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Gender and Sexual Diversity In Creation

Tuesday, May 31st, 2016

diversity quoteWe love red, or blue. We love a good steak, or hate brussels sprouts. Some like it hot, others cold. Some are tall, others short. Blonde hair, or black? Why would we ever believe that our sexuality or our gender is more black and white than anything else? We are far too complex for such things to be so clear-cut. We have to come to the place where we see things as they are, not in the manner we are comfortable with. Difference is truth.

Some men are very attracted to those who are female. Within that attraction there are “leg men” or men who love breasts more than anything else. Some men are attracted to Asian women, others to those with darker skin. Some women are drawn to the soul of a man more than their physical appearance while other women find facial hair, or muscular bodies really turn them on.

Why do we think a man couldn’t be drawn to another man, or a woman romantically attracted to another woman as a part of nature’s design?

man and womanWe have the reality of a person coming out of the womb with their body not so clearly designed as to represent a male, or a female, known to us as “intersexed.” So, if the body can be diverse in it’s genital formation, why do we not believe that the brain, or chemistry could also be found on a continuum within gender formation?

With culture there have been lines drawn to make us believe that there is a sexual, or a gender norm; male, female, heterosexual, homosexual. As a culture we’ve tried really hard to put all people into those boxes and anyone that seemed to not fit was deemed abnormal, or flawed. Some have even called homosexuals, or transgendered people a “freak of nature.”

What if we were to accept the continuum of gender, and sexuality as just that a normal part of life? What if we accepted that people might have fluid sexuality? If we look at the bare facts, this is true. People do not fit into nicely formed black and white boxes., never have and never will.

two asian menWhen we treat people who are sexually diverse as though they are a freak of nature, we get people who are damaged in the depths of their soul.

Let’s use our intelligence to think, to observe, but most of all to love others as we respond to the diversity of nature’s design. We do it with flowers, with animals, with the universe. Why can’t we do the same thing with our fellow humankind?

Uniquely You Word


Men, Women, and Bathrooms

Thursday, May 19th, 2016

egalitarian-coupleI am very passionate about the subject I’m about to approach. I’ve often felt insecure voicing my opinions but underneath it all, I’m following my own beliefs more today and feel at peace with the integrity that this brings to my life.

I’ve always felt a certain kind of empathy for women. I heard conversations between men that made me squeamish. There was often talk that put women in an inferior position and a lot of references to women as sex objects. I was uncomfortable about those conversations. As I got older I could see the impact that had on women in general. I saw some women had become subservient to men in their lives. But I also saw the way this impacted men and how it encouraged an elitism that I could see within the male population.

When I entered the culture of modern evangelicalism I was taught that women were to be in a lesser position regarding leadership and they needed to be careful when voicing their opinions. For many years I was in a church that taught emphatically that women were not allowed to preach in front of men, they weren’t allowed to be leaders or pastors. There were a few occasions where women were allowed to “share” things on specific subjects because only women could have thoughts significant for the subject matter.

I went along with this teaching for many years believing that what I was taught was coming from the Bible and who could argue with the Bible? Right? But underneath it all I was growing uncertain about those teachings and the impact I could see that it had on women, children, and the family. I could also see how this line of thinking brought an underlying bravado to men and an outflow of arrogance in many men’s lives.

male female pink blueOver time I changed my views to align more with what my heart was telling me. There was a female pastor that I grew to appreciate and respect. As I heard her speak, it was obvious to me that her wisdom and knowledge were good and necessary for all people regardless of their gender. I was challenged to change my viewpoint largely through what I began to see with my own eyes. I came to see that women are equal. Women have a significant voice, a significant place in culture, relationships and families, but this place was not static. I no longer believe that there is one certain role that women should play. I began to accept that I was really egalitarian with regards to men and women, roles, and society. I could even see how the images of “pink vs. blue” were stereotypes that kept boys and girls bound into gender roles that were legalistic and caused fear in the case of a boy liking pink. There are so many other stereotypes that bring the same types of developmental barriers to the uniqueness of individuals regardless of their gender.

I also saw something deeper. I could see that women were subjected to the potential of being sexually abused from their childhoods on up into adulthood. I could see that many women were sexually abused even in marriage when there was a dominant position of authority taught to be held by men. I heard discussions that women needed to provide for men sexually, that women should not be sexually dominant and that women needed to keep up their appearance so as to please the men they were married to. Also, teachings within conservative circles where women were responsible for tempting men with their bodies and they needed to “cover-up” and dress conservatively in order to help men not be drawn to them sexually. I’ve virtually never heard this same kind of teaching regarding men. I could see that many women believed they needed to always be pleasing and attractive when so many men are actually not clean, not well kept, and have no concern for being sexually pleasing to their wives! It’s so easy for me to see the double standard.

Please understand, I believe there is some truth to people being careful so as to not cause one another to stumble and there is a responsibility we all have to watch ourselves so as to not draw someone to us for inappropriate attraction. But, women are not solely responsible for these things.

As I moved into a gay relationship I was challenged personally by these former teachings. I talked with my husband about how we should consider roles in our relationship, our home and in our sexuality. I was troubled as I felt at times like I was more like a female than a male. As we talked, I discovered that I was bound by a strict code of male / female roles, and superiority. I once believed that women needed to care for the home, that men needed to be the providers, and that those were the best for our homes and our culture. I was challenged to look deeper into what I really believed.

As I thought about these things I realized they were not what my heart was telling me to follow. I began to see strengths and desires that transcended those former ways of believing about gender and roles. I could see that people could thrive through living and functioning in their strengths without attachment to cultural norms. I could see women leading, teaching, earning, and protecting, and men nurturing, managing the home, raising children and receiving from women things that were helpful. I can also see how men and women can go back and forth in between these roles. At times leading and providing, other times subjecting themselves to others and receiving provision. I found more freedom and encouragement to express myself in a variety of ways as was best for the time and for my own wellbeing.

Most significantly, I can also see how all of this effects our culture and our relationships and sexuality. With a strong teaching of women being subjected to men and the role of men always being the leaders, in my opinion, it plays far too easily into the temptation of men to dominate and to expect things that they deem rightfully theirs such as always respecting men and their leadership roles, and sexual provision. I can also see how often women forgo their own needs and desires in deference for the desires of the men around them. This leads me to see the underlying anger and discouragement that so many women live with. Sometimes this goes on for their entire lifetime.

So, as I think about the recent bathroom dilemma and trans-sexuality, I can see this play out. Most of the vocal opposition concerning the reality of transsexuality and the need for respecting and providing for the needs of those impacted by this, come from those who hold to a strong male dominant, leadership position. I also see there is a vocal presence from women who have been harmed by male sexual dominance and the need to protect girls from sexual predators.

In these matters, women’s voices are important to expose what has been hidden behind the patriarchal system. One such voice is Kasey Rose-Hodge….a brave woman who has written some things from her viewpoint that align very well with my thoughts:

Dear creepy heterosexual men guarding our bathrooms,

My entire life, I’ve been told to fear you in one way or another. I’ve been told to cover my body as to not distract you in school, to cover my body to help avoid unwanted advances or comments, to cover my body as to not tempt you to sexually assault me, to reject your unwanted advances politely as to not anger you. I’ve been taught to never walk alone at night, to hold my keys in my fist while walking in parking lots, to check the backseat of my car, to not drink too much because you might take advantage of me. I’ve been told what I should and shouldn’t do with my body as to not jeopardize my relationships with you.

I’ve been warned not to emasculate you, to let “boys be boys”, to protect your fragile ego and to not tread on your even more fragile masculinity. I’ve been taught to keep my emotions in check, to let you be the unit of measure for how much emotion is appropriate and to adjust my emotions accordingly. I’ve been taught that you’re allowed to categorize women into mothers/ sisters/ girlfriends/ wives/ daughters but any woman outside of your protected categories is fair game.

So to those of you who think you’re being helpful by “protecting” me, and my fellow women, you’re like a shark sitting in the Lifeguard chair. I wasn’t uncomfortable until you showed up at the pool and the only potential predator I see is you.

Your mothers, sisters, girlfriends, wives and daughters don’t need you to walk them to the bathroom for safety. Your fathers, brothers, friends and sons need to walk themselves away from their own double standards. Women are sexually harassed and sexually assaulted on school campuses, on the street, at their jobs, on the Internet, in their own homes, in ANY public place. And it has been excused or ignored for so long because of what you and I are taught from the first years of our interactions with each other: You, as a male, are not accountable for your own actions. It’s MY responsibility, as a female, to not “provoke” you. But then you get to Knight-In-Shining-Armor your way through life for those in your protected categories and I am expected to applaud you. Why the outrage now over bathrooms? Why aren’t you outraged every single day?

If you’re telling me that there are high volumes of boys and men out there, in schools or in general, who are just waiting for a “loop hole” to sexually assault girls and women, we have bigger problems on our hands than bathrooms. The first problem would be your apparent lack of knowledge of how often it happens OUTSIDE of bathrooms, with no “loop holes” needed.

This isn’t about Transgender bathroom access. This is about you not trusting the boys and men in your communities and/or fearing that they’re all secretly predators. Why do you have this fear? How many fathers have panicked when their daughters started dating because they “know how teenaged boys can be because they used to be one”? How many times have girls been warned, “Boys are only after one thing”? A mother can bring her young son into the women’s restroom and that’s fine but a father bringing his young daughter into the men’s restroom is disturbing because men are assumed to be predators and “little girls” shouldn’t be exposed to that.

So instead of picking up your sword and heading to Target or the girls’ locker room to defend our “rights”, why don’t you start somewhere that could actually make a difference? Challenge your children’s schools to end sexist dress codes and dress codes that sexualize girls as young as age 5. Advocate for proper (or any) sex education classes in all public schools by a certain grade level. Focus more on teaching your sons not to rape vs. teaching your daughters how to avoid being raped. Stop asking, “How would you feel if that was your mother or sister?” It shouldn’t take the comparison to clue you in to what’s right or wrong. Question why you’re more worried about your daughter being around men than your son being around women in bathrooms and dressing rooms. Stop walking by Victoria’s Secret with no problem but covering your son’s eyes if a woman is breastfeeding in public. Stop treating your daughter’s body as some fortress you’re sworn to protect as if that’s all she’s got to offer the world.

Kasey’s words have become viral over the Internet. I’m not surprised. She had the courage to speak her truth and it resonates with many women, as well as men who have listened to the true heart of women who have become honest with themselves.

I would love to see a major transformation in our culture to see people as equals and to move away from traditional roles that have been dysfunctional for many, many years. What may have worked at one time is no longer functional and is causing harm.

We all need to do some soul searching.


It’s Not About Being Happy

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2015

It’s Not About Being Happy, Caitlyn Jenner!

must be happySo many people believe that we have to be happy in order to represent a successful life. Is life all about pursuing happiness? Is God’s first priority to give us a happy life? Many years ago I let go of that expectation. I’m not necessarily pursuing a happy life.

Caitlyn Jenner’s story has certainly brought out many diverse reactions and comments. Something that stood out to me yesterday was from someone who said that it’s not likely Caitlyn will be any happier now. He said that none of the transgender people he’d known of were happier after transitioning.

I hope Caitlyn isn’t expecting to live a happy life. That could be a very disappointing thing to pursue. I’ve read stories of transgender people who got depressed after their transition, which doesn’t surprise me, really. There isn’t a one size fits all result of someone choosing to make such a huge life transition. Maybe they didn’t find happiness in the end. Did they miss the real benefit of coming out while they were pursuing happiness? Was their depression due to external realities?

For me, the transition from being ExGay to being an out gay man and marrying my husband hasn’t made me happier! I can’t say I get up each morning with a huge smile on my face and say, “Oh, happy day!” I have days when I am happier. I also have days where I question my transition and feel some pain and discouragement. I don’t think I’d be human if this weren’t true.

I’ve heard from men who go through tremendous struggles after they come out publically. I know women who face many daily emotions that are unhappy after they admit they’re lesbian. There are many consequences that stem from moving into a fuller gay experience. Loss of friends, rejection from family members, job changes, and guilt coming from religious convictions and experiences all become a reality.

I’m sure that Caitlyn will go through tons of feelings stemming from reading the comments on line from people who think she’s done a terrible thing. Not all of Caitlyn’s family is supportive of her transition which no doubt brings about lots of discomfort and pain. So, what’s in it for Caitlyn? What was in it for me to come out after living in such a public ExGay story for so many years? Was I looking for a happier life? Have I found a happier life?

No, I haven’t found a happier life.

But one thing I have found is a deeper inner peace. I’ve experienced a greater sense of integrity and personal truth. I wake up each day with less angst, less fear of the deception that I lived in for so many years. I no longer worry about lying to someone, or hiding parts of my life from friends and family. I wake up knowing that today, I am honest and have integrity. That’s worth it’s weight in gold.

For so many years I felt like I was two people, the public story, ravaged by the inner turmoil of a life by trying to be someone I couldn’t be. I think this is what Caitlyn has been through too. I think her experience will be like mine. I think she will find many days when she is very unhappy, or even grief stricken. I believe she will discover rejection at a very deep level that will be very painful and will produce unhappiness. But from what I have seen and heard from her in her interviews is that she has found a life experience with a deeper level of integrity. I think she will wake up most days with less angst of the double existence. Think this was her motivation and hopefully she will find that to be significant to her new life. In her potential unhappiness, it is my hope she will discover a deeper peace that will smooth all of this out.

I believe in time Caitlyn will find more happiness but if she doesn’t, I trust that she will find more peace, just as I have.

Does God want us to be happy?

’ve heard many times that living a life with God isn’t about God wanting us to be happier. It is my belief that God does want us to live in integrity and honesty. The TRUTH does set us free. My personal truth has set me free from years and years of anxiety. Well, maybe sometimes I am happier. But when I’m not, I do have that deep inner peace of living in truth today.


Bruce Jenner and My Story

Monday, April 27th, 2015

Bruce Jenner-Diane SawyerBruce Jenner told us his story. But what did he say? Do we remember more about him saying he has the soul of a woman, or do we hear the heart of a person who has struggled terribly for most of their life and is seeking peace with themselves? (I’ll refer to Bruce using pronouns of the male gender in this writing because at the time of life he is addressing, he presented as a man.)

As I’ve read commentaries on the interview by Diane Sawyer there are certainly diverse views and opinions, and that is to be expected. But the comments that strike me the most are those who have made judgments and criticisms about Bruce’s search and answers that have come from the intense seeking done for over fifty years of his life.

I can so totally relate to Bruce. He spoke of a childhood where he did things in secret that were part of a pursuit of finding himself in a culture that seemed to not understand. He didn’t believe he could be honest about his questions. He spoke of marriages to three women that he entered hiding part of his personal truth and the way these women were hurt by his eventual honesty. I can relate to a life long quest to find peace with an identity that for most of his life seemed so fragmented.

As I listened I saw some sarcasm, and some cynicism that is to be expected when someone is exposing such a deeply personal part of themselves. He knew those seeing the interview would have diverse reactions. He knows there will be critics who will hate what he is saying. He knows there will be a religious community that will say his faith isn’t valid and that all he needs is Jesus. He is fully aware that there will be those who will say that if he would just trust more, submit more, and follow the Bible; his unsettled gender will find itself aligning with his body.

But, how many listeners will do so with no agenda at all but to hear his heart? Who will hear this story and say, “I’m so sorry you’ve been going through this for to long, how can I walk alongside you?” Does Bruce have those kinds of friends?

I was thrilled to hear that his children have been as honest as they can be and still love the person they call “Dad.” Sure they’re troubled! Of course this is challenging for them to walk through. Yes, they will consider their friends, their culture’s response. They’ll ponder the future of their family and their children as this man called Dad, Grandpa, will not look at all like dads, or grandpas they’ve always known. That’s really hard to accept for anyone regardless of their love for the person. But they sat right beside their Dad, and are choosing to love while they walk through their questions seeking resolution with this intimate relationship they’ve known for their entire life.

Bruce talked about entering a marriage with some honesty, but still hiding the crux of the matter he was really dealing with. He spoke of beginning his transition thirty years earlier and stopping out of fear and personal concerns. I can also totally relate to that. I came out in my twenties I began to accept myself with a deeper honesty than I ever had before. But there were unanswered questions that had now come from a deeper faith in God. In those questions some people gave me answers that brought fear into my heart. Fear of what God would do if I continued to allow myself to be gay. So, I went back into the closet. It was a different closet this time. Everyone knew I had attractions to men. But the closet was built out of the fabric of fear of what would happen if I continued to live in that authenticity.

Bruce came out to his first wife to a point. He was honest about his struggle but he didn’t go deep enough for her to truly understand. She knew there were problems, but without Bruce being fully honest she believed in solutions that could not go to the deeper places because she just didn’t know all the facts.

When I entered my second marriage, I believed I was honest. I tried to reveal the deeper things in my heart and my sexuality. But that wasn’t deep enough. I was scared to be totally honest because I believed it would harm my relationship with God and would ruin the marriage. I thought what I had found could be satisfying and intimate in other ways. I believed my fears and my inner honesty could be kept hidden away while I trusted God to resolve them in secret places.

Bruce spoke of a time when he knew he finally had to deal with this fully with authenticity. Based upon his love for his children, his wife, and filtered through his fears, can you imagine what this may have been like for him? Can you for one second just open your heart to hear his? Can you compassionately, and empathetically get into his shoes for a moment? What would that feel like? Think about the anxiety that would press into his chest as he began to expose himself to the entire world through this very public interview. Why do you think he wanted to do this?

When I decided to come out again it wasn’t based on personal pleasure. It wasn’t a desire to make a big splash in the pond of ExGay ministry and conservative Christian culture. I was scared to death! I was afraid I would burn all of my bridges in all of the relationships I knew. I’ve been fearful of abandonment all of my life. Would my honesty bring all of my loved ones and friends to a place of abandoning me forever?

I’m sure Bruce went through all of these feelings. His children, his mom, his friends and the entire culture of people he’s known his entire life. What would they say, what would they do? But he was motivated to walk it through regardless. He just had to do it. Why?

I was scared, but I came to the place where I had to say, no matter what, I must be honest, I must be authentic, or I’ll die. Bruce spoke of the day he truly thought it would be easier if he just died. He pondered how that may bring it all to an end and his life would finally find peace. I thought many, many times about what it would be like if my life just ended. That would be a way to walk this out with at least some integrity. And yes, my own narcissism thought, “Maybe now, they’ll hear me.” I’m sure Bruce thought those same things.

But like Bruce, I picked myself up by the bootstraps and said, “I’ve just got to do this.” I had to work it through. I knew the answers didn’t lie in suicide. Somehow I knew I had to deal with this in this life. Bruce described how he believed his life had a purpose. He was given a challenge to walk through and he hopes his challenge will bring hope to others.

My life has always been a very public one. Somehow I have always hoped that my honesty, and authenticity would bring others hope through knowing they aren’t alone. I’m positive that Bruce’s story will reach into the hearts of thousands of transgendered people and their loved ones with a breath of hope. Answers to lifelong questions may bring comfort to many people.

I stepped out there in a very public way. Writing openly through blogs and publishing a book were my action of choice. Many have found me and exhaled with peace as we’ve talked. I no longer have answers for them, but I have a story that may be one they can relate to and not feel so alone.

Bruce will have critics. They will post, blog, and personally share with him how much they disagree with his choices. They will have advice and attempt to push him back into his closet with the belief he’s not being truthful with himself. Some will attempt to force him back into the façade of his former male existence. He’ll hurt as they chose to not listen to his heart. While he has now moved into authenticity, no question there will be painful days ahead. I hope there will be burden bearers who will not try to fix him, or change him, but will merely listen to him with compassion.

During my own transition of coming out and living more authentically, I’ve had those who have criticized me. I’ve had those who have moved away, some quietly, others very boldly. It hurts my heart deeply. But who am I if I’m not honest with myself? Did they ever ask what it may have been like to have lived my entire life hiding my personal truth? I didn’t feel fully connected to them anyway because I wasn’t fully connected to myself.

Sitting at a table with someone across from me was one of the most healing moments I can remember. This lady was someone I’ve known since childhood. Our paths have come and gone through the years. But several years prior to this moment she shared with me she had developed a deep faith in Christ. Her faith is now the most important thing to her in her life. I had known many people like that over the years. I am one of those whose faith is deep. But when I decided to come out and live as an openly gay man I avoided her. I began to shut out people I feared would completely reject me, or chastise me for making this choice.

I feared deeper conversation and only talked about surface things as we shared our meal together. But the moment I feared presented itself. Sitting anxiously across the table from her she took my hands into hers. For a fleeting moment I gasped, what now? She became honest with me. “John, why in the world do you think I would hate you? Why do you believe for one moment I would reject you? I’ve known you since we were kids. I know your heart. I know your soul. Do you believe any of this has come as a surprise to me? I know you were hurting. I know you were lacking intimacy within your marriage. I know you were anxious and unsettled there. I could see it with my own eyes, my soul. I love you. I believe in the grace of a very big and loving God. Don’t you think God has seen all of this too?

You’ve entered a more honest life. I can see that in you. I see the peace in your heart. I see the deep connection you now have with Larry. I know it’s deep, honest, and true for you. I would never want to rob you of the life you have found today. I support you fully. I may not always understand or agree, but that’s not for me to judge. I’m merely here to love you unconditionally.

This, my friends, is an example to me of the love of God. It is my hope there will be good people who will grab Bruce’s hands, as she becomes who she is. I hope that she will find the love of God, the true grace of compassion and empathy. I hope that she’ll shed the same kind of tears I shed that day across the table from my lifelong friend. I hope those tears will continue to flow as mine do today as I write these words.

That’s the kind of transformation I believe comes from the spirit of love. The heart transformation, far more important than what someone does with their body, or whom they chose to love.

Our culture has a tough road ahead that will be rocky to say the least. It’ll be some time before we all learn to accept those who are different from us. But in listening to the heart, this road will smooth out for some.