrisy is doing to transgender persons who genuinely desire to be faithful Christians and witnesses of Jehovah. Killing them.

 

 

 

 

JW’s and the Misdirected Fear of “Independent Thinking”

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I recently came across a 2005 blog post in which a former Jehovah’s Witness discusses an evolving trend in both publications and talks from the platform, which is for Witnesses to be warned more and more frequently about “Independent Thinking” in a way that I believe has problematic implications.

Unsurprisingly, this raises red flags among some who wrongly try to accuse the Witnesses of being a “cult” because cults do prosper on that very idea: the suppression of independent thought in favor of an unquestioning “following the leader” mentality. That is never what JWs have been about. Christ, and not any man, is recognized as leader of the true Christian congregation, and neither did Christ himself, nor the scriptures , nor any witness I ever studied the Bible with, ever once suggest that anything be accepted unquestioningly, on “blind faith,” and without reasoned consideration.

So while the organization of JWs may not necessarily intend their warning in any bad way (more on this below), I think there is a real danger, and sometimes very real consequences, to the implications that some elders and congregation members alike seem to be drawing from it.

Please note, I am not recommending the blog from which the article I read (referenced below) came. At just a quick glance I can already tell that in too many ways, “Doc” Bob chooses to ignore all the available evidence of Jehovah’s strong support for the modern-day organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses, in a manner unlike any other religious organization you can find on earth today. (Just the worldwide activity alone in over 200 countries, with Bibles and Bible study publications routinely produced in hundreds of different languages and always offered, everywhere, entirely free of charge — an activity that continues to be carried out by unpaid volunteers and supported entirely by voluntary, unsolicited donations  — that’s right, free of charge, no fund-raising campaigns, and no collections taken, anytime, ever, in keeping with Jesus’ instruction to his disciples, “You received free, give free” is utterly unprecedented, and frankly, nothing short of miraculous.) I cannot help but think such a one-sided presentation as Bob’s is therefore deliberate, and calculated to cause harm.

However, his article discussing the trend in the JW’s view of “Independent Thinking” is mostly on point. In my own experience, over the years, I’ve heard that phrase popping up more and more often in talks from the platform, as well as in some published articles, with the implied connotation that critically questioning any aspect of the earthly organization’s published thinking is, if not quite a “sin”, at the very least, extremely dangerous.

So what’s wrong with this? Simply put, the organization is not flawless, nor should we expect it to be. The Jews of Jesus’ day had certainly introduced a great deal of erroneous thinking on top of the word of God they were charged with keeping, and yet at that time, scripturally speaking, they were still Jehovah’s people, his Witnesses. Today, the men taking the lead, from the governing body on down to congregation elders, also remain imperfect humans, no matter how spiritually inclined. I believe it’s safe to say that the vast majority are far more well-intentioned than those religious leaders of Jesus’ day, whose motives Jesus showed to be corrupt, but these men today are still just as subject to common human frailties and therefore quite capable of making mistakes, both individually and organizationally.

I think they probably mean well when they try to issue such warnings. Counsel provided against things like the dangers of the internet, various trends in modern dress and entertainment, even dangers inherent in buying in to the “philosophies and empty deception” that can be found in some modern education — all of these warnings are well-founded, and it would be unwise to ignore the scriptural reasoning behind them.

But therein lies the point. To even take counsel like this to heart in a proper way, independent thinking is absolutely required. If I do something simply “because the Watchtower said so,” or I heard it from a brother on the platform, and don’t take the additional step of convincing myself as to the thinking of Jehovah himself that underlies it, as revealed in his word, and how that actually applies to my own individual circumstances, what have I really done? I am no longer putting faith in Jehovah, but rather in men. Thinking independently of Jehovah is the real danger, according to the whole theme of the Bible itself, yet in actuality, isn’t that exactly what I’m doing if I relegate my understanding of Jehovah’s thinking to someone else, and simply take their word as to how it all probably applies to me? Worse yet, I may actually be elevating the word of men above that of Jehovah — not unlike the Jews of Jesus day whom he rightfully accused of elevating their own customs and traditions above the word of God.

Perhaps the organization believes that, regardless of where I put my faith, I am being “safeguarded” simply by listening to them, but such thinking is misguided. Faith in Jehovah means doing my best to bring my own thoughts and actions into line with Jehovah’s thinking, and not any man’s, because I have reasoned things out and concluded that his ways really are the best. That is the real and only safeguard.

The scriptures are full of exhortations that show us we must cultivate thinking ability. We must serve God with our whole mind, not someone else’s. We render sacred service with our power of reason. While I’m sure the organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses does not intentionally mean to undermine this, the culture that I have seen evolving among congregation elders, and trickling down to the rest of the congregation members today, is at times beginning to resemble that of the Jew’s view of their Talmud, their own complex and voluminous collection of reasonings on the scriptures by their most learned and respected men. That is to say, everything published by the Watchtower Society, along with anything else issued from the platform is frequently treated as though it should automatically have weight equal to that of God-inspired scripture, and that simply can never be so.

As I said earlier, I have noted this growing trend for years, and it is something that concerned me all the while I was able to be an active member of the Christian congregation. The issue goes far beyond my own personal circumstances (which I have discussed in sore detail in other articles).

Recently, of course, I’ve obviously given this more thought from the standpoint of living as a transgender Christian. Jehovah’s thinking, as best as I can sincerely comprehend it from the scriptures, has room for those like myself. I absolutely have been willing to listen to alternative views with an open mind, but none of the brothers I have dealt with were ever able to present any scriptural reasoning to the contrary. Nor have they ever attempted to address any of the scriptural reasons that I patiently and repeatedly expressed to them as to why I am so strongly convinced I am doing nothing wrong, but rather continuing to live with integrity, to the best of my ability, in the best way possible for me.

Instead, they very religiously rely upon the organization’s relatively few published interpretations on the matter, which appear to be based on little to no application of scripture and some underlying, unsubstantiated and frankly very stale assumptions about transgender persons. That evidently forms the whole basis of their current thinking, and yet for them, it clearly carries sufficient weight to take the very serious next step of removing a person from the Christian congregation.

Sadly, by doing this, they close the door in a very permanent way upon the transgender Christian. I am utterly convinced this is a door that should remain open. What I believe is the appropriate exercise of “independent thinking” — properly rooted in Jehovah’s thoughts as found in the scriptures, but free of the erroneous assumption that every notion the clearly blessed, but still imperfect, human organization has ever put forth is as absolute as Jehovah’s Word itself — continues to lead me to no other conclusion.

The Simple Truth – Why JWs are Absolutely Wrong in their Treament of Transgender Christians

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I haven’t written here in awhile, simply because nothing has really changed. As a “disfellowshipped” Christian, my former friends in the congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses continue to have nothing to do with me. As for my daughter, who for just about every reason other than this, I am pleased to say is a happy, active member of the Christian congregation, the only contact I have had with her since she moved out of our home last summer was a recent question about an insurance bill, which apparently was deemed sufficiently “necessary” communication that she could temporarily break her silence with me and not be somehow “sharing” in my “horrible” sin.

However, it occurred to me this morning, that this situation is really far, far simpler than even I have been viewing it in the past. With that in mind, I want to try for a very succinct summary of the problem with JWs view of transgender persons — a twisted and inaccurate view that is sadly shared by various “fundamentalist” Christian groups as well.

It simply comes down to this. As a transgender woman, I was born neither fully female nor fully male, but rather partially both. Yes, the sexual plumbing bits turned out to be more or less male — I was never going to be capable of giving birth to children (lamentably, from my point of view) — only of “fathering” them. That does not in any way diminish the significance of the female parts of me, which in fact turned out to be vastly predominant in pretty much every other way.

There is more and more evidence coming forth in recent years to substantiate the validity of such a claim, but for me personally, having lived the experience, I don’t need scientific studies to tell me it is the truth.

If you accept this truth, then it is plain that the transgender Christian who ultimately comes to terms with their condition by living in accord with the gender that is predominant within themselves is in no way disrespecting their creator, who from a Biblical point of view may not originally have purposed for children to be born with such a condition, but nonetheless has allowed such things to occur since the downfall of Adam and Eve.

The problem is, Jehovah’s Witnesses as an organization, along with various other so-called Christian groups, simply choose to disagree. There is no rationality to it, no basis in medical or scientific research, no credence given to the life experience of the transgender individual. There is not even any sound Biblical basis. The transgender person is simply seen as wrong — wrong about themselves — wrong about their birth condition and life experience — and therefore wrong about living in the way that works best for them, psychologically, emotionally and even physically, when that way happens not to match the Witnesses’ assumptions about the genitalia that person was born with.

For transgender persons who may eventually opt for genital reconstruction, as a means of further correcting what they see as an unpleasant birth defect, the Watchtower instead sides with various other fundamentalist groups who insist on calling such surgery “genital mutilation” instead.

Everyone is entitled to their opinion. I do not insist that everyone else grasp, accept, or even try to wrap their mind around what it means to be transgender. When opinions lead to seriously negative judgement, however, and potentially to action as adverse as cutting off all association for someone whom you previously claimed to have deep Christian love for, then unsubstantiated opinion alone won’t do anymore. Jehovah’s Witnesses and other Christian groups who take such a hard stand against transgender persons have absolutely no basis in fact and no right to say that their opinions are absolute truth, while discarding as irrelevant conclusions that persons like myself have painstakingly drawn based on a lifetime of experiences, available medical and other evidence, and for those Christians among us, even our own consideration of the scriptures.

Transgender Issues, Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Bible: Can We Get a Little Clarity Here?

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I want to write about this issue from a different perspective today: there remains a fair amount of confusion in much of the population as a whole about what it even means to be transgender — let alone among the Christian community, as to what a transgender person’s particular moral obligations might really be, from the Bible’s point of view. However, Jehovah’s Witnesses as an organization take a stand that suggests there is no confusion on their part with regard to either of these questions.

All well and good, but in that case, how is it that they are so certain? It’s a fair and honest question, and to be frank, it’s the sort of question many sincere folks have asked Jehovah’s Witnesses about a great many of their beliefs. To their credit, Jehovah’s Witnesses stand ready with very sound Bible-based reasoning to back up the vast majority of everything they teach with surprising clarity. It is one of the things that drew me to them in the first place; a firm reliance upon scripture, as opposed to the interpretations or opinions of men. 

So what about the case of transgender Christians? Jehovah’s Witnesses’ position, at least, appears to be reasonably clear and succinct: no transgender person can become a part of the genuine Christian community (or remain one, if they were previously baptized as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses), unless that person agrees to live outwardly as the gender the Christian congregation expects them to be — essentially meaning their assigned gender at birth — regardless of how wrong that gender may feel to the person, or why.

The brothers that spoke with me indicated that the organization’s viewpoint with respect to a “hermaphrodite” might be different — though they declined to elaborate further on what that viewpoint might actually be. I asked, more than once in fact. As was to become a pattern, I just didn’t get an answer to that question.

That leaves me to wonder, among other things, what their understanding is of what it means to be “hermaphrodite”. Modern medical science has not used the term hermaphrodite for quite some time, and instead today recognizes a broad range of what are now called intersex conditions, which I will sum up, very non-technically, as a wide variety of ways in which gender can be physically observed to be ambiguous at birth. In other words, some physical indicators of both male and female gender are present. Importantly, some of these physical indicators may not even be visible to the naked eye. (As just one of many examples, it is entirely possible for a Y chromosome, generally considered the prime “male” genetic marker, to be present — or else absent — when the sexual organs would appear to indicate the opposite gender.)

But I digress. Even if there is some confusion about what constitutes a “hermaphrodite” or intersex condition to which, at least in theory, the organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses might afford a different consideration, the brothers’ viewpoint on what constitutes a transgender person at least, must obviously be clear enough, otherwise, how else could they formulate such an equally clear prescription for the transgender Christian: “You must live in accord with your apparent birth sex. Period.” Right?

Well, maybe not. I am a transgender woman — which to me quite simply means I was born with visibly male parts, but at the same time, with a deep-rooted sense from the earliest age I can recall onward that I was absolutely not a boy, but a girl. Is this their understanding of it? The closest thing I received to an answer was that “they take no stand as to whether I, and other transgender persons like myself, may have been born this way or not.” Hmmmm. That sounds more like uncertainty than certainty. Or else they simply think it doesn’t matter. 

Fine, so then, if that doesn’t matter, the thinking must be that no matter what I’ve felt on the inside from infancy on up, it must somehow be plain to them that God absolutely views me as a man, right? Is this their point of view, and thus, the reason they insist the only acceptable way for me to live is to look, appear, and act as a man?

You might think that it must be, but I could not get an answer to that question either.

Hmmmm…

Does that mean they’re not exactly certain how Jehovah views me? Well, from my understanding of the scriptures, it’s plain that the God of the Bible sees and values the inner person, so I happen to think it’s quite reasonable that even if other people cannot understand it, He first and foremost would be the one to actually know and comprehend my femaleness.

The line of reasoning makes sense to me, but clearly not to the brothers. Why not, though? You guessed it: NO ANSWER!!!!

Double-hmmmm….

I hope any reasonable person can see why this has been so highly frustrating. Still, I kept trying. Ok, well, is there just no way that you brothers can view me as a woman?

“No!”

That response was immediate, clear and emphatic enough.

Then why not?

(– insert dead silence here –)

I believe that is the point at which I essentially gave up. There was a bit more discussion along equally unsatisfying lines, but in the end, regardless of whatever I said or the questions that went unanswered, their unanimous decision was to remove me from the congregation for what they obviously consider a very serious violation of Jehovah God’s standards, despite the fact that nobody was able to clearly explain why they maintain that viewpoint, nor has anyone attempted to do so since.

As best as I can determine — and some educated guessing is involved on my part here, because none of Jehovah’s Witnesses have ever attempted a clear, direct explanation — they essentially rely on Deuteronomy 22:5 in taking this stand concerning transgender persons. Further, to do this, they apply it as follows: Jehovah said it was detestable for a man to wear women’s clothes or vise versa; Even though we’re not under that law as Christians, if Jehovah said something was detestable to him then, there’s no reason to expect God to think differently now, since in his ultimate wisdom as the creator of all things, his views never need to change. Furthermore, in their view, regardless of whatever my own personal experience may be, I am obviously a man, no more, no less; yet I now dress and present myself as a woman. Case closed.

Before I can begin to accept such an argument as sound — sound enough to change my whole life around again based upon it, and head back in a direction that I’ve otherwise come to see as totally improper and damaging for me — here are what I viewed at the time, and continue to view, as legitimate and sincere questions in need of straightforward answers. Assuming Jehovah’s Witnesses are really certain of what they are doing in this regard and why, they really ought to be able to provide me with ready, clear responses:

1. As Christian’s we are not under the law given to Moses, so to use one of the statutes of that law as a basis for the serious step of removing someone from the Christian congregation, there must be some significant discernible principle involved, one that plainly transcends the law, and is clearly applicable to Christians. With respect to Deuteronomy 22:5, the key — and only — scripture relied upon in making any kind of scriptural case for my removal, what is that principle? Surely it is not about anything as trite as the mere wearing of garments. Jesus made it plain that the eating of various foods could not defile a person — and indeed, the dietary restrictions of the law were explicitly noted as being done away with for Christians; how could the mere wearing of a garment of any sort defile a person? The brothers agreed with me on that point, but never answered the question of what they believe the underlying principle to be, or why.

2. Personally, I believe the gist of Deuteronomy 22:5 to be that a person ought not to present themselves as something they are not. (I’m not talking of costume parties or taking on a role for entertainment, such as theater and so on — I’m talking about “faking” something out in the world for real, for purposes that are essentially fraudulent or dishonorable.) In fact, to me, having come to a fuller understanding of myself over time, as a transgender woman, that very principle means I ought not continue to present myself as a male when in fact there is so much more about me — the whole inner person, in fact — that is female. Indeed, to my mind, the very notion of reverting to trying to live as a man now would mean to carry on a sorry pretense, and that is something I think Jehovah would not want me to do.  But I am more interested here in asking what do Jehovah’s Witnesses really think, as opposed to restating for the umpteenth time what I think. With regard what I’ve outlined here, I did ask them to tell me, what they believe is wrong with my thinking? This question also received no response, scriptural or otherwise.

3. To answer to the previous question would of necessity also entail an answer to another question, probably the most fundamental of all, namely, what really is Jehovah’s view of me, and other transgender persons? The brothers made it plain that they personally cannot bring themselves to view me as anything but a man, evidently because they know (or at least believe they know) I was born with some visible, unambiguously male parts — i.e., a penis — and apparently to their way of thinking, nothing else could possibly matter more than that. All well and good — everyone is entitled to their opinion — but the most crucial question which I posed for them, in all earnestness, also remains utterly unaddressed, namely: Do you believe that is also Jehovah’s viewpoint? If so, why? If not, what exactly is it that you believe He thinks? And what scriptures lead you to your conclusion?

These questions all deserve a clear answer, and I cannot emphasize enough how disappointing it has been to have each of them repeatedly ignoredI do not know what else to conclude except that in this particular matter, Jehovah’s Witnesses are themselves, at best, uncertain about the answers.

But if that is really the case, then I would beg this of them: until you can really be certain, one way or the other, stop being unfairly prejudiced in your opinions, because at present your actions are potentially stumbling and harming a good many people who through no fault of their own suffer as I do from a transgender condition.

No Hugs for You!

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I love my daughter more than words can describe. From the day she was born, when she cried after her first bath and I rubbed her tiny feet to soothe her, to today, the day she moved out of our home, at the age of (nearly) twenty-two, I have never stopped loving her.

There have been inevitable trials — teenage uncertainties — the first boyfriend — that boyfriend who as a parent I could just read and know was trouble — and so much more. I have always done my best to guide, comfort, provide and at some of the most frustrating of times, when no amount of parental insight was going to be heard, or heeded, just wait patiently for things to turn around. Through all of it, I have loved her unfailingly. I may have failed in many other things in my life, but never that.

So it hurts more than words can describe to have my oldest child take this bittersweet next step towards her inevitable independence, without even the barest of hugs or a backward glance of affection.

Why? Apparently there can be no affection shown towards a disfellowshipped parent. Is this something that is taught by Jehovah’s Witnesses? Not directly, at least as far as I know, but it is obviously how she’s been made to feel, and to act. I half-teasingly asked her to at least get in touch and let me know about any really big things in her life — if she moves to Uganda, say — or gets married — or has children. She, not teasingly at all said to me: “I’m sorry, but you know I can’t.”

Well, I am very sorry, but I know no such thing. I fear that the people I love — Jehovah’s people — have crossed a dangerous line. In the name of unity, they have developed some customs and practices which, though scripturally-based in spirit at the core, have in practice pushed well past Bible teaching into the realm of man-made customs and rules.

Does it make me what they call an “apostate” to point this out? Many Witnesses would likely unitedly cry out that it does, without regard even to what that term actually means, or whether there is any basis in fact to my observation.

The Bible term apostasy means a turning away from the true God and true worship. I want nothing more than to worship Jehovah in truth. I believe that’s what the overwhelming majority of brothers and sisters who call themselves Jehovah’s Witnesses also want. I point out what I do, not to tear anyone down, or to take away from all the good work that the organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses has done and continues to do, but because from all the evidence I can see, there is something seriously wrong right here, with these particular matters, not from my own point of view, but from Jehovah’s as best as I can discern it from the scriptures — and I point it out in this forum because, again apparently in the name of “unity”, no brother or sister will speak about this (or anything else for that matter) with me.

With respect to someone who is bent on carrying on gross practices that Jehovah clearly hates, the scriptures make the admonition to stop associating with that person, to the point of not even taking a meal with them. This certainly makes sense! If I am serious about my love for Jehovah, and you want to basically thumb your nose at my God and reject what He as the foremost judge says is good, why would I ever want to “hang out” with you, or give you even tacit approval? I wouldn’t! Now if that person is a family member, or other loved one, who has taken a seriously wrong turn in their lives, that’s going to be even more painful, but still, the admonition applies. But does that mean no affection can ever be expressed? There’s to be no talking at all? (The scriptures do make a separate distinction concerning one who would “bring a different teaching” counter to the truth of God’s Word into the congregation, that one should not even “say a greeting” to that person. To me, this plainly speaks of a very particular type of offense, essentially outspoken apostasy; however Jehovah’s Witnesses, by custom, seem to also apply this as a blanket rule concerning anyone removed from the congregation for any reason.)

At the age of 19, I found out that my beloved daughter had become addicted to heroin. I am very happy to say that with some firm, persistent help, in time, she turned things completely around, is completely clean, and unlikely to fall into such a snare ever again. However, what if, instead of simply being firm for what I believed was right, while continually reassuring her of my love, I had taken that sort of drastically hands-off approach with her? I seriously doubt things would have turned out so well. Yet, if my daughter were a young baptized witness living on her own at the time of her falling into that sort of trouble, and was disfellowshipped for it, that is exactly the approach the Watchtower would appear to recommend. It’s been suggested in print that it “might be possible to have almost no dealings at all” with a disfellowshipped family member, and that this drastic approach may be the best way to make them see the seriousness of things, and return to Jehovah.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with the Watchtower making that point. It indeed might be possible — and depending on the individual, what they actually were engaged in, and their attitude, it might even be absolutely the right approach to help that person. Tough love, so to speak. The problem only arises when that suggestion rises to the level of a prevailing custom as the one and only allowable way to ever deal with disfellowshipped family members, and then is given weight equal to that of scripture itself. In the name of “unity” all Jehovah’s Witnesses are to treat all disfellowshipped persons the same way all the time. Period. Those who are seen to do otherwise could be subject to suspicious scrutiny themselves, and may even find themselves in front of a judicial committee at risk of being put out of the congregation. To go that far does not have a basis that I can find in scripture, nor does the notion of “one-size-fits-all” treatment mesh at all with the sense I get of the insightful compassion behind Jehovah’s and Jesus’ dealings with people, as recorded in the Bible.

I understand that there may be difficult lines to discern here. Not everyone can know everyone else’s circumstances. For example, if we know a person was removed from the congregation by a judicial committee, and we don’t know any of the details, we probably are not in a great position to make any assumptions about that person’s attitude, etc. A faithful brother or sister will want to assume that the judicial committee acted appropriately, that the person was removed with good reason, and until shown otherwise, is therefore at the very least not a “good associate”. Even if we do know more — as we are most likely to with family members — we still wouldn’t want to treat things lightly. Do these considerations, however, mean that the disfellowshipped person ought to always be treated as if they were invisible or do not even exist? Because that tends to be more or less the prevailing custom if a disfellowshipped individual attends congregation meetings, for example, or is simply even encountered in public. It is the rare — but very welcome — witness who will afford such a one even an honest glance, or a warm smile that reminds them they are still cared for, or even rarer still, a much-needed word of encouragement. Yet it does not appear to me to be the scriptures that prohibit such potentially helpful and compassionate actions — only the prevailing custom.

The society suggests in its published materials that it is the congregation elders, and they alone, who are in a position to exercise proper discernment in these matters, and thus apparently they alone who are in a position to know how and when to express compassion, if warranted. I suppose that keeps things simple from an organizational perspective, but I cannot see where such a restriction has its basis in scripture, nor does it always work. And even there, it appears, there are more organizational (as opposed to scriptural) rules in place. The brother overseeing my judicial committee expressed to me afterward that he could, if I wanted, provide me with some additional scriptural instruction with respect to my situation — namely being transgendered — but that he couldn’t discuss it with me. I could only say whether the material helped or did not. I said, quite honestly, that I didn’t see how he was going to be able to help me all that much if I couldn’t express to him what parts of which things I was having trouble with — but sure — I’d still look through whatever he had in mind to share with me. After that I never received a thing. It’s been about a year so far. Far, far more insightful compassion is needed.

There is no question that it is a far simpler thing to have rules and customs that can be applied in a blanket way. Far simpler, but not nearly as Christlike. But to “open the gates” to all brothers and sisters exercising Christlike discernment in their dealings will absolutely require more work. And so it seems, for now, no hugs for me.