Last year, I found myself in a conversation that was new to me. I was on the phone with a student inquiry who was born male and had always been attracted to females. However, he felt the lesbian lifestyle “told his story better,” so he fully transitioned (through medical and surgical procedures) to female. S(he) is now raising a daughter with a lesbian partner. At that time, she was very active in her local church congregation and wanted to pursue a seminary education. At the close of our conversation, the student felt our seminary was not the best fit for her, but she did express gratitude that her story had been heard without judgment. I was keenly aware of the weight of that moment.
Preparation for this week’s post has left me with few words. Reading stories of struggling teens and parents making irreparable choices for themselves and their children whose full identity is just emerging is gut-wrenching. I am left with an overwhelming sense of responsibility, frustration, and compassion. I am more aware than ever of the responsibility I have to my sons and all children and teens I interact with to be a safe place to process difficult thoughts and feelings, searching for Godly wisdom together. I am frustrated by political and social agendas attempting to force me into boxes I never asked for, knowing there will be harsh judgment no matter how I attempt to remove myself from these boxes. I am filled with compassion for every individual and family facing difficult consequences from questions and decisions related to gender dysphoria; as well as every person who is struggling silently, trapped in their own thoughts, unable to make sense of it all.
Brunskell-Evans states that adolescents choose transgenderism in “defense against an unbearable present reality to provide something transcendent to bridge the impasse.” It seems the pain these teens are dealing with resides much deeper that the presenting issues. The church has a beautiful opportunity to bring hope and love to these desperate situations. The church alone has the transcendent truth about identity that will fill pain that runs this deep.
My research calling for the gifts of women in ministry leadership to be developed and showcased seems buried in the larger issue discussed in this week’s reading, one of gender stereotypes. On one hand, we are challenging decision-makers to look beyond gender stereotypes when promoting and developing leaders. On the other, parents and caregivers are making choices of gender based on these same stereotypes. I am sure those who have gone before me, searching for equal opportunities for women in the church, never dreamed that the female opportunity dialogue would be trumped by dialogues of female definition.
This is such a complex issue. I am left with only one prayer. Jesus, have mercy.
 Heather Brunskell-Evans and Michele Moore, eds., Transgender Children and Young People: Born in Your Own Body (Newcastle upon Tyne, UK: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2018), 118.