Often, the things that are hardest to face are things we simply can’t understand. And in those
cases, there are two kinds of people in the world: Those who seek to understand and those who
refuse to understand.
This is a book for those who want to understand something few people truly understand or can
comprehend, because we have no experience on which to base understanding. I was such a person
just two years ago. I didn’t know a single transgender person. I had never met a transgender
person. I didn’t understand what it meant to be transgender. In a word, I was ignorant. And I’m a
One Sunday afternoon, I sat in a meeting at church where a pediatrician friend and a geneticist
friend used a whiteboard to explain to us what “gender dysphoria” is and why we as Christians
should understand it. What I heard blew my mind. As a relatively well-educated person and as
someone who strives to be compassionate to all people, I couldn’t imagine why I hadn’t known
any of this before.
Here’s what I learned: There is a difference between sexual orientation and gender identity.
Sexual orientation is about who you love, and gender identity is about who you are. I also learned
about the growing body of scientific research on gender appearance and gender identity and how
these get formed in the womb—usually in ways that are aligned but sometimes in ways that are
misaligned. I learned about how anatomy, chromosomes and brain cells must line up like three
cherries on a slot machine for most of us to experience unconflicted gender identity.
And then my pediatrician friend said this: “We must believe that even if some people got a lower
dose of a chromosome, or an enzyme, or a hormonal effect, that does not mean they got a lower
dose of God’s image.”
Her words echoed in my head and my heart for several days. And then the Spirit moved in me in
a way I could not control: I wrote down what I had learned and submitted it to a national news
service where I’m a regular columnist. I could not have predicted what those words would
unleash, as the column quickly went viral and today has been viewed by more than one million
In that column, “Seven Things I’m Learning About Transgender Persons,” I confessed that I
didn’t know any transgender persons. Within hours, my phone began ringing, my email inbox
began pinging and Facebook Messenger poured in messages from people around the world
saying: “I read that you don’t have any transgender friends. I’ll be your transgender friend.
“In just two weeks, I engaged in more than 450 personal conversations about the column. And
95 percent of those were positive, many filled with heart-wrenching stories of oppression,
confusion, family estrangements and rejection by the church. I heard from transgender persons,
from their parents and siblings and coworkers.
And I began meeting face-to-face with some new friends who are transgender. We met for lunch
or dinner or coffee and spent hours getting to know one another. They were shocked that a Baptist
pastor would sit down to hear from them, and I was shamed to hear their stories of pain and
suffering and how difficult it was sometimes just to be able to use the restroom in peace. And I
was changed forever.
Every transgender person I have talked with has told me they knew from their earliest awareness,
from when they were four, five or six years old, that they were not the gender inside that they
appeared to be outside. Most didn’t know what to do with this conflict and were afraid to speak
it out loud. Many tried to repress it, sometimes through misguided religious strictness. Sometimes
they had no words or role models to make sense of who they were. And most of the time, when
they finally came to grips with the reality they had known all along, they were rejected by their
churches, by their families and certainly by their friends.
Laurie Scott is one of the people I met as a result of that column and the TED Talk that resulted
from the column. I have been moved by her story, by her passionate Christian faith and her
willingness to step outside her comfort zone to help others find peace in reconciling their faith
with who they know they are inside.
Seeking to understand something that previously seemed so outlandish has changed me for good
and for good. My prayer is that reading Laurie’s compelling story of life into death into life will
change you for good and for good.
From “God Doesn’t Make Mistakes: Confessions of a Transgender Christian” by Laurie Suzanne Scott