Good News and Hope for Detransitioners

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The characters and situations in the following letter are entirely fictional. But the circumstances that make such a letter necessary are a true horror show, and not fictional at all. With fictional characters and a true situation, the letter is composed in the conviction that the grace of God is powerful enough to reach down and salvage the image of God, whatever the wreckage around that image might be.

A Letter

Dear Candace,

It is good to be able to use your given Christian name freely again. We never stopped using it when we were praying for you, but it is good to not have to worry about giving offense. Your mom told Nancy about your talk with your family last week, and about your deep regrets over transitioning. We are most grateful to God for this turn of events, and we have been thanking Him continuously for it. Your mom also mentioned that you said you wouldn’t mind at all hearing from me, which we were most grateful for as well—as you no doubt recall, our last communication was pretty rocky. I am not your uncle, but I am an almost-uncle, and we care a great deal about you. I hope you find this letter helpful. My thoughts here are not really systematically arranged, but I think I can say that they are the most important issues for you to be praying about and working through.

Nothing can simply erase the difficult challenges you have in front of you now, but there are some delusions that could make everything worse—and they are very natural delusions. I say this because some of the things I am going to say here might be difficult to hear, but I think they are truths that you need to acknowledge at the very front end of this restoration. Otherwise your restoration project is simply going to falter and die.

I want to begin with a brief statement of the good news, and then move on to the various aspects of the bad news that the good news applies to. I hope the reasons for proceeding this way will become more apparent to you as we go. Near the end I am going to circle back around to the good news, to the gospel aspect of this.

We have to begin with the recognition that here is no sin that is outside the reach of Christ’s love. “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief” (1 Timothy 1:15). One of the temptations that comes to those who are seriously repenting is that they overshoot. In recognizing that their sin went far beyond the boundaries of God’s law, they assume falsely that their sin also went far beyond the reach of God’s grace. But God’s grace does not live snugly in a little heavenly bungalow—God’s grace is a ranger, lives out in the badlands, and rounds up outlaws. God’s grace is a bounty hunter. But then, after He has apprehended the fugitive and brings him in, He surprises everyone by calling for the best robe, a fine ring, good shoes, and he orders that the fatted calf be killed. Then he tells the head servant to go hire a swing band. So your sin, however great it was, is no match for the kindness of God. This is something you need to fix in your mind now, and you need to make a point of hanging on to it. In Christ, God saves sinners.

So the good news is that Jesus Christ died for sinners, and you qualify. But we have to look straight at the nature of this good news, because there are two different kinds of good news, and we must not confuse them. One sort is good news from the blue, like an unexpected inheritance. Understanding the goodness of the news does not require any prerequisites, and all of a sudden the good news just arrives one day. But the second kind of good news does have prerequisites—and that is that there needs to be an antecedent understanding of the bad news. You received a diagnosis of terminal cancer, but then you get the news that the lab made a mistake and you don’t have cancer at all. You receive news that the governor signed a pardon meaning that you will not be executed in the morning—but you need to have understood that you were going to be executed. Otherwise the good news makes no sense. Certain kinds of good news make no sense at all apart from the related bad news. So the message that Christ died for sinners just like you means that there needs to be a baseline acknowledgement on your part of your own sinful complicity in everything that has happened thus far. Without such an acknowledgement, you are just moving from one sort of blame game to another sort of blame game, and there is no liberation in that.

I emphasize this at the front end because we live in a time when victim ideology is doing a lot of damage, and the fact that someone wants to detransition from their gender switch does not necessarily mean that she has learned to detransition from the victim mentality that was driving all of it in the first place. If we are not careful, we will find ourselves with left wing victims, those with gender dysphoria, and right wing victims, the detransitioners. But you should be wanting to detransition from every form of the blame game, and the biblical name for that is repentance. There is only one Victim who will be any benefit to us at all in this, and that is the one who died on the cross.

This is why it is important to focus on this distinction. Because of our sinful nature, there are times when we simply sin solo. Nobody helped us, nobody lured us, nobody made us do anything. Whenever we think about the situation, the responsibility and guilt lie squarely with us. Rationalization is very difficult because our sin was kind of just out there, and we know that we did it all by ourselves.

But this is not always the case. Many of our sins are socially complex. They are all tangled up with the manifest sins of others, and it is really difficult to think about one without dragging in the other. I am talking about the boyfriend who seduces his girl and then ditches her. I am talking about a woman’s sin in obtaining an abortion, aided and abetted by a corrupt legal profession, a boyfriend’s willingness to pay for it, a money-grubbing medical profession, and so on. In your case, your sins were a player, but the whole thing was a group effort. There was the media propaganda. There was the social contagion of the other girls at your college doing this, including your roommate—and she went whole hog, surgeries and everything. There was the wickedness of a Godforsaken medical profession. In other words, there was no shortage of sin, and plenty of sin to go around. You need to acknowledge the sins of all these other people as a theological truth, but then as a practical matter you must focus on your own sin, confessing that sin as though you were the only one at fault. You know intellectually that this is not true, but you must start with yourself. You are not blanking out the sins of others forever because you must get to the place where you are able to forgive them for what they did to you. But you must do things in this order because only forgiven people know how to forgive, and you must get to the place where you know that you are forgiven. And that means starting with yourself, starting at home.

So I do not mean to poke at things you have already put right, but I do need to mention the kinds of things I mean. In this category, I would put things like deceiving your parents about the classes you were taking, and not talking to them when the lies in those classes started to get to you. Then there was the outlandish gear that you started to wear your sophomore year, and which telegraphed that something serious was afoot. This meant you were now telling everybody while simultaneously hotly denying that you were telling them anything. When things got so pronounced that your parents insisted on talking to you about it, you were very cruel and unkind to them, and then ghosted them for six months, accusing them of dead-naming you. You did the same thing with some of your friends from high school. In short, a number of the people dear to you saw you walking toward a precipice, tried to intervene to help and protect you, and you would have none of it. Now if you name all these sins, calling them by their proper names (no euphemisms), and all the related sins adjacent to them, then God promises you full and complete and everlasting forgiveness. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. When you know that you are cleansed and forgiven, you will be in a position to prepare your heart to forgive others, which is quite different than blaming others.

This is what will enable you to divide the problem up, and get everything in the right order. There are the things that were done to you, awful things, but in the first place there were the things you did to yourself. Another way of putting this is that you must be forgiven, and you must forgive. But in order to do this successfully, you have to start with receiving the needed forgiveness, and you have already made a good start.

As you go forward, there will be temptations to slip off the point, and fall back into thinking about the sins of others first. This is a perennial human temptation, and you shouldn’t be surprised by it. You should know which emotional states go with which temptations. When you are thinking about what you did, your state of mind will be characterized by regrets, shame, embarrassment, sadness, and the like. The temptation here will be to doubt God’s kindness toward you, and to think that there is no way He can put this mess back together. But He can. When you are thinking about what others did to you, your state of mind will be characterized by bitterness, anger, resentment, and the like. But you can confess other people’s sins all day long, and it will do nothing to restore your joy.

What you want to do is to get settled in God’s forgiveness of you. He promised it, and you have it. Once that is done, you want to run a thought experiment. You should imagine the professor in that psychology class you took, the one who told all those shameless lies, has somehow mysteriously been converted. He comes to you and seeks your forgiveness for having come within an ace of wrecking your life. He appears to be sincere and humble. He really wronged you, and his confession of sin is no bagatelle. You will know you have been forgiven in this—you will extend forgiveness, freely, completely, wholeheartedly. The reason is simple. If there is no hope for him, then there is no hope for any of us.

Christ died for sinners, and not just for us sinners who did wrong, but also for the sinners who did us wrong. This is the gospel again. This is how the gospel works. In Christ, God was in the world, saving sinners. The death, burial and resurrection of Christ is the only hope of the world. It is Christ or chaos.

One last thing. I have no doubt that you may already be doing some of these things, but I would like to encourage as much of it as I can. I think it will really help you to flush out some of the things that set you up for all of these lies in the first place. Do you remember your high school graduation picture? It is the one we still have on our fridge. I would encourage you to get out a copy of that, and put it up in your room somewhere as your “goal look.” Do your hair like that again. Lose the nose stud. Recover what you used to do with your make-up. Get that entire groove back, and then go home this weekend to visit your folks. Be prepared to bring your mom some tissues. I think you knew back then that you were darling, but there was something in you that did not like being darling. Recovering that look will help you identify that impulse. You will need to identify that impulse, because your ultimate task is to hunt it down, and kill it.

Your almost-uncle,