“You have no idea how important you are to me. I will try and put it into words… I feel more like a woman when I am with you here [on FB] than any other person with the exception of my therapist. I never feel like a split or two people. You have always treated me with the respect of a sister … “
When my trans friend Joy messaged me this, I was deeply touched. And grateful. I DO respect Joy.
As the gravity of her statement sank in, I realized how little respect people experience in their lives. Why is that?
Respecting others is really not that hard. All you have to do is see them. Accept them as they are. And be okay with who they are. And surrender the need to judge.
Believe me, Joy has experienced rampant judgment.
Joy was born with an outward male identity, but inside, she was female. So she was raised as a boy outside, always pressing down the girl inside. I cannot imagine how hard that would be. But just think of the biggest ways in which you have been misunderstood, and multiply that out to every moment of your life. Every situation. Every encounter. Over and over again.
Perhaps it’s something like needing water and being given orange juice. Every time. You need water, you crave water, but all you get is orange juice. If you can grasp how life-threatening that would be, then that’s a glimpse into what it is to experience yourself one way but being interacted with as something else.
It’s easy to say, “Well, people just need to accept the body they were born in and not try to change.” But that body they were born with includes a brain whose chemistry is at odds with the outside characteristics. Joy’s brain chemistry, and her experience of herself — as well as the deepest places of her heart — says she is female, not male.
Is it really so threatening to allow her to be female? She is the one living her life. Is it really that much to be asked to respect Joy and accept her as is?
Respect means: have due regard for the feelings, wishes, rights, or traditions of others; avoid harming or interfering with.
To regard the feelings, wishes, rights of others, to let them be who they are instead of imposing what we think — it’s just not that hard.
There are plenty of Bible verses telling us to respect others, and it is completely consistent with what Jesus gave us to do, as well as how he treated others – especially those who are oppressed and marginalized. What could epitomize respect more than our greatest directive: to love God and love others?
A basic tenet of loving others is not to hurt them. “Avoid harming or interfering with.” Disrespecting people certainly hurts them.
I hope we are coming to a day when we can respect each other, simply for who we are.
It would be a blessing to their hearts and lives — and to ours as well.
[To read more from Susan Cottrell, visit www.FreedHearts.org]
SUSAN COTTRELL is a national speaker, teacher, and counselor with years of Biblical study and discipleship experience. Her books include: Mom, I’m Gay – Loving Your LGBTQ Child Without Sacrificing Your Faith, as well as How Not to Lose Your Teen and The Marriage Renovation. Through her nonprofit organization – FreedHearts.org – Susan champions the LGBTQ community and families with her characteristic tender-heartedness, and she zealously challenges Christians who reject them with her wise insistence that “loving God and loving others” are the foundation of the rest of the scripture, just as Jesus said.
She is the Vice-President of PFLAG Austin, and her “Mom, I’m Gay” book has been endorsed by The Human Rights Campaign and others. Sharon Groves, PhD, HRC’s Religion & Faith Program Director says, “I often get asked by parents for resources that can address the struggles of raising LGBT sons and daughters without having to leave faith behind. Susan Cottrell’s book, Mom, I’m Gay, does just that. This is the kind of book that parents will love.”
She and her husband have been married more than 25 years and have five children – one of whom is in the LGBTQ community. She lives in Austin, Texas, and blogs at FreedHearts.org and here in IMPACT Magazine’s FreedHearts and Jesus Blog columns.