Trans-Formations of One Kind and Another

By Eric Linder

I read this week in a daily blog I follow (Letters From An American, By Dr. Heather Cox Richardson) an article about transgender longings or surgical decisions about those longings. The writer, a scholar of 19th and 20th century American history, notes that “… last weekend, Daily Wire host Michael Knowles said that ‘for the good of society… transgenderism must be eradicated from public life entirely—the whole preposterous ideology, at every level.’ ” Dr. Richardson goes on to demonstrate the inveterate opposition by many, from Hungary to the USA and elsewhere–to all that is deemed hostile to Christian culture. The focus of this hostility in the Michael Knowles remark is, indeed, transgender people and the controversy surrounding them. I will be honest: transgenderism has always been a mystery to me, even as a gay man, but I do try to remember that I do not understand–not always with success.

Until yesterday, perhaps.

I am a regular volunteer at Crossroads of Michigan, a private social service organization in Detroit founded by the late Rev. Jim McLaren, whose influence on my life has been incalculable. Our clients are generally poor, often homeless, and always struggling to survive. And because this is Detroit, the majority of our clients are Black. I found myself yesterday greeting a client I’ll call X. X was slender, had very bad teeth, and a badly damaged, useless right eye. X wanted food and clothing, but our conversation quickly moved to deeper topics: the eye had been traumatized by a blow with a club from someone personally known to X. I myself see with only one eye, and I tried to express sympathy. But we were still only at the surface. X had been identified as male by a previous counselor a year ago, who said as much in the write-ups we always do after an interview. Indeed, I could see the stubble on X’s upper lip, but I also noted that it was barely covered by cheap makeup powder. X, in fact, has always identified as a woman, and when I broached the subject as gently as I could, X began to weep, even with the smashed eye. It is no secret that some Black Americans, especially males, have little sympathy with Black gay men and still less with transsexual Black men–to say nothing of the contempt of straight whites. X has, unsurprisingly, been addicted to heroin for the last eight years but had concealed all this from the previous counselor. Might I also have done so, had I been in X’s shoes? Still, by the time X was ready to leave with a few groceries and some colorful women’s wear in bags, X and I had mapped out a plan to apply for State ID (the equivalent of a driver’s license) and eventually for a replacement for the birth certificate destroyed in X’s mother’s house fire. The mother, long dead, seems to have been the only person in X’s life who loved unconditionally, and X feels the loss bitterly.

I am not much nearer to understanding transgender longings than I was, though X has taught me something, even as I have yet to work out the mysteries of my own same-sex attractions. But I can only wish with all my heart that Michael Knowles of the CPAC, or Viktor Orban, President of Hungary, or Vladimir Putin, or hundreds of thousands of Americans for that matter, might discover the human suffering underlying the lives they so judge and find so woefully wanting.

Join the Conversation


  1. I can’t even begin to understand how one might need to change in order to love themselves and the ugliness of humanity that just can’t LOVE just because one is another human being.

  2. Eric, no surprise that you were helping someone in need. As I’ve told you, you are a wonderful person.

  3. Eric, one of the things I love most about you is your willingness to be heart-first, and to use that exceptional brain of your’s to seek to understand, to effect change. This latest writing encourages me to continue to drop my own judgments and to seek to understand. Hard work, for who are we without our judgments? The tight-rope I walk between discerning and judging feels like life vs. death. You model discernment well. Thanks, Eric.

  4. Thank you, Eric, for your thoughts, your experience with X, and the wonderful work you do!

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *