JWs Advice to Transgender Christians: Scriptural View or Added Burden?

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Jehovah’s Witnesses advocate that a transgender christian must live as the gender manifest by their genitalia at birth, and that to do otherwise is an offense against Jehovah. I’ve discussed this from various standpoints here, but today I want to consider one empirical argument against my living as a transgender woman presented by the brothers I spoke with, namely, that somewhere, someone supposedly knew of another transgender (MTF) person who after studying the scriptures ultimately determined that despite whatever they themselves had felt, “Jehovah had made them male” and so they concluded that is the way they needed to try to live to the best of their ability.

It’s impossible to verify such a colloquial story being passed on. However, assuming it’s essentially true in the details, and that this person came to such a determination honestly for themselves, then I wish them every success, and I expect that as long as they are sure of the decision in their own mind, they will be successful.

The reason this is no argument for transgender people in general is that it’s in no way a given that we could all possibly reach that same conclusion. Science is coming to understand that, whatever the causes, transgender individuals are born that way, and like so many other birth conditions, it manifests itself across a wide spectrum. I for one in all honesty could never conclude that Jehovah made me a male. On the contrary, what I can understand in line with Bible truth is that Jehovah allowed me, and others like me, to be born neither fully male nor fully female, but a mix of both.* I expect that many persons like myself would feel similarly. While this was clearly not Jehovah’s intention for mankind according to the scriptures, because of Adam and Eve’s sin, things have been allowed to go awry in many, many ways, and we are left to deal with the consequences. Naturally, even faithful Christians are not immune, and we must in good conscience contend with whatever “hand we have been dealt” to the best of our ability while maintaining integrity to our God.

The good news is that scripturally, it actually is quite clear what I, as a Christian transgender person, absolutely need to do: love Jehovah, with my whole mind and strength, and my neighbor as myself; excercise faith in his son, Jesus Christ; to speak truth; to abstain from blood, fornication, violence and other practices Jehovah hates; to do my best to help others in need, and to keep myself without spot from the world. (Matt 22:37-39; John 3:36; Eph 4:25; Acts 15:28-29; James 1:27)

To go beyond these Biblical requirements is to impose burdens that Jehovah clearly did not intend (Acts 15:28). For anyone to simply conclude that my femaleness is irrelevant (even though it is clear that the inner person and not the outer flesh is what matters most to Jehovah; 1 Sam 16:7; 1 Pet 3:4; John 6:63) and living in accord with it must therefore be a blemish of “worldly desire” and a practice that Jehovah hates, is not merely a matter of opinion, but utterly inappropriate. Pointing to a single statute in the law given to Moses pertaining to expectations of “able-bodied men” and “women” as justification for such a viewpoint (Deut 22:5) does not hold up to scriptural scrutiny. That law was done away with for a purpose; it was a perfect law which imperfect people could never fully live up to, a tutor leading to Christ (Gal 3:19-25); therefore it did not even attempt to address Jehovah’s view of someone born partially male and partially female, which situation was never meant to exist, but does. I can find nothing whatsoever in the law of the Christ, nor in the whole of scripture, that negates the absolute legitimacy of anything I have outlined here.

Finally, as Christians, we know society is not our measuring stick — this world accepts, even promotes, many things in opposition to Jehovah — but it remains a consideration, for where something is not defiled in itself, yet has the potential to stumble others, we as Christians must in good conscience take that into consideration as well (Ro 1:13-15). Fifty years ago, even if it might have been healthy, mentally and otherwise, for a transgender person like myself to free themselves from the burden of having to constantly hide their true inner identity, society as a whole would have had a problem with it. Today, while there are certainly places that remains true, the cultural shift is undeniable. By and large, the majority of people today are much more likely to be stumbled by a stubborn refusal to accept what society now does, namely, the legitimacy of a transgender person’s identity. If that refusal really were in line with Jehovah’s thinking as outlined in the scriptures, the organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses would remain justified in their stand, but I cannot see how that is the case.

In short, it seems clear to me that the earthly organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses’ present viewpoint and treatment of transgender persons presents a huge man-made burden that may ultimately prove insurmountable for the transgender Christian. It certainly has been so in my case, leading to my being cut off from all association with the congregation, which in itself presents a significant added burden. All of this presents a needless stumbling block for the transgender person, their family, and others.  I believe any clear-thinking person open to an honest consideration of all the available evidence, scriptural and otherwise, would have to arrive at the same conclusions. It’s not my intention to cause dissent, however, it is my fervent hope that this might eventually reach the ear of some in the organization who are in a position to give the matter much-needed prayerful attention.

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*(People classify gender at birth based on the organs that developed in the womb. Looking at it that way, I’m really not asking anyone to judge differently in my case — I’m simply pointing out that they ought to consider ALL of the organs. While my reproductive system came out essentially male at birth, my brain — a vital organ that cannot be ignored — absolutely came out female. There were other physical characteristics pointing to this mixed state as well, especially during and after puberty, but to me nothing trumps the significance of the mind itself, which in my case knew it was female from as early an age as I can remember.)

 

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A Matter of Integrity

I my last discussion, I implied that my choice, my decision to suffer one set of consequences over another was a matter of Christian integrity. To understand why, it’s helpful to consider a historical Biblical view of God’s chosen people over the years.

In the pre-Christian era, when Jehovah was using the nation of Israel, faithful Israelites were obligated to be obedient to Jehovah’s earthly arrangement. Of course, at times  there was much that the leaders of Israel did, and led the people to do, that was clearly wrong. To the extent that any individual knew what their leaders were telling them to do was against Jehovah’s principles, those people surely bore responsibility for their own actions. They should not have gone along. They should have known better.

Of course, it can be argued that many of those leaders, according to the scriptures, proved to be ill-motivated, unfaithful men, blatantly disobedient to God. Jehovah has done a great deal to cleanse his organization today of such influences. I readily agree that from the members of the governing body on down, the vast majority of those taking the lead in his organization today are genuinely faithful – and in case any are not, he does not allow such a situation to remain for long – still, not one of them is yet perfect. Nor can the organization itself – the earthly part – be perfect. Not yet. For that reason, it may be more illustrative of my point to consider the example of David,  a foremost example of someone deemed faithful by Jehovah.

Even after David’s terrible lapse of judgement concerning the wife of Uriah, Jehovah later on showed he viewed David as faithful, a man “agreeable to his heart”. Yet at the time when David committed adultery with Bathsheba, and then ordered his army chief Joab to place Uriah on the front lines of battle and draw back, allowing him to be killed, that was surely a terribly harmful lapse on the part of this faithful man. Did Joab wonder at all about this order? The scriptures don’t say, other than to report that he carried it out. Other men besides Uriah also lost their lives as a result. Was Joab merely acting out of loyalty to Jehovah’s appointed king, by not questioning that order? Perhaps! Yet clearly, Joab bears some of the guilt for that action. It should have been very obvious to him that, despite it being the command of Jehovah’s appointed king, something inconsistent with Jehovah’s principles — in this case, outright murder — was going on. Joab should have questioned what he was being told to do. Obedience to those appointed by Jehovah is always relative to our obedience to Jehovah himself.

So it is with obedience to the organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses today. “Be obedient to those taking the lead among you.” Yes. But never unthinkingly, and never without regarding Jehovah’s viewpoint as above that of any man. What then, if a brother, an overseer, a member of the governing body, or the printed pages of the Watchtower, should say something that to our minds does not exactly seem to be in sync with Jehovah’s thinking, according to our current understanding of the scriptures?

Of course there is good reason to give those taking the lead the benefit of the doubt. If the point of difference seems important enough to us, we’ll want to ponder the matter further, prayerfully searching the scriptures, maybe even discretely bringing our questions to one of the elders, or another mature Christian. In the process, it’s likely that we’ll refine our own understanding. If after that, we still don’t grasp the point for ourselves in the same way as it’s being presented, sometimes – perhaps often – it will be the case that we can just let it go for the time being. After all, regardless of which understanding might actually be more “correct,” we have little reason to suspect ill motives on the parts of our brothers, and especially the organization as a whole.

So there is a lot to be said for simply acting in unity, and as long as the difference is relatively benign, we can tuck the question away in our own hearts, so-to-speak. If it’s truly important, Jehovah will settle it in time. But should we just disregard the question? Especially if to us it seems more of a critical matter? If we have given the matter our own faithful consideration, and that has not resolved the difference in our own minds and hearts, then absolutely not! No one is served by pretending, to ourselves or others, that any of these men, or the organization they are charged with directing, is perfect, incapable of ever taking any misstep or holding a wrong point of view! Mistakes can and will happen. Some are harmless, of course, while others can and do prove damaging – harming, or even contributing to the stumbling of others. Pretending that this cannot and does not ever happen serves no one, and goes counter to a love of truth.

I’m in no way suggesting giving ear to the railing of apostates – those who have turned against Jehovah and actively oppose the organization he is using – who may well try to use, twist, or even invent such sorts of things to poison others against the truth. It’s not difficult to detect the ill motives of such a person. On the other hand, when genuine errors arise, in either teaching or action, the prevailing pretense I have seen time and again in evidence among many brothers and sisters is that in the name of unity we must somehow all speak and act as though there could never be any fault or doubt laid upon anything the organization ever says or does.

That, however, is a distinction belonging only to Jehovah himself. He alone is faultless. To hold such a viewpoint towards men, even the obviously faithful men charged with oversight of his earthly organization, is utterly misguided. It does not reflect loyalty to Jehovah. Holding forth such a viewpoint only serves to heap more pain and hurt on top of whatever damage some particular error may have already caused.

And so it currently is with a consideration of the plight of transgender persons. So many otherwise faithful witnesses flee from any genuine consideration of the subject. I’m not talking about closing one’s ears to any vehemence, blame or bitter vitriol targeted at the organization by apostates and those seeking to oppose Jehovah’s organization and Jehovah himself, whether on account of this or any other subject. I’m simply talking about an honest consideration of all the presently-known facts about what it means to be transgender, as well as the body of actual scriptural principles that bear on how Jehovah himself is likely to view such an individual, and what is clearly expected of them from a scriptural standpoint, in contrast to the added burden the organization currently asks them to bear.

In this case, it seems to me that no one in the organization itself has been willing to consider whether there might not well be a significant difference between those two things – Jehovah’s thinking and expectations as outlined by the scriptures vs. those of the men taking the lead in his organization. The governing body of Jehovah’s Witnesses, thus far, certainly has not. I don’t come to this conclusion because I have a different opinion. It’s true that my long-term and ongoing consideration of all the scriptural principles that seem to me to be involved has led me to an understanding that differs from what the organization and the elders keep telling me. But I conclude what I do – that the organization has not yet given this subject their serious enough consideration – mainly because at no time either before or since my being disfellowshipped, was any brother able to present me any substantial scriptural argument to explain their insistent belief that what I am doing is simply wrong. No substantial consideration has been published by the society, and what little has been published is very dated – not at all taking into account modern understanding of the condition itself – but more importantly, it is also exceedingly light on any application of scripture.

Individual Jehovah’s Witnesses themselves therefore seem unlikely to give the matter much serious consideration for themselves – most are satisfied to readily accept the organization’s stand and loyally support it – not entirely unlike Joab, who I imagine would not have been prone to pondering the correctness of whatever his king instructed him to do.

I have not had that sort of luxury. The matter of how a transgender person can or cannot live and be pleasing to Jehovah is essential to me, whereas to the vast majority of Witnesses, it is not. I was born neither completely female nor fully male. This is not a contradiction of Genesis (“God made them male and female”) but merely another fact of inherited imperfection. Like many other birth defects, it’s not something Jehovah intended, but it does happen. Neither sex nor gender are as simply determined as once thought: it is not merely a matter of a single chromosome — there are cases of XX males and XY females, as well as a number of other known aberrant variations; physically-observable cases of mixed gender (intersex conditions) regularly occur (estimates range from 1 in 1000 live births to 1 in 100, or even greater, depending on the definitions pediatric “experts” use to determine sexual “ambiguity”); and whether physically observable characteristics are present at birth or not, a growing body of evidence overwhelmingly suggests that some people are born with a male-wired brain in a predominantly female body, others with a female-wired brain in a fundamentally male body.

In my case, there are those who simply insist that I must be a “man” because my body mostly came out looking that way at birth – even though my brain says otherwise, and has from the earliest age I can remember. They are entitled to their opinion. The only thing I do not find a basis for in scripture is the stubborn insistence that their opinion must also be Jehovah’s opinion, and must therefore guide how I act, look, and present myself to the world. There, in fact, I only find basis for the reverse: Jehovah sees what the heart is; the body is of no use at all; serve Jehovah with your whole mind … and so on.

Yet the organization, the elders, and by extension, the rest of the congregation, continue to insist the only way I can ever please Jehovah is to live and look like a man. Because I could no longer honestly continue to do so – to live in accord with a small bit of the outside that was so seriously out of harmony with the inside (a state so many transgender persons eventually find themselves in) I have been removed from the congregation as a presumably wicked person, acting in opposition to Jehovah.

I have repeatedly searched the scriptures, both before and since, to see where my understanding on this might be wrong. I have found nothing to support the viewpoint of Jehovah’s organization in this matter, neither were any of the elders involved able to present anything. Really, the only even mildly-compelling argument the brothers were ever able to present is that it would be good, and humble, and submissive – even if they themselves happen to wrong about this (their own words) – to do my best to still be obedient to those taking the lead. I would even agree with that reasoning – if I could do so in good conscience. But that, I cannot do.

Never mind the fact that I fell into a deep depression over the course of many years, culminating in near-total shutdown, to the point of barely functioning as a human being. Never mind the fact that I began to see death as a viable, perhaps even desirable option. All that could be overcome – I am confident that Jehovah gives power beyond what is normal to those acting out of faith towards him. The problem is the only faithful choice I can make in this matter is to do my best now to live honestly as what I really am! I know I am not a man putting on women’s clothes – I am a woman (at least I am so to a very much greater extent than I have ever been a man, especially where it matters most, which is in my inner being, in my mind and heart) – I just happen to have been born partially male, a discontinuity that has caused unfortunate problems throughout my entire life.

I know there are some who cannot understand this. I do not blame them. It’s challenging enough to comprehend it myself, having lived with the experience. I don’t expect others to ever fully understand it. Neither do I have any desire to “stumble” anyone. Some have expressed the opinion that if only for the sake of others, I should really have just gone on living as the male “shell,” with no one else ever having to know, and that would have been the kindest thing I could have done for all those around me, all my friends in the congregation, and my children in particular.

That, in essence, is what Jehovah’s Witnesses suggest that I must go back to doing, in order to be “forgiven” and accepted. But the truth is, my living in a shut-down near vegetative state was no kindness to anyone. Terminating my own existence, which was beginning to seem preferable to the deepest of the depression, would have been the ultimate selfishness. Living honestly now as who I am presents its own challenges too, but it is proving far better than either of the above choices, and in this state, at least I am have something to offer others again. Dead or mentally and emotionally comatose, I would have nothing left to give to anyone.

Finally – and in many ways, most importantly – were I to nevertheless attempt what feels so utterly impossible and wrong – to go back to living in accord with the flesh (speaking literally in this case, of those incongruous male bits I was born with), if only for the sake of “being obedient” to those taking the lead, not only would I be expected to silently endure whatever ongoing suffering that choice continued to cause me (and those around me), but I would be expected to be fully supportive of the organization’s stance. I would need to be willing to tell others like myself that this is the only way to please God: keep pretending, and don’t ever let anyone see who you really are on the inside, because Deuteronomy 22:5 obviously indicates doing so would be disgusting to Jehovah.

Unfortunately, as far as I have ever been able to determine, that viewpoint is far from being sound scriptural truth, and the ramifications are far from benign. It’s a viewpoint with the clear potential to stumble and harm others, especially other transgender persons like myself. Therefore this choice comes down to a matter of integrity for me. In regard to this, I cannot obey the brothers. Jehovah comes first.

If Joab had disobeyed the king’s order regarding Uriah, he might well have been put to death for it. That does not mean that he shouldn’t have still put Jehovah’s principles first, and accepted whatever suffering that decision might have brought his way. I am not comparing David’s motives in that instance to the congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses. I believe they think they are doing the right thing, and their motives are pure. I’m simply pointing out the similarity with regard to the type of choice involved, of whom I must obey and why, regardless of the consequences.

Thus the organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses has removed me from the congregation – and they will not allow other transgender persons like myself into the congregation – on the basis of a single specific law about clothing (Deut. 22:5), a law that Jehovah himself has repealed – and their assumptions regarding what the one-time existence of that law implies about Jehovah’s view of persons unfortunate enough to be born of mixed gender, and thus, what he must expect of such persons today. In all this time, they have not brought one single thing to my consideration that would contradict the body of evidence I see, both scriptural and otherwise, which tells me that in this case their assumptions are fundamentally flawed. There is no disloyalty intended on my part, certainly not towards Jehovah, nor towards the organization I believe he is using. However, the consequences of their viewpoint in this matter are not so insignificant that I can in good conscience ignore what I perceive to be a harmful error.

Terms of Confinement

I could never control who or what I am — a woman unfortunate enough to be born into a mostly visibly male body. There is, however, one thing over which it seems I have always had some measure of choice: the terms of my confinement. Today, I have essentially traded one sort of imprisonment — having locked my genuine self away for many years in favor of presenting the “male” face that society, from my earliest years, showed me that it “expected” of me — for another type of sentence. Now that the person I have always been on the inside is finally free to be herself, she is cut off from any contact with many of her closest and dearest long-time friends and associates, the majority of whom are Jehovah’s Witnesses.

The question arises, why have I made this choice? Some who have expressed questions along these lines to me, appear inclined to view my decision as a “selfish” one. I could go on about the growing cumulative negative impact of my former course on my own life, and my psychological and emotional well-being, along with the impact that had on those around me. Those of a different opinion sometimes go on about all the apparent “positive” impact I was able to have, perhaps on them, or my family, or others with whom I was associated (and can no longer be), all the while that I was managing to present myself in a way that met their expectations. The fact is, weighing the choice cannot be all about me, nor is it all about them. It’s also about what is right, and what is wrong — which course is most honest and true, and which a matter of pretense — and which has the greatest potential to help or harm, not just myself, but other fellow humans.

In this last regard, I know full well that my fellow Christian brothers and sisters are inclined to automatically conclude that any course recommended by the “faithful and descreet slave”, the governing body of the organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses, can only ever be helpful, and so any choice that appears to go against such a recommendation (such as mine) can only ever be harmful. I will be the first to agree that the brothers serving in this capacity are (1) faithful, and (2) genuinely motivated to keep their decisions in line with Jehovah’s thinking, as expressed in the scriptures. However, I also believe they would be first to admit that despite their best efforts, they remain, as the rest of humanity, imperfect. And while brothers and sisters by and large recognize this in theory, the tendency exists, in the name of “unity,” to overlook this small, but significant fact.

No human being can live his or her life to any extent without eventually causing some harm. We all do it, hopefully most often unintentionally. It is part of being the imperfect creatures that we are. Perhaps the best we can hope for is that when such harm comes, we can at least say that the actions leading up to it were well-motivated. It is in many ways remarkable that Jehovah has used humans throughout the centuries to carry out his will – he dignifies us by giving us the privilege of serving him in our imperfect state – and he has enabled both the individuals and nations that have had his blessing to accomplish many great things. He has also refined both individuals and nations who have proven faithful so that they can better accomplish his will. None of this means that we have ever been able to expect perfection of humans, not even those whom Jehovah so clearly seems to be blessing.

If this is true of us as individuals, it is surely no less true of us in groups. There can be no such thing as a perfect human organization – not prior to the end of this system of things and Jehovah’s setting straight of inherited sin once and for all – if such perfection were possible, that would contradict the whole theme of scripture itself!  Even with Jehovah’s blessing, the ancient nation of Israel could not prove to be perfect in its day, and neither can the spirit-directed organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses today.

Often, in the name of peace, love and unity, any perceived mistakes, especially ones that are clearly not ill-motivated, can be overlooked. Things can be smoothed over. It is a testament to the genuine Christian love practiced by Jehovah’s Witnesses as a whole that this tends to be the order of the day, in dealings between individuals, as well as any minor questions that might arise about some direction coming from those taking the lead in the Christian congregation.

Sometimes, however, the consequences are more serious, the issue a deeper one of integrity and conscience. My situation, for me, has been such a case. Understanding why is at the core of understanding my choices. I’ll go into more detail in my next post.

Spiritual Gifts

“To you, O Jehovah, I raise my very soul. O my God, in you have I put my trust; O may I not be ashamed.” — Psalm 25:1-2

I previously mentioned that I am making every effort to attend meetings regularly at the local Kingdom Hall. Some may wonder why.

[Here is my usual disclaimer: For more background, and particularly if you yourself are one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, please read this first!]

As a transgender woman, my being disfellowshipped is not like it is for some others who in most cases have likely committed serious offenses against the law of the Christ. (See for example 2 Co 5:11 and 2 John 1:9-11) If such a person abandons the sinful practice and seeks forgiveness – an adulterer, for example, gives up the affair, or an alcoholic takes steps to combat their addiction – they can be restored to the congregation (2 Co 2:6-8), and of course, more importantly, they can restore a good relationship with Jehovah himself.

Even without knowing all the details, when such a person starts attending congregation meetings regularly, brothers and sisters seeing them will tend to assume that happily, the person is on the path to spiritual recovery. Elders in the congregation will likely reach out to them, to encourage them further.

When they see me attending meetings, I expect many assume because I do not hide my gender (I really am a woman, despite being born ambiguously with some male parts – a subject I’ll discuss elsewhere another time) that because of the way I dress — to the best of my ability, modestly and appropriately for a woman attending a meeting for worship, by the way — I am stubbornly continuing to “practice sin”. Unlike actual fornicators, adulterers, and others whose practices the word of God really does condemn, it appears that I have no way to regain the acceptance of the congregation. (To my understanding, they would welcome me back only if I were willing to present myself unambiguously and forevermore as a “man”, which is obviously what they remain convinced that I am, although I am utterly convinced that I am not. Therefore, for me, to even attempt such a thing now would be a disgusting pretense, and so it seems we are at a hopeless impasse.)

In light of all that, the question certainly is significant — why do I attend? Why place myself in that situation, again and again, seemingly without hope of improvement?

The answer is simple. My trust is, always has been and always will be in the true God, Jehovah. Attending meetings is not about the people, even though I do miss many of them dearly, nor is it about me. Christian’s are admonished to gather together, to incite to love and fine works (Heb 10:24-25) and by far the most beneficial encouragement comes from their consideration together of God’s word. True, I may not be able to socialize with brothers and sisters at the meetings; Much as I might wish to, I may not be allowed to contribute encouraging comments of my own during the Bible study portion of the meetings; and these things are regrettable. However, I can still show my loyalty to my God by being present, by hearing the word of Jehovah and paying attention to it.

Some may still wonder, why not attend meetings at another religious institution where I might more readily be welcomed and accepted? The answer to that is also simple. I do not know of any other religious group on earth that I could go to and expect to regularly hear even the name of Jehovah (Ps 83:18, Matt 5:9, John 17:6-26), let alone regular discussion of Jehovah’s thoughts and reminders, week after week, all based solidly on his inspired Word, unadulterated by politics, various common but false (i.e. unscriptural) doctrines and customs, and the shifting philosophies of men.

No, I can say without a doubt, that despite any discomforts, I am in the right place, and I find myself being blessed with spiritual gifts as a result. Among other things, studying a recent Watchtower article led me to the scriptural gem quoted at the outset. For me, those verses were encouragement directly from Jehovah God to keep my faith and hope squarely in him, where it has always been, and not to let any of the discomfort of my current disfellowshipped status make me feel ashamed, or downhearted.

I prayed, fervently, thanking him for this gift, among many others, and I attended the meeting happily, none of the trivial discomforts of being viewed as disfellowshipped able to even dent the joy I felt at knowing my loyalty is to Jehovah. Jehovah is surely a rewarder of those loyal to him, and that truth was in evidence for me during the meeting as well. The public talk on values was especially strengthening. Beyond that, Jehovah’s spirit was in evidence in the deeply insightful and touching comments made by several brothers and sisters during the Watchtower study portion of the meeting. One comment in particular touched me deeply, to the point of joyful tears.

The Watchtower briefly touched on how, in 1914, many Jehovah’s Witnesses expected an immediate end to this system of things, and to receive their ultimate heavenly reward at that time. It was not until eight years later in 1922 that they gained clear Biblical insight into why that had not been the case, and what was going to be expected of faithful Christians moving forward, the global preaching work that Jehovah’s Witnesses have been carrying out ever since. (Mark 13:10) In commenting, one brother observed how those Christians set a wonderful example of remaining faithful, despite their expectations not being met, and a lack of satisfying answers to that particular dilemma plaguing them for eight years. Paraphrasing the way he summed up his point, “you may be going through something as ‘wrong as two left shoes’ — keep trusting in Jehovah — eventually all things will be corrected.”

One of the hardest things about my current situation is not being able, after a meeting, to go up to some of the brothers and sisters who just gave the most beautiful, heartwarming spiritual encouragement, and to just say, “Thank you so much!” There is no question in my mind that Jehovah is providing what I need. I do wish I could personally thank those he is using to do it — I just want to hug them all! I will faithfully and patiently wait for that day, and trust in Jehovah that it will eventually come. In the meantime, I can keep those loyal ones in my prayers as well, trusting him to bless them with hugs on my behalf, and much, much more.

A Matter of Judgement

But now I am writing YOU to quit mixing in company with anyone called a brother that is a fornicator or a greedy person or an idolater or a reviler or a drunkard or an extortioner, not even eating with such a man.” … “Remove the wicked [man] from among yourselves.” – 1 Corinthians 5:11-13

To their credit, Jehovah’s Witnesses are sincerely diligent when it comes to applying Bible counsel to themselves, and to the congregation. Faithfully doing so has proven to have tremendously positive results, which only makes sense. If the Bible really is, as it claims, the word of our creator, his wisdom certainly must surpass ours, and as it is summed up at Isaiah 48:17, “I, Jehovah, am your God, the One teaching you to benefit yourself.”

The context of the above scripture indicates that it is not about pre-judging people, or looking down on anyone. Jesus did not do that, after all. He ate with, taught, and showed love for those with all sorts of faults and problems. By the same token, he did not accept or condone ongoing attitudes and behaviors in opposition to his Father. What Paul was inspired to later write is therefore no contradiction, but rather an indication that anyone called a brother or a sister, that is anyone actively associated with the congregation as a Christian, who would knowingly and willfully practice such things that Jehovah condemns as seriously harmful, unloving and wrong, could not rightly still be considered a follower of Christ. Faithful brothers and sisters are counseled then to avoid any association with such a person, even to the point of just sitting down to a meal with them.

Other scriptures make it plain that this applies to someone who has not shown any repentance, remorse or regret for such serious wrongs, and that the purpose of such “disfellowshipping,” as Jehovah’s Witnesses call the practice is twofold. First, it may move the person to reconsider the seriousness of what they have been doing and to turn around, thereby restoring a good relationship, first and foremost, with Jehovah God, but also with their spiritual family, who are urged to “kindly forgive and comfort” them. (2 Corinthians 2:7) A second key reason is that, in the event they should remain unrepentant, “a little leaven ferments the whole lump.” (1 Corinthians 5:6)

Indeed, the wisdom of the scriptural admonition is evident, and can be clearly seen by counterexample. No doubt we’ve all heard of some widely publicized cases of unthinkably horrid offenses committed by members of various religions. (Child molestation, for example, comes to mind. Murder is another, such as the bombings of abortion clinics, for example.) When those engaging in such acts, even repeatedly, can yet remain affiliated with others of their “faith,” as though even such gross wrongs are tolerable, or beyond judgement, what does it say to the world at large about that faith? “Faith without works is dead.” (James 2:26)

So yes, Jehovah’s Witnesses are to be commended for upholding their faith, even in difficult matters of judgement such as disfellowshipping.

[Now, before I go any further, if you’ve not previously looked over my background, and particularly if you yourself are one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, I am going to ask you to please read this first!]

What is sometimes not as commendable, even if it is readily understandable, is the human tendency for over-zealousness. I well know that we cannot expect perfection of one another in this system of things, nor can we expect it of the organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses, nor those appointed to positions of responsibility, in spite of the tremendous good that Jehovah clearly is using them to accomplish. I don’t question that the brothers taking the lead in the congregation have both the authority and responsibility to make decisions of judgement, nor am I bitter about the decision that they came to in my case, though I certainly disagree with it. I do, however, continue to wonder whether they themselves genuinely believe that I fall into any of those scriptural categories mentioned in 1 Corinthians 5. I hope they might eventually give some consideration to the possibility that in some situations, no matter how well-motivated they may believe their actions to be, that they themselves may well be going “beyond the things written,” in removing not only the “wicked,” but sometimes merely the afflicted.

The background of how I suppressed my own nature as a transgender woman for many, many years, as well as how and why that life eventually became impossible to maintain, is a lengthy story, perhaps for another day. What is most relevant here is that, quite frankly, I was a bit shocked that, within weeks of my first surfacing the truth of my situation openly with a brother whom I considered a long-time friend, the congregation elders had decided this was a “judicial matter,” and scheduled a meeting to essentially determine whether I would be “repentant,” or would need to be removed from the congregation.

What was even more difficult to comprehend about the abruptness of this action is that prior to speaking with that brother, he knew very well that I had been suffering from major depressive illness for some years and as a result had had very little contact with him or anyone, from the congregation or otherwise for that matter. Though still suffering from depression (which remains an ongoing battle for me), I was managing to break free from the worst of it, finally feeling more able to interact with others, and actually wanting to do so. I was ready to try attending meetings regularly at the Kingdom hall again, something I’d not been able to manage for a long time.

What I knew by then, and what I repeatedly tried explaining to him and the other brothers I spoke with afterward, was that coming to recognize and accept the truth about the woman I’d buried inside of myself all my life, and finally allowing her to peek her head out of that prison to breathe fresh air, was a major part of the reason I’d begun to recover to the extent that I had. Nonetheless, their decision was essentially a foregone conclusion. Because I cannot, and will not dress and present myself as the “man” I have come to realize I never truly was in the first place, I have been removed from the congregation.

I’ve had a good deal of time to reflect and ponder my own situation, in light of the scriptures and otherwise, both before and since. My own conclusions have not changed, though I do think that my understanding has deepened, and in part that is why I will be continuing to explore the subject here.

For now, though, I’ll conclude by saying I am grateful to be attending meetings regularly at the Kingdom hall again, and despite being considered “disfellowshipped” I find them spiritually strengthening and encouraging. These days I am glad to say I can be more sociable again, and although it saddens me that I cannot now freely associate with many of my friends, brothers and sisters in the congregation, I find I am being given precious opportunities to speak about the good news of God’s Word with others I come into contact with. Far from letting my circumstances cause me to be negative, many an acquaintance has told me they have come away after a conversation with a better view of both the Bible and Jehovah’s Witnesses than they had before. It pleases me know that I can still plant seeds of truth. I would encourage anyone in my sort of situation to do the same. Jehovah is a rewarder of those loyal to him, and so although the appointed elders may still expect to see me doing things that I cannot do, I know that Jehovah is pleased to see me doing what I can.

Glorious Freedom

For the creation was subjected to futility, not by its own will but through him that subjected it, on the basis of hope that the creation itself also will be set free from enslavement to corruption and have the glorious freedom of the children of God. – Romans 8:21

I can recall many moments as a very little girl when I felt totally secure, completely loved, and wonderfully happy, in blissful childlike innocence. As with all humans, it would only be later on that I would begin to learn some of the desperate truths of mankind’s present condition: that every descendant of our first human parents from Cain and Abel onward, myself included, was born into an imperfect and dying condition. Even the most well-intentioned of people, which certainly described my loving parents, were far from perfect, and would sometimes make painful, even hurtful mistakes. There would also be some in this world who are not so well-intentioned, inclined towards selfish motives, even deliberate hurtfulness of others, seemingly for hurtfulness sake alone.

As humans, we may struggle to greater or lesser degree against this overwhelming tide, but in the end, throughout history, the struggle has in a sense invariably proven futile. We have never overcome the inevitability of death, for ourselves or for those we love. We have never overcome the divided state of humans, nor stemmed the endless flood of selfishness and hurt. Human governments and leaders continue to come and go, and yet the Bible saying has only proven true of all: man has dominated man to his injury.

When my mother began to study the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses, I used to sit in the kitchen with her for those studies. That was my first exposure to the Bible’s incredibly satisfying answers to so many questions and concerns: the reasons the world came to be in it’s present state; how and why a loving creator could ever have allowed such a period of tragic futility in the first place; and most importantly, that these things are truly temporary. Eventually, when I grew older, I studied the scriptures for myself, and for me the evidence soon became overwhelming. Today, I am convinced that the Bible is exactly what it claims to be: the inspired word of the true God, Jehovah. It’s promises are trustworthy, and so I know that there lies a time ahead when this captive condition will be overturned. We will all have the prospect to truly experience freedom, far beyond even the freedom I felt as that innocent little girl.

Certainly that is something to be longed for. What I did not know back then, however, was that for me, freedom was going to become an especially complicated issue over the years. It was some time before I began to realize that what I knew with simple clarity from my earliest recollections as a young child — that I was a girl — was not what everyone else around me thought. They all thought I was a boy. Without anything even being explicitly said, it gradually became clear that all the people I cared about, and who cared about me, were expecting some very different things of me. I wasn’t going to be able to look the way I would have expected, or dress the way I would have expected, or even play in some of the ways I would have expected.

And thus without a word began a kind of self-imprisonment that would last forty-some years.

There have never been easy answers for dealing with such a condition. Although societal acceptance as a whole of transgender persons seems to be gradually improving, at least in some parts of the world, a lot of misunderstanding and misinformation remains. For the transgender Christian Witness especially, there are extremely challenging decisions, none without their consequences. My experiences in this regard will be the focus of future articles.