Tolerance

Sometimes I troll social media to see what is going on in my two stepson’s (S & C) lives. Eric, my husband, and I have been unable to obtain transparency from S & C or their mother through the years. It’s not the kids’ fault; they have learned by example. Their mother has taught them to keep many secrets from us. When S & C are stressed, run down, or acting out I check out the internet to see what sort of chaos is going on in their lives. I’m unapologetic about it. When we know what is going on in my stepsons’ lives, we are able to deploy our prayer, time and resources to help them cope.

Recently, on one such mission, I reported to my husband that the boys were just hanging out with their cousin Mike.  Eric informed me that the boys do not have a cousin named Mike. “Well, there sure are a lot of photos with S & C and their cousin Mike on Facebook,” I replied. My husband was annoyed. He came to the computer to take a look. In shock and disbelief, he informed me that the male Mike in the photos was actually the boys’ female cousin Michelle.

Upon discussing this with S & C we learned that Michelle identified as trans-gendered and had started the process of transitioning from female to male about two years prior when our sons were 13 & 9. We asked the kids how this was presented to them and were saddened to learn that they were simply told to start calling Michelle by her chosen name of Mike and to start referring to her in the masculine. We asked the boys how they were feeling about this new reality (which they had been dealing with for almost two years before we found out). Our oldest expressed being uncomfortable with having to share the boys’ bedroom with Michelle while on family vacations (especially while she still had breasts). Our youngest asked Eric and me how they removed Michelle’s breasts. These were difficult conversations to have.

S & C were asked to hide what was going on with Michelle from Eric and me because we are “intolerant” Catholics. Somewhere in the last 50 years there has been a new definition of love. A large portion of society believes that love means affirming every choice made by your beloved. Christians believe this definition is flawed and are therefore accused of being intolerant. Catholics teaching assert that you can and should love people with whom you disagree. It’s easy to love those who you affirm, or who affirm you. It’s more difficult to love those with whom you differ; therefore, this love is more profound. You have to work harder for it and refer to Christ’s teaching and the Holy Spirit for guidance.

We did our very best to explain to the boys that we whole-heartedly disagree with Michelle’s decision to surgically and hormonally mutilate her body. While we acknowledge Michelle’s feelings (and believe them to be real), hormone replacements and surgical removal of her reproductive organs and breasts is not the correct response. Additionally, these actions don’t make her male. Despite changing her name to Mike, taking male hormones and surgical manipulation, she will always be genetically be a female. We are all born male or female; its scientific fact. Our feelings do not determine reality. No matter how much Michelle feels male, she will always be female. I believe Michelle when she states she is a man trapped in a woman’s body. Instead of mutilating the healthy body which was gifted to her from God, she needs to address the gender identity disorder. In spite of our disagreement with how Michelle moved forward; we pray for her. We grieve for her and her parents for whom this has been very difficult. We reiterated with our boys that they should always honor the dignity of every human person, even if they live a life which is contrary to God’s design and natural law. That is honesty. That is love. Tolerance is not being bullied into submission from the LGBTQ community. Tolerance is not affirmation. Tolerance is charity. Prayer is charitable.

When I saw Bruce Jenner on the cover of Vanity Fair this week I was saddened. It stirred up all the pain in my own family. I feel bad for his children to whom he has a responsibility to provide fathering. I felt disappointment that we, as a society, have defined womanhood has breasts, make-up, long hair & nails and immodest lingerie. I felt grateful for my own father who would never hurt me in such a public way. Most of all, I felt sorrow for Bruce. It really hurt my heart when he admitted being remorseful post-surgery and his support person from the LGBTQ community told him it was just the pain medicine causing the remorse and anxiety. This is a man who needed strong counsel and instead is being used to move an agenda forward and create a profitable reality show. I have no hate, anger, or intolerance towards Bruce Jenner. I have thought of him every day since hearing of his plans and continue to pray for him. May the Lord bring peace to his family during this difficult time.

Tolerance is not affirmation. Tolerance is charity. Prayer is charitable. As always, I humbly request your prayers. Peace be with you!

  • The names in this blog post have been changed to protect anonymity

4 thoughts on “Tolerance

  1. Jennifer, I appreciate your message to love people you don’t understand and agree with, including those in the LGBTQ community. I understand your concern for S&C, who have concerns and questions about Mike. Careful consideration of their concerns and needs is required, and the best method of doing this isn’t easy to find. As you said, we must resist the urge to only love those we identify with and shun others we don’t identify with or understand. The challenge is that love for others goes far beyond tolerance, and it is not necessary to agree with people we love. We are commanded only to love others as Jesus loved us, unconditionally and as they are. This is a difficult command.

    I observed long ago that Jesus wasn’t concerned with WHAT a person was. He was only really concerned with WHO a person was. Your identification of Mike as a transgender person, the “what”, suggests Mike is troubled and confused, and that Mike’s problems have created problems with those around him. I understand you don’t know Mike, so I’ll describe a little of who he is:
    Mike is a self-confident, well-adjusted and stable person – a treasure to know. Being a relative, my opinion is biased, so I will give some details. Mike’s gender transition began during college. At the same time, Mike earned two bachelors degrees, graduating magna cum laude with honors and research distinction. Mike worked jobs and received scholarships to pay for much of college expenses. He found a good job in his field before graduation but plans to return to school to pursue a PhD in a couple of years. During college, Mike became aware of the difficulty LGBTQ students experienced, so he co-founded a fraternity dedicated to peer support of LGBTQ students. Many of them are enduring the excruciatingly painful experience of the break of their closest relationships with parents, siblings, friends and family. The suicide rate is astonishingly high. Mike and those he worked with welcomed these people, supporting and loving them unconditionally as they adapted to their identities. He changed lives. Jesus did the same with prostitutes, tax collectors, Samaritans and the mentally and physically ill. Jesus valued these people more than they valued themselves and certainly more than they were valued by others. This is how Mike was raised.

    I understand S&C have questions and concerns, and these need careful attention. Being related to Mike, they will enjoy lifetime relationships with him, independent from us, that evolve to ever deeper levels of understanding. As parents, we must simultaneously protect our children from and expose them to the confusing world around them so that they may learn to be healthy, loving adults. There is no formula for this, but the Gospels provide a tremendous amount of guidance. Let’s answer their questions and settle their fears.

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    • I’m so grateful for your thoughtful response; I can feel your sincerity. It sounds as if you have much to be proud. I too believe that Christ loves us for who we are (after all, he created who we are). The Lord also gave us free will, and that is where us humans often fall short in following his plan (at least I do). The Gospels often refer to both the feminine and masculine genius (which are different but equal). When we as humans start to play with gender and make of it what we want; it belittles God’s plan (that pesky free will again). I share your concerns over the suicide rates of those living with gender dismorphia. A 2011 study at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden produced the most illuminating results yet regarding the transgendered. The long-term study—up to 30 years—followed 324 people who had sex-reassignment surgery. The study revealed that beginning about 10 years after having the surgery, the transgendered began to experience increasing mental difficulties. Most shockingly, their suicide mortality rose almost 20-fold above the comparable nontransgender population. Sadly, long term studies have shown that surgery has not reduced suicide rates. Though we are not on the same side of the fence, there is much we agree on: Jesus Christ loves Mike – S&C love Mike and will have a lifelong relationship with Mike – Mike deserves the dignity entitled to all of God’s people – and Mike is lucky to have a father who loves him so much. I’ll be praying for y’all and I humbly ask that you do the same for me.

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  2. Of course I will! I continue to pray for this entire family.

    I asked myself a question once, and sometimes I ask others, “When did you decide not to be gay? (Or LBT or Q?)” Neither did I. This was the beginning of coming to peace with gender and sexual orientation. Since then, discussions and relationships with people who identify as LGBTQ have benefited me by providing a deeper understanding of the complexity of the human life experience.

    I’m glad you posted this topic. It’s important. I wish you all the best on your own journey!

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  3. Pingback: When acting upon our desires becomes sinful | GREENCATHOLICWOMAN.COM

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