The authoress expressly gives the right for anyone to freely reproduce and distribute this essay verbatim.
The Bible is filled with books and letters. One of those letters in our Bible was written by Paul the Apostle to the church in the city of Corinth. Almost all Christians hold that Paul was inspired by the Holy Spirit of God in his writings, and that Paul’s advice is therefore equal to the Holy Spirit's advice.
I am intrigued by a thread of mercy within Paul's first letter to the Corinthian believers. I think that understanding such a thread of mercy will help many that are transgendered (TG), to especially include those diagnosed with severe Gender Identity Disorder (GID), often called “transsexuals” (TS).
Let’s look at what God teaches us.
First Corinthians Chapter 7 has a long discourse on marriage, divorce, cross-religious marriages, engagements, and so forth. Paul makes an interesting statement in that chapter, "So then, he who marries the virgin does right, but he who does not marry her does even better." [I Cor 7:38]
"Right" moves. “Better” moves. “Right” decisions. “Better” decisions. Yet, neither move was sin. Yet, neither decision was sin. Each move or decision, however, came with a cost.
Sometimes, the series of concepts involved in selecting the “right” or selecting the “better” is called 'Determining the secondary and primary will of God'. However, in this essay, I wish to continue to use the terms found in the Bible, the New International Version, because I think that the semantics (that is, our gut-level reaction), is better served by examining the “right” path versus the “better” path.
So yes, I am terribly intrigued by this verse, because at several points in my life, I could not choose the "better". To survive, I instead selected the "right" path. Ultimately, I had to choose the “right” path of ceasing to live in- between the gender life-styles and to fully transition to living opposite of my birth gender. My decision was not sin. But I would never say it was the "better".
Let’s look at the Spirit’s teaching again, "So then, he who marries the virgin does right, but he who does not marry her does even better." [I Cor 7:38]. It is very key for anyone within the TG spectrum to see those terms: “right” versus “better”.
There is another key concept found within this wonderful chapter: “Each one should remain in the situation which he was in when God called him.” [I Cor 7:20]
What “situations” is Paul writing about? – three of those situations intrigue me:
- “It is good for a man not to marry.” [verse 1] - “Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried….” [verse 8] - “But if the unbeliever leaves [the Christian wife], let him do so.” [verse 15]
So then, what is the “better” in these situations? The “better” is for the single man to never marry, for the single woman to never marry, for the widow to never remarry, and for the Christian wife to accept the termination of her marriage by her unbelieving husband.
And then, we ask ourselves, what is the lesser path, called the “right” path for each of these situations? The lesser path is for the single man to marry, for the single woman to marry, the widow to remarry, and the divorced Christian wife to stay divorced and be “concerned about the Lord's affairs… to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit.” [verse 34]
Can you sense the thread of mercy that God is winding through this chapter through Paul’s writing? God is showing clearly the “better” path, but is allowing for the lesser “right” path.
When does one chose the lesser “right” path? Here is the criteria:
- Examine your giftedness – “But each man has his own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that.” [verse 7]
- Examine your weakness – “But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.” [verse 9]
Let me use this passage against my own life for a moment:
I became a Christian at the end of 8th grade. This Chapter 7 of Corinthians urges me to examine who I was, and to "remain in that situation" wherein Christ called me. Let me be honest, I was pre-onset TS, I was single, and my presentation was artistic and gentle male. I learned over the years, to love who God had made me. My “situation” was in-between the genders.
How much I wish I could have stayed in that state forever! So does my wife of 31 years. So do my children. So does the pastor that hates me. So does the elder that loves me. We all know what the previous state was, and we also know what was "better".
But like the widow that had lost her husband, I could not stay in that state.
And like the woman that lost her non-believing wife through his divorce, I could not stay in that state.
And like the one engaged, I could not stay single.
Indeed, I examined my “giftedness” and was struggling to stay living in-between the genders. I also examined my “weaknesses”, and was battling depression and a sense of over-whelming incongruity.
I felt like the person that had dropped a porcelain figurine – a miniature of Michelangelo’s “David” – and was frantically spending hours each day trying to glue back what few pieces were recoverable. The male figurine I held in my heart – like shattered porcelain – never returned even with prayer and fasting. Instead, the figurine shattered again, and again, and each time, fewer and fewer pieces of the “male image” remained. The gluing became more frantic, until amazingly, what I held in the hands of my deepest understanding was not a male figurine, but a female one. My mind had transitioned all on its own.
Thus, I could not live within the "better", and I chose to live within the "right". I will say again that I did what was "right", per I Corinthians Chapter 7. But I did not do what was "better". I could not do what was “better”.
Having said all the above, was my Lord Jesus ashamed of my choice? Of course not! This chapter 7 shows that our Lord is not ashamed of our "right" choices, even though we are urged to select the "better" choices.
Rather, I was ashamed that I did not live up to my high expectations of myself. And, very deeply, I was ashamed that I had to lower all my guard to my Jesus, and simply become an object of His mercy.
You see, I was always an object of His mercy (per Romans chapter 9:23, right?), but now, I was undeniably an object of His mercy. My pride is what was shattered when that “porcelain figurine” was shattered. My ego was what was shattered with every attempt at putting back together that continually shattering internal gender identity. My last hope to continue to swing back and forth from female presentation to male was equally shattered, when my heart could only see the female gender identity.
Now, every day in the mirror, I see a woman. I see a woman that knows she lives by the mercy of her God. I cannot live as I once did, in denial -- in denial of the mercy of God. I see the mercy of my loving God every day in that mirror.
The questions of TG lifestyle, transsexualism and living in-between, and even transition in full or in part, in light of I Corinthians Chapter 7, are so intriguing:
- What is "better"? - What is lesser, yet "right"? - What am I capable of living according to my giftedness? - What am I capable of living according to my weakness?
How deeply the latter two questions cut into me. I could not live as single, many years ago, and abandoned the "better" to choose the "right". I married my spouse in 1975. And in October of 2002, I knew I could no longer live the "better" of male hormones, and by April of 2003, was taking the lesser "right" path of anti- androgens to cope. And just in September of 2004 to September of 2005, I proved I could not live any longer in the "better" of in- between, living in the day as male and in the evening as female, but had to choose the lesser path, the "right" path of full transition.
I measured this vessel of clay -- this earthen vessel. It had shattered.
Dysphoria is not just a difficult word to spell -- for this one, it is far more difficult to live. But my Jesus knows that shattered vessels hold so little oil and wine. That is why He allows the widow to remarry, the divorced believer to accept the divorce from the non-believer, and even the engaged to cease their singleness.
I hope that all of us can see the incredible thread of "mercy" that is within Chapter 7 of I Corinthians. There are two paths in that Chapter 7 - the best path called the "better" and the lesser path, called the "right".
I have reviewed the counseling of some websites -- to include our brother-in-Christ, Jerry Leach -- and sadly they often believe that every vessel is made of steel and not fragile clay. They point to the "better" path and that is good. But, they forget to point to the lesser path, which is called by the Spirit of God "right" -- not "wrong", not "sin", and certainly not "disgrace". The lesser path is called "right" -- let that term sink into your heart, with all its healing power.
Such counselors, like Jerry Leach, do not urge you to examine your “giftedness” and your “weakness”. They also imply that the mercy of God is only upon those that can choose the "better" path. In this, they err, because they do not know the scriptures, nor the mercies of our God, which continue forever.
I am trying to take great care in this essay, because you, dear reader, may be able to stay in the state wherein Christ called you. Were you called by Him when you were pre-onset? Were you called by Him when you were living somewhere within the TG-spectrum only on occassion? Were you called by Him during the time of living in-between the genders (or living in both gender presentations)?
I believe that in accordance with I Corinthians Chapter 7, and as obligated by our Lord, to urge you to stay beautifully pre-onset, beautifully within the spectrum, or beautifully in- between. But, I am equally in accordance with the scripture and equally obligated by the same Lord Jesus, to show you that He has mercy on any person that cannot stay within the situation that God called them.
- Therefore, unlike pro-transition sites, my current understanding is to urge a Christian TG (of any nature) to stay in the state wherein Christ called them, if at all possible.
- Therefore, unlike anti-transition sites, my current understanding is to show that Christ, the Lord of all mercy, has set aside the mercy of the "right" path for the widow, the divorced, the engaged, and yes, for any that are shattering in the pursuit of the "better" path. We must preach all the words of the I Corinthians Chapter 7, to include an honest self- evaluation of our “giftedness” and our “weakness”.
Dear one, there is mercy, and mercy in abundance beyond anything we can ask or imagine, if you cannot stay within your “shattered porcelain" male image. That mercy is a thread that runs though I Corinthians Chapter 7. It is the mercy given to those that must chose the "right", for they cannot choose the "better".
May you hear His gentle voice speaking of the “better” and the “right” paths; may you have His wisdom in understanding your “giftedness” and your “weakness”; may you never be ashamed if you choose the lesser “right” path, for Christ’s love in all its height, depth, breadth, and width is not ashamed of you.