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How I found freedom from gender confusion (Part 2)

The Good Book Company | 13 Oct 2016

This is the second part of an anonymous testimony published in conjunction with the release of Vaughan Roberts’ new book, Transgender.

In the first part, the author described how his desire to dress as a woman grew from childhood play into a guilty adolescent secret. While his university years brought acceptance from his peers, it failed to satisfy a desire he felt increasingly trapped by. But then something changed…

I started going to a Bible teaching church by accident. Despite the confusion of my private life, I had always thought of myself as a Christian, so it seemed right to find a church when I moved to London. I simply took the path of least resistance—other people from college were going, so I followed them. It was not exactly love at first sight. I went two or three times, but I don’t remember what I heard there, and, while people were friendly and welcoming, I didn’t feel as though I had much in common with anyone. In my eyes, it seemed to be a church full of sinless paragons, and I figured the warm welcome would evaporate pretty quickly if they knew what I was wearing under my jeans. I decided to find a church that was smaller, closer to where I lived, and maybe a little less straight-laced.

But London was an exciting place, and I was just beginning to get my first heady taste of acceptance. Church got pushed to the bottom of the list. It was over two years before I did anything about it.

Crisis point

In the end, I went back. I hadn’t planned to, but I had reached some sort of crisis point. I was deep into the cross-dressing trap and only getting deeper, but part of me knew I was miserable, and part of me knew I’d been ignoring God. I suddenly wanted some Christian company, and the only Christians in my circle of friends were still going to that church. I thought perhaps I could stay on the fringes, maybe join a friendly homegroup and avoid the church itself, but it wasn’t to be. I was welcomed back like the prodigal son, by people who had apparently remembered me and had been praying for me for over two years. And, for whatever reason, I started actually listening to the teaching. It was a powerful cocktail; my notion of staying on the fringe was miraculously short-lived. And once I was in, with my ears open, things began to change.

Putting the pieces together

But I was back in hiding, at least among church circles. I thought that if people found out about the cross-dressing, they’d just tell me I had to stop doing it, which would have been useless—I hadn’t been able to stop even when I’d wanted to. So, once again, I kept my “real self” hidden.

It meant that no one ever tackled the transvestitism head on. But, instead, every week I learned something. Startling pieces of knowledge about God, about myself, about the world… And gradually, that knowledge began to unpick the trap I was caught in.

I learned that our hearts are deceitful and our nature is sinful—so “be yourself” is terrible advice.

I learned that the world is broken and fallen and cursed—so we should be realistic about what we can and can’t fix.

I learned that everyone has something to hide, even the squeaky clean paragons of virtue I thought I was surrounded by—so I wasn’t there under false pretences, waiting to be expelled the minute people found out about my secret life.

I learned that God made men and women equal but with different roles—and I realised that I was fighting against the role he’d given me.

I learned that God doesn’t make mistakes, and that he does rightly demand obedience—so I had to face the possibility that I wasn’t fighting on the right side…

I learned that sin promises freedom and brings only slavery—which seemed oddly familiar… And on it went. I thought my identity was rooted in how I looked or felt or dressed, but I learned that my identity was in Christ. I thought that exile was having to dress as a woman behind closed curtains, but I learned that all Christians are exiles and strangers in this life. I had thought that God didn’t want me to struggle, but I learned about spiritual warfare, I learned about the point of suffering, I learned about the freedom that comes from denying ourselves and taking up our cross. I learned that being a Christian requires repentance and change.

"I learned that being a Christian requires repentance and change."

After decades of listening to lies, I was hearing the truth—and the truth really did set me free. In the end, it was almost an anti-climax. There was no heroic battle, no definitive moment of triumph, no victory bonfire as I faced down my demons and burned all my bras. It was a rescue, not a conquest. The trap just dissolved as the truth got to work. I began to cross-dress less, and, eventually, stopped entirely. A while later I bundled my entire alternative wardrobe into a collection of black bin bags, and a friend from church drove it all to a charity shop for me. That was almost ten years ago, and, praise the Lord, I’ve not been on the wrong side of a bra since. And I am so, so glad.

Living for Christ now

A friend thought it was sad that I was writing this anonymously. He thought perhaps I was still having to hide, that I’d been cowed into silence by narrow-minded or judgemental Christians. But my experience has been the opposite. Sure, I’ve learned to pick carefully who to talk to. The urge to cross dress is still not widely understood, and anyone—Christian or not—who has led a slightly sheltered life can be forgiven for being taken aback by their first encounter with it. It would be unkind to spring my past on people and just expect them to cope. And for the sake of those I know who would struggle to understand, or who would be hurt to learn of them, I’m very happy for old secrets to remain old secrets.

But, crucially, I no longer feel like I’m hiding myself. Exactly what used to hang in my closet might be shocking to some, but no well-taught Christian would be shocked to learn that there are skeletons in there: there are skeletons in everybody’s closet. When, one day, I finally opened up to a Christian friend, he told me what I’d longed to hear as a teenager: that I was normal. Perhaps no one else in the congregation had a secret drawer full of petticoats, but everyone had experienced the trap of trying to fulfil an unfulfillable appetite. He encouraged me to fight, he prayed for me, and he bought me fish and chips.

So here I am now. Some people know my past, some don’t. I don’t often talk about it, because, miraculously, it’s not an issue anymore. I tell people if I need to, or if it might help someone, but not everyone in my church family needs or wants to know the details. The Bible tells them who I am—a sinner with a shameful past and a glorious future, just like them. So they know me, and they love me, and that’s basically that.

For years I longed for either victory or acceptance.

In Christ, I got both.

Ready to start thinking through how Christians can love and respond to trans people? Transgender by Vaughan Roberts is available now.

The Good Book Company

Our name says it all: The Good Book Company. As an organisation, we are convinced that authentic Christian experience and ministry always centre on God's Word — the Bible. And so we are committed to helping people grow in their knowledge and understanding of what the Bible teaches.

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