Ms. Linda Seiler: From my earliest memory, I wanted to be a boy instead of a girl and I just really thought that my life wasn't complete unless I could become David and live happily ever after.
End of Teaser
John Fuller: Well, that's Linda Seiler and she's a woman who lived in secret shame because of gender confusion for more than 20 years, until she experienced the incredible grace and compassion of Jesus Christ. And you'll hear more of Linda's remarkable story on today's "Focus on the Family." Your host is Focus president and author, Jim Daly and I'm John Fuller.
Jim Daly: John, we are hearing from an increasing number of families who have concerns and questions about this issue of sexual identity and who am I? Public schools talk more about it now. People talk more about it now. I think in some ways that's a good thing, but the culture and particularly those that may not have a Christian worldview, talk about it in ways that I think are contrary to the text and the God we believe in.
We are made in God's image, male and female and we want to talk about it, those cultural influences like the athlete, Bruce Jenner, who publicly announced a sexual change recently, now Caitlyn Jenner. There's also the National Geographic magazine cover, which carried a 9-year-old boy who had pink dyed hair and now wants to live as a girl. This is something our culture is facing. Ironically, it's not new. Ancient cultures in Greece and Rome had a very similar battle on their hands.
But we want to tackle it head on today, so it might be wise to move children at a younger age away from the radio or if you're drivin' down the road, come back to the Focus website and listen. But we want to tackle this so we can help equip you to do a better job in your parenting journey.
John: And as I said, Linda Seiler is our guest. She is the director of Chi Alpha Christian Fellowship at Purdue University, where she works as a campus missionary. And she regularly engages college students with her story and the truth that's found in God's Word.
Jim: Linda, welcome to "Focus on the Family."
Linda: Thank you. It's great to be here.
Jim: First of all, I appreciate your courage. I mean, it's not easy to talk about something like this, so thank you. You don't do a lot of interviews. In fact, I think you said, this is your first interview.
Linda: It is.
Jim: So, we appreciate that courage. Can I kick this off? Let's go right to Scripture--
Jim: --where in Genesis 1:27, it's very clear that God created man in His own image; He created them male and female.And in our sexuality and in our unique gender differences, there seems to be things that the Lord wants us to learn about this life. And we are that reflection of God in that way. Now coming through what you've come through, which we're gonna go into in more depth, how does that Scripture line up with your understanding of what you went through?
Linda: I wasn't thinking through the lens of Scripture growing up at a kid.
Linda: But now I look back at that and I realize, God has a design for gender. His design for male and female, we reflect His image in our maleness and our femaleness and that, part of my surrendering to God is also surrendering to the very body He's given me, the very gender that He's assigned to me.
Jim: When you think back now, being that little girl, but desperately not wanting to be that little girl, for many of us, we're not even gonna understand what that feels like. Describe it for us, that sense of being trapped.
Jim: And I would hope people, as you hear her describe this, don't have a heart of hardness. Think if it were you. What if you were in that space, being that little girl? What was taking place in your heart at that time?
Linda: Yeah, you know, I have no memories of all from childhood of wanting to be a girl, being okay in my physical body. I just knew I was supposed to be a boy.
Jim: How early though, 3-years-old?
Linda: Oh, I'm talking my first memory. I have no recollection at all of being content in a female body. And so, for me it was this, I'm supposed to be a boy. I need to be a boy. I'm not complete unless I'm a boy. It was agonizing to be trapped in a female body, especially as I grew older and my body began to show signs of maturation and all of that. I just despised and hated my body. I hated everything with the world of woman. I just rejected it completely.
Jim: Thinking about it now as an adult, why do you think that was happening? What was causing that rejection at the very core?
Linda: Yeah, well, the way God designs our families to operate, He intentionally, He made us male and female, gives us a mother and a father. And the role of the parents to call us into who God's created us to be is very important.
But if something happens and there's a breakdown somehow, that can affect our development in our soul, in our mind, will and emotions. And because we are triune beings—body, soul and spirit—that can ultimately affect even your sexuality, your sexual development.
So, in my own case, I early on rejected my mom. I just wanted nothing to do with her, wanted nothing to do with her world and I almost over-bonded with my dad. I just idolized the world of man. I wanted to be a part of that world in the most profound way I could be and just despised anything have to do with femininity.
Jim: Linda, I think some of us struggle understanding that, but you've said it so well. Just to clarify, you were raised in a Christian home. Were you going to church at the time? And how were those interactions either helping you or hurting you?
Linda: I was raised to go to church. My parents did a good job exposing me to Jesus, but I didn't have a relationship with Him until I was a junior in high school. A friend invited me to an outreach and I heard the gospel for the first time. My concept of salvation was if your good works outweigh the bad, you have a great chance of going to heaven.And I knew my good works did not outweigh my bad and that night I heard that it wasn't based on my work, but on what Jesus did on the cross.
Jim: But it still, if I know your story well enough, it still kinda drove you to secrecy. You weren't that open about what you were feeling ever since you were a little girl.
Jim: Were you keeping that kind of very close? Did your parents know? Did your best friend know?
Jim: Did anybody know what you were struggling with?
Linda: No one knew. I fooled everybody. My parents just thought I was a little tomboy girl and there are a lot of girls that are tomboys and like to run outside and play football instead of stay indoors and play Barbies. They just thought it was kind of a phase that eventually I would grow out of and a lot of girls do.But for me, this was this inward obsession that somehow I felt like it wouldn't be appropriate to tell other people. Some people say, well, it's because in the 1970's and '80s, our culture wasn't as permissive as it is now regarding these issues.
Linda: There may be truth to that, but I really think it's because regardless of whether or not we're even saved, the law of God is written on our hearts and we intuitively know what's right and what's wrong. And I knew inside something about this is off. It's not right. I'm not fitting in. I'm not normal and I don't think I should tell anyone.
Jim: Linda, talk about same-sex attraction. Was that part of your story? And when did that begin? Was it early in your knowledge that I'm different? Or did that come later?
Linda: Uh-hm, yeah, not everyone who is transgender is necessarily same-sex attracted. The two issues can be different. In my case, I was blessed with the double whammy of both. So, for me, I discovered that the transgender desires were from my earliest memory, but when I was in junior high and all these other girls around me were boy crazy and experimenting with makeup, I wanted nothing to do with that. I was intensely jealous of the boys whose voices were changing and their bodies were growing more masculine. And I was so jealous and I wanted that to be me.
And then to my horror, I discovered I was same-sex attracted and I didn't choose that. I didn't want that. I just discovered it one day and there was a certain teacher that was coming down the hallway and I loved getting her attention. I loved being around her and one day she was coming around the corner and I felt like these butterflies in my stomach and this anticipation of, "Oh, I just can't wait to see her." And I thought, what is that?
And eventually I put two and two together and realized, oh, no. I'm same-sex attracted. And we didn't talk about it back then and I had to try to make sense of my world in my mind and I thought, well, you know, if I really am a man trapped inside of a female body, then I should be attracted to other women. Technically that just makes me a straight man, so that's kinda how I made my world make sense.
Jim: How was that world for you? 'Cause I can think back to accepting Christ at 15 without a lot of boundaries and you wobble. I like to describe it that way. You're wobbling along, trying to get on a better path and it can come down to every day saying, "Lord, I'm so sorry that I messed up again." Did you have that experience becoming a Christian as a teenager and then struggling with working through your redemption and your sanctification?
Linda: Absolutely, I never told anybody what was going on behind closed doors, even after I got saved. I thought that the next morning I would wake up and all these desires to be a man and attractions to women would go away, because if anybody's in Christ, they're a new creation. The old is gone; the new has come.
And I was devastated when I woke up the next day and all of these things were still there, but now I was really in a Catch-22, because we didn't talk about these things in the body of Christ at that time. This was in the 1990's.
And so, I kept it as a secret to myself. I was involved in a campus ministry at the University of Illinois and eventually hit a point where I just can't live this double life any longer where I'm struggling and no one knows. They were actually recruiting me to come on staff with that campus ministry. They saw the hand of God on my life and I thought, if they even knew who I was behind closed doors, they would kick me out of the group.
But my senior year, I heard somebody talking about James 5:16, "Confess your sins one to another and pray for each other so that you may be healed." And it's like the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart and said unless you bring this out into the light with a trusted leader in the body of Christ that can help you, you'll never get free.
Linda: And so, I took a risk and I asked my campus pastor if we could get together and talk. And he said, "Let's meet the day after tomorrow." And that was an eternity for me and we were at a conference at the time. I went up to the top floor of my hotel room at the conference and by the time I got up there I thought, What did I do? I just told my campus pastor I'm gonna share the deepest, darkest secret I've never told anybody in my life and I was 21 at that time. He's gonna expose my sin, kick me out of the group and it's the worst decision.
So, I thought I can't tell him. There's no way out of this. And I went up to my hotel room and I thought, well, there is a way out. I could just jump from this window and end it all. And so, I went over. I looked at the window. We were so far down. I thought, I'll die before I hit the ground. It's be a painless [was]. I'll have a heart attack before I hit, so it'll be a painless way to die, but I couldn't get the window open.
And so, I went into the bathroom and I thought I could slit my wrists with the razors that were there, but you know, I get squeamish at the sight of blood and I don't know how long it takes to bleed out. What if my roommates came in while that happened? And I wasn't gonna leave a suicide note, so I didn't want somebody to catch me in the act and then I have to explain.
But the thing that really kept me was knowing my family loves me and for them to have to live with that devastation the rest of their life not knowing why would be really painful for them. So …
Jim: It's so important for people to hear again, the love of your family.
Linda: Yeah, right.
Jim: You know, when you get down to it, that looks beyond a lot of our sinful nature, doesn't it? It can help us through the darkest times.
Jim: I think of the parent that is so grieving because maybe they've just heard from their son or daughter, "I'm gay" or "I'm transgendered, mom or dad" and they don't know how to react.
Jim: It's critical that they react with love, isn't it?
Linda: Right, it absolutely is. That's the thing that kept me from taking my life. It's also the thing that kept me from actually following through with sex reassignment surgery. Had I not known my parents really loved me and my family was really all I had, that's what kept me going.
Jim: Now on your campus ministry, you're right in the thick of it, I mean, debating with college professors, as well as college students about this issue. And there's such sympathy in that environment for the person who is in this you know, this direction sexually.
What are some of the things that you'll express to those people who oppose a Christian worldview? What will you say to them to help them think differently and not just make it a "me versus them" issue?
Linda: Many times when I'm confronted with that, I just share my personal story and where I've come from. It's surprising when I talk to people in the LGBTQ community and I share some of my experiences, I can see that knowing in their face and their expression that, oh, she's lived this. She really gets it.
And I think we're so programmed in our culture to believe you're born that way and it can't change, that when I start to share from my personal perspective, it really impacts people to think, hm, maybe there's something else different out there that I haven't been told.
Jim: What can we do in the Christian community to be more effective, to point people toward the gospel. I love the president of Biola, Barry Corey, who said, be firm in the center, soft on the edges.
Jim: How do you do that in an environment where there is such strife and such animosity that goes really both directions, if we're honest? The fear on the Christian side and then, you know, quite a bit of strife coming from the culture right now because we're bigoted or whatever terminology they might use to describe our biblical perspective on this.
Linda: Yeah, right and I think one of the main things we need to do is make Christ the center, make Jesus the focal point, because the biggest problem a transgender person or a homosexual person has is not their sexual issues. It's [that] they're disconnected from Jesus.And so, making the gospel the central issue is the main thing.
And then also, rather than coming at it with dogmatic, you know, here's all the points I believe and why and trying to shove it down people's throats, we have to be in relationship with people. We have to hear their stories, ask their perspective. Wow, you're transgender. Tell me about that. What was that like growing up? And invite them to tell you their story. And express compassion towards them and really listen and try to understand their perspective and so, that you earn a right to be able to share some things and speak into their life.
Jim: Well, and this brings us all the way back to your conversation with your pastor at the time at the conference.
Linda: Exactly, right.
Jim: He agreed to meet with you the day after tomorrow. And you thought of suicide and you didn't because of the love of your family.
Jim: And then you had the meeting. What did he express to you?
Linda: Oh, I was terrified and it took me an hour of painstaking small talk to finally get around to what I wanted to say. And I expected him to reject me and he just looked me in the eyes with this look of compassion on his face and he said, "Linda, thank you. Thank you for sharing that information with me. I know that took a lot of courage and I want you to know we don't think differently of you because of what you just shared. We love you. We see the hand of God on your life and we want to get you the help that you need."
And I was not expecting that reaction at all. I was stunned. I walked away from that conversation and I said, "God, what was that?" And it was as if the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart and He said, "Linda, that's how I feel about you. I love you and I'm sad that you're hurting and I want to get you the help that you need."And that was the first step in what was to be an 11-year journey of transformation that I didn't know would take 11 years. I wanted it to be over in a day, but the process of discipleship is messy and takes time.
Jim: What transpired in those 11 years? What clicked for you 11 years later to say, I'm free.
Linda: Right, it was a process of multiple things that the Lord used in my life. It's not, "Follow these five steps and boom (Sound of fingers clicking), you're done." It takes relationships with other people in the body of Christ who understand what you're walking through and will be patient with you through the ups and downs, like you were talking about.
So, I had a body of believers that knew my struggles. They were walking alongside me, supporting me, helping me get connected with quality Christian counselors. Being in relationship with other women that would welcome me as a woman among women, even though I didn't see myself that way, a spiritual mother who I was madly attracted to, but she wasn't threatened by my attractions and said, "Let's go out and let's go shopping and you find your own style." And I discovered the things I was attracted to in her were actually present in me. I just never saw them in myself before and I needed her to kind of mother me into those things.
And really the culminating thing that in my life was I went out to a place called Elijah House that does prayer ministry, inner healing prayer ministry. And we looked at some deep root wounds in my life that literally went back to the womb. And we prayed through those things where I had made inner vows, judgments, bitterness, unforgiveness in my heart towards those that had hurt me. And I was able to release forgiveness towards others and receive just the healing love of Jesus once those barriers went away from bitterness and unforgiveness. I received the love and the healing from Jesus that actually filled my heart. And words from Jesus that affirmed my own femininity, that God was saying to me, "It's okay for you to be the woman I've created you to be."
Jim: Wow, I mean, that is incredible. Linda, You're describing this and you're into these discussions and debates on college campuses. I would think the two extremes for the Christian who doesn't want the confrontation, it can be a hyper grace that, "I love you no matter what," which is true, but there's also the truth of God's Word that we have to address somewhere in that relationship. On the other end is that confrontational Christian who, it's all about the argument and I'm right and you're wrong and you're going to hell if you don't correct that behavior.
Jim: There's certainly truth in that, but it is not gentle truth. It's not a winsome truth. It's not Romans 2:4, which [says], "Don't you know it's God's kindness that leads one to repentance?" So, speak to those two extremes and how we find the better way forward?
Linda: Yeah, the approach of just the dogmatic, you're wrong and we make homosexuality or transsexuality the issue, rather than the gospel, a person who has gender dysphoria is made in the image of God, even if they fully transition, have a surgery and become the opposite gender externally, they are still made in the image of God and made for a relationship with Jesus and making that the focal point, not being contentious about these issues.
At the same time, we cannot back down and never speak about these issues out of fear.We need to speak about the truth of God's Word and say really we are made in the image of God, male and female and God has a purpose for the genders. And though people might not agree with my perspective, we have to point out how illogical it is for you to hate me simply because you disagree with what I'm saying.
And I don't hate you simply because I'm saying something different than what you believe. I can still love you as a human being and share a different perspective. Really love isn't love unless you're able to love somebody who shares a different perspective from you and love them as another human being made in the image of God.
Jim: Yeah, I mean, that is well-said and that's what we need to go to that effort and I think that's part of it sometimes. We don't want to take the effort to set up the discussion in such a way that you can be heard or that you can listen. And those are so important for us in the Christian community, those principles to apply them.
Jim: Do you think today there's more expression of this than in years past? And if so, why? And then how do, again, so we react as Christians in a culture where this is becoming so normative?
Linda: Absolutely, this is much more prevalent than it ever has been and it is going to continue to be. Several years ago, it was the push to legalize gay marriage and we knew it wasn't going to stop there. This is not just about gay marriage and it's not just about transsexuality. It's really about eliminating gender altogether because our gender glorifies God. Our maleness and our femaleness point really to the gospel, to the fulfillment of Christ marrying His bride, the church.
And so, it's a scheme of the enemy to absolutely eradicate gender off the map entirely. And the way we need to respond as it's being normalized is to push back without, you know, the dogmatic, hateful kind of extreme that we were talking about before, but to genuinely engage people in dialogue and to stand for the truth and say, no. Gender is a good thing and all these labels that you have out there of pansexual and gender fluid and a transman and you know, all these labels that are there, that really it's all just a move to try to eliminate the binary genders that God has assigned in His Word of male and female.
Jim: That is so true.
John: It's a great, great reminder.
Jim: Linda, you have done such a great job helping us better understand what this term "transgendered" means and how we can respond better as a Christian community to those who are confused about it, about their gender or have been led astray by dark forces in our culture that want to destroy God's plan for our sexuality and identity.
I know there are people listening right now who are struggling with these very issues, maybe with a family member or a neighbor or because there's a transgendered student in your child's classroom. Who knows? Contact us here at Focus on the Family so we can help you. We have a number of resources and tools that we can put into your hands to better equip you to discuss this topic, to get a biblical perspective, to lean into God's grace and His love as you encounter the culture around you.
John: And our number is 800-A-FAMILY; 800-232-6459 or stop by www.focusonthefamily.com/radio to learn more. And one resource that we'd point you to is a book written by Vaughn Roberts called Talking Points: Transgender. This is gonna help you as a member of the Christian community to better understand, as Jim said, this issue of sexuality and God's design.
And then we have a free download of a document called "When Transgender Issues Enter Your World." And that explains the terms "gender identity" and "sexual orientation" and it'll help you address the topic with your children and other family members.
Jim: These are great resources, John and I want to make sure we get a copy of the book, Talking Points: Transgender into everyone's hands. So, if you can make a gift to Focus on the Family for any amount, we'll say than, you by sending that book along today. And remember, when you obtain resources directly from Focus, a portion of those proceeds goes into other ministry efforts, helping strengthen marriages, empower parents and even save a baby's life through our Ultrasound program. So, when you buy from Focus, it makes a difference. So, please join us in helping families thrive and let's introduce people to the Author of the family; that is our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Give today to Focus on the Family.
And Linda, as we close, what a journey you have experienced. I mean, it's unbelievable what the Lord has brought you through—such a powerful testimony. Where are you today? And how is the Lord fulfilling those deep promises and those longings of your heart?
Linda: Yeah, I'm living the dream. I really am. I believed it when God spoke over my life years ago, that there'd be a day I'd look in the mirror and say "I love me," instead of "I hate me," but now I'm living that. Now I look in the mirror and I genuinely enjoy being a woman. I'm content in a female body. I have zero desire to be a man.
And whereas in the past I was exclusively attracted to females, never knew what it was like to be attracted to a male, as God has continued to work out my healing, for a period of time I was actually asexual. I was not attracted to men or women and I didn't care, because it was after that 11-year process of at least the emotional baggage and the angst in my soul was lifted and that was gone and I was content in a female body.
But as I continued to walk out my healing, in my late 30's, all of a sudden, these attractions to men began to develop and it was awkward and thrilling all at the same time.
Jim: That's amazing.
John: And so, the Lord has not yet shown you which man He's prepared to be your husband?
Linda: No, I speak at a lot of Assemblies of God churches and I always joke and say, "I need you guys to be my AG Harmony. (Laughter) Network with me and help me find my man. (Laughing)
Jim: Hey, Linda, I want to say thank you again for that courage. I talked about it at the top of the program, that it takes a courageous person just like you going to that pastor at that time, saying here's my secret sin. You know, whether you're heterosexual, homosexual, transgen[der], it doesn't matter when you can be that honest and that trusting of a caring Christian person, God can begin to transform anybody's life no matter what sin has gripped them.
And this has been very illuminating for all of us to better understand what that world is like and how God has reached down and pulled you through that and drawn you closer to Him, to where you're far healthier today and in a better place emotionally, spiritually and every way. It's powerful and I want to say thanks again for bein' here.
Linda: Thank you. It's great to be here.
John: It really has been inspiring and very informative and no doubt the conversation today might have raised some questions in your mind about these issues. As we've said before, we have a number of resources to help you answer those questions and to assist in addressing the issues with your family and your church and your community. And we appreciate your financial support as we continue to tackle challenging topics like this, offering a biblical perspective on issues in our culture. Please donate generously as you can at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio or when you call 800-A-FAMILY; 800-232-6459.
And when you get in touch, request the CD or get the download of today's program. There was a lot more to our conversation that we could share in this 30-minute broadcast.
Now coming up next time on "Focus on the Family," Korie Robertson of the "Duck Dynasty" clan will describe some of the challenges she's faced in raising children.
Mrs. Korie Robertson: Say a prayer. We have a little moment, like okay, we gotta get back on track here, you know. And so, I think there's times in your life it's always like, you just get out of control with kids and family and all that and you think, okay, let me just kind of rein it in and get back on track and realize that I'm the adult here. I'm the one who has to set the tone.
End of Excerpt
John: I'm John Fuller and on behalf of Focus president, Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for listening. Join us again next time, as we once again, help you and your family thrive in Christ.
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Linda SeilerView Bio
Linda Seiler is an ordained Assemblies of God minister and currently serves as the director of Chi Alpha Christian Fellowship at Purdue University. She is passionate about studying, preaching and teaching the Bible, discipling Christians to further God's kingdom, and inspiring those with inner healing issues to seek the freedom found in a relationship with Christ. Linda's goals are to equip Purdue students to take the Gospel to the university, the marketplace and the world, and to see as many people as possible transformed by the love of Jesus. Learn more about Linda at her website, www.lindaseiler.com.