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Thursday, November 20, 2008

What would YOU do?


Now that I have your attention . . .

I often get emails from colleagues around the country, asking for my opinion/advice about difficult situations which arise from time to time in the parish. I am always honored, but truth be told, it is more often the case that I seek the advice of my colleagues when I get into a situation I feel completely unprepared to address with any sense of confidence or knowledge.

Sometimes I just call and sometimes we carry on a conversation in cyberspace. I'm always so grateful to know we have such wonderful, competent clergy in the Household of God. Yes, we have our 'clunkers' but for the most part, the ones who are stellar absolutely shine!

I have posted below my comments to a brother clergy who was about to have a couple from his congregation come visit him. Seems that this couple know a couple who have a young son. From the age of three, this young boy has identified as female.

The parents have supported that child in his gender identification, allowing him to wear feminine clothes and play with toys that are more typically embraced by the female gender of the species.

He's now off to elementary school and his parents have instructed his teachers to do likewise, including a feminine version of his name. Just for sake of conversation, let's say his name is 'Paul' and they've instructed the teachers to call him 'Paula'.

The parishioners who are friends of this couple find this distressing and have made an appointment with their rector to discuss it. My colleague wrote to ask for advice. Here's what I said.

A confession: I'm pretty much shooting from the hip here. I'm confident that I know what Jesus would do. The real reason for posting this is to ask, "What would YOU do?"

If there are those of you who read this blog who have information or access to information on this subject, I'd be deeply grateful to receive it.

Thanks to all of you in advance for what I know will be your brilliant information.

Oh wait. One last thing: The posters above are from the Would Jesus Discriminate? Campaign. You can find out more information and join the discussion here.

Okay, 0ff you go, then.
.

UPDATE: Today just happens to be Transgender Remembrance Day. You can find more information here.


My dear brother,

I have no doubt that others will have far better information than I and better access to appropriate resources - especially in your neighborhood. So, I'm a little hesitant to offer what little I know. I happen to have the evening off (thank you Jesus) so I have the time right now, and, because you know I adore you, I'm willing to give it my best shot.

Believe it or not, I've been in similar situations three times in the past 10 years. I have one kid in my congregation I've been watching for the past 6 years and I have no doubt that we're headed into "crisis" soon. He's now 10 and, well, I could be wrong, but I strongly suspect he has Klinefelter Syndrome - "genetically female, pragmatically male". (Ms. Conroy concurs, which is very important, as you know.)

This may be more information than you need or want, but very, very briefly this means that, instead of inheriting x chromosome from mom and y from dad, these men inherit an extra x chromosome from either mom or dad. They are either xx with an extra y or as xy with an extra x. At puberty, they do not develop facial or body hair or deep voices and heavy muscles and some experience breast growth.

So, for what it's worth, here's my best shot - not as a Transgender person but as a pastor - AND not knowing important particulars of your situation (neither, apparently, do you).

I'm going to give you some medical information, but please let it play as "background music" to your interactions with your parishioners. Your primary role is as their pastor. I don't have to remind you of that, but I don't want you to get too tied up in the medical information and lose your primary focus.

First: Forgive me, but I'm not clear: Is this a problem for your parishioners or for the affected family? You don't need to answer me, but get clear about this for yourself.

If it is not a problem for the "affected family", but it IS for your parishioners, then you begin, I think, with exploring with your parishioners their "problem" - their feelings - helping them work through the roots of their discomfort and offering some concrete suggestions about how they might be helpful to the parents and their child.

Be on the alert to see if this has touched something deeper in them and assess if you think they need to talk more about it with a professional in this field. Check beforehand to see what the appropriate referral resources are for them in your community. You might also want to check with those community resources in terms of booklets or recommended books you can provide them with.

If it is a problem for the affected family, which is a problem for your parishioners, then you are obviously on different path.

The first thing to remind yourself is that there is Sexual Identity and then there is Sexual Orientation.

Remember that there are four components to Sexual Identity

1. Biological Sex (various chromosomal, hormonal and anatomical factors)
2 His or her gender identification (sense of being male or female)
3. The person's social sex role (the cultural definition of being male or female)
4. The person's sexual orientation

It is important to remember that these four components are not isolated but interact with each other to form the whole, healthy human being.

There are, as you know, three components to Sexual Orientation

1. Arousal patterns (including fantasy)
2. Affective preferences
3. Behavior (patterns of physical contact with others)

In the interest of time, to put this very, very briefly and simplistically (understanding that it is a very complex issue), there are two possibilities of the cause of his gender identity "confusion" or "crisis."

(I apologize for those terms. They are not mine, but belong to the medical profession which, in Western medicine, has its basis in assumed pathology. They sound so judgmental, don't they? I'm sorry.)

1. Physical (chromosomes, hormones and anatomical factors)
2. Psychological (it's important to note that as a healthy term, not always indicating pathology)

1. Physical: We all learned in the 5th grade about chromosomes and that we "all" have an x = female and y = male chromosome. That's not exactly true. We don't "all" have xy chromosomes.

Some of us have xxy chromosomes, sometimes known as "Superwoman"

Some have xyy chromosomes, sometimes known, of course, as "Superman"

The interesting thing is that about one person in every 500 has a karyotype other than xx or xy. About one in 1,000 women has three x chromosomes instead of the usual two (me included, btw). Some have as many as 4 x plus two y's.

As recently as 1996, eight women in the Olympic Games tested as "not women" who had been observed while urinating and not disqualified on that basis - only after chromosomal analysis (Yes, one of the indignities of Olympic testing is that you have to be observed while urinating.)

To get right to the point: I would say that the first thing this kiddo needs is genetic analysis. If he hasn't been tested, your parishioners can be real friends in strongly urging the parents to speak to their pediatrician and get a referral to a pediatric genetic specialist. It's not the only answer, and the situation is much more complicated than a simple blood test, but it's an important place to begin to sort out the complex puzzle pieces to this child's identity.

2. Psychological

This has to do with this child's inherent and/or intuitive sense about being male or being female. He may have had a very early role identification 'crisis" or "confusion' which is not unusual but it is significant. From the copy of your parishioner's email to you I'm reading some negative judgment on his/her part in terms of how the parents have approached this (Of course, I could be wrong, but that's how I read it.).

There is no way of knowing - for them or us - whether or not the parent's approach to this was correct or incorrect, from a psychological standpoint. Which leads me to this piece of advice:

Along with the genetic testing, the child needs to be seen by a pediatric psychologist or psychiatrist for further assessment and testing - preferably in concert with the pediatric genetic specialist. The best approach would be to find a 'team' that works on this issue. I know there are several clinics in NYC and Boston as well as one in Baltimore at Johns Hopkins, where some of the original work by John Money was done. I can't believe your local Medical Center or some equivalent teaching hospital doesn't have this resource.

Again, many people hear: "He needs a psychological or psychiatric evaluation" and immediately interpret it as judgment or a message of some sort of pathology. That is absolutely not the case. This is about acquiring information that will help put the puzzle pieces together to help make this child - this family - whole (if, in fact that is part of the "problem")

The important thing for you in your role as pastor is to reduce the anxiety and distress of your parishioners.

1. Allow them to express these feelings in the open, non-judgmental, non-anxious presence of their trusted and loving pastor.

2. Active listening - including check in and feedback at appropriate intervals like, "So, I'm hearing you say ____, is that right?"

3. Provide them with information that gives them the message that this is not "the end of the world," or "an abomination"; that this kiddo is a Child of God and not a "freak"; and that his parents, if they haven't already, need to seek out and secure the services of professionals who can help them help their child grow into a whole, healthy human being, with a positive gender identification that may differ (at least, right now), from his external, physical gender identification - whatever that might be.

4. Have some resources to give them to better educate themselves. I urge you to do that for yourself, as well. I have been helped enormously by Virginia Ramey Mollenkott's "Omnigender" - chock full of good information and stories. However, I don't know your parishioners so I don't know if that would be an appropriate place for them to start their own educational journey.

There are lots of other books and resources. You might want to visit the TransEpiscopal webpage and leave a message for some assistance and advice.

There's lots. lots more to this, including all the components of the term 'Transgender', but I'll stop here. Don't hesitate to call me if you need to talk this through.

God has called you to do a mighty work of justice and peace with this family. I know you will be as much of a blessing to them as you are to us all.

24 comments:

David said...

'God has called you to do a mighty work of justice and peace with this family. I know you will be as much of a blessing to them as you are to us all.'

dear Elizabeth, once again, in your ministry to your brother priest, you've shown yourself nothing short of a living blessing to our Church.

your response is such a radiant embodiment of intelligence, caring and compassion.

prayers have been offered, and will continue to be offered for both families involved. it think it's a real wonder that the child's parents have been so enlightened and open to the wondrous gift they've been given.

David@Montreal

Wormwood's Doxy said...

Elizabeth---I confess my own reaction to this was "Why are they sticking their nose into other people's child-rearing practices?!!"

If the parents have allowed their son to dress in feminine clothes, play with "feminine" toys (don't even get me STARTED on the issue of why some toys are seen as off-limits for boys!), and told his teacher to call him by a feminine name, they are clearly supportive of their child. Their "friends" appear to be looking for religious authority to show the parents just how "wrong" they are.

Your advice to your friend to figure out what his parishioners are trying to do here is excellent---and the answer seems obvious to me. Tell them to pray for that family if they feel called to do so---but butt out otherwise. Short of abuse (and this does NOT qualify!) hey don't get to tell other people how to rear their kids.

Doxy

Fr Craig said...

E - seen long article in Atlantic this month re: ever greater acceptance of transgendered children.
blessings

Seeing Eye Chick said...

There is nothing more depressing to a child, than to excell at some behavior or skill--and to be told, "You cant do that because you are a [fill in the gender].

Its like someone is saying to you,

"Stop being who you are--Right now!"

I cannot address the medical issues. I am not a doctor nor do my children suffer thusly. I can only tell you as a little girl who played as a little boy, how much this hurt me. And I didnt have the stigma or the gender dysphoria, and it still hurt me deeply, and has affected me for the rest of my life.

I know Kermit could come on at any moment and sing Rainbow Connection, but I have to ask in all seriousness--Why cant these children be accepted with no strings.

Whatever happened to unconditional positive regard? Whether this is a life-path for this child or a developmental phase--would it be so bad, to simply accept this soul in their life, now?

Killing off portions of a person's soul is still killing. Maybe in slow motion but the end result is the same, and worse you condition this little person to turn on themselves even in the absence of critical voices and disapproving stares.

Good luck on this. I guess maybe the golden rule would be a good place to start. If that were you, as a child, how would you want people to treat you?
If that little person were your child, how would you express your love for them?

John Bassett said...

As a teacher, I'm with Doxy. If this were at my school I'd just tell them to deal with their own children and allow the other parents to decide how to raise theirs.

Providing a lot of information is fine, but sometimes it can be seen as validating a right to be discussing something about which there needs to be no discussion.

Muthah+ said...

Speaking as the best half-back that my block ever produced, I lived through parents who could not and would not accept who I was. I still have family who cannot accept me as I am. They love me as long as I don't talk about it.

I would hope that helping a family support their loving attention to their child with good medical and psychological information will help them do the most loving thing for a child who may find confusion with his/her sexual identity.

I disagree with Doxy. We as Christian community do have an obligation to provide a loving environment which provides a broader community for Christians to live out their faith. The parish is the first step a child has outside of their family to work out how it will interface with the world. The parish has the obligation to help the parents the best it can to help the child too. The important thing is that education of the whole body of Christ is important to this congregation where the child will grow up in faith. Better education of the parish is important so that the child will find a home in the parish in which he/she will know safty and proper guidance.

I have never been tested--I never knew about xxy's or xyy's or various mutations that that. I think I will ask for them to test the next time I go in for a physical.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thank you all for your comments. I do believe the church has a positive role to play as a SANCTUARY for everyone in distress - no matter the source of their distress. Not to tell them what to do, but to help them find the solace and hope of their faith.

Muthah+ - Do speak with your doc, but genetic studies are not done 'routinely' and, I understand are quite expensive if your insurance doens't cover the costs - and many do not.

IT said...

I agree, my gut response to the couple is "butt out"; it sounds ilke people who aren't comfortable with "nontraditional" gender identity.

I'm also reminded of the long-in-coming changes in how the medical community treat intersex children, who have indeterminate or mixed genitalia; it used to be that the Drs "chose" which sex they should be reassigned until the more englightened ones realized that the choice that seemed obvious to a pediatrician was not necessarily the same as the identity of the child huself.

Many of the medical conditions you mentioned are associated with disruptions in development of secondary sex characteristics , so are more likely discovered during puberty. Klinefelters, for example (XXY) is not necessarily associated with any feminization in behavior. And, perfectly "normal" chromosome content of XY may still give rise to a female, for example if the body is not able to respond to sex hormones.

And sometimes a tomboy is just a tomboy. Does there have to be "a reason" for it?

We do have a tendency to try to pathologize everything, rather than accept the endless variation that makes our lives sparkle.

IT

afeatheradrift said...

Elizabeth, I don't have any advice, but I sure learned a great deal in reading your post. Thank you so much. You are a deep blessing to the Church, and to all. I am so impressed with your beautiful words.

JCF said...

If it is not a problem for the "affected family", but it IS for your parishioners, then you begin, I think, with exploring with your parishioners their "problem" - their feelings - helping them work through the roots of their discomfort

Ding-ding-ding-ding-ding!

The parishioners have a problem. The family (including the child) do not (well, not in the sense that the parishioners do).

The parishioners, individually and/or collectively, need to work on their problem (their fragile sense of gender, apparently), and leave this family to work out what's best for them (esp. the child).

As Christians, the parishioners need to be . . . well, Christians! Loving their neighbors, as they love themselves

[Doncha sometimes wish that the passage had said "JUDGE your neigbors, as if you yourself were God"? Sadly, it doesn't say that. ;-/]

Lord, bless and protect all the children You created Trans, in Your Image.

Wormwood's Doxy said...

I disagree with Doxy. We as Christian community do have an obligation to provide a loving environment which provides a broader community for Christians to live out their faith.

I'm not sure how you got the idea that I was arguing otherwise, Muthah+....

Maybe I read Elizabeth's post wrong---but it sounded to me as if the couple were coming to the priest about friends of theirs OUTSIDE the church. And that was my problem with the whole thing---two outside parties meeting to discuss the behavior of a third party that the priest doesn't seem to know. OCICBW....

I do believe the church has a positive role to play as a SANCTUARY for everyone in distress - no matter the source of their distress. Not to tell them what to do, but to help them find the solace and hope of their faith.

I agree with that totally, Elizabeth---but there comes a point when people are CHOOSING to be distressed (where have we seen *that* lately?).

This is not their child. If the people who were coming to visit the priest were the parents of the boy in question, I could see the link between the "solace and hope of their faith." As it is, I would hope their priest would tell them exactly what JCF recommends.

Pax,
Doxy

Kirkepiscatoid said...

I would say that you have explained a LOT in a short space...and very well, thank you (although I would sit with my red pen and make some minor corrections on your genetics lesson if you were one of my medical students, hee hee. But I give you high marks in "genetics for rectors.")

But that notwithstanding, you are spot on with what needs to be dealt with. I like to think that gender and genetics issues like these are windows in which we all have the opportunity to reflect and go, "Who the hell ARE we, anyway?"

It is interesting that in some native American tribes, those with "gender issues" for whatever reason were actually thought of as "closer to the great spirit" in some ways b/c they carried the characteristics of both sexes. That is a thought worth pondering!

I learned a long time ago that we are all on such a spectrum of "male" and "female" behavior patterns even among the middle two standard deviations of the spectrum, it is just plain silly to fight about the little groups on each end.

Also, I agree with the "butt out" crowd. Better people should worry that the kid is growing up polite, courteous, and friendly than what toys are being chosen. The name thing is a "big deal, so what" thing. (Hey, I grew up being called "Boo" and "Fuz"--we won't get into the details there, but I will say that I would give anything now for those who called me that to be back among us.)

90% of this is "Tempest in a tea pot" stuff and the meaty 10% is that the correct medical testing be done, the parents stick to what they feel is right for their child, and for resources to be available for those who have a problem with it, as well as resources for those who want to do right by it. End of soapbox!

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Well, may I just say that my perspective may look soft and fuzzy but I submit to you that it is not. It is colored by the lens of pastoral care - to all God's children.

So, if these were my parishioners and the problem were theirs - not the parent's or the kids - I wouldn't tell them to piss off. I would, however, try to help them explore their feelings and come to some positive reconciliation.

Why? Well, among several reasons, because this family and this kid are going to need advocates for a long, long time. I would definitely see that as worth the investment of my time and energy.

Besides which, as their priest/pastor, their souls are entrusted to my care. My first, second and third approach would be to listen and support them, providing education and insight where ever I could to keep their friendship with this couple and their son.

Again, thanks for all of your wonderful comments.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

"Genetics for rectors" - I like that Kirke. Thanks for your generosity of spirit.

Wormwood's Doxy said...

Now you all know why I am not a priest... ;-)

God bless you, Elizabeth+. You have a pastor's heart and your flock is lucky to have you.

Pax,
Doxy

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

You know, Doxy, there's a lot of wisdom in that kid's camp song, "All God's children got a place in the choir." My vocation is to priesthood. Yours is not. That doesn't make your vocation any less important than mine. Just different.

Indeed, yours is a very needed voice. If we all sounded the same, it would be a very boring world. Your voice is not alone, either. That's why my job is needed - to be there for you when the tables are turned and you find yourself on the receiving end of someone's distress or confusion.

In the mystery of God, it all works out and we all get to play a role in salvation history.

Kirkepiscatoid said...

Well, and I'll be the first to tell you I have a short fuse when people do the "what's wrong with that kid?" game. We have a child in our parish that has some neuromuscular, affect, and attention span issues and I get worn slick by people bugging me with the "What's wrong with that kid?" line (one of the hazards of being in the medical field.)

My hackles always go straight up on that stuff. It's so nosy and intrusive. No one ever asks, "What's right about that kid?" It is nosy and intrusive to ME like I'm going to pronounce elevator diagnoses. I could see this scenario you describe in my mind, what people would be asking ME if he were in our parish and my blood boils just thinking about it! Which is why I think people ought to just deal with their own issues instead of hiding their issues behind a child's "diagnosis."

One of the best days in recent months for me was the day I was acolyte and the child in our parish I was mentioning got to help bring the breadbox, water, and wine up to the altar. I squat down at "kid level" to receive them. He brought the wine, and you could tell the whole parish was kind of holding its breath and contemplating the carpet cleaning bill. Seeing this young fellow's face as I thanked him for bringing it made my day for a week!

The vicar told me later, "Even with your back to me, I could tell by the look on his face you and he had experienced a divine moment together." (Aw, shucks.) But that is what the church can do for little folks, no matter what hand fate has dealt 'em. Your clergy friend has a wonderful opportunity here, both for this child, and for the people who are being difficult!

I do agree that some people like to create their own dramas, and some of these parishioners might be into that...

David said...

Muthah+ I think touches on the essence of this for all of us 'The important thing is that education of the whole body of Christ is important to this congregation'

Whatever their 'problem' and their intentions, the parishioners have brought their experience and their faith to their pastor, and I think there's a chance for real grace and growth here. What if they're just trying to understand? What if they're just searching for encouragement in their support of their neighbors?

I'm deeply grateful to Elizabeth for sharing this with us. Personally, it once again reminds me of just how essential it is that we remain open to the Spirit in the sacrament of the lives we've each been given, and I've been enriched by each of the comments here and the intelligence and deep caring expressed.

Thank-you

David@Montreal

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

To be perfectly honest, I sat on this one for a while, because I really feared it would bring out the mean spirited Trolls. I am deeply grateful for your kind words and compassion and yes, even your outrage and indignation at the potential for these parishioners to be "budinskies".

You all give me hope.

FranIAm said...

What a fascinating post and comments. I can't really add or say more.

I will say this - I am ever amazed and grateful for this community.

dglenn said...

I have not yet read all of the other comments, so I'm kind of jumping in in the middle here, but ...

First, all the talk of chromosomes is a distraction. Yes, various intersexed (not perfectly male or female biologically) phenomena, chromosomal or otherwise, are far more common than most people realize, but most transgendered folks are not intersexed (and not all intersexed people consider themselves transgendered, though there is of course some overlap and the groups do seem like natural allies in most respects). And really, whether there's an identifiable biological cause isn't the important thing here.

Here's a way of introducing many subsets of transgenderism: most of us are fortunate to have a gender that matches our sex -- or what society expects -- at least closely enough that we don't notice a mismatch (don't experience dissonance); but others of us are not so fortunate, and experience severe dissonance -- 'dysphoria' -- when we try to conform (usually because we feel forced to) to the gender role expected of us based on the anatomy we were born with (or, in the case of certain types of intersexed births, what the doctor initially thought our anatomy looked like).

Stifling that side of ourselves feels like a little death. It's stressful, it invites despair, and it makes us (at least some of us) feel as though we're lying to everyone around us simply by pretending to be what everyone expects. The closet quite literally kills -- check out the rates of suicide and addiction among closeted folk. So from a mental health, general kindness, and loving parent perspective, those parents are to be commended for accepting their child as their child is. Most transgendered adults hearing about a trans child of such supportive parents feel a certain amount of envy, remembering what presenting a false face to those closest to us cost us in our own childhoods.

(I refer you, perhaps unhumbly, to my song, "All Come Free" for a glimpse at the cost of the closet to relationships. God bless those parents for giving this child a different experience than mine.)

Explaining that much may or may not be enough to help your colleague's parishioners wrap their heads around the situation that gives them such discomfort; I hope it is at least helpful to you and your colleague in figuring out how to approach them...

One question that will come to mind for many transgendered people reading this will be, "what business is it of theirs anyhow, how this child of another couple is being raised?", but perhaps a more useful question is, "Why does it make them uncomfortable?" What is so distressing about it? (And there can be many answers to that, some of which make more sense than others, and some of which may require much omphaloskepsis to unravel -- Sandra Bem's The Lenses of Gender may be of at least some help to them, depending.) Would they feel equally uncomfortable if the child were FTM instead of MTF? If the child were older? If the child were actually intersexed, not just transgendered?

While I am obviously not as qualified as you to address the matter on theological grounds, as a transgendered Christian this is something I have given a great deal of thought to over the years. The only verse I know of in scripture that even appears to pertain is Deut. 22:5, which my Jewish friends (whom I tend to consult on Old Testament matters) all agree does not apply to Christians, only Jews (from a strictly Christian perspective it applies about as much as the laws of Kashrut, also not binding on Christians); and I've read a rabbi's opinion that it doesn't even apply to transgendered Jews, only cisgendered ones.

But the other religious argument we often hear is, "God doesn't make mistakes," implying that if God gave one a male body, then one is obviously 'supposed to be' a man (or perhaps 'man' should be in scare-quotes as well, but that takes us down a whole 'nuther thread). My answer to that is, God made me transgendered (and, I presume, that girl who is the focus of your colleague's parishioners' discomfort), and if He does not make mistakes, then He must have made me transgendered for a reason (perhaps so banal a reason as wanting to give me an extra test or an extra hurdle, perhaps because the experience of being transgendered shapes me in some way that makes me better able to do some Work that He intends for me ... mysterious ways, and all that, though I have my private guesses). God made me me, all of me, not just this meat-shell; He made me transgendered, and to deny that, to pretend not to be -- lie to myself and others -- to stifle such an important part of my made-in-God's-image self ... that would be spitting in the face of God. that would be the sin.

That would be calling this admittedly very difficult gift a curse.

Who am I to call God's making me transgendered a 'mistake'? And (if your colleague's parishioners raise that argument), who are they to call His making that child transgendered a mistake?

(I guess I've given away my own opinion on the matter of whether God makes mistakes, huh? Yeah, simplistic or not, I don't think He does. I do think that there are some details that He simply leaves to chance, but that those cannot be details that really matter (not that we know which details are which).)


So, to recap: first, what it is to be transgendered (and it sounds like this child is transsexual, a particular subset of transgendered), is to not have an easy congruence that cisgendered people take for granted because they've never had to face the lack of it[*]; second, what the parents are doing is by far the best option for their child's mental health[**] (and for her chances of later having memories of a happy and comfortable childhood, not that there are ever any guarantees); third, it really isn't any of their business but it is probably worthwhile to examine why it makes them uncomfortable, because their discomfort is still a problem to be addressed; fourth, it's not a sin and they needn't be concerned (on this basis, anyhow) for the child's soul -- or her parents'.

A closing note about language, for you, for your colleague, and for your colleague's parishioners: if the cild identifies as female and is presenting as female, she's not a son, she's a daughter. And the pronoun to use -- consistently! -- is 'she'. They had (or thought they had) a son, until she turned out to be a daughter. In the unlikely event (very unlikely!) that this turns out to be a temporary phase, everyone gets to adjust their perceptions and language back again; presently, it's incorrect to apply male pronouns, and hurtful if done in the child's presence. Best to get in the habit of using the right pronoun to avoid a slip at the wrong moment. (The habit of thinking of her as 'her' will also, over time, probably help ameliorate the dissonance those parishioners experience when seeing the child presenting as female. Inside one's own head, "She's dressed as a girl" sounds very different from "He's dressed as a girl".)


Footnotes:
[*] Some folks 'get it' if you ask them to imagine waking up one morning having had a magical sex-change overnight, and everybody else acting as tough they'd always been that way while inside they remembered having been otherwise. The folks who understand that are 'strongly gendered'. Weakly-gendered people don't find any discomfort in that scenario, because they've never really acted male or female from an internal sense of gender, but rather because it never really mattered all that much and it was easiest to go along with what society expected.

[**] Seriously, consult a cisgendered mental health professional with expertise in helping transgendered patients, or an academic who has studied us, to verify what I said there, so that you won't have to wonder whether my saying that is just my bias as a transgendered person.

Göran Koch-Swahne said...

Thank you for this Elizabeth!

The pic summaring (some of) the Biblical passages inspired me to a little something on my own blog. I think it is becoming urgent to talk of what is really in the Bible about God's Good Creation.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thank you, dglenn, for your very valuable contribution to this conversation.

JCF said...

My answer to that is, God made me transgendered

Yup, that's my answer, too.