Call Me What You Will

A reflection by Lindsey

This is a post that I really don’t want to write. In some ways, it’s the post that I never thought I would be able to write. But the universe being the universe has ways of forcing my hand because certain things need to be said for the benefit of others.

The internet has exploded this week, dividing Christians along unfortunately all too predictable lines. The choice of a single word delineates sides: do you say Bruce or do you say Caitlyn? Concerns about appearance dominate both sides: either Caitlyn is stunning or Bruce has fallen more deeply into the hole of self-disfigurement than could have ever been realistically imagined. Sadly, this conversation is the conversation of the Church. And it’s manifestly voyeuristic, detached, and ugly on both sides.

Call me what you will: transgender, genderqueer, or gender non-conforming. At this point, I don’t care. I’m done, at least in the moment, trying to stake out a claim in the vocabulary war that regards people like me as territory to be won. I see messages on all sides arguing that people like me should have a place in the church, everyone with their own choice prescriptions about what I should or shouldn’t be doing with my body.

Call me what you will, because at this point, I’ve simply decided I’ll respond to any form of civil address. I live, breathe, work, and exist in a world that names me before I name myself. Salespeople ask me for my name, but it’s really only a pleasantry to ascertain my last name before assigning me a title. Each and every day, I go to work where people talk about me using a name, pronouns, and titles. I’ve grown numb to pronouns and titles, even though in my own sphere, I try to fight for three syllables of recognition that my preferences matter. I know asking my students to call me “Instructor” is a manufactured construct, but it’s the best I can do to find a workaround to a culture of politeness that threatens to rob me of my sanity.

Call me what you will, because at this point I’ve figured out that it’s possible to find my own safe spaces even if I know that you will never understand. I’ve learned that if I want to give my soul space to dance, then I cannot allow your opinion of me to rob me of my music. Trying to be the person God wants me to be demands my everything. Sometimes I just need to find that much more courage that God wasn’t joking when Christ promised to guide us through all things and remain with us always. I have never been down with conforming myself to social expectations because, quite frankly, my allegiances belong elsewhere. Occasionally country music gets it right:

You’ve got to sing like you don’t need the money
Love like you’ll never get hurt
You’ve got to dance like nobody’s watchin’
It’s gotta come from the heart if you want it to work.

Call me what you will because I know the fullness of my heart can never fit behind a restroom door. Whether I choose to be a superhero or a person capable of standing on my own two feet whenever I have to pee shouldn’t have to be your concern. Truth be told, I’ve had a long and enduring suspicion that your concern has never been about me in the first place.

…………

If you were honestly concerned about me, perhaps you would take the time to ask questions and to listen. If you truly cared, maybe you would consider that your well-meaning “advice” does little more than prove to me that you aren’t willing to take the time to understand me and the challenges I actually face. If you wanted to show “Christian compassion,” then maybe you wouldn’t be quite so confident that you understand the full weight and implications of verses like Matthew 19 when it comes to people in my shoes.

No one wins my trust by an impressive display of their ideology. Celebrating that Caitlyn looks awesome tells me that maybe I should only come to you if I’m ready, willing, and able to pursue certain medical choices. Bemoaning the magnitude of Bruce’s disfigurement sets me on my guard that you might decry the disfigurement of my heart. My soul lives inside of my body. I’m much more interested in knowing whether you have the courage to see when my soul comes alive and the emotional intelligence to know when my soul is withering. Do you dare risk sharing your soul with me in friendship’s mysterious intimacy?

Call me what you will because that’s the best and most reliable way I can tell whether you know I exist. Call me what you will because you are telling me how you see me. Call me what you will because I have gotten so good at playing these games on my own territory.

Happiness looks good on people. Everyone who has figured out how to come alive in a body and share a soul with the world is beautiful. Fight for your friendships; true friends are few and far between. And maybe, just maybe, your soul will find a way to dance.

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9 thoughts on “Call Me What You Will

  1. Thank you for writing this. Also, I’m sorry that this was necessary for you to write. I can’t begin to imagine what you deal with, but I care about how you and others are treated. Over the last few months of blogs, you’ve made it easier for me to show how much I genuinely care for people different from me, in a way you gave me permission to show my heart in a more true way. I used to be paralyzed by a fear of offending, saying the wrong thing or of pushing someone away from Christ and the Church. Again, thank you for this post and for all of the others.

  2. I will call you a woman because that is how God made you. All we need to know about this matter is that the mystery of marriage is for one man and one woman, and we are not to disfigure our bodies. Why do you make this so complicated? If you are true to Holy Orthodoxy, you will not “marry” a woman and you will not change your body into a man. That is all you need to know from the faithful. Any other delusions should be straightened out by your spiritual father. There is no need to tell anyone of these delusions. Pray for me, a sinner.

  3. Wow you’re really fed up today. Hope you feel better!
    I ranted today over a racist picture my cousin posted on Facebook. Me with African American Scots children and over 40 years between two communities! Oh no you dint!
    Sigh, sigh, sigh!
    I was married…husband #3. Married a few weeks when he told me he was a cross dresser. He married me hoping I would help him out of feeling guilty but of course nobody can do that. He was a man in love with the female side of himself…truly like a split personality. The man had a relationship with the woman…and I was cut out of all but a roommate status. No more than that.
    There is a side of loving someone who will possibly never love you back that can hurt so deeply.
    At the end of 12 years my husband was angry at God and at me because he was not instantly delivered. He didn’t want to work on his issues.
    Some passions take a lifetime of work my Priest says. We fall down and get up again.
    My own passions are a constant battle.
    It’s no surprise that I was discarded by my husband. In the end, he had become a very angry and abusive person (and sad).
    People who make unkind comments about the sins of others do so because of what is convicting their own soul.
    I must remember not to be moved emotionally at the behavior or comments of others. We know the path as Christians is narrow and that embracing the cross brings us close to our Savior.

  4. Powerful post, Lindsey. It said a lot to me.

    I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the animus toward gender bending, toward people who (for any of the possible reasons out there) don’t fit the brittle boxes society has set up for “male” and “female.” I’ve thought about how i used to go along with it–and how much I regret that now when I look into the face of one of my many friends and relatives who aren’t comfortable with those boxes, who naturally and/or deliberately shatter them. There aren’t words for how grateful I am that these people are in my life–or for how deeply they’ve gotten themselves into my heart, how they broaden my soul, how forgiving and kind they’ve been to me, how beautiful they all are to me.

    I’ve heard a lot of arguments in my time, but I’m not sure there’s any better antidote to society’s wretched resistance than LGBTQ+ people living their lives and telling their stories. It’s you and people like you who changed me. That said, I am so, so sorry things are the way they are in the church and in the world. It sucks, but thanks for being open. It’s breaking down walls, even if only a brick at a time.

    Going along with the country music theme, I hope you dance. 🙂

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