Though at first glance this might appear to be a subject that has little relevance to your life or to A Course In Miracles, if you'll stay with me you may find that you'll come away with a different attitude toward what, up until relatively recently, has been a hidden minority: The transgender community.
Before going further, let me take a moment to define a few possibly confusing and often confused terms. "Transgendered" refers to anyone who feels uncomfortable with the gender role of their anatomical sex. Within this overall category there are three main sub-communities: transvestites, who periodically dress in the clothing of the opposite sex; transsexuals, who have sexual reassignment surgery to become the opposite sex; and finally transgenderists (those who cross gender boundaries), or ambigenderists (those who combine them) who live permanently in the opposite gender role, or androgynously (like myself) and who may either take or not take sex hormones as an aid to developing the desirable qualities of the opposite sex, but do not desire sex-change surgery. In all cases, these can be either male to female, or female to male individuals.
During the course of our lives many of us in the gender community have experienced a great deal of guilt around the issue of crossdressing. Beyond the usual fears most of us had growing up, wondering if it meant we were gay or wanted a sex change, we have also had to confront our feelings regarding whether it was morally "right."
The Bible actually says very little on the subject other than a brief reference in Deuteronomy 22:5 which states: "No woman shall wear an article of man's clothing nor shall a man put on a woman's dress; for those that do these things are abominable to the Lord your God." It is a quotation, however, that has been mistranslated and taken out of context from the original Aramaic text of the Torah, which in more literal translation reads: "No man shall put on a dress to enter the women's tent (fear of rape), nor shall a woman wear an article of man's clothing for the purposes of entering the holy temple (from which women were prohibited by ancient Judaic law)." It's change from a conditional to an absolute is reflective of both the political and moral climate of the times and of the biases of the translating body.
Some Biblical scholars believe that early Hebrew scripture passages such as this and a similar one which appears in Leviticus may have been a response to the Jewish people's experience during their exile into Babylonia in the sixth century B.C. Throughout the Near East at that time, priests in so-called "pagan" religions tried to emulate the preeminent mother-goddess figures by becoming effeminate and often dressing as women. Judaism, which depicted a God who was indisputably and exclusively male, had no place for such mother-goddess worship. The priests of Jehovah, therefore, outlawed the practice of men dressing as women to keep the captive Jews from participating in these "heathen" rituals.
The Bible, ever contradictory, also contains an interesting passage in Genesis 1:27-31: "God created humanity in God's own image; in the image of God they were each created male and female. And God blessed them.... And God saw that everything God had made was very good."
Paul seems to address the issue of polarity from the opposite perspective in his letter to the Galatians (Galatians 3:28): "There is neither slave nor freeman, there is neither male nor female, for we are all one in Christ Jesus."
ACIM, not surprisingly, given its non-behavioral perspective and exclusive use of masculine gender, has nothing whatever to say about crossdressing. Just out of curiosity, I did a reference check of gender-related words with my ACIM computer program and came up with the following stats: the word "he," (and this includes the big HE), is mentioned 4240 times; "him/Him" 3045 times; his/His, 3959; man, 18; and man's, 1. On the flip side, "woman," "female," "she," "girl". "feminine," "daughter," and even "gender" scored zip. There is only one mention of "her," (M 78/82): "This terrible mistake about yourself the miracle corrects as gently as a loving mother sings her child to rest."
Somewhere during the course of the last three or four thousand years the whole subject of transgenderism was blown out of proportion and transformed into a societal taboo. The issue is not really one of what clothing we choose to wear upon our bodies, however, nor of the gender role we adopt – I mean c'mon, God "couldn't care less," – but of how we have been taught to feel about it. Objectively, then, it must be as "right" for us to express ourselves in one gender presentation as in another.
Human history is full of examples of those who chose to live in the opposite gender to the one in which they were born, but perhaps the spiritual aspect of transgenderism is best typified by the Native American transgenderists known as Berdaches. The Berdache were often respected spiritual leaders and healers thought to possess supernatural powers. They were revered for their ambi-gender status, and had the unique permission by tribal society to adopt the social roles of women, men, or both, by their own choice. Their greatest contribution to their culture, however, came from utilizing their special cross-gender insights to mediate disputes between men and women of the tribe. Similar traditions can also be found in the Shamanistic cultures of the Ural-Altic peoples of northern Asia and Europe.
The societal separation of male and female is an interesting phenomenon, as it was very much an act of humanity rather than of God. The Almighty never decreed, as far as I'm aware, that things in life be segregated from each other as being either male or female behaviors. The fact that we accord certain rights and respect only to one "sex" while denying it the expression of emotion and display of more gentle behavior that we allow in the other seems of little value in any real sense
In our culture, we are all brought up to believe that there are only two gender presentations allowed to us, and that they are inextricably tied to the genetic sex into which we are born. We come into this world as either "little boys" or "little girls" and are expected to live the rest of our lives in strict accordance to the narrowly defined gender roles that society has "assigned" to each sex. This is fine, in theory, were it not for the reality that for some of us it just doesn't work.
There is no one definitive reason why transgenderism occurs. Opinion is divided in the medical community as to whether the cause is hereditary, environmental, or due to physiological or psychological factors. In any case, most tend to agree that there is nothing psychiatry can do to "cure" transgendered behavior as it is not a mental illness. Studies have shown that it is not something that will go away with time, nor have efforts to give it up ever proven to be successful.
Although the Course tells us that the body is not real, a few medical "facts" about human reproduction are most revealing:
A new fetus has no sex characteristics during the first eight weeks of a pregnancy. Following this, we go through a stage where we are all essentially female fetuses, producing both male and female hormones. It is the predominance of estrogen or testosterone that make us male or female in anatomical structure. Chemically the difference between these two compounds is very slight; a matter of four atoms of hydrogen and one of carbon. The difference then between "male" and "female" is far more delicate than we have been conditioned to believe.
Sexual development in the fetus is always biased toward female unless an extremely complex process of gender differentiation is imposed on the growth process. This gender differentiation process will normally be initiated only if the fetal cells have "y" chromosomes with fully functioning "SRY" segments.
Perhaps the clearest proof of this female bias is that both males and females have breast nipples. During and after puberty, elevated levels of estrogen will cause breast and nipple growth, in men as well as in women. Similarly, elevated levels of testosterone will cause beard and body hair growth and a lowering of the voice pitch in females as well as in males.
Fetal development reverts to female during any period when the gender differentiation process is interrupted. These interruptions can be caused by stress, poor nutrition, drugs, and even by deficiencies or abnormalities present within the mother's body. It is this gender differentiation process that produces, within all of us, physiological and psychological characteristics that are a blend of male and female traits. If the push of this differentiation process is strong, but not sufficiently strong to be completely accomplished, physical and/or psychological transgenderism or ambigenderism results.
When a child is born, the first question usually asked is "Is it a boy or a girl." If the answer is not clear, as in the case of physically intersexed individuals, surgery is usually performed so that they can be "assigned" to one sex or the other, so as not to upset the dualistic paradigm.
From birth, this paradigm is continually reinforced through a complex yet largely subliminal program of gender socialization. Although in the case of transgendered individuals, the gender role conditioning didn't quite "take," it was nonetheless apparently assimilated at a deep enough level that many of us feel we need to dress in the clothing of the opposite sex in order to give ourselves permission to display what we have compartmentalized as "feminine" or "masculine" qualities. This seems to indicate that in addition to the biological element, we all have the psychological and spiritual potential for both the feminine and the masculine within us. This being so, the concepts of male and female are not the "opposites" that we have been taught, but are, rather, compliments: two parts of one complete whole.
The realization for some of us, that we are not like others of our sex, often begins very early in life, manifesting as a sense of innate inappropriateness of being grouped with others of our so-called gender and not allowed behaviors which seem natural to us. Many of us at this age begin "borrowing" parent's or sibling's clothes and dressing up as often as opportunity permitted.
In my own life, though I was born male, I never did feel like a man. I've always felt more comfortable around women than I have around men, and have always had a strong need for feminine expression. Somehow femininity seemed more natural to me; it was masculinity that I had to "learn", and which always seemed forced.
Having both the feminine and the masculine within us, it follows that there must be a vast blending ground between the diametrically opposed concepts of man and woman; and yet the myth persists that there is not. No wonder that the two "sexes" often have such difficulty understanding each other when society has cast them into the role of "opposites." Perhaps its time we question the whole male/female relationship construct. Obviously it is not working when our language, our social and behavioral mores, our entire society with all its movies, books, and television programs is full of instances of the "opposite" sexes unable to relate to one another.
Interestingly, even when someone changes gender, there is still the expectation that they are supposed to trade in one set of behavioral and dress standards for another, rather than in any way integrating masculine and feminine qualities. Beyond the challenge of living a lifestyle for which we have not been trained or conditioned, there comes the further difficulty of integrating a relationship with a significant other into our lives and reconciling it with our transgendered lifestyle
The desire to be in a relationship with someone with whom we can share our life is a basic human need, and not one which can be repressed without effect. Its lack can often contribute to feelings of loneliness and depression. Along with this often comes a fear of judgment and rejection by prospective partners due to our gender issues. This fear can be particularly intimidating when it involves a person or persons for whom we care a great deal.
Facing the seeming expectations of prospective partners, we often experience the dilemma of either choosing loneliness or being in a relationship where we must pretend to be something that we are not. This often develops into a sense of low self-esteem in regard to relationships, and, feeling that another could not be attracted to us, we keep ourselves from attracting a mate
Though afraid of not being able to eventually find a relationship, we often come to a time in our lives when we can no longer pretend, realizing that whoever we one day become involved with, will have to be able to love us for who we are. Though we often feel very lonely, many of us feel that it is preferable to living a lie, and that it is better to wait for the right relationship, than to get involved in one that is not.
Perhaps aggravating the situation, is the popular misconception of all transgendered people as gay. Most people don't realize that there is a difference between sex and gender – the former being a biologic fact of birth, while the latter is a choice of presentation. According to a poll taken by the International Foundation for Gender Education, 2/3 to 3/4 of us, including your humble author, are heterosexual with the remaining percentile fairly evenly split between gay, bisexual, and asexual orientations.
Although there are periods when being alone can be a very enriching opportunity for growth and awareness by encouraging inner discovery of self, there are times when the loneliness seems almost too much to bear, and we would just like to have someone to be close to. I know that personally I have felt very sad sometimes when I consider the possibility that I may never again hear a woman say "I love you".
Sometimes it seems that it would be so much easier if we could just forget all this gender stuff, and just be "normal" (if one grants "normality's" existence beyond a societal consensus). Certainly it would remove a barrier that seems to exist between ourselves and others. As many times as we try to suppress our transgenderism, however, it keeps coming back. Most of us eventually realize that it is not something we can "give up," anymore than we can give up breathing. For whatever reason, part of our learning and growth process seems to lie in the exploration, acceptance and integration of both the ying and the yang of our being, " ... you can behave as you think you should, but without entirely wanting to do so. This produces consistent behavior, but entails great strain." (T 25/29)
I have often wondered whether part of our motivation in crossdressing stems from the fact that we are perhaps subconsciously trying to transform ourselves into the part of our inner being from which we have separated ourselves. We have been so conditioned to believe that we must look outside of ourselves in order to find someone with whom we can become complete, though constantly disappointed in the attempt, that we have lost sight of the fact that wholeness comes from within. Because of this misperception, we have found it necessary to create this second person within ourselves, and manifest them externally, in order to fill a self-perceived void.
As important as a relationship is to most of us, it is a fallacy to think that it, of itself, will bring us happiness or a sense of completion. A relationship, to be a positive expression of love needs to not only be with someone with whom we genuinely love, but who loves us for who we truly are, not in spite of who we are. It is what, in the Course, is referred to as the difference between a special and a holy relationship -- i.e. two persons who are complete unto themselves seeking further growth through their commitment to one another rather than "needing" or seeking "completion" from one another. "And as the unholy relationship is a continuing hymn of hate in praise of its maker, so is the holy relationship a happy song of praise to the Redeemer of relationships." (T 337/362)
One thing that I have noticed that has shifted in me is the desperate "need" I once felt around "having" to be in a relationship in order to be happy. Though I sometimes feel lonely, I don't ever again to want to be in a situation of having a partner with whom I must pretend to be something that I am not, nor to get into a relationship that is not right, out of desperation.
Although it's true that the gender presentation that many of us in the transgender community adopt may not be consistent with the accepted role for our anatomical sex, it is equally true that the role that we have been conditioned to accept for ourselves is often not in harmony with our spiritual truth. As paradoxical as it may seem, it is a situation in which one must live a lie, as others would term it, in order to live one's own personal truth. What this suggests to me is that rather than being considered a losing proposition, transgenderism or ambigenderism can be seen in the more positive light of expanding the entire gamut of gender and sexual identity, and opening the door to the forward path of spiritual growth through the integration and balancing of the masculine and the feminine within us. "Healing always produces harmony, because it proceeds from integration." (T 112/121)
Following this line of reasoning, it becomes clear that it takes as much rationalization, albeit on a more subliminal or unconscious level, to decide to live according to the dictates of one's biological gender, as it does to transition from one gender to the other. It just appears easier to do so because it is condoned and continually reinforced by society, and so never questioned.
There is a tendency with the labels we use to separate from each other, to see things in terms of black and white. The reality, however, is that there is a wide continuum that exists between such polarized extremes of gay and straight; transsexual and transvestite; or masculine and feminine. Within each such label there is so much diversity and individuality, so many individuals that do not neatly fit the constructs of the definition, as to render it useless. Even among the non-transgended there is such variety of supposedly gender-specific behavior that there is little validity to the viewpoint that "real women" or "real men" don't do this or that. "The fact they have no meaning in themselves is demonstrated by the ease with which these labels change with other judgments, made on different aspects of experience." (T 596/641)
Beyond whatever stereotypes we use to separate from one another, we are all one, and neither the clothes we wear, our gender or sexual preferences, nor the color of our skin, are really of any importance. What is important is that we are all here for a purpose; to discover the unity of all people, and realize the connectedness we all share.
The label of "crossdresser" or "transvestite," seems to be a particularly powerful button for some people, even inciting certain individuals to acts of aggression or violence. Though it's convenient to place the cause of the problem outside of ourselves, until we are willing to see how much has to do with personal responsibility, in deciding to make a difference by making the conscious decision to examine our own biases and judgments with the help of the Holy Spirit and putting energy into eliminating them, the situation will not alter.
On the broader scale, the existence of aggression, violence, and war may have much to do with the sublimation of the full gamut of the feminine/masculine balance within each of us. Perhaps the evolution of the human race lies in our bringing to peaceful co-existence the male and female within ourselves. As we learn to accept that we are both, and begin to integrate rather than divide the two, possibly we will find the peace and unity that God intended as our birthright, and no longer feel the need to strive against one another. "The ego always seeks to divide and separate. The Holy Spirit always seeks to unify and heal." (T 110/118)
It is often said that members of the gender community are not like other women and men, as they have neither the socialization, physiognomy, or conditioning of the one, nor the psychological compatibility of the other, but such is often the way of change. Whether this involves, as it does for many of us, wearing the clothing of the opposite sex, or in just learning to see from others' perspectives, it is all a part of our growth as extensions of God. Possibly, in time, the whole concept of masculine and feminine will no longer be necessary. As we develop in spirit, perhaps we will get closer and closer to the unity of ourselves and a schism will no longer exist between the male and female essences of our being.
We are now entering a changing age, a time when long venerated sex roles are being challenged. For the first time in recorded history we are afforded the rare opportunity to integrate our hitherto separate halves into a cohesive oneness; to explore, man and woman, the balancing of our male and female energy and to experience, what has, up until now, been considered the exclusive domain of the "opposite" sex. Perhaps, for those of us who live a transgendered or androgynous existence, there is a reason why we were born as we were: to explore gender integration on both an outer and inner manifestational level. In the process of doing this, we learn to become true to who we are, more at peace with ourselves, and more able to be of service to others. "To heal or to make joyous is therefore the same as to integrate and to make one." (T 66/72)
Transgenderism is not always an easy path to follow. It is often fraught with challenges of self-acceptance and the perceived judgments of others, as well as difficulties in finding and maintaining relationships. Though some may regard it as a choice of loneliness, however, I feel that for those of us who feel guided to this lifestyle, it is a choice for freedom
Perhaps, one day, the time will come when anatomy is no longer the arbiter of permissible dress and behavior, and it will no longer matter what we choose to wear, nor how we wish to behave, as long as we do no harm to others; when we will no longer have to think in terms of crossdressing or of expressing the appropriate gender, but of just being ourselves.
I have always had a deep appreciation of spirituality and reverence for God, which has deepened in recent years with my study of A Course In Miracles. I feel, also, that there is a connection between my spiritual faith and my gender journey. Though initially identifying as a transvestite and briefly going through a stage when I wondered if I was becoming transsexual, I now realize that I was born into the body that I have for a purpose: to accept and integrate the male and the female within myself and to be a teacher and learner concerning inner balance.
I believe that I have grown as a person and in my ability to love, through the acceptance of who I am. I was much less at peace when I did not allow myself to express the true spirit of who I was. It interfered with my ability to connect with others from the heart. Once I began to open myself up to the totality of my being, however, I felt myself becoming a more complete and open person.
Whether we believe in God, the power of the universe, or the Great Goombah is of little importance. It is faith that is important. Faith in ourselves and in the path that God has given us. Isn't it time that we accepted ourselves and respected each other for whatever personal spiritual truth we are called upon to follow?
Am I advocating a transgendered lifestyle? Absolutely not. It adds a difficulty and a complexity to life that I would not wish on anybody. If there is anything that I hope you take away from this article, however, it is an awareness that for those of us that are transgendered, it is no more a choice than being born male or female, or straight or gay. Perhaps you might even find yourself experiencing a little more understanding, empathy and sense of oneness the next time you encounter a transgendered person. And if that's the case then this article has been worthwhile. ♥
c/o Community Miracles Center
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This article appeared in the March 1995 (Vol. 9 No. 1) issue of Miracles Monthly (then named *California Miracles Center Newsletter*). Miracles Monthly is published by Community Miracles Center in San Francisco, CA. CMC is supported solely by people just like you who: become CMC Supporting Members, Give Donations and Purchase Books and Products through us.