Dying For An Answer: What Does Gender Feel Like?

I don’t mean to be sophomoric with this question.  What does it feel like to be male?  What does it feel like to be female?  I don’t doubt that a man can feel like a woman or vice versa, though I’m not even sure what that means.  I’ll just take it as fact.  If you’re rocking outdoor plumbing but love to belt out with Shania Twain that you feel like a woman–those feelings are real!

Though all feelings are real, not all feelings are valid.  We can really feel something and that feeling not be rooted in reality.  We’ve all seen American Idol and the countless contestants who sing like a drowning cat. They are soundly ridiculed by the judges and mocked by millions at home.  And yet, they are convinced of their talent.  Feelings and reality–not the same thing.

Before any claim, feeling or perception is validated, debated, affirmed or denied–it would be helpful to first define it.  What is a man?  What is a woman?  The problem isn’t that we disagree on where the facts lead.  The problem is that we disagree on what the facts are.  I’ve got some questions.  I think they’re hard questions, but not harsh questions.

  • How do we determine which self-perceptions to reject and which ones to embrace?
  • Why do we value how one identifies over why one identifies a certain way?
  • When treating people with eating disorders, why do we treat their self-perceptions and not simply the harmfulness of the behavior?
  • If gender can be defined by perception, why not ethnicity or age as well?
  • Would any of the groups rallying against North Carolina’s HB2, also rally in support of  white males who identify as African American or Native American, making them eligible for scholarships, Affirmative Action or other benefits reserved for minorities?

If you care, I mean genuinely care for people who feel trapped in the wrong body…If you care about the soul-cracking hurts, self-doubt and oppression these precious folks feel…If your dander is up because you sense these questions are driven more by a desire to hurt than to understand–I’m going to ask you to stomach just one more.

How can it be caring to affirm a life choice with such a high suicide rate?  The wide-mouthed, narrow-minded voices pushing this agenda are playing Russian roulette with people’s lives.

Transgender people report attempting suicide at a staggering rate—above 40%…The evidence is staring us in the face. Tragically high numbers of transgender people attempt suicide. Suicide is the result of untreated mental disorders. A majority of transgender people suffer from untreated comorbid disorders—yet against all reason, laws are being enacted to prevent their treatment.[1]

People can identify however they want.  That’s one of the two sharp edges of freedom.  Some are pricked and ticked by what people can choose.  Others are nicked and incensed when told what they should choose.  True freedom is not found simply in what we can do.  Rather it’s discovered when longing, ability and imperative happily intertwine.   Simply put.  When what I want to do and what I ought to do are the same thing I am most free.

What you can do is clear.  What you should do…that’s another thing all together.  There’s more on the line than winning and losing.  Lives are stake, both the quality and quantity of years.  Why then would so many advocate and celebrate life choices that so frequently end in suicide?  Many are simply unaware of the brutal facts.  Others are content to brutally use transgender folks as pawns in an agenda war.

One last question.  If the transgender road is less likely to lead one to resolution, but instead to a self-inflicted bitter end, what does it truly mean to care?  People are dying for an answer.

[1] http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2016/02/16376/

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Alex says:

    I’m not transgender either, and I don’t understand what it feels like to be uncomfortable in your birth gender. What’s more, my theology doesn’t lead me to believe that changing gender would be a healthier option than finding acceptance of the body you have. However, I wonder if I could suggest that you speak to some transgender folks and listen to their experience, or consult some experts on the issue. Transgender people have a high suicide rate from desperately trying to conform to a society which pressurises them to stick with their birth gender. There is no ‘treatment’ for transgender which leads to people sticking with their birth gender and getting good outcomes. Accepting transgender and other LGBT folks as the people they are is what leads to wholeness and less suicide. That’s just a fact. It may not sit well with your understanding of the world and the Bible, but you won’t find a single professional body in mental health who will agree with you. I enjoy reading your blog, and hugely respect so much of what you’ve got to say, but can I very respectfully suggest that you have a blind spot here, and that if you’re going to speak out on these issues, that you try to really understand what’s going on for transgender people? Otherwise, I’m afraid that the sort of teaching you’re pushing out there is going to make the situation worse not better.


    1. Alex,

      Thank you for reading and taking the time to write a thoughtful reply. I have spoken to transgender folks. Believe it or not, the event(s) that sparked Sacred Skeptics is this very debate. More specifically, the utter disregard by any major media outlet to even acknowledge the high suicide rate. We wanted those facts shared. It’s interesting that you claim that there is no “treatment for transgender which leads to people sticking with their birth gender and getting good outcomes.” That is a false statement. Consider the author of the article linked in the very post you responding to.

      Further, conforming to society contributes to a the suicide rate, but doesn’t drive it. Would you be surprised to know that the doctors at Johns Hopkins, who pioneered sex reassignment surgery, stopped! Why? Because their patients continued to battle depression and suicide. Having a new body didn’t solve the problem.

      I’m curious, what exactly in the article do you find troubling? The article is weighed down with questions more than answers. The essential question, if this life leads so many to suicide then what does it mean to care? I think that deserves are substantive answer. If your serious, and I sense that you are, would you be willing to read what the leading experts have to say? Below is a great place to start:



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