Lana Wachowski, transgender identity and stories we need to hear

“Here in the absence of words to defend myself, without examples, without models, I began to believe voices in my head - that I was a freak, that I am broken, that there is something wrong with me, that I will never be lovable.”

Hearing those words from anyone ought to give us pause.

The deep-seated pain and hours of tormented anxiety that lead one to devalue one’s own life and to consider oneself unlovable ought to cause our heart to break. It ought to move us to do what we can to protect the vulnerability of one who has felt ostracized from society.

Put these words into the mouth of a transgender individual, however, and all too often our response is less Christ-like.

Many Christians are uncomfortable or unfamiliar with transgender identity. When the city of Gainesville, Fla., proposed and later passed an ordinance in 2008 guaranteeing freedom from discrimination for transgender individuals, the response of the Christian community was to run a sensationalized media campaign about the dangers of lecherous men using the women’s restroom.

What if, instead of responding out of our fear or anxiety, we learned to listen to the heart of those who make us uncomfortable?

The quote above is from a speech by Lana Wachowski, formerly Larry Wachowski, and co-director with her brother Andy of The Matrix films and recently Cloud Atlas. She goes on to describe her close encounter with suicide and ongoing struggle for self-acceptance.

In perhaps the most powerful moment in the speech, Lana states, "Invisibility is indivisible from visibility; for the transgender this is not simply a philosophical conundrum - it can be the difference between life and death.”

 

Can we move past our own discomfort, past our unfamiliarity and past our fear to hear what Lana is saying?

When we refuse to give space for those who struggle with gender identity, when we draw clearly demarcated lines of male and female and demand that everyone fit within those boxes, when we try to ignore the very real questions of so many young people, we force people like Lana to live in invisibility, in a world where death can seem preferable to life, where being loved by another is an unattainable ideal.

Can we hear what Lana is saying?

What does it look like for the church to have a theology of gender that leaves room for those who struggle with gender expectations? What does it look like for the church to have a doctrine of humanity that incorporates not only “standard” XX and XY chromosomal men and women but also those whom we regularly deem anomalies? What does it look like for the church to be a place that welcomes the discussion over gender identity? Are our churches a place where a man or a woman can share their struggles to fit in to cultural expectations of gender norms? What would it look like for the church to stand up to the gender stereotypes in marketing and advertising that help to perpetuate gender roles and cause inner turmoil for those who don’t somehow fit in?

I suspect that if we’re going to get there, we first need to learn to listen. We need to hear what Lana and others like her are saying.

Comments (7)

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Thank you, Kory, for bringing this up. The church has done a poor job making a place for transgender individuals (and for those who are struggling with same sex attraction) to journey toward Christ with the rest of the congregation. It's such an uncomfortable subject for so many people that too often the church seems to respond to those with this particular brand of brokenness (and all of us are broken in different ways) as if it took more nails in Jesus hands and feet to redeem them.
Larry's story is certainly tragic. However, we must not let emotionality cloud the truth.
Transgender, in this case, means Larry underwent gender reassignment. His "assigned" gender was male. It was God who assigned it, and Larry is still a man, no matter how much he has changed physically. If we are concerned with truth, as Jesus is, we must affirm this. If we say that somehow Larry was born in the "wrong body", where will the blame for that lie? With God? May it never be!

So, as a man, if Larry engages in homosexual activity with a man, he is committing the sin of sexual immorality according to Scripture. What is the Christ-like response? To gloss it over? You will be hard-pressed to find Jesus doing such a thing. He was quick to point out sin (the woman at the well comes to mind). We must speak this truth also in love. To withhold the truth is quite UN-loving, actually.

It is not our responsibility as God's children and Christ's followers to make those who are caught in sinful lifestyles feel comfortable in their sins.

"Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them." Eph. 5:11

Are we to be concerned more about not hurting someone's feelings than we are about the salvation of their eternal souls?

"Neither the sexually immoral... nor homosexual offenders... will inherit the kingdom of God." (1 Cor. 6:9-10)

It is our keen awareness of our utter unworthiness before the majesty of the Holy God that makes us open to the Gospel. Those caught in deception and sin need freedom. No one is set free by a lie - only the truth of our sinfulness and of God's great love manifested at the Cross of Christ. And so this is a biblical response to a person such as this. Let us never make the mistake of "[misleading people] into sexual immorality" (Rev. 2:20) by tacit or active approval of it.
"Woe to those who call evil good and good evil" (Is. 5:20)

Jesus has a promise for us if we do:

"I will soon come to you and fight against them (the false teachers) with the sword of my mouth." (Rev. 2:16)
You don't want Him against you. "The Lord is a warrior; The Lord is His Name." (Exodus 15:3)
2cortenfour,

You considered this issue thoroughly, and I respect your reliance on scripture and your faithful study.

Your response is based on the hypothesis that people are born in two standard forms (male or female), but our biological knowledge doesn't confirm that.

Where do people with sex chromosome anomalies fit? or those with atypical physical or hormonal structures? (intersex)

These too are God's children, and their very existence seems to signal that our traditional binary concept of gender is probably more limited than that of God's design.
Idle
Hermaphrodites notwithstanding...that is a whole separate issue.
As someone put it (I'm paraphrasing):
If someone is born a certain gender and comes to a point in their life where they feel and think that they are actually the opposite gender, then something is wrong, correct?
The question is what. Is it their physical body, or their thoughts and feelings?
Assuming that everything about their physical body is in working order, we can rule that out. So the problem lies elsewhere - in their thoughts and feelings.
But instead of admitting that these feelings are abnormal and taking corrective action, many see their BODY as the problem. And so they go through all kinds of tortuous alterations and hormone treatments to get their body to look like what they feel inside.
But a man is a man and a woman is a woman (again, birth defects, etc notwithstanding). No matter how many superficial changes one makes to their body, they are still their original gender.
This is an issue of truth and falsehood. If you are male, God decreed it (who else?). The Devil comes to someone whispering, "You aren't really a man... Don't you FEEL more like a woman?", and that person starts to believe the deception. What is the duty of a Christian at this point? To capitulate to what you know to be a lie from Hell and withhold the truth from this precious person whom God created to have fellowship with Him and "have life more abundantly"? No. Our God is the God of truth, not lies. My prayer is that someone in "Lana"'s life will have the courage to tell him the truth... That he is still Larry. And no matter how far along the road of deception he has travelled, Jesus Christ has the power to redeem him, and to lead him on "paths of righteousness for His Name's sake".
I hope that's your prayer too, Idle - if you know "the Way, the Truth and the Life", Jesus Christ.
2cortenfour,

From ear piercing (something my missionary grandparents found a grievous abuse of our bodies) to hair coloring to braces to make-up to hair removal to shaving, we don't expect people to maintain every aspect of their corporal being.

My left-handed mother-in-law was physically punished by nuns for using her dominant left hand because they believed left-handedness to innately errant and sinful.

Many of the trappings of gender (clothing, hair, adornment) are very specific to culture and place in history, yet we use the Bible to justify male and female dress relevant only to our place in history and cultural geography.

I cannot claim to know the mind of a transgender person nor the mind of God, but neither can you. We truly only have knowledge of our own internal lives and the outer expressions of the lives of others. God has always spoken directly to people in ways that others find ridiculous, so how does one clearly determine that the devil is behind transgender thinking?

Christ said:
“Woe to the world because of its stumbling blocks! For it is inevitable that stumbling blocks come; but woe to that man through whom the stumbling block comes!"

"If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; it is better for you to enter life crippled or lame, than to have two hands or two feet and be cast into the eternal fire."

“If your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out and throw it from you. It is better for you to enter life with one eye, than to have two eyes and be cast into the fiery hell."

What if a transgender's person birth-issued body causes them to live a life that is untrue and distracted?

Gender and sexuality are complicated and include intersex and other biological issues you are unwilling to address.

People are not standard-issue. Physical variations are countless. To reduce the world to a binary system denies the complexity of God's creation. If we refuse to see ALL of what God has made, we are refusing to grapple with all that God has laid before us.
Sometimes as Christians this can be our biggest mistake when interacting with people who aren't believers. We have a habit of pointing the finger and accusing instead without any love. But the foundation of it all for any unbeliever must be to come to know Christ first and then the Holy Spirit will convict their hearts. Too often we forget this but if we simply just talk about Jesus and how He has worked in our lives, we might lead others to Him.
Idle
"God has always spoken directly to people in ways that others find ridiculous, so how does one clearly determine that the devil is behind transgender thinking?"
So you are suggesting it could be God who is behind gender confusion?
But Christ said, "Haven't you read... That at the beginning the Creator 'made them male and female..?'"
This means that it was God Himself who made us (1) human and (2) gendered. So no one is trying to "reduce the world to a binary system" - it was designed that way.
Birth defects which result in a person being a hermaphrodite, for example, are just that - defects. It's a tragedy. But this in no way is a reflection of God's creative genius.
Instead it is evidence of the continuing aftermath of the Fall of Man. Our (mankind's) sin is to blame, not God.
The "clearly demarcated lines of male and female" mentioned above were drawn by God, not culture. Again, Jesus Christ is the Truth, and He is all about truth. The article addresses "Lana". But the truth is he is still Larry. To say he is a woman is a lie.
To repeat: no one is set free by a lie. Only the truth sets us free (John 8:32). And as Christians we are called to speak truth, in love, even when it is unpopular.

 

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