I recently read an article about a mother who supposedly used her Christian faith to find a way to love her transgendered son. I could tell that it was supposed to be presented as some sort of “I did it, you can do it, too” story for other Christians struggling with the gender identity of their children. …because the way their children’s gender identity works out has some sort of reflection on them as good Christian parents, and good Christian parents don’t have gay or “gender-confused” kids.
The story came to my attention by way of Cyndi Lauper’s facebook feed. Yes, I’m a big fan of hers, bite me. She works tirelessly for LGBTQ causes and is an incredibly charitable person.
Cyndi’s facebook comment read, “When love overpowers all, faith and acceptance can be a match made in heaven. A powerful story about a mother’s love for her transgender son.” and linked to an article from the magazine “Woman’s Day“.
I thought this would be interesting, so I read the article.
I was absolutely horrified at what I found. First, I’m not convinced the daughter is actually transgender. I’ll get to that later. Secondly, this woman’s faith is being trumpeted as the solution to this “problem”, when in all reality it was the genesis of the “problem” in the first place! (see what I did there? “Genesis”?)
The mother identifies herself as a “Traditional Christian”. To her, that means the man is the head of the household and the mom’s role is to stay home and raise the kids. In 1994 she gave birth to her second child, a baby girl. She was thrilled. But as the child grew up, she became a “tomboyish” girl.
The mother tells of her own youth heavily steeped in Christianity. She says that every discussion with her grandfather, who she adored, included god in some way. As she tells it, “If I said, ‘The sky is blue today,’ he’d say, ‘Well, the Lord makes a beautiful shade of blue.'”. The conditioning is strong in this one.
Then came the age of 14 for her own daughter. She confided in her mother that she had an interest in a friend of hers at school. Not just as friends, she announced to her mother than she loved this girl, “like a boy loves a girl. I think I may be gay.”.
This mother tortured herself over thoughts that her daughter was gay. Tomboyish was one thing, but gay?? She was a wreck, laying awake at night wondering “What did we do wrong?” and she began learning everything she could to help her daughter “change” back into a heterosexual girl.
All this was driven by her religious conditioning that homosexuality was “wrong”, and a sin. As she said, “I truly felt we were being attacked by Satan.”. Then came thoughts that her daughter was simply rebelling against her mother’s obviously important religion, since that’s what teenagers do.
Not knowing what to do, the mother turns to her daughter’s youth pastor for advice, hoping he could “talk some sense into her”. Not surprisingly, he didn’t help. She spent countless hours fearing how her friends at church would judge her for having a gay daughter if they found out.
Then one day as the mother lay lounging in the bath, no doubt wringing her hands about “what to do” about her gay, sinful daughter, she says she asked her god to help her find peace with her daughter’s confessed lesbianism, if that was indeed the way god made her. She claims she woke up the next morning at peace with her daughter’s confessed lesbianism.
She immediately credited her god for something she had really done herself… given herself permission to love her daughter as she is.
It’s one of the strangest applications of the placebo effect I think I’ve ever heard described. She claimed that her faith was so strong, it allowed her to accept what her daughter was. She was so blinded by her faith that she could not see that the whole reason she couldn’t accept her daughter in the first place was what her religion had conditioned her to believe about her daughter.
After that placebo moment, her daughter made contact with an alum of their high school who had “come out” as transgender. Her daughter immediately decided that she was also transgender.
What a relief! Her daughter wasn’t one of those gay hellbound abominations after all, he was a heterosexual boy trapped in a girl’s body and THAT was something they could FIX! Whew! Dodged a bullet there! Glory be to god, Hallelujah!
Unfortunately, I can’t help but wonder how much of this “revelation” (See what I did there, too? “Revelation”?) was influenced by all the agonizing the mother did when her daughter was “just gay”. Surely the daughter had to have seen some of that and had taken it on board.
Given the demonstrated inability to read the situation correctly in the first place, I can’t trust that this is the actual situation now. I mean, I hope it is accurate, and I hope for the child’s sake that they really are happy now, but this article doesn’t fill me with confidence that they are on the right path here. 21 paragraphs of the story are dedicated to the struggles the mother had when she thought her daughter was gay. Only four paragraphs are written about her child’s new life as a male. It seems she still maintains an unhealthy obsession with it, even in hindsight.
Why should a person’s faith and religion be such an enormous obstacle to loving their own child? A parents’ love should be unconditional.
As I read the article, I searched for the “love” this mother had for her daughter when she thought she was a lesbian. Her “love” caused her no end of sleepless nights. She couldn’t eat. She constantly worried for the soul of her gay daughter. She wondered what she did to “cause” this. She worked hard at trying to “fix” the gay. It was obvious to all involved that this mother was torturing herself.
So, bravo for her. She tortured herself, and possibly her daughter, long enough to find a workaround that allows her to reconcile her faith with reality, and then convince herself that her faith was the solution all along. Make no mistake, exhausted with trying to reconcile her own morality with her religion’s idea of morality, she finally relented and gave herself permission to love her own daughter. She did this herself.
If the influence of religion wasn’t there, and she had a healthy understanding of gender development and gender concepts instead of the “Traditional Christian” binaries with which she was indoctrinated, would she have been so hung up about the whole thing in the first place?
People think, but sometimes they don’t think too deeply. This mother could not see that her faith was causing every “problem” she had with her child’s identity. Because of her religion, she could not accept her child’s reality.
I’m not angry at the mother, I’m angry at the effect the mother’s religious conditioning had. Indoctrination can be a very difficult thing to overcome, and for a brief but very important moment, this mother did just that. I will be glad when modern religions are relegated to obsolescence like all the other mythologies that have come before.