I just spent the last 45 minutes reading the most heartache-inducing article I think I’ve ever come across.
There are certain topics that I just don’t talk about on this blog, truthfully out of fear for being “cancelled.” Not that I am anyone who has any sort of notoriety from which to BE cancelled, but hey – if dog ladies at Central Park can be given the cultural axe, then I guess anyone is fair game at this point.
I was in Duane Reade (the NYC equivalence of Walgreens/CVS) last night waiting at the check out line, when I glanced down, and spotted an unsettling magazine cover.
A nude, disturbingly thin man graced the cover of New York Magazine in tighty whities, with a stance and a look almost challenging the reader to gaze upon his body.
The first thing I noticed was how womanly his shape was — more hourglass than I’ll ever be, I’ll tell you that.
But after about 1.5 seconds, I realized that this was the “infamous” New York Mag cover story I’d been hearing about recently from various conservative news sources that I listen to, about a trans man (a woman that transitioned into a man), and his surgical journey of fashioning a penis out of the skin of his thigh. The cover story declares, “I didn’t need a penis to be a man. But I needed one to be myself.”
This is a topic that I have long wanted to write about. I have no less than six drafts stored in my computer of posts on this topic that, when the time came to push publish, I chickened out, afraid to ruffle feathers, hurt feelings, or be flagged as “bigoted,” and then subsequently cancelled.
Because that’s the thing: the issue of transgenderism is a very emotionally charged issue for many people, as it is a very real, life-altering existence. And the compassion in my heart for those suffering with it is enormous. I have great empathy for their struggle, given a similar struggle of my own, which I will get into in a minute. But I want to just preface the rest of this post by saying that my words come from a deep place of love and prayer.
But I cannot give into fear and shy away from this topic any longer. Especially given the frightening legislation that was just passed in Canada.
I read the article from New York Mag. All 45 minutes of it. And it was really hard to get through. I mean, the opening sentence was “On the day I heard that my penis would be huge, I sobbed.”
Graphic depictions of the actual phalloplasty surgical procedure and recovery process. Emotionally disturbing glimpses into her mind, who as a child was even contemplating taking her own life. Talk of “patriarchal, heterosexist, racist, capitalist [Midwest] acculturalization,” talk of her praying to “ancestors and transcestors.” Talk of being a priestesses and her past lives.
But as the title suggests, “My Penis, Myself – A Love Story,” it was exactly that – an ode to this person’s manmade sexual appendage. And how at the end of the day, he is an “asexual gay man with a penis and a vagina” who, only after this surgery can ‘be fully himself.’
The entire article just made me really really sad, because you could feel this person just flailing in need of God’s presence in his life. The pain, the searching, the ultimate bodily mutilation, the mental anguish — this person was trying to fill that God-sized hole with everything under the sun, trying to define who he or she is, unable to find the ultimate answer: that he or she is a child of God, created by a loving Father.
And while that is true, I don’t want to focus on that tonight, because I feel that, though accurate, mainstream pushback is that that is backwards thinking, akin to “pray the gay away,” which is not something I believe in, to be clear. Same sex attraction is a very real thing, but that’s a different post for another day when I’m feeling brave.
But I want to just gently share about something I’ve experienced in my own life, that though different, has me curious as to the potential connection with gender dysphoria. As many of the descriptions of this woman’s body image in the article, resonated in a familiar, yet different way with me personally. And that is: body dysmorphia.
Body dysmorphia is the stereotypical image that many textbooks/self-help books depict when it comes to anorexia, as an emaciated girl, staring into a mirror, and her reflection staring back at her is an obese version of herself. This is, of course, bringing to light the very real, very harmful condition of body dysmorphia that people with eating disorders suffer with: where their perception of reality – their perception of themselves – is totally amiss.
Though I was wasting away at 78 pounds, all I would see in the mirror is a whale of a human. I would stand in front of that full-length mirror – for much longer than I’d like to admit) and obsessively scrutinize every square inch of my body. I truly, honest-to-goodness believed that I was fat. It didn’t matter if all I had eaten that day was the skin of a green apple and a can of chunk light tuna in water…I saw a fat girl. I saw ginormous thighs. I saw a fat stomach. It didn’t matter that you could play my ribs like a xylophone, or that you could see my heart beating through my skeletal chest, I believed I was fat. Enough to literally starve myself for. And praise God that I am free from that place. (And to this day, I do not keep a full length mirror in my apartment. I don’t scrutinize my body. I don’t weigh myself. My body is an act of worship to God, for giving me the second chance at life that I nearly gambled away with my eating disorder.)
But body dysmorphia is a real thing. A real mental illness. And so when a person struggling with gender identity says they don’t see the accurate reflection staring back at them in the mirror, I believe them. I have compassion, having also walked that road, feeling completely alienated from my body, hating it, wanting it to literally disappear.
I believe them. And I want to love them through it.
But here’s the thing.
Would it have been love for my parents, knowing that I was struggling with this, to tell their 78 pound dying daughter, “You know honey, I know what you’re seeing in the mirror is a figment of a mental illness, but we’re going to help you lose those 10 pounds that will make you believe you’re not a whale.” Would it have been love for them to push me to work out, or encourage me to skip meals, all to appease the distorted body image I had in my mind? No.
Love was intervening. Love was, (even with me kicking and screaming) staging an intervention — pulling me out of school, even — and not letting me go until I agreed to go to an inpatient hospital for 3 months, leaving the very next morning (and therefore missing high school graduation).
Love is tough.
Love is really tough sometimes.
But that’s what we’re called to do when we love someone. And that’s what Jesus calls us to do: love one another.
1 John 4:11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also must love one another.
After reading this article about the trans man, I felt compelled to open the Bible to today’s readings. And that was the very first line: “love one another.” There it is. Plain as day.
One of the things about the whole transgenderism movement — that’s probably not the correct term, and forgive me, please — is that the whole thing is so caught up in labels: pronouns, gender identity, sexual identity. Who a person is has been deduced to the pronoun they use, how they identify, what their genitalia is, who they fornicate with. Waking up after the penis surgery, the author said, “this was what being alive was…I was centered, in my body…perfect.”
It’s just so sad to me, because we are so much more than a body part. We are so much more, than even a man or a woman, or our profession, or our nationality, or what types of books we read, or whether we identify on the the political left or the right, or whether we root for the Dodgers or the Yankees, or whether or not we’re a feminist.
None of that matters.
What it all boils down to, is that we are all creations of God. Created in love, on purpose. Perfectly imperfect.
We are all worthy of love. And as brothers and sisters of the same Father, we are called to love one another. To shoulder one another’s burdens. To help those in need. To will the good of the other.
We are called to love.
And sometimes, that love is tough.
As for this reminding me of my body dysmorphia, I am only pointing out a situation that I endured, which I felt may perhaps have some similarities. But as I am obviously not a medical doctor or psychologist, my personal response comes only from a place of seeking to understand, to empathize, to relate, so that I may love as we are instructed.
What are your thoughts? Have you read the article? I am linking it here, where you can read half of it, and if you download their free app, you can access the entire New York Magazine article for free. I would love to know what you think. And please, be kind in the comments section.
“This is what the Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life.” Ez 37:5
For Podcast versions of my posts, please check out Patreon! It’s only $2 a month!! You make this blog possible 🙂
MAGIC TOOTHPASTE? Yes! I am in love with this superior whitening toothpaste. It keeps my smile sparkling, without sensitivity or bleach! I made a website where you can directly order this miracle product! So if you want to give it a try, you can go ahead and grab a tube for yourself. I promise, your smile will thank you!Get a tube!
Be sure to check out my affiliate, Audible. Listening to audiobooks while I cook is literally my new favorite thing. And just for you, they’re offering a Free 30-Day Trial Membership. And with this free membership, you’re going to get 2 free audiobooks! Literally. Free. It is the best deal ever. And if for some reason, you decide it’s not for you, you can cancel within those 30 days and it’s zero money out of your pocket, plus, you get to keep the 2 audiobooks. Soooo…it’s pretty much a no brainer. Plus, it’s a free and easy way to support this blog! So thank you!!
@beauty.beyond.bones – Instagram
And really quickly, I’ve had several questions concerning my Amazon link (amazon.com/shop/beautybeyondbones) — You do not need to buy one of my specific highlighted products on my page, in order for it to “credit” my account. Any purchases that you search or make from anywhere on Amazon, after first visiting my Amazon page, will credit this blog and help support this blog ministry. I am truly so grateful and appreciative to those of you wanting to do so! So thank you! Again, it is an absolutely free, and easy way for you to help keep this blog going!