The world applauded the actress Ellen Page—star of Netflix’s The Umbrella Academy, and films like Juno and the X-Men series—when on December 1 she announced her decision to become a man, changing her name to Elliot Page. Meanwhile, my decision to no longer identify as a gay man because I follow Christ is anathema in our culture.
Why the double standard? Elliot declares that “he” has finally become his authentic self. Why doesn’t our culture celebrate my decision to be my authentic self? Is my authentic self less worthy of praise? Even Hillary Clinton chimed in with a celebratory, supportive tweet for Elliot, saying, “It’s wonderful to witness people becoming who they are.”
It’s wonderful to witness people becoming who they are. Congratulations, Elliot. https://t.co/6vdKuH2slV
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) December 2, 2020
Intolerance of Tolerance
Is it really wonderful to witness people becoming who they are? Or is it only wonderful when the “true self” they discover fits the popular cultural narrative of the day? If Clinton knew my story, would she tweet support for me becoming who I am?
As a presidential candidate in 2008, Clinton opposed same-sex marriage. When she reversed course and proclaimed support for same-sex marriage in 2013, it seems she only did so because the political risk had disappeared. And now that the trans phenomenon has become fashionable, Clinton—along with many other leaders in politics, business, and culture—can publicly support the cause with impunity. But if a celebrity tweeted, say, a photo of A Change of Affection with a favorable comment, he or she would likely be canceled.
Is it really wonderful to witness people becoming who they are? Or is it only wonderful when the ‘true self’ they discover fits the popular cultural narrative of the day?
Elliot’s Twitter post begins on a positive note. He declares he’s lucky to have arrived at this place in his life and grateful to be able to finally pursue his authentic self. But then it quickly takes a sullen, even angry tone: “My joy is real, but it is also fragile.” “I’m scared,” he says several times. He accuses those who disagree with his choice of having blood on their hands. And if anyone attacks him, he “won’t be silent.”
As much as Page’s trans decision has been met with jubilant applause, the tone of his own announcement suggests his “new self” is tenuous at best—alarmingly dependent on the affirmation and acceptance of others.
Let’s compare and contrast Elliot’s coming out with mine.
With a highly successful career as a production designer in the fashion world, I lived as a fully engaged gay man in Hollywood. I had many boyfriends over the years; attended Pride Parades in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York; and marched in innumerable rallies for gay-marriage equality. My identity as a gay man was immutable, or so I thought.
But in 2009 I experienced something extraordinary: I had a radical encounter with Jesus Christ while attending an evangelical church in Hollywood for the first time (I was invited by a stranger I met at a coffee shop the week before). I walked into the church a gay atheist and walked out two hours later a born-again Christian, in love with Jesus. I was stunned by this reversal. Since then, I no longer identify as gay but rather choose to be celibate because I believe God’s plan and purpose—revealed in the Bible—is authoritative, true, and good.
Surrendering my sexuality hasn’t been easy. I still struggle with vestiges of same-sex attraction, but denying myself, taking up my cross, and following Jesus is an honor. Any struggles I experience pale in comparison to the joy of a personal relationship with the one who created me and gives my life meaning. My identity is no longer in my sexuality; it’s in Jesus.
Any struggles I experience pale in comparison to the joy of a personal relationship with the One who created me and gives my life meaning. My identity is no longer in my sexuality; it’s in Jesus.
When I came out as a Christian to my friends in L.A. and New York, I was met with skepticism and, in some cases, outright hostility. But it wasn’t until my memoir was published in 2019 that all hell broke loose. My closest, lifelong friends completely abandoned me, and my production-design agency in Hollywood dropped me like a hot potato under the most vague and frivolous of pretexts—even though I was one of their top artists, earning them loads of money over the years. Of course, if my memoir had been a celebration of my gay identity, I would’ve had advertising and editorial clients beating down my door with even more job offers.
In stark contrast to Elliot Page, who only gained approval and favor from celebrities and politicians, I lost both dear friends and my livelihood.
What I Gained
To be clear, I’m not complaining or claiming to be a victim. What I gained in Christ is absolutely priceless. Like the apostle Paul, I’m learning to “count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish” (Phil. 3:8).
Jesus’s warning was clear: “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” (John 15:18–19).
Yes, the loss of close friendships and a lucrative career were harsh, but being in the kingdom of God more than compensates! I am royalty, an heir of God and fellow heir with Christ. In contrast to Page, my joy is not “fragile” in that it depends on the affirmation of others. My joy is secure because I am in Christ—and thus favorable in the sight of God, whose approval is ultimately all that matters.
A few years ago, fashion and celebrity photographer Melanie Acevedo created a beautiful coffee-table book titled The Authentics: A Lush Dive into the Substance of Style. It looks into the private worlds and gorgeous homes of creative trailblazers in art, design, and fashion. Melanie and I are old friends and colleagues; I production-designed many photo shoots for her over the years. While she was putting her book together, she asked me to recommend “authentic” (she really meant “fabulous”) and photogenic friends for the book. I half-seriously and half-wryly asked why I wasn’t a candidate. After all, it doesn’t get more authentic than renouncing my former identity as a gay man because of my relationship to Christ. I exclaimed, “I’m the most authentic person you know!” In fact, because I’m now who God created me to be, I’m finally authentic. Becoming more and more like Jesus—the truest human who ever lived—is a far more authentic transformation than becoming more and more like whatever “self” my fluid feelings suggest on any given day.
Becoming more like Jesus—the truest human who ever lived—is a far more authentic transformation than becoming more like whatever ‘self’ my fluid feelings suggest on any given day.
Not knowing how to respond to my challenge, Melanie simply blushed, speechless. I sensed she knew what I meant and even believed it was true. But that kind of authenticity doesn’t sell coffee-table books.
Love in a Fallen World
In no way do I want to minimize the real suffering of those who experience gender dysphoria or who are trans and experience hateful attacks, sometimes even with violence. That is horrifically unjustified, for these persons are made in the image of God. We should love and pray for them.
The fundamental issue beneath the trans phenomenon is the fall. Because our primordial parents rebelled against God in the garden, we all suffer from a distorted mind, will, and emotions. Our true identities in relationship with God were suddenly cut off; the only way back is through trusting in Jesus Christ. Reconciliation to God brings us back to our true, authentic self. Being in a right relationship with our Maker is nothing less than what we were made for.
All of us experience “dysphoria” between who we are and who God created us to be. The answer to resolving this dysphoria cannot be found by looking within yourself or to others for approval; it can only be found by uniting yourself to Christ. I’ve discovered this freeing truth in my own life, and I pray Elliot Page and others will someday too.