Today I get to live in drab. That’s another way to say I am not presenting as my authentic self, and instead presenting as a male. Cross dressing in a sense. That’s the problem with transitioning, there is invariably a period of time you have to go back and forth between the two. Part time in both roles, like one foot is stuck in cement like mud up to your knee. It takes time to get out for some of us. Between records, driver’s license, passport, educational papers and W2’s. So much has to be done. A few manage to do most of it before coming out, for some that’s just not possible. Either by regulations, or internal impatience, many have to present well before their official life can change. Often gender dysphoria is a commanding reason to begin to transition and present authentically. But what is gender dysphoria? How to explain it….. I’m not sure. So many times I’ve heard others say they can’t begin to imagine what it’s like to feel this way. Well, I think atheists are in a unique position to really understand, at least in this country.
To explain, let me take you down a road. Before we go, remember that experiences are many and varied. You’re an atheist, think of how you got there. Now think of how others got there, think of Ryan Bell (Life After God), think of Bobby C (No Religion Required), of Miss Suzy(Bar Room Atheist), Morgan Stringer(BiSkeptikal), Seth Andrews(The Thinking Atheist), Dan Barker(Freedom From Religion Foundation). Think of how all these people and more had very different experiences getting to atheism. In a similar fashion, transpeople experience the same variation even while the type is vastly different. So with that in mind, let’s begin.
You have to go to a relative’s house for a night. For whatever reason, you have to pretend to be Christian while you are there. It’s not so bad, it’s just dinner. You take off your iam4th T-shirt, put something else on and go. On the way there, about an hour’s drive, you pass a bunch of churches, many with signs demonizing atheists or gays. One combined those two to fight the Gaytheist Manifesto. Once there, you walk past a statue of The Virgin Mary. On the door is a big decorated cross and a Glory Be welcome mat. With a smirk you notice a Hole next to the word Glory. You knock on the door and after a few moments the doors opens, you can hear Amazing Grace playing inside. Your relative warmly greets you then asks you to join in a prayer to thank God for your safe trip. Once inside you sit on the couch under the painting of Jesus and talk for a bit before dinner. As their honored guest, they ask you to lead the prayer. You bite back replies that come to mind and manage to get through it. After dinner you talk a bit more, before you go they insist on another prayer thanking God the Almighty for bringing such a wonderful God Fearing Christian to their home tonight and wishes He grant you a safe journey home.
Now that wasn’t so bad? Was it? It’s really easy to read, but seriously put yourself in that story. Now, let’s take it a step further. Easter weekend…..
Once again you find you have to spend time with that relative, but this time it’s an entire day. Easter Sunday. You wake up, drink some coffee from your NRR mug, get dressed and go. This time you meet at the church. The pastor at the entrances asks what church you normally go to. Maybe you manage to refer to Sunday Assembly just enough to deflect any further inquiry. Right before the service starts, the pastor approaches you and asks you to fill in for an absent usher during the collection. They serve communion, they sing hymns, they read bible verses. You sit and stand and sit again, eat the wafer and drink the grape juice, going through the motions mostly to avoid any confronation. After service everyone goes outside for the egg hunt. Before it starts there’s a benediction to bless all the children with God’s Glory. Afterwards there is a church potluck lunch served, before the lines are opened there is another group prayer with everyone holding everyone’s hands. You get your food and sit down with your relative and together have yet another prayer before eating. After lunch the events continue with all kinds of activities for hours, all bible themed stuff. Finally, that’s over but before you go home you go to eat once more with your relative, once again a set of prayers before and after and again as you get in your car.
Now how does that feel, as a Thinking Atheist? Dwell on it. Let’s go yet another step…… Vacation Bible School. You’ve been enlisted to help manage VBS for a week at the church while you are staying with your relative for reasons that don’t matter (don’t argue, yes you have to go! It’s a thought experiment, not a democracy). The whole week, from Friday night to Friday night nonstop Jesusing like one long God Awful Movie. And you have to play along….
How comfortable would you find those situations? That is something of what dysphoria feels like. And the degree of it will vary from person to person. Some atheists really miss going to those things and find a certain amount of comfort going back, if only for the experience even if they don’t believe. Others don’t much care one way or the other and are just mildly bothered by it. Some would be fighting back so very many Scathing responses, silently screaming “this is not me! Why am I doing this!?!” Call it religious dysphoria, not so much different really.