Last night one of the student groups on campus sponsored a conversation with a mininster in the Atlanta area who is transgendered (MtF). One of the other students here at the seminary has recently come out as transgendered, so it has been of greater interest in this community lately. It was a very interesting time, as I have not had a ton of interaction with transgendered persons in the past, and it was good for me to be able to examine and sort through some of my reactions--emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually.
One thing that I couldn't get on board with, is this idea that people should be encouraged to be whatever it is that makes them feel like they are living out who they feel like they are. For example, one of the two non-white people in the room said, what if I felt that I was supposed to be white (he's Japanese)? Well, the speaker made the example a little more specific, and asked what if he felt like he was supposed to be Swedish--and said that then she'd help him to live out that expression of his identity by helping him do whatever he needed to help him feel Swedish.
So then I asked whether there wasn't some amount of discernment involved in offering pastoral care or support to persons struggling with identity issues. Like, should we always just encourage people to live out whatever they feel like they should be? Or are there times when maybe they have taken in a lie about their identity (be it race, gender, appearance, whatever) and what really needs to happen is some healing to get to the point where they can embrace who they were created to be? To me it seems like a very tricky issue.
But she responded by saying, "Well, that isn't your choice. It's only up to the person, you don't have the ability to bless their decisions or make their choices for them, and they are going to make up their mind on their own, and it's up to you to love them."
I totally agree that I need to love them no matter what. And if someone chose to live differently than their biology in some way, they are no less God's child and God doesn't love them any less at ALL. But does me loving them mean I can't say (for example)--hey, you're not white, you're Japanese, and that's such a beautiful part of you, and I want to be with you and help you explore the beauty of that part of yourself. I just don't think the Church is meant to be so individualistic, with everyone making these major life decisions without being in relationship and conversation with people who love them and love God and are in community with them. Which doesn't mean sometimes people don't end up acting out of synch with the community (which isn't always a bad thing), but the point is we don't exist as individuals able to live our lives however we want, pretending that doesn't affect the community around us and the whole Body of Christ.