Saturday, January 23, 2016

Don't Mess with the Mama Bears

Sorry for the 2nd other person blog post, but I think it's helpful to share what others write - and many times they say it far more eloquently than I ever could!

I'm in the closed Facebook group that she mentions. It's approximately 1000 Christian moms, with LBGT kids ranging from very young to adult, supporting each other with open loving arms. I've mentioned previously that you need your support - find them, even if they're not in person. 
smile emoticon

Here's Valerie's take on the value of this online support:


Don't Mess with the Mama Bears

For the past couple of years, I’ve been part of a “closed” Facebook group for Christian mothers of LGBTQ children. I can’t remember how I stumbled upon this group, but it has become a second family for me and for the other approximately 450 women in it from all over the world.
There is great diversity within this group. All identify as “Christian,” but that’s about it. Some are the mothers of a gay son or daughter. Many are the mother of more than one gay child. Some are the mothers of bisexual children. Some are the mothers of transgender children. Some are the mothers of asexual or queer or gender non-conforming children. Some will simply say, “I don’t know what the heck is going on.” And others will say, “It’s okay…we’ve been there, too.”

The group comprises Pentecostal mothers; Roman Catholic mothers; Mormon mothers; mainline denomination mothers; Reformed Church in America (RCA) and Christian Reformed Church (CRC) mothers. Many of these are women who have left the church after a lifetime of service to it; women who have been asked to leave their church-related positions when a child comes out; women who are afraid to try the church again for fear of being pushed back out.

Some are bitter about the church; some are hopeful. Some have chosen to stay in their conservative congregations and fight for equality; others have abandoned that to find an open and affirming church. Others consider this group their only church home.

As I talk to these women and read their comments and hear their stories—so many of them similar—one thing strikes me time and time again: the RCA and other denominations can dig in, can choose not to welcome the LGBTQ community, can deny ordination to our brothers and sisters in Christ, but these denominations are seemingly unaware of one thing—you don’t mess with the Mama Bears.
Time Magazine noted this in an article in its April 13, 2015, issue. While faith conferences for groups like the Gay Christian Network or Believe Out Loud originally attracted mostly LGBTQ folks, today they’re exploding with participants who are family members of LGBTQ persons. I’ve also seen this in the Room for All Conferences I’ve attended. And there’s no foreseeable change on the horizon. The article, which talked about many denominations being ‘blindsided’ by family members of LGBTQ Christians said, in part, “Many churches were not counting on the family members—especially the mothers—to rise up.”

That doesn’t surprise me at all. When an organization hurts someone, excludes someone, shames someone—intentionally or unintentionally—they are hurting that person’s family members as well. When an institution denies the sacraments and the communion of the saints to its covenant children, there will be repercussions. And the Mama Bears who are involved will not “go gentle into that good night.” Once many of us have recovered from the shock and the fear and the panic of our children’s coming out, we will become some of the strongest advocates for those children.
Our denomination has seen some of this, but my gut feeling is that they “ain’t seen nothin’ yet.” RCA, you’ve been warned. We’re coming out of hibernation.

Valerie Van Kooten is a writer and editor from Pella, Iowa, who currently works as Central College’s Grant Proposal Writer. She and her husband Kent have three sons (two of whom are married) and a beautiful grandson, with another grandbaby on the way! Valerie attends St. Paul UCC in Oskaloosa, Iowa and Trinity Reformed Church in Pella, Iowa.

Same-sex Relationships & My God

I've mentioned in the past that I'm part of a secret FaceBook group comprised of approx 1000 Christian moms of LGBT kids (and the "kids" range from young to adults).   A woman in the group shared what Wendy Gritter wrote to a commenter on this blog post:

For years, I've tried to put into words my thoughts on homosexuality, same-sex marriage, Christianity, the Bible, God, etc.   I had very briefly summed it up the other day to someone by saying that I believe my God is a loving God.  That it would not be loving to set someone up for failure by making them homosexual yet making that part of their being "sinful."  And that I will choose to love and support my LGBT friends and family - if it turns out that I'm wrong, I'd rather ask God for forgiveness for choosing to love, when I approach heaven, versus having to beg him for mercy for turning my back on these important people.

At any rate, I really liked Wendy's response and thought I'd share it because she far more eloquently expresses many of my thoughts on this.


By Wendy Gritter:

So I just spent some time composing a response to an earnest comment on my latest blog - and thought it might be worthwhile to post it here too:

If I am hearing you correctly, you believe that same-sex sexual acts are sinful and "like any sin, are a path that takes us from God and, unchecked, to Hell." Your interpretation of my perspective is that I view this as a "minor disagreement - that ultimately doesn't matter." You indicate that you think this debate is consequential but I do not.

It seems to me that what differentiates us is not the degree to which sin, in this case your certainty that same-sex sexual acts are rebellious sin against God, is consequential but the cross and resurrection's dealing with sin. You indicate that same-sex sexual activity is like any sin - and that sin takes us away from God and, unchecked, to Hell. This is the crux of our difference. I don't believe that it is our sin that takes us from God and, unchecked, to Hell. I believe that it is our receptivity or lack of receptivity to live in the reality that the cross and the resurrection has ALREADY reconciled us to God. In other words, belief or unbelief is the crux of the matter for me. At the cross, all sin - past, present, and future in our understanding of time - has been accounted for and forgiven. God does not need our confession to forgive us. We need confession to reconnect us to the reality of God's forgiveness. The tragedy of sin is that it prevents us from living in the reality that is already true - we are joined with Christ, adopted heirs, made right with the Father, and called to participate in God's kingdom right now as we join the work of setting things right. The tragedy of sin is that it can so blind us that we never acknowledge our need of a Saviour.

LGBTQ+ Christians who know and love Jesus Christ, who eagerly receive the free gift of atonement through the cross and resurrection, cannot be separated from the love of God that is theirs in Christ Jesus. If after prayerfully agonizing over the text and being still and submitted before the Spirit of God, they discern that the interpretive perspectives that would make room for God's grace in their covenant of marriage with their same-sex partner are true and they go ahead with their marriage ...... but is actually in error .... and that marrying their same-sex partner and consummating that sexually is sinful ..... that sin has been dealt with at the cross. This was not willful rebellion, it was not merely twisting Scripture to make it say what they wanted it to say - this was two same-sex orientated Christians seeking to work out their salvation with fear and trembling as they trusted that God would work within them to will and to act according to his good purpose. (Phil. 2:12-13) I even know of one same-sex couple who literally prayed the night before their wedding for God to kill them in their sleep if they had discerned wrongly - so committed were they to following God's will and not wanting to sin against God. They determined that if they woke the next morning, they would make their covenant before God. (in Scripture, God honors the request for a sign) 

Scripture reminds us that if our conscience tells us something is sin - and we do it anyway, we have sinned. But if our conscience is clear, then we should act in accordance with our conscience. Paul says, "I am convinced, being fully persuaded in the Lord Jesus, that nothing is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for that person it is unclean." (Rom. 14: 14) 

You have indicated that you "know that indulging in homosexuality is rebellion against God." If I were to ask how you know this, my guess would be that you would cite Romans 1 and perhaps the Levitical texts and the vice lists from Corinthians and Timothy as well. Based on your interpretation of Romans 1, it seems you have come to that clear conclusion. I can honour that and I would absolutely trust that your intentions are primarily to be faithful and obedient to God's Word in Scripture. My point is that every single reading of Scripture is interpretive. Every single reader of Scripture sees through a glass dimly to some extent, no matter how many PhD's might be behind their name. And in these matters, there are people who are deeply committed to Christ and to the Scriptures with multiple PhD's in Biblical Studies behind their names who come to opposite conclusions on whether or not covenanted same-sex relationships are sinful. It would seem that some of those good folks, despite their best intentions to be faithful and obedient to the Scriptures are in error - and because of those errors there will be people who either discern that something that is sinful is NOT sinful - or that something that is not sinful IS sinful. Thanks be to God, all of this has already been addressed at the cross. When God looks at those who put their faith in Jesus Christ as the one who has made the way for them to be made right with God, God sees Christ. God doesn't see our theological failings, our interpretive errors, our numb conscience, our selfish hearts.... and I could go on. What God sees is the righteousness of Christ - praise be to our Lord Jesus Christ! Does this seem too good to be true? Does it seem too easy? I think that is the biggest lie - and the pride of our own hearts - that prevents us from receiving this as the truth - despite it being spelled out for us in Scripture! (1 Cor. 1:30 as just one powerful example)

How dare we say something is not sinful when Scripture says it is sinful? Greed is sinful - scripture is pretty clear. But how do we discern what is greedy when we live in one of wealthiest nations in the world? Is having more than one pair of shoes greedy? Is purchasing a car that has better features even though it costs more greedy? What if we don't discern what is greedy rightly? Will it take us away from God and unchecked, to Hell? (I could offer many different examples here).

My point is not to convince you to believe differently than you do. My point is to challenge your assumption that you and those who believe like you are the only ones who know the truth, the only ones who are discerning, the only ones who know how to interpret rightly, and the only ones who are safe from Hell. To be very honest, such certainty smacks of arrogance and pride to me (even if that isn't your intention) and Scripture has a lot to say about the sin of pride. The difference between you and me is that it would seem that you believe that this sin of pride is a path that will take you away from God and if unchecked, to Hell. I believe that the sin of pride, including the inadvertent pride that pervades the human experience, has already been addressed, forgiven, and its power broken at the cross and through the resurrection. 

"What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?" (Rom. 6:1) By no means! answers Paul. When we receive the outrageous news of grace, we die to sin. When we truly believe and live like people of the resurrection, those joined with Christ, those confident in being reconciled to God and knowing that absolutely nothing can separate us from the love of God - we don't run to sin - we rest in Christ. Jesus said, "But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matt. 9:13) and again, "If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent." (Matt. 12:17)

The LGBTQ+ Christians that I know who have entered the covenant of marriage with their same-sex partner have thrown themselves on the mercy of God. I believe, that even if they are in error, their lives are hid with Christ in God. You may not believe this - and I will not try to convince you otherwise. I will simply ask you to humble yourself enough to acknowledge that Christ may indeed make room for such in the Body of Christ. If you will not, that, I believe is consequential for a true representation of the gospel.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Our Philly Trans Health Conference Experience

I wrote a previous post about finding community.   Another way to learn and be around a LOT of people who share your story is to attend a transgender focused conference.  There are a variety of them around the country and they vary in size.

We have attended 2 of them in the last couple years so let me first share our experience with the Philladelphia Trans Health Conference.

The Philly Trans Health Conference is one of the biggest in the country.  It's a free 3-day conference (yes, I said FREE... as in $0) and is typically held each June.  It's free because it's run by The Mazzoni Center in Philly and there are many big name sponsors (such as Cigna insurance, TDBank, and others).  This year will be their 15th year holding the conference and will be held June 9-11, 2016.

I registered to go last year without telling TN I was going.  I had no idea what to expect and was very hesitant to just bring him to something like that without fully knowing what we were getting into.  I realize that may sound odd, but this is such a different world we've entered, I'm just extra careful.  So I told him I was going to Philly for a conference (I do that for work all the time, so it wasn't odd) and went up there the night before it started.

That morning, I walked into the Pennsylvania  Convention Center and realized this was a BIG conference.  There were about 5000 attendees.  That's definitely large!   Everyone running the event was super friendly and helpful.  When you check in, you get a name badge where you write your name and your preferred pronoun on it.  I won't lie, it just felt so odd to do that, but I learned that it makes things a lot less awkward for everyone involved.  I still have a tough time with non-gender conforming folks who want to be referred to as "they/them" because the grammar police in me can't stand that.   There's a movement to create gender-neutral pronouns (like ze/zir instead of he/him) which would help a lot.

Over the 3 days, there were over 100 sessions available.  It was difficult to choose sometimes.  After attending a couple sessions and meeting some really awesome people (and seeing that this place was full of "TN's people") I called my husband and told him I wanted him to put TN on a train to Philly that afternoon to join me.  Let me be honest, here.  If you are used to living in your fairly normal suburban bubble, this conference will be stepping out of your comfort zone.  The range of people there was incredible.  Everything from "normal" looking people (who may or may not have been'd never know!) to people who clearly wanted to be the other gender but weren't there physically yet to people in drag.

Oh and ALL of the bathrooms were gender neutral bathrooms.  So anyone could go in any bathroom. I'm actually totally fine with that EXCEPT I honestly don't like going in men's rooms because they just aren't kept as clean as the women's rooms.  And, yes, I've been in many men's rooms in my lifetime so, yes, I do know.   LOL!   Anywhoooo....

Along with offering sessions, there were lots and lots of tables setup by various organizations with information, books you can buy and people you can talk with about all sorts of topics.  I was personally excited to swing by the FTM Magazine table and meet Aydian Dowling because he's sort of an icon in the FTM (female to male) world.  He was runner up in the Men's Health Magazine's cover competition!  :-)   At any rate, we had a great conversation and had some good words of encouragement for me as a mom of a FTM teen since he'd been there, done that as a teen himself.  There are so many people at this conference who are willing to share their stories, answer your questions and give you the support you need.
Aydian Dowling

You should prepare yourself, though, because they have a section that is more hidden in the back full tables selling/demoing "personal" type stuff.  This is sex toys, packers, STP's ("stand to pee" devices), underclothes, and additional products that you may not want your younger kid seeing.  Most teens see or hear of that stuff by middle and high school so it's not too shocking for them.  It can be eye opening and educational to learn all of the options for  FTM and MTF's to "function" as the gender that they feel they are.

You can visit all of these tables all 3 days all day long so don't feel like you need to hit each one right after you register.   You'll definitely have some time slots where there won't be a session you want to attend, so you'll have time.  Now, onto the sessions!

Unfortunately, I wasn't blogging earlier this year so I don't have a lot of notes on the sessions I attended.   Like I said, there were a ton of sessions.  Here are some that I attended:

  • Safe schools for trans students
  • Trans Employment Law 101:  How to protect yourself legally
  • Changing Your Identity Documents
  • Coverage Still Denied:  How the Affordable Care Act Impacts Trans Healthcare
  • Important of Emotional Support During Transition:  Perspectives from the community and professionals
  • Keelee MacPhee, MD transgender surgery
  • FTM Gender Confirming Surgeries
  • Parent Support Group:  Support and Resources for Parents of Trans Youth ages 12-18
  • Getting Your Trans Care Covered:  Insurance Navigating & Financing Alternatives
  • Know Their Rights:  How to Advocate for Your Child in School

There were some others, but I can't remember right now.  Even some that seemed to have similar titles had differences, so if you want to focus on your kid and school, I'd suggest attending multiple sessions related to that because there will be different facilitators, different parents and different questions asked.

The medical sessions were very interesting because some went into great detail as to how they do top surgery, recovery process, timing, cost, etc.  And the insurance sessions were eye opening because I didn't realize that if TN changes his gender marker to male, he could be denied care related to his uterus, for example.  Now, there's appeal processes and typically those get fixed, but it's still good to know what to do if and when that happens.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Teens Needs Community and Friends

Your trans teen needs minded friends.  They need to know they aren't alone and to have peers who understand their world.

You, as a parent, may have the most awesome friends and family who are there for you and support you, but you also need to be around other parents who are in a similar situation.  These parents become the group of people where you can share a very specific (happy or sad) story about your Trans teen and they'll say "I hear you!" and they will 100% understand because they've been there, done that. :-)

Look up your local PFLAG chapter. They have meetings, events and information for the LGBTQ community. It started as "Parents & Friends of Lesbians and Gays" but now touts itself as "Parents, Families, Friends, and Allies United with LGBTQ People"
We found our local group had a monthly meeting for teens -
and while the teens met (with an awesome adult facilitator), many of the parents would hang in a different room and chat.

One of the moms from the local PFLAG group decided to stem out and create a specific Trans-focused teen group that meets monthly on a different day. She organized her group via so check on there for potential local groups as well. 

TN joined his GSA (Gay Straight Alliance) club at school and met some really great new friends in his High School.  An added bonus is that each club requires teacher sponsors.  TN joined the GSA in 10th grade and the 2 teacher sponsors happened to be his English and his Social Studies teachers.  His English teacher reached out to me to praise TN for being such a confident kid and being so open about being transgender.  That English teacher was the first teacher to refer to TN by male pronouns and his chosen male name and was incredibly awesome by helping me talk with TN's 11th grade teachers about using male pronouns and his preferred name.   Here's the GSA's national website:

An unlikely way for teens to get support is in their school's Drama club.  A lot of drama kids are naturally unique, quirky, etc.  They tend to be more liberal and accepting in general.   TN doesn't want to act, but likes helping out behind the scenes so he joined the Drama club in 11th grade and made some new friends who are super accepting - and learned a thing or two about stage management at the same time!

There is an organization called The Trevor Project.   They provide crisis intervention and suicide prevention for LGBTQ youth.  There's a staffed 24-hour hotline your teen can call, even if they just have questions (they don't have to be in crisis) and the website has a variety of resources including chat room called "Trevor Space" that is vetted and a safe place.

I hope these resources help you finding support for your teen and yourself as you navigate life together!

Friday, January 1, 2016

Educating Myself on this Transgender Thing

So while I spent time scheduling therapy appointments for TN, I also began educating myself on this whole transgender concept. I knew there was a cure for this - I knew it must be some sort of mental illness/issue that just needed the right therapy or meds to fix.

To find that answer, I knew I just had to research in medical journals to find the data that supported my thoughts. I figured once I found the data, I would share it with TN and show him it's a known issue and we would have a plan to fix him.  

Interestingly, I could not prove my theory. I found nothing in the medical journals that gave me data to show my kid had a mental illness.  GID (gender identity disorder) is no longer even considered a mental disorder and has been removed from the American Psychological Association's DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). 

Along with that, there are no cures. No treatment plans. Well, I take that back. The treatment plans involved letting your kid live as the gender in which they identify.  The majority of transgender folks have depression etc due to how they are handled and how they're expected to live their lives.   

Here are some of the journals, books and articles I read which helped me learn and understand that there is more negative ramifications in forcing TN to live as a girl than there is letting TN live as the boy he sees himself as. 

By the way, if you look up the journal articles online, you can't read them (you'll be prompted to pay a bunch of money) so go to your local university's library and read them for free there. I was able to read, and even download some in PDF form to keep, all of these at George Mason University's Fenwick Library without needing a student ID or anything. 

1. Handbook of Sexual and Gender Identity Disorders. David Rowland (David L.); Luca Incrocci 1962- c2008. Available at George Mason University Fenwick Stacks

2. "Gender Identity Disorder in Children a Mental Disorder?" Sex Roles, A Journal of Research. by Nancy Bartlett, Paul Vasey and William Bukowski

3. Chapter 3 of this book: Assessing and Treating Low Incidence/ High Severity Psychological Disorders of Childhood. By Stefan C. Dombrowski, Karen L. Gischlar, Martin Mrazik

4. Journal of Psychosomatic Research "Psychiatric comorbidity in gender identity disorder" By U. Hepp, B. Kraemer, U. Schnyder, N. Miller, A. Delsignore

5.  Eur Psychiatry. "The transsexual: what about the future?  By A. Michel, M. Ansseau, J.J. Legros, W. Pitchot, C. Mormont

6. Psychiatry Research Journal. "Suicidal ideation among patients with gender identity disorder" by Yosuke Matsumoto, Toshiki Sato, Nobuyuki Okabe, Yuki Kishimoto

7.  Journal of Psychoneuroendocrinology. "Sex-sensitive cognitive performance in untreated patients with early onset gender identity disorder" by I.R. Haraldsen, S. Opjordsmoen, T. Egeland, A. Finset

8.  Psychiatry Research Journal. "Cross-sex hormone treatment does not change sex-sensitive cognitive performance in gender identity disorder patients" by Ira R. Haraldsen, Thore Egeland, Egil Haug, Arnstein Finset, Stein Opjordsmoen

9.  Archives of Sexual Behavior. "The DSM Diagnostic Criteria for Gender Identity Disorder in Adolescents and Adults" by Peggy T. Cohen-Kettenis and Friedemann Pfafflin 

10.  Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy. "Demographics, Behavior Problems, and Psychosexual Characteristics of Adolescents with Gender Identity Disorder or Transvestic Fetishism" by Kenneth J. Zucker,  Susan J. Bradley, Allison Owen-Anderson, Sarah J. Kibblewhite, Hayley Wood, Devita Singh & Kathryn Choi

11.  Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. "Adolescents With Gender Identity Disorder Who Were Accepted or Rejected for Sex Reassignment Surgery: A Prospective Follow-up Study" by YOLANDA L.S. SMITH, M.SC., STEPHANIE H.M. VAN GOOZEN, PH.D., AND PEGGY T. COHEN-KETTENIS, PH.D.