what a young transgender client needs from their therapist(s)

Emily Marie Williams, 2019-03-16
© 2019 Whole-Systems Enterprises, Inc.

Who I am: Credentials or Something?

I’m not a psychologist, not a social worker, not a medical doctor. In fact, I’m not a doctor of any kind. Just a highly intelligent and introspective citizen scientist. (Yes, I hold a baccalaureate).

Oh, and I happen to be transgender: Thirty-nine years living publicly as a man, approaching four years living publicly as a woman.

And I’ve studied the science of gender identity in exhaustive detail; I happen to be a scientist by trade.

And I’ve seen more therapists than I care to count.

First Define Therapeutic Goals

All Ages

Let’s first define therapeutic goals, appropriate for transgender clients of any age:

  • Client learns they are responsible for their own learning
  • Client learns suicide prevention and distress tolerance skills
  • Client learns how to respond emotionally and socially to harassment and bullying
  • Client learns how to respond emotionally and strategically to discrimination
  • Clients learn the correct language and choose what applies to them
    • “Transgender” vs. “transsexual” vs. “intersex” vs. “transvestite” vs. “cross-dresser” vs. “genderqueer” vs. “drag queen” vs. etc.
    • Gender identity vs. sexual orientation
    • “Trans” vs. “cis”
    • “Transwoman” vs. “transman”
      • E.g., a man who becomes a woman is a “transgender woman”, not a “transgender man”!
    • Why the “T” is included in “LGBT”
  • Existential health:
    • Client will not need a theologian or a philosopher to tell them they are right with the divine and/or the universe
      • Although I admit it helps emotionally!
    • Client will not need an evolutionary psychologist or an anthropologist to tell them they are right with society
      • Although I admit it helps emotionally!
    • Client experiences daily joy
  • Client understands that a gender transition (of any kind or degree) will not cure all their ills
    • We all still have death and taxes
  • Client knows their legal rights in their jurisdiction
  • Clients are appropriately guided toward biomedical interventions, where desired
  • Clients become aware that the transgender community exists and is networked
    • We have a history and mythology, e.g.,
      • The Stonewall Rebellion
        • This was just as much about gender variance as it was about non-heterosexuality, a fact that the “mainstream” queer movement swept under the rug until recently
      • Joan of Arc
      • The Rebecca Riots
      • Tiresias
    • We have a music community (e.g., G.L.O.S.S., Trap Girl, Axis Evil featuring Napalm Fatale, Against Me, and QTPi Xpress).
      • Disclosure: I am “Axis Evil featuring Napalm Fatale”.
    • We have legal advocacy groups and work closely with the ACLU

Youth and Their Parents

All of the above-stated goals apply to youth, but parents play a greater role in their success:

  • Parents learn they are responsible for their own learning
  • Parents learn how to affirm and validate their children
    • Including respect for desired names and pronouns
  • Parents learn suicide prevention and distress tolerance skills
    • For both themselves and all their children
  • Parents learn the correct language, and let their children choose what applies to them
    • “Transgender” vs. “transsexual” vs. “intersex” vs. “transvestite” vs. “cross-dresser” vs. “genderqueer” vs. “drag queen” vs. etc.
    • “Gender identity” vs. “sexual orientation”
    • “Trans” vs. “cis”
    • “Transwoman” vs. “transman”
      • E.g., a man who becomes a woman is a “transgender woman”, not a “transgender man”!
    • Why the “T” is included in “LGBT”
  • Parents learn how to work with schools to attenuate bullying
  • Parents learn about discrimination and systemic oppression. They must be “woken up”
  • If parents are spiritual and or religious, find a faith community that proves supportive
  • Parents must learn and model joy
  • Parents understand that gender-related care for their family will not cure all their ills
    • Again, we all still have death and taxes
  • Parents know their children’s legal rights in their jurisdiction
  • Parents understand the array of biomedical interventions available
    • And the time dependencies of these interventions with respect to the onset of puberty
  • Parents need to understand that the body of research regarding transgender youth is slim
    • Parents need to understand that an active effort within the research community regarding transgender youth is identifying the difference between “is it a phase?” and “is it clinical gender dysphoria?”

As Long as I Can Remember

For perspective:  As soon as I realized there was a difference between boys and girls, I wanted to be a girl. Maybe two or three years old?

The feeling didn’t stop with puberty. Didn’t stop when I registered for Selective Service. Didn’t ever stop.

Where Seeing More than One Therapists is Appropriate

Having a client see more than one therapist at the same time is controversial, but I do it. Here is why it is practical:

Therapists who specialize in transgender issues are scarce and generally clustered around major cities. Therefore, it is totally reasonable for a client to see a “regular” therapist on say a weekly basis and see a specialist on a monthly (or longer) basis. Seeing a specialist at least occasionally is vital, as they have access to the latest clinical practice information and are one of the key gatekeepers for obtaining biomedical interventions such as hormone replacement therapy.

The “regular” therapist I referred to in the above paragraph can work on matters like distress tolerance, suicide prevention, family dynamics, etc.

Suicide Prevention and Distress Tolerance

The suicide rate is extremely high in the transgender population. (I don’t know how this breaks out between youth and adults—a later edition of this text will provide those details if they exist). Therefore, it is imperative that transgender youth, their parents, and transgender adults learn suicide prevention skills. “Skills” is the correct word here; we are talking about a set of learnable behaviors that save lives.

Distress tolerance skills are also vital; saying that living transgender proves distressing is an understatement! I’ve found Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) the best approach for myself and would recommend it to anybody. DBT is all about skills development.

Family Therapy

Family therapy proves vital as well, as poor family dynamics and abuse (if it is present) will not help anybody.

Also, parents may carry undue guilt that their child expresses gender identity issues—as if they were bad parents or something. While my research shows a possible heritable element of gender dysphoria, the same research supports a hypothesis of biological origin of the condition.

Murder Prevention

The murder rate among transgender individuals is high, especially for transgender women of color. A therapist and a transgender child’s parents must ensure the client knows how to protect themselves.

I carry a hunting knife in my purse and know how to disable an attacker by hand.

Affirmation and Validation

Through various channels (social, parental, religious, etc.), transgender children can get the message that their feelings are either “not real” or “bad”. This needs to be countered by therapists, and parents must be taught by therapists how to counter these ideas as well.

What a Therapist Should Watch For

While it is perfectly possible for a client to be both schizophrenic and transgender, the schizophrenia must be treated first, as it might be a source of gender confusion. For example, and forgive my shallow understanding of schizophrenia, a schizophrenic individual might have one or more feminine-identified “insides” and one or more masculine-identified “insides”.

Additionally, there are some homosexuals who are so homophobic that they would rather change their sex than accept their sexual orientation. Here the problem is acceptance, not gender dysphoria, and gender transition is not a clinically appropriate treatment. I can see this scenario playing out in a teenager raised in a fundamentalist environment. Interestingly, Iran forces homosexual men to become woman, as it is okay with transsexuality but not homosexuality. This probably does a lot of damage to these individuals’ psyches.

Adolescent Sexuality

All adolescents struggle with sexuality, but I think it is worse for transgender individuals. Therapists must be understanding of this.

One of the most confusing issues I faced in my youth was that for me as a teenager, I became sexually aroused when I wore women’s clothing. So, I couldn’t tell if I was expressing a fetish or something more fundamental to my core identity. Now that I am an adult and wear women’s clothing full time, this arousal no longer happens. In other words, my desired to cross gender lines cannot be explained by fetish alone.

A minor psychological theory that some practitioners still refer to, though it has largely been discredited, is “auto-gynephilia”. This model defines men who express transgender thinking as simply being sexually attracted to the idea of themselves as a woman (and female)—basically a “meta-fetish”. The idea has been used by hostile parents in court cases to prevent children from receiving appropriate transgender care. The major proponent of this idea—I forget who—is still alive and working for a major research hospital (I think; I’ll check on this detail later and update this document accordingly).

The problem is not with auto-gynophilic sexual fantasies, which I’ll admit even I have from time to time, but with the idea that that model alone fully explains male-to-female transgenderism. To put it in personal terms, when sexual arousal and activity is the farthest thing from my mind, I still want to be called “Emily” and “she”, and I still want to interact socially as a woman.

Feminism and Young Adults

Most feminists support us, but there is a small and vocal subset that severely opposes transgender individuals and their demand for rights. A young woman thinking of transitioning to manhood can easily be dissuaded by these ideas. This is okay if the individual decides so; but most members of this small, vocal subset of feminism are bullies and need to be taken through that lens. (We call them TERFs, for “trans-exclusive radical feminists”). TERFs often refer to female-to-male transitioning as “testosterone poisoning”, among other things. I won’t even begin to tell you what they say about women like me, because it is out of scope for this document.

A good therapist needs to be aware of TERF thinking and influence, especially when working with young adults attending a university.

I’ll Add More Later…

I’m sure I’ll think of more to add to this document as time passes.

on spiritual poverty

My engineer brain wants to cure all material scarcity.

While climbing a long staircase up a mountain to the Savitri Temple in the holy city of Pushkar I encountered a man whom I believe lived in the forest and collected firewood to sell to the villagers. Didn’t know if he was an ascetic or perhaps an untouchable. But I did conclude, without evidence beyond educated guess, that I make more money in a day than he makes in a year… or a lifetime.

I own X number of hats and Y pairs of shoes.

Suppose we did cure all material scarcity: Everyone is fed, housed, and clothed. Everyone has smart phones and computers and transportation to the farthest reaches of the planet. We can accomplish this with little additional technological innovation, and I think it a noble goal.

Then we’ll all want art and meaning. We’ll want to convince each other we are right. We might annihilate ourselves. We’ll create new scarcity with intellectual property—we might all be clothed but some of us will get haute couture—we’ll still use our plumage to create rank.

Stars upon thars… We might annihilate ourselves.

My communist soul wants a leveling revolution. My Christian soul wants the Golden Rule to underpin material society.

But we might annihilate ourselves in attempt to create that world. And I can’t argue with the fact that capitalism has lifted more people out of poverty than communism or religion combined.

My anarchist soul just wants to love God. No popes, no trips to Mecca. Just ecstatic prayer transmitted from the RV that I live in.

I own X number of hats and Y pairs of shoes. I’m a fashion legend in my own mind. I’m more creative than most. My IQ falls in the 98th percentile.

But God can raise a 1,000 of me out of the dust. I don’t mean much.

My favorite holiday is Dia de los Muertos; reminds me that rich or poor, we all snuff it in the end.

My engineer brain wants to cure all material scarcity. But does God really care about that? We are spiritually impoverished in the Global North. Spiritual malnutrition is destroying us.

Spiritual malnutrition is destroying us.

I don’t give a rat’s ass who you fuck, what you drive, or who you pray with. I just want you to talk with God.

new song: “3Jane”

Lyrics

Growing a new philosophy
is it grand design, or subtle folly?
The serpent was anything but…
…but this was an engineered forest,
its fruit a postmodern delight

Recording

Explanation

Wrote this sometime in the late 1990’s while working through my gender dysphoria (and identity and bipolar disorder in general) as a young adult. It is about humanity’s ability to hack everything, including our bodies. Changing one’s sex is a postmodern experience from a certain point of view, and it might be complete folly (but I don’t think so).

Artifact is nature.

I think starting my life as a man and becoming a woman at 39 was by God’s design. Don’t think any serpents are whispering in my ear.

Live Performance

god likes scientists

I don’t believe in astrology, but I do firmly believe in the Resurrection. As far as scientific evidence goes, both prove equally absurd. WTF? Why accept even one of them? Why not both? I have no good answer for this!

I could say that “events” in my life confirm my Christian experience, but that might be pattern recognition bias—seeing confirmation of my faith in patterns that my brain constructs out of non-patterned signal (because brains do that [1]).

Similarly, because I’ve never bothered to look for confirmation of astrological interpretations of my life, I’ve never “found” them in my life narrative. Again, pattern recognition bias.

Perhaps—and I am so completely unfamiliar with astrology to know for sure—astrology is about finding comfort in the universe’s design—that there is a “plan”. Is there anything in astrology that is meant to be uncomfortable? I don’t know!

The Christian experience is not comfortable; at least I don’t seek it out for comfort with regard to my place the universe. If God asks me to, I’ll perform God’s work in Hell.

Maybe its about love: I do not perceive that the universe as expressed as stars, planets, mass, and energy “loves” me. But I need to feel love and the Christian narrative offers that. The Resurrection itself is a love story.

Perhaps I created God in my image—an image of a human who needs love. And the need for love comes from evolutionary psychology; human-to-human attachment driving tribal cooperation, driving survival, driving gene propagation. The selfish gene [2].

“What is truth?” retorted the Pilate [3].

I’m going to continue trusting God and continue trusting my faith in God, even without these questions answered. And the God I believe in wants us to wrestle with these matters; God gave us brains and expects us to use them critically.

God likes scientists: “Doubting” Thomas just wanted evidence. He was not rejected for asking for it.

“Faith” and “belief” mean different things. I see “belief” as getting hung up on the facts—where science and logic matter to defining reality. “Belief” has its place: For example I believe in “F=m*a” at appropriate velocities and definitely believe in God’s existence and love.

But I do not emphasize belief in my spiritual practice, which is where “faith” comes in. “Faith”, in my book, is trusting the divine deep within my soul without needing to understand all the particulars about where things are headed.

Sometimes faith doesn’t even require much commitment to reality. I tell a story in my article “an allegory of affection from a Hindu goddess” about a visitation by Durga that I experienced during a dream. I do not worry about whether this visit really happened or not; the experience enriched my faith in the Christian god while enhancing my understanding of Hinduism. I’m not going to argue about what is “real” in this situation. Rather, I’ll just accept the personal growth that came of it.

This is the embrace of faith.

References

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apophenia
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Selfish_Gene
  3. John 18:38 (New International Version)
  4. The image below is copied from https://www.wikihow.com/Be-a-Good-Scientist.

a corset and an LSD trip

I’ve dropped acid trice in my life, both times for religious reasons. The first time was on New Year’s Eve in 1993, and the second last Saturday.

During the latter experience I took detailed notes, which I may publish on this blog in the future. What can I say? I’m a scientist!

I respect the drug, so before each trip, I took prudent steps to ensure physical and psychological safety. So this last time I tripped while wearing an extremely tight-laced corset. You see, corsets make me feel cozy—like being constantly hugged. I wear them whenever I’m experiencing psychological distress, which is often. They comfort me. (Please don’t ask me to explain this right now—I know why, but I’ll save that matter for a later article).

I believed this decision helped keep me remain positively “grounded” during the trip; i.e., it limited the risk of a “bad” trip. I would have embraced a “bad” trip as educational, but I’m happy to report my experience went fabulously. Took advantage of LSD-driven thought processes to gain clarity regarding my love life and my frequent suicidal ideation.

More generally, I made sure to dress extremely feminine before proceeding. I expect this helped as well. Note the lace socks in the picture below. (Also note that I wore lace gloves during the trip which are not pictured below):

teaching joy (part one)

A conversation with a friend today illuminated my burning desire to teach existential joy to anyone who will listen.

Unfortunately, we agreed that this cannot be distilled into a recipe—that everyone must custom-make their own solution to joy’s perceived scarcity.

But we also agreed that I can succeed at the teaching process through the following two actions:

  1. Set an example through my everyday life.
  2. Write a narrative of my process; not so folks can repeat it verbatim but so they may find inspiration and guidance in it.

Finally, we agreed that my mission will best succeed if I keep this endeavor firmly secular, despite the faith that drives my core.

how to validate someone who won’t talk with you (text version)

(A video version of this content is available here).

In my post “on love“, I describe active validation of one’s beloved as a key tactic for transmitting constructive love. I further discuss how that validation must express in terms of things eternal, rather than in terms of the one sending the validation. In other words, while stating your beloved’s value to you proves important, I encourage the communication of your beloved’s value in terms of the universe or the divine.

But how do you do this when your beloved won’t talk to you (or let you write, etc.)? The mandate remains, the vitality of this action remains, and you will feel pain at the disconnect. And this scenario occurs all too frequently in our lives, so prudence dictates the formation of a plan for dealing with it.

Here I offer six strategies for successfully delivering that validation when the receiver will not communicate with you. Granted these fail to match the satisfaction of a requited in-person transmission, but they help nonetheless. By help, I mean these tactics salve your pain a bit—provide a bit of meaning and purpose. But more importantly they actually validate and uplift the other person in very real social and spiritual terms.

These six strategies, plus a bonus strategy and then two examples, follow:



Give Them Space

Learned this lesson the hard way: If a person expresses a clear wish for no communication with you, they generally mean it. Therefore the only direct way to validate them requires validation of their request by complying with it.

Again I stress that I learned this lesson the most difficult way possible, by repeatedly failing to respect my beloved’s request. This only made the situation worse—it further accentuated the distance between us. Counterproductive when working to validate.

So leave them alone!

An exception to this injunction exists, which I discuss below in the “Keep the Door Open” section of this article.

Validate and Uplift Those Around Them

If you regularly interact with folks in your beloved’s sphere of influence, work to validate them too. This accomplishes two things: First, it sets an example that those in the sphere might follow to transmit their own validation of your beloved, thereby contributing to your goal. Second, it enriches the climate your beloved lives and/or works among, as experiencing validation generally improves happiness, and happiness moves socially.

Build a Better World

Taking the last strategy to its logical next step, work to make the world a better place. Not just for your beloved, but for everyone. This validates your beloved by producing slightly better world for their children to inherit, thereby contributing to their ease and peace. One person makes a difference when they choose to.

Of course we talk about “validation” as an abstract action in this case; I argue that indirectly improving someone’s life demonstrates valuation of their life. They will likely never know. But you will know. And the divine will know. And this will aid your sleep at night.

Pray for Their Well-Being

For spiritual readers, I highly recommend regular prayer for your beloved’s and their family’s well-being. I regard this as the most powerful thing one can do for a person, provided you back it up with action if provided a chance to deliver.

Prayer for someone’s well-being declares to the divine their value to you. And (at least in my faith) the divine values the person as well, so you stand in alignment. You form a team. The divine may never employ you as a vehicle for further transmission of love for that person, but prayer sets in motion action on the part of the divine to validate and enrich your beloved’s life. (See my post “the currency of love” for further discussion of this concept).

Keep the Door Open

If you can, keep the door open for reconciliation on the transmission of radical forgiveness. Smile at your beloved. Say “hi” or wave to them if permitted. Basically, acknowledge their existence in a friendly, welcoming way.

I don’t have these option with someone I particularly love and cannot talk to right now. So I’m simply going to send her a Christmas card next December (it’s now February). I’ll address it to “Jane Doe, Attn: Peace on Earth and Goodwill Department, 123 X Street, etc.” and I’ll say little other than what comes written on the card. Hopefully that will shatter a portion of the wall between us.

Yes, by doing this I will violate her request that I not contact her, but almost a year will have passed and Christmas cards are kind. In my book a nice way to promote validation. So I’ll risk her wrath to deliver this message.



Produce Art

If inclined, produce art inspired by your beloved, or inspired by the pain of not connecting with them. Furthermore, I recommend making this art public. I write and publish songs for this purpose. I write and publish prose for this purpose.

Keep your beloved’s identity anonymous when you do this! Respect demands it!

Public delivery of such art declares to the world that someone touched your life. The individual will likely know who they are. Validation!

And whether kept public or private, I think of my process of producing art as prayer in action, as per the strategy discussed above.

Bonus Strategy: Know Your Purpose and Intent

It occurs to me that I need to write an article explaining the meaning of validation, as this article simply assumes you know. But I digress…

To validate effectively, you must know and trust your intent. If you merely desire your beloved’s attention and affection, you miss the point and will fail. One must not confuse desire with validation, though I find it “validating” to some degree when others desire me. But here I mean something far more outreaching and spiritual than romantic desire.

Intend to validate them for their value in the universe, for their value to themselves, to the divine. Only then should you validate your beloved with respect to you. Know your purpose. Know your heart!

Example

To walk the talk I now offer two examples from my own life.

In the first example, my beloved worked for the same company as myself, though in different departments. So I built relationships with individuals in her department and threw myself into projects that interacted with her department—usually offering them novel ideas on how to build their business (this was an R&D environment). By building up the individuals around her I hoped they would in turn validate her. More importantly though, I worked so hard on the projects and the business proposals to strengthen her job security. This activity served as prayer in motion. Served as indirect validation of her importance because I didn’t want her to suffer job loss.

As another example, I wrote the following song about two women at once:

While it includes expression of romantic longing, it mostly states my commitment to them as a friend, in spite of the fact that they won’t have anything to do with me. When I published this song I basically declared this commitment to the world! As I work to deliver integrity at all times, this public declaration means something to me. To others. To the divine. Expressed validation. Prayer.

Conclusion

I hope you find these strategies useful in your own life! But please do not limit these strategies’ underlying spirit to those who won’t communicate to you. Please apply them to everyone you value! Also, please let me know how it goes, or send comments and questions, by commenting on this post below or through Twitter or Facebook. I look forward to hearing from you!

See Also

radical forgiveness (video)

the currency of love

the pedagogy of love

on love

make an intent board

Optimism is a skill.

A simple exercise that strengthens your focus and direction involves creating an “intent board”, also called a “dream board” or a “vision board”. These serve me well in life!

Basically, you make a poster, or in my case a Pinterest board, called “Intent” and fill it with images that speak to your goals, values, and dreams. Then you review it every day for inspiration! The images you select may include photos, clippings from magazines, drawings, or anything else you can imagine.

For example, my intent board (below) shows everything from vaginas to fiber optic dresses to cyberfeminist propaganda to geodesic domes.

What you believe and what you focus on creates your reality. (I won’t back this statement up with psychological or spiritual arguments today, just run with me here…). Intent boards clarify goal-oriented beliefs, convincing you of possibilities. They help focus you.

While I don’t expect to—or want to because it would be too much to healthily manage—gain everything I put on my intent board, it helps to review the full scope of what I like as I work to target my actions. An intent board not only helps you enact conscious goal-seeking activities, but it teaches and pilots your subconscious such that you diminish the likelihood of sabotaging yourself in the process.

If you create your intent board using poster paper, I recommend updating it at least yearly as your values and goals evolve. Pinterest provides the advantage of unlimited space and an easy way to search for images. If you use Pinterest, I recommend altering the descriptions of any pins you add to describe your intent, rather than keep the expressed intent of the original image source. In other words, make the image “yours”. (Note that some Pinterest pins do not seem to let you alter the description).

And remember there exists no wrong or right way to do this!

Setting An Example

To demonstrate, feel free to check out my personal intent board below. You’ll identify many concepts (e.g. spirituality and music) expressed among the images that I touch upon with this blog. (Only a portion is shown below; click here to see the full board):

radical forgiveness

(A text version of this video is available here).

Forgiveness is radical in and of itself, and I encourage each of you to promote the revolution that it demands. Moreover, I encourage each of you to take forgiveness to radical levels, in other words, to practice a doctrine of “radical forgiveness”.

The following video introduces the concept, and then discusses the rationale, the joys, and the challenges of radical forgiveness’ practice:

Aside

This video also demonstrates my significant progress to date toward developing a feminine voice and feminine body language. Much work remains on these fronts, but I’m proud of what this video portrays!

Closing Remarks

I sincerely hope you find the concept and practice of radical forgiveness useful in your own life! Please let me know how it goes, or send comments and questions, by commenting on this post or through Twitter or Facebook. I look forward to hearing from you!

See Also

how to validate someone who won’t talk with you

on love

the currency of love

the pedagogy of love

radical forgiveness (text version)

(A video version of this post may be found here).

Forgiveness proves radical in and of itself, and I encourage each of you to promote the revolution that it demands. Moreover, I encourage each of you to take forgiveness to radical levels, in other words, to practice a doctrine of “radical forgiveness”.

We all get hurt. Doesn’t matter if an offense is personal, such as someone berating you for a mistake, or institutional, such as experiencing a subtle, unconscious bias from a coworker that hinders you in the workforce due to your gender or sex.

Radical forgiveness combines several key actions: You must understand why forgiveness proves valuable, make the choice to forgive a person or institution, understand the process and pitfalls of forgiveness, continually repeat your choice to forgive that person or institution as necessary, and if possible communicate your forgiveness to the person or institution that harmed you. Moreover, you must treat forgiveness as a skill that requires practice and commitment to excel at. Finally, you must remember that humility must stand at the core of all these actions to succeed.

One might casually call one or two of these items alone “forgiveness”, but by employing the term “radical forgiveness” I assert a more comprehensive and effective mode of dealing with offenses than the mere casualty of the word “forgiveness” implies. We speak here of something more substantial than a flippant “I forgive you” or “I can’t stay mad at you”. Rather, we refer to a context of forgiving significant pain, like divorce pain or business-partner-screws-you pain.



So why forgive in the first place? Primarily, the process heals you, and enhances the chances of healing the other party and a relationship. Forgiving helps you “let go”, to use a colloquial phrase. You surrender, sort of. Basically you acknowledge the pain, and declare that it will no longer impact your relationship with the other party. You declare that it will no longer weigh you down. The act of forgiving claims power over emotional angst. Not complete power, but it provides significant relief. Note that by forgiving you still recognize guilt, and you still must take steps to remedy the problem. Forgiving merely leaps far beyond forcing the other party to remain mired in that guilt.

Moreover, your particular deity might demand that you practice forgiveness. We won’t name names.

One must make an actual “choice” to forgive, as forgiveness starts with a choice. And one must often continually repeat that choice for a given hurt, since anger and pain well up so easily. In Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, clinicians talk about “turning the mind”. That is, injecting your presence into a runaway thought to turn your think toward more productive thoughts. Similarly, when a hurt wells up inside you that you have already delivered forgiveness for, “turn the mind” away back toward a spirit of forgiveness. Again and again and again. I guarantee you that this process heals.

And that’s just it, remember that radical forgiveness serves as a process, not just a destination. You wrestle with it along the way. You start out unhappy and end with greater peace, but don’t expect an easy ride. For instance, you might have to objectively face your role in a situation, to determine how actions you took that may have put fuel on the fire. Unpleasant, I know. For encouragement, just remember that this process enriches your spirit.

One can liken the process of committing and recommitting to forgiveness to the experience of the mythical Sisyphus as described by the post-war philosopher Camus. The gods condemned Sisyphus to an eternity of pushing a large boulder up a hill by day, only to watch it crash back down the hill every night. Sounds meaningless, right? But Camus declared that Sisyphus found existential meaning in the task itself. Similarly, I claim that you will find meaning in the radical forgiveness process despite its often two steps forward, one step back nature.

The sweetest spot in the process of forgiveness is letting the other party know about your decision, because it generates the most opportunity for reconciliation. But understand that sometimes one cannot do this due to safety or other considerations—use your brain here before you act! And know that the other party may simply not be able to receive your words, may not even find themselves in a place to comprehend them. This hurts, but don’t let it derail your journey to peace over a matter.

Basically, don’t think of this action as “offering” forgiveness. Think of it as “transmitting” forgiveness. Offers feel incomplete if not received, but a transmission projects whether anyone proves receptive or not. In other words, you will have done all you can, so don’t sweat over it.

Humility drives the process. Forgiveness serves as recognition that you yourself exhibit flaws, that you could easily make the same mistakes. It recognizes that you will perform actions in the future that will require forgiveness from others. To forgive effectively you must empathize with and love the imperfect humanity in the one you choose to forgive, which can only emit from empathizing with and loving the imperfect humanity in yourself.

The last point I want to make is that radical forgiveness is a skill, like tennis or playing a musical instrument. It takes practice and sometimes years to develop competency. But if you make a habit out of choosing to forgive, and nurture the habit as you go, I assure you the skill will blossom inside you! I recommend initiating the forgiveness process the instant someone hurts you, rather than wait until you are “ready” to forgive. This strengthens the habit and prepares you for rapid closure once you achieve that readiness. And this practice increases the chance of salvaging relationships due to its proactive nature.

I sincerely hope you find the concept and practice of radical forgiveness useful in your own life! Please let me know how it goes, or send comments and questions, by commenting on this post or through Twitter or Facebook. I look forward to hearing from you!

See Also

how to validate someone who won’t talk with you

on love

the currency of love

the pedagogy of love

the currency of love

Merriam-Webster provides the following definition (among others) of “currency”:

“circulation as a medium of exchange”

Digging deeper, we find the root word “current” which I’ll define as the flow of something, for example electrons or water. We can even link these two definitions through the word “circulation” by considering that electricity flows in a circuit and the global ocean currents cycle.

Love as Medium of Exchange

Think of a contract: It serves as a commitment—a “medium” if you will—for the exchange of services or goods. This implies circulation in that the fulfillment of the contract requires each party complete the following steps: 1. Agree to start. 2. Do the tasks. 3. Agree that the tasks are complete. Basically, it all starts and ends with agreement. A cycle.

Healthy, mutual love works the same way. The commitment involved serves as a platform—a “medium” if you will—that promotes the exchange of caring, forgiving, cooperation, and responsible sacrifice. The cycle works slightly differently, but a cycle exists in that in a good relationship feedback occurs: 1. Agree to love. 2. Act out loving behavior. 3. Ensure one’s beloved’s needs are met by that behavior and adjust as necessary. 4. Agree to keep loving.



Love as Current (Flow)

I go nuts if I love someone and can’t express it regularly in some manner. This statement applies for both friendship and Romantic love. In other words, for me, the love needs to “flow”. When experiencing fits of unrequited love I visualize a damn holding back a reservoir of constructive passion and yearn desperately for that damn to gain the freedom to release a measured amount.

When the passion just sits there in that reservoir it becomes stagnant and toxic. Ever noticed how flowing water appears cleaner than sitting water? Lovesickness is stagnant water. Sludge.

I assume the principle I describe here for my life actually proves universal. (Not entirely sure though—I’m humble enough to second guess). Perhaps love only exists in the experience of its traversal, the giving and receiving of it. The current. The flow.

Conduit

Now I’ll take a highly spiritual turn. We won’t name deities or anything, we’ll just refer to the “divine” in lowercase:

When I love someone, I desire (and ask the divine for) a role as a conduit of the divine’s love for that person.

Simple as that. Humble. I lose myself to a greater cause—knowing full well that the divine may choose not to employ my services in that particular case. This act doesn’t diminish the pain of unrequited passion, but I find meaning in it. Offering myself as a conduit for divine love opens me up to experiencing a much bigger flow than my passions alone can create—the ultimate currency of love.

See Also

radical forgiveness (video)

the pedagogy of love

on love

how to validate someone who won’t talk with you

 

transgender people love

Lost in the ongoing ecclesiastical debate about whether transgender identities hold validity in the eyes of God [1] are interactions between (cisgender) Christian thinkers and transgender individuals themselves, particularly those of faith.

Many faith-leaders and Christian scholars intellectualize us into sub-humanity:  Their idea is that God made humans male and female strictly in God’s own image and that to be fully human therefore requires full embrace of one or the other polarity, the polarity matching one’s genitals. (We are ignoring the intersex population in this argument for convenience–however the body of Christ will have to come to terms with intersex individuals’ existence too). Because transgender individuals cannot live healthy lives under the constraint of this particular sex/gender model—a model believed quintessential to the construction of a human by many Christian thinkers, we are regarded as having rejected God’s gift of humanity.



However, one knows a tree by its fruit [2]:

God gave humans the ability to love. And transgender people love. We love deeply. We love just as much as as cisgender people.

The fruit therefore is the love produced, and only a human can produce it.

It follows then that we fully received the gift of humanity.

References

  1. https://www.ncronline.org/news/people/transgender-issues-next-battle-culture-wars
  2. Matthew 12:33 (NIV)

draft lyrics: “Small Battles”

Dreamed of a fabulous city
couldn’t tell if it was God’s or otherwise
then I realized it wasn’t
that it very much wasn’t
and I stopped trying to build it

Let the adults die on a cross,
but give the innocent children the mark.

We are all influenced
even a Christian must tolerate that
or at least acknowledge it
sometimes its better not to fight small battles

Let the adults die on a cross,
but give the innocent children the mark.

I’m going to fight the Church and the State
and the Law and the Culture
because I only trust the Prophets
and I only trust the one that sends them
because I don’t trust myself
and I don’t trust the one that influences me

Let the adults die on a cross,
but give the innocent children the mark.

big time

I’ve noticed that the Universe consistently validates my femininity, and (it feels like) little else right now. Best to run with what’s going well…

Update 13 November 2017

What this is about:  The femininity expressed up to the point of my public transition was instinctive. Now I am learning the strategic and the tactical expressions, i.e., how to fabulously make my way in the world as a woman. It is working. I feel the Universe opens this door wide for me.