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Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Christen's Testimony: The Story of My Life



The following is a presentation I gave at our local Baptist Church on Tuesday, May 10, 2016.  This was read to our church community group which meets regularly together.  It was emotionally moving to some and informative to all.  Where ignorance is removed and replaced with knowledge, hatred can not so easily take root.  Special Thanks to Kelly Lepley, an extraordinary woman who graciously provided some inspirational passages which became part of this presentation.  -Enjoy

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I’ve had the opportunity to stand before the entire house of representatives at our State House.  I’ve stood up before 350 students and faculty to speak and to share.  I’ve had WMUR and WBIN television stand before me with cameras rolling as I shared with them.  But in all honesty, these were trivial in comparison to what I feel in sharing this with you all tonight.  Perhaps it is my fear of the one thing happening, that thing we are asked by God not to do, and that is to judge others.  It has taken me many decades of my life to come to where I sit before you here this evening.  It has taken me as many decades to finally feel at peace and to finally, and for the first time in my life, feel happiness and joy in simply being able to live life truthfully to my own sense of self.

I am about to present you with something that has been with me for an entire lifetime. This is not something that has only come up recently. From the time I was a pre-school child until this very day what I will tell you about now has been present for me and has overshadowed every single moment of my life.

As I look backward at the various stages and days of my life until now; I see a life lived with more guilt and depression than most could possibly imagine. I blamed myself, not knowing the true reasons that caused this to occur.
So, to begin at the beginning…

Arriving here at this point in my life has not been easy.  I knew from my earliest memories as a small child that I felt different from others.  I didn’t have the words back then to relate the difference, nor could I see that how I felt that I saw myself was very different from about age 4 and 5.

I would often be complemented by strangers as being a cute little girl.  It was my head of curly hair that my mother rather liked about me that caused the confusion.

Growing up, I always felt more comfortable in socializing with the little girls in school.  I found their manner of play and of conversation on par with my own.  We were able to talk about all the things that girls like to talk to about and we were able to connect on a very social level and in play in a way that boys could and generally did not. 

None of what I am saying would seem to be a problem except for the fact that I was born, at least from what was known medically in the mid 1960’s, as a boy.

I would quietly lie in bed at night hoping that when I woke up, I would discover that everything had been corrected. I prayed for hours, asking God to fix what was broken.   When that never happened, I asked God why he had done this to me and asked him to take my life in the night so that I would not have to deal with this any longer.  I did not want to disappoint my parents and those around me and so, upon waking each day, I did what I was expected to do and tried to become what I was expected to become.

My feelings were not quantifiable and I argued with myself for years and years that they were therefore illogical and tried to dismiss them Later, in my twenties, that same frustration of trying to live my life to the expectations of others and the fear of shame in letting anyone know of how I fully felt inside for fear of their disapproval and disappointment led me nearly to take my own life in two separate suicide attempts.  I resolved to try again and continue my life forward.

I did my best to be a good actor! I did as many male things as I could over the remaining years. I participated in a few sports but found that I was happiest in such endeavors as hiking and sailing and loathed any male team sports.  I found solace in individual activities which removed me from any gender specific environment and from people.  Such pastimes as camping and hiking allowed me solace and a chance to be at one and alone in the woods, with just myself and God around me as I summitted mountains and paddled my kayak in pristine and quiet lakes in solitude alone.

From the outside looking in, I suspect one would have thought I lived the good life. In many ways I did. However, in many others, this was not the case. They say, never judge a book by its cover. Well, in my case, everyone was just seeing the cover. Inside was something much different. No one knew the internal struggle, nor the pain I have lived with most of my life, including my own family. Deep inside, I was hurting but could not tell anyone out of fear of rejection.

Growing up, I recall many trips to the doctors office and to urologists.  I was young at the time and didn’t understand many of the tests that were being performed on me.  It wasn’t until I got into high school and the whole locker room situation that I began to realize that I was just not built physically like any of the other boys and so I was made fun of.  I avoided such places after that, too embarrassed to say anything to anyone and often suffered being bullied by other kids.  On one occasion, I was carried off by a goodly number of the football team and tied up with hockey tape to a light post on Memorial Drive along the Charles River in Cambridge, MA and left there.  Eventually, and after some considerable time, a passing motorist kindly stopped in busy traffic to free me from my entrapment.

I suffer from what is called Gender Dysphoria, and the title ascribed to me is a transsexual. It means that I am one of those people that you might hear say “I am a woman trapped in the body of a man”.  Well, Let me just say that I was never a woman trapped in a man’s body.  That is absolute nonsense to me.  This is the body that God gave me, odd as it is not being fully male or fully female.   I would hope that you would disconnect me from those grotesque caricatures we all too often see on shows like Jerry Springer and the like. They represent an extreme fringe and only serve to create an incorrect view of the nature of this problem. The symptoms of Gender Dysphoria  exists, by known statistics, in about 1% of the population.

About five years ago, at age 45, I had a nervous breakdown and a complete collapse.

I spent a considerable amount of time studying “Gender Dysphoria,” seeking answers to what I was living with. Endocrinologists, medical doctors and psychologists and other experts in these fields who gave me insight as to why I was suffering. In short, I was told this was biological in nature, and nothing could be done to change it.  The results all point to a diagnosis of gender dysphoria.  There was clear evidence that I exhibited medicially all the signs and symptoms of a diagnosis that was most definitely, “transsexual”.

It was not until within the past few years that I learned from my sister that my mother had taken a drug known as DES before and during her pregnancy with me.  I had read many stories and seen much correlative evidence of developmental issues prenataly in boys when mothers took this drug.  As it was a concentrated form of estrogen, it, for me, had profound effects on both physical development of the body and mental development of the brain and it’s measurable effects helped solidify the variance I had felt internally all my life and had fought for years inside.

Popular belief outside of the medical community holds that people with “Gender Dysphoria” are “Gender Confused.” This is far from the truth. No one would choose to undergo a drastic change, being “Confused.” We are born with it and is inherent with us from our earliest recollection.

Within weeks of beginning hormone treatments, the anxiety I lived with most of my adult life began to fade. Never before, had I felt such comfort. The feeling of dysphoria was no longer there. The war going on inside my brain was subsiding to the point of tranquility. No amount of therapy, suppression or mind altering games, was able to provide such a relief.  This had been the only thing that did give me relief.

Being transgender has absolutely nothing to do with being gay or lesbian or anything sexual.  It is not about sex or having sex.  It is all about identity; who I am inside and how I relate to the world around me and how the world around me relates to me in return.  It is not pleasurable or fun.  It is likely one of the most difficult struggles one can face in a world that is only today, just beginning to understand.

I would like to share with you,  Paul's admonition in Galatians 5.  In reading it, none of my circumstances fit anywhere on the scale of what is right or wrong. My realization of self does not equate to sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, envy, drunkenness, or orgies.

If anything, as a result of seeking my true self, I am all about the manifestations of the spirit that Paul lists. As a reminder they were; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

The more I strive to understand this world through the study of the sciences, the more I am amazed at the diversity of God’s work.   I look up at the stars at night, realizing that although they are all moving away from each other through space at great speeds, and, realizing that they all emanated from a point of creation so many years ago….. I realize in that moment that science can not explain the vastness of the entirety of God’s plan.  Scientists agree that our universe began from a single point of matter that exploded with great force but it cannot explain how that single point of matter came to existence.  It can not explain how something became from nothing.  Science does not deny the existence of God.  If anything, it helps us understand the magnificence of God and that we are, even with our greatest minds and greatest scientific instruments, to be able to only scratch the surface and to see behind the curtain only so far.  It leaves us, and me, with greater respect for His work and creation.

Similarly, as science breaks into the study of humans in being able to look at how we are made up by our DNA and our Chromosomes, it has become known to those who strive to understand, that we are more complex as humans than could have been ever imagined.  Our DNA and our Chromosomes tell a story that paints us as children of God in the greatest pallet of colors imaginable.  Our genetics tell a story that helps us and me to understand that I am not a mistake but a child created, as each of us are, as God intended.  I take what makes me different and, rather than hiding from the world in shame, come forth proudly as a person who perhaps received what I now consider as a gift….a gift to see into two worlds, of man and of woman, and to realize that we are all much more than the shell of the body we occupy.  I realize that the diversity inherent in my creation can only define a God who brings a plethora of colors to a world that would have none without Him.

Last week, I was honored at Plymouth State University to accept an award at the graduation ceremony for the work I have done to legislate before the Plymouth Selectboard, that all people have self worth and do not deserve to be ostracized or discriminated against within the town of Plymouth.  I have the honor of being invited to dine with the president of the university tomorrow night as a celebration of the work I have done to create a more inclusive town that discriminates against no one, including those who are transgender.  I never expected or wanted such an honor.  I simply felt in my heart of hearts that we are all children of God and that no person should feel shunned.  Jesus accepted and loved everyone, even the sinners…..and we are all sinners in some fashion.  It was my calling in life to take what unique gifts had been bestowed upon me at my birth to help others who might find themselves being repressed in our communities simply for who they are, much as Mary Magdalen, who was set to be stoned publicly for her actions. 

I have seen one too many friends “stoned” for their attempts to live their lives truthfully to themselves simply because they were called outcasts for so doing.  Jobs, friends and families lost, many in isolation and reduced to poverty and many, many people, some who I have known personally and called friends, taking their own lives in suicides.  The statistics show that over 40% of those who are transgender will attempt suicide, the highest percentage of any group.  I myself would not be sitting here to speak with you today had I not sought out professional medical help to understand the how’s and why’s of the way I was born and to take steps to live life truthfully to my own sense of self.  I came frighteningly close to feeling ashamed and worthless as a human being, not worthy to be a part of this world.

I believe in love and I believe there is much more to our lives than our limited minds can comprehend.  But the one thing I do know is that the path towards God can not be achieved without accepting Jesus Christ in our lives and that we must live our lives with an open heart, an open mind and with love that extends without exception for all.


1 comment:

marsha E said...

Happy Birthday,

You have represented Jesus Christ and transpeople so well.

Marsha Caissey

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