…Behind the scenes of a good life

By Lisa Salazar


Shortly after Christmas 2009, I began a correspondence with a friend who, in the course of a few emails, had asked me many probing questions. After several long email responses I said that, thanks to her questioning, I perhaps had a good start to a book. She said the more I answered her questions the more she wanted to know, and she encouraged me to keep going. It was now the end of February and, though I initially balked at the idea of writing a book about my life, there had been something therapeutic going on as I recounted my stories. As I continued writing throughout the month of March, I laughed and cried to myself more than I ever had. I was surprised at how it all came together so quickly, especially since I had never written anything longer than a term paper—and that was way back in my college days. 

As I have thought about an appropriate title for this book, I considered all kinds of possibilities, but I also questioned my motivation for telling my story and whether anyone would bother reading it. What could I add that has not already been said by others; and what, if any thing, would be the differentiating quality of the book? 

I didn’t want to add yet another title to the growing number of books about the lives of transgender people. Least of all, I didn’t want anybody reading this book expecting it to be a herald for “the cause.” Additionally, I felt it needed to be stated right from the beginning that my life has not been a tragedy, and that I do not deserve or want pity or admiration. I can think of a hundred worse things than being transgender, and my “suffering”—if you want to call it that—pales by comparison to what others have to endure from the day they are born until the day they die. 

Consequently, the title I picked is the most descriptive of what this book really is all about. It’s a look behind the scenes of a good life and the process of becoming transparent about who I am. The truth is, though I lived with a secret identity crisis, I have also had a blessed, busy and happy life. 

Now that I have this attempt at a book completed, dedicating it to just one person is impossible for me to do. First of all, I have been blessed with amazing parents and siblings. But I am most grateful for and to the woman I married, to have been known as her husband and the father of her children. And I am most fortunate, because as well as having these people in my life, I have also been surrounded by an amazing collection of friends. I can honestly say on these facts alone that I have had a very good life. To all of you, my family and my friends, thank you for allowing me to have journeyed with you in the past, and for the amazing gift of allowing me to continue with you now. 

Finally, I must acknowledge one person above all others, Jesus the Christ. I acknowledge Him because He is the thread running through the tapestry of my life in such an intricate way, it has kept the weave together and prevented it from unraveling.

If you want it put in a less religious way, okay: I have been kept from going nuts, harming myself (or worse) by a Higher Power.

Distraction from one’s problems is a good thing, and this adventure—my life—has had an ample supply of distractions. But there has always been this very private and confusing tension behind the scenes that took me more than forty years to understand and another fifteen years to reconcile. 

One last comment: These accounts deal with some sensitive issues that on today’s television shows are usually preceded with the warning “adult content, viewer discretion is advised.” If you are uncomfortable with the “adult” words for body parts and swear words, then be warned: I use them. I mean no offense or disrespect.

Amazon Reader Reviews:

H. Munn, British Columbia — Utterly wonderful! I read it virtually in one sitting - couldn't put it down! Although I don't suffer from gender dysphoria, Lisa's openness about her struggles, failures, even betrayals, and her testimony to God's insistent call that she become her true self is healing and strengthening to all of us who care about who we are and how we present ourselves and the ways in which we may be untrue to who God has made us. And yet the One who is the Way, the Truth and the Life has set us free. What a marvelous way to see that miracle of resurrection happen in her life. And so, by implication, how that miracle may happen for so many others.

By Bret G., Nevada — This is a thoughtful, compelling, and insightful look at the life of someone struggling with gender identity. It gives insight into the struggle, and helps the reader find empathy, compassion, and understanding. Lisa, through her humble vulnerability, invites the reader to experience the range of emotions encountered as someone comes to grips with transgender issues. The glimpses into her strong Christian faith and her journey of reconciling that faith gave me hope for a future where transgender people can be participating members of the church. I am so grateful for the opportunity to read this book!

M. Svenson, California — The realm of transgender people was something I knew very little about. As a person who likes to be well informed on a wide range of issues I was searching for a book that was appropriate to gain a solid understanding of transgender people. I also wanted a book that would neither sensationalize nor present a stereotypical image of transgender people. This book provided exactly what I was looking for - a well balanced, methodical, and personal account of someone who has been through it all. I had no idea.

Lisa presents her journey from early childhood through to her complete transition which will help the reader understand the emotional, physical, and intellectual aspects of a transgender person. As if that weren't enough, there is an added bonus. She is also a dedicated and conservative Christian who's faith is important and integral to her life as a transgender woman. This adds a spiritual fourth dimension to her story. Rather than deter her, it was her faith that helped her overcome all other obstacles.

She shares many of the acts of kindness and grace that her family, church, and even many fellow Christians bestowed upon her, as well as her work colleagues and her company's clients. Her tenacity as a transgender Christian is amazing.

If you, as I did, want to understand transgender people better I would highly recommend this book. If you are a person who may suspect that you may be transgender this book would be extremely useful. Last, if you are a Christian or a person of faith this book will enlighten and help eliminate many stereotypes that were once held about transgender people. I highly recommend it.

K. Baldock, Nevada — It is sometime quite unfortunate that the letters G, L, B and T are mashed together. G, L and B are variations on sexual orientation and T is associated with gender identity. Many people are unclear on this differentiation. People often think they are creating safe spaces for transgender people just because they are affirming to gay people. Not so. To make a church a place of safety and to understand the most marginalized group in our society, one much understand what it is to be transgender. What to DO?? Most of use do not know any T people.

Lisa's book will start the reader on the road that understanding. Her writing style is emotionally packed when necessary and detailed when needed. You will be swept into empathy without realizing it because the story is so moving and Lisa does a great job sharing her pains and difficulties and struggles to become one in brain and body.

I recommend this book very often and actually just did even a few minutes ago to a pastor in TX. He thought he was doing quite well in his affirmation of the G, L and B's and imagined the T's would also just flock in. He is still operating under a strong set of stereotypes using words like "behavior" and "sin". When a person seeks to understand what gender dysphoria is, they will never again such dismissive words when speaking of our lovely T friends.

Lisa's book is SO EXCELLENT in offering understanding. I am honored to actually KNOW Lisa as a friend. Her humility, strong faith in God and humanity in her real life, off the pages of a book shine through in authenticity in her writing.

READ the book. Seek understanding and gain compassion in coming alongside our T brothers and sisters in Christ.


What Will People Think?

“What will people think?” I’ve discovered this question can never be adequately answered, ever.

I became very paranoid about being seen going in and out of the Clinic, the doctors’ offices and medical labs I was now having to visit on a regular basis. Our church has many members who work in health sciences, and since I didn’t know where any of them worked, I was always on the lookout as I entered and left the medical buildings.

I worried that if people found out about me, the discovery would embroil our church in controversy. I knew one individual who was very critical of anything that hinted at the acceptance of gays. One Sunday during a pastoral prayer there was a request on behalf of victims of violence due to their race, color, creed, gender or sexual orientation. That week he railed into the pastor, members of the deacons’ board, and anyone who crossed his path. Since when did we start to look favorably on gays? My, oh my, was this individual incensed or what? I was one of the unlucky ones he dumped on. All I could think of at the time was, “Well, brother, you ain’t heard nothing yet!”

A few years earlier, some members had left our church because the new assistant minister, who was female, presented too “butch,” and they thought this was wrong. When they lost the vote at the confirmation meeting they protested with their feet. Granted, they were only two or three individuals, but they certainly did not like the fact so many stood up for this young woman and voted for her.

Aware of the potential damage that could result if my disclosure was not handled correctly, I decided it was time to step down from my involvement in the worship team. Towards the end of September, 2007, the worship leaders got together to discuss and plan the music for the Advent and Christmas seasons. The pastor chaired the meeting and, like all other meetings we’d ever had, this one was sprinkled with laughter and warm camaraderie. We all got along and worked together really well; no one had an ego—and I’ve seen some egos when it comes to worship leaders. So it took the pastor by surprise when I met with him a few weeks later to resign from all my responsibilities on the worship team.

We met one morning and over coffee I told him everything. I explained I was worried about being recognized entering or leaving a specialist’s office by someone from church, about people jumping to conclusions without having all the facts. I did not want to cause a rift in the congregation; neither did I want to become the elephant in the room. Most of all, I did not want to become the poster child for transgender issues, or a cause célèbre. I reminded him of how some people had been upset during the hiring of the assistant minister, and opined my issue had a much larger potential for making things uncomfortable for him and the Deacons’ Board.

Admittedly, this is what I said to him, but it wasn’t easy for me to get the words out; my heart was in my throat, and I had to stop and compose myself throughout my disclosure. Have you ever been so nervous you can’t stop talking? I think that was me that morning. I was absolutely terrified the pastor was going to judge me and exact his godly wrath on me.

He just sat there and listened to me, handing me extra napkins to wipe my eyes, and waited for me to finish. I’ll never forget his first words, and the way he said them, full of compassion. He told me this was not a moral issue any more than being born with a physical disability or any other medical condition.

He thanked me for sharing with him and told me this did not disqualify me as a worship leader, adding it made me more qualified because of my integrity and honesty. Then he suspected, quite correctly, that I had been beating myself up all my life with scripture, and assured me he did not judge me. He was very concerned for Rachel and how this had affected her; he sympathized with her and what she must be going through.

When would I begin to make changes in my appearance, he wondered, and when was I planning to start presenting as female? I explained to him some of the changes that were already taking place. And, to the question of when I would start presenting as female, I told him he didn’t have anything to worry about, it might not be for one or two years, or longer. I told them as long as my parents were alive I would most likely not take that step.

He then said something to me I will never forget: he promised me if I ever came to church as female he would stand with me and affirm me as a member of the congregation. As we were saying goodbye he asked me if I would like him to let the rest of the worship team know about my resignation or if I wanted to do that myself. He promised this information would be absolutely confidential between the two of us; he would not say anything to anyone about my reasons for stepping down. I was so grateful for his offer, I accepted—I could not see how I could possibly speak to all those people.

It must be said I was able, finally, to reconcile my faith to my condition, thanks to my pastor’s first sermon as our new minister in which he set the tone for his style of teaching. He warned us then if we were looking for black and white dogmatic answers from him we were going to be disappointed. He explained, having been a diligent student of the Bible for close to twenty-five years, that he had come to the conclusion that no one had the right to pull out one or two verses of it to formulate a doctrine.

He told us we needed to approach the Bible with humility, recognizing the Bible itself is ambiguous, if not silent, on most aspects of the human condition. To compound the challenge, he asked how many times Jesus answered His questioners with ambiguity? How many times did He leave His listeners with more questions than they had before? Therefore, the pastor told us, we needed to be open to different points of view as we try to make sense of scripture and how it should be applied to life.

His sermon that day breathed life into my soul. I had always struggled with Jesus’ comments recorded in chapter nineteen of the Gospel of Matthew. Jesus was having a discussion with His disciples about divorce and marriage and quoted the passage from chapter one of the book of Genesis that we often hear at weddings:

“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.”

The disciples were perplexed by his answer to the Pharisees, then he added this, which seemed out-of-the-blue:

“Not all men can accept this statement, but only those to whom it has been given. For there are eunuchs who were born that way from their mother’s womb; and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men; and there are also eunuchs who made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to accept this, let him accept it.”

Now, tell me the last comment makes any sense to you if the discussion is about divorce and marriage. For years I used the first part of this passage, with its reference to Genesis, to beat myself up. I would often castigate myself with this rationale: “It says we are either male or female, there is no other option. Why do you allow yourself to go there in your thinking? Get it out of your mind, you are male! You have fathered three children, what more proof do you need?”

Then, gradually, after the pastor’s sermon, I began to see something in Jesus’ last statement I had never seen before. First, Jesus re-stated God created us male and female—but, He concedes, it doesn’t always work out that way. Some are eunuchs because they are born that way.

In this one statement Jesus tells us it isn’t all black and white. There are individuals who are neither male nor female; they are eunuchs, or inter-sexed, somewhere in between. We are, therefore, not to view gender and sex strictly as one or the other, but as a continuum with many aberrations and manifestations. Doing so only causes some to be marginalized ostracized, hated, and even persecuted.

Doctors and the parents of an intersex child have a difficult time deciding how to best raise that child. They will often make a decision one way or another, to raise a girl or a boy. The deciding factor might simply be a cultural preference, or what the parents feel they want in terms of gender. Unfortunately, studies show in fifty percent of the cases, as that child gets older and becomes more sexually self aware, the sex chosen for the child is at odds with the child’s gender identity. If this is the case for a person born with “ambiguous” genitalia—that their gender identity is not directly related to their biological sexual characteristics—then who has the right to draw any lines of delineation as to which gender and sex pairings are correct?

This thought or understanding didn’t come to me all at once; it was as if the scales fell off my eyes gradually, until I finally saw what Jesus was saying to his disciples was applicable to me. What also struck me was what Jesus didn’t say; the implications are huge. First, he didn’t condemn the eunuch, whether he/she was born that way, or was made that way, or chose to become that way. He also did not place any conditions on them with respect to the subjects at hand, marriage and divorce. He also did not list which parings of unions would be acceptable for gender variant persons. Should eunuchs only be paired with other eunuchs? I read somewhere the Hebrew language had five variations for eunuch because only one designation was not enough. For example, they had a word for a female eunuch, and a different word for a male eunuch. In the first case, it was used to designate a mostly female person with some male sexual characteristics, and in the other, a mostly male person with some form of female sexual characteristics. The point Jesus was making was gender and sex are not binary in nature, and therefore needed to allow for a broader understanding than simply and only male or female.

Additionally, Jesus’ comment not everyone can accept this is significant. The statement is similar to when in other places he said, “let him who has ear to hear, hear,” or, “eyes to see, see.” It is a teaching device, and it is not meant as a declaration of exclusivity for only a few. Rather, it is a challenge to the listeners to wrap their brain around this because I want you to get it! Jesus wanted to raise their awareness by challenging their small thinking. He wanted to change their paradigm on sexuality.

Finally, this served to temper my expectation that I would enjoy universal acceptance, because not everyone would choose to view things from this much more inclusive perspective.

I find it ironic how the passage I used for years to beat myself into submission was the very one that freed me and gave me permission to be who I am. Unfortunately, the same phrase Iused out of context, “the Creator made them male and female,” is often quoted by all who oppose lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) inclusive, doctrines, policies or laws. Listen for this phrase in the sound bites when reporters ask how people feel about same-sex relationships or marriage. It is also ironic how the conservative and right-wing churches and organizations judge and condemn LGBT persons while insisting they love the person, but hate their sin. The volume and temperature of their condemnation, if applied to the issue Jesus was really addressing in the Matthew chapter nineteen discussion, which was divorce and infidelity, would be detrimental to their cause. If they preached against, rejected and judged divorced persons in the same way they preach against, reject and judge LGBT persons, their churches would be empty and so would their bank accounts.

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