[June 18, 2015] Today I have completed 58 years of life upon the earth after having emerged from the darkness and warmth of my mother’s womb. I was born a girl but because of the appearance of male genitalia I was declared a boy and treated that way. It was confusing, and that discrepancy between inner and outer turned me away from the society of men. I withdrew and sought refuge, inwardly in the comforts and longings of spirituality, and beyond the devastation of men in nature and the wilderness, where I contented myself in solitude with her company.
The most prominent fact of my life right now is my outward transitioning, transitioning the appearance to both myself and the world around me of my gender. I will no longer deceive you and torment myself: I am a woman, as I have always been before. I grew up a girl, though I was raised and trained as a boy; and I grew up a young lady, though my body and mind were poisoned and wracked by the devastating effects of testosterone and I was cut off from what a young lady learned. Knowing little now about the ways of womanhood—though even less of the ways of men!—I have a long journey ahead of me as I seek to relax into who I am. I broke through my shame in December of 2013 and stopped the ravages of testosterone in April of 2014; I have been living fulltime as a woman since April of 2015.
Transitioning is difficult and painful and it releases and, at the same time, requires a tremendous amount of energy. I do not wish to dwell on my losses, though this is a dying and birthing process. There is not only what is coming into the world (what has been there, though painfully shy and ashamed), but what I am putting down—all that has been toxic to me. In doing so, I am not always understood. My wife is devastated; and though she does not know this, I am devastated by her devastation. She entered a relationship with me and thought she understood the terms of that covenant: she would be the woman and I would be the man. For me the covenant was between persons, not roles. But neither of us get to have things our way. We both might have to pay the price.
Presently I am in the process of changing my name. It was Peter Eric Strand. I have chosen Petra Aleah Strand. Aleah is the word Jews use for returning up to the Land of promise. It also refers to the person who rises up to the bema to recite the blessing before the reading of the Scriptures. And last, it refers to someone ascending to God. It is also a beautiful female name, one which in Arabic refers to a highborn woman, a princess even. I seem no princess, but I am highborn and an heir to the only kingdom and wealth that matters.
Gender matters, though we know it not because we take it so much for granted, but it matters like food and water and air. But it is also something that is settled. I’m not changing genders, only how I present myself to the world, and to myself. I suffered gender dysphoria all my life until now; now I don’t.
At age 58, what matters the most to me? What makes my life meaningful and gives it meaning? That I am a sinner, living under the awful judgment of the reality—the holiness–of the divine, and I am loved and pardoned and redeemed, made God’s own child, an heir to the divine nature. That is what matters.
Nature surrounds us and is our very substance. We are not the subject and she the object: there is no place outside of her from which we can look at her—except in our sin. No, she is inseparable from us, though she can go on without us. She, however, is real—present—to us, and it exposes the distraction of our minds that we are not impressed by that. I suppose that nature is radiant with presence, but we only capture what can stimulate our dull senses. Our senses are not dull by nature but by their dis-use on account of the severe distraction of our minds: we do not pay attention. Perhaps they are adequate to the task, if our consciousness were only more awake. Nevertheless, nature would be radiant with presence, and one day we will see her glow. If nature, however, in the unique particularities of time and space, is present, so is the divine with whose eternal omnipresence nature radiates. God is even closer than the leaves and the dirt and my own skin and flesh.
So I am impressed by God more than ever. I am impressed by the resurrection of Jesus, when his human nature became divinized with eternity and omnipresence and omniscience and all the qualities of the divine. His person—which is brought to us in the testimonies of Scripture—comes to us, and is the person of the divine (one of three). But his human nature he shares with us and with the leaves and the dirt. His transformation into himself in resurrection is the promise of our own transformation, for his transformation came not on the heels of his own attainments, but of a life lived in solidarity with us (and with our kindred, the animals and the rest of creation) and for us, and offered to the divine, being offered up to the person of God in the Father.
I am impressed by the transformation of creation itself, not by any loss of itself but by its full participation in the divine nature, a transformation that will take place through the participation of personhood in the divine persons. We come from this as well as move towards it. We are created for this future, designed for it. It is there potentially in our very being, in our very consciousness and presence.
But we choose to live in something else, a “world” that we have created together in our minds that is blind to our own reality and the reality of nature, and excludes the divine. It is a self-enclosed mental realm to which people, nature and God are only “images,” and people and things and gods are utilized. The self is constructed rather than perceived, as is our various worlds. We identify with these constructions, and “see” creation only through their opaqueness. By this—in some way a willful act—are we thus blind to what is real.
That’s the theoretical basis. What matters to me is that we are thus sinners choosing the falsehood of our souls over the reality of our good creation and of the God who loves us and calls and woos us to union with the divine—a union for which we have been designed and created. We are thus rebels against God, and we have every reason to weep and deplore our wretchedness, our sinfulness.
The Lady Holy Spirit calls us to become penitents, to deplore our own sins and the sins of the whole world, and to turn to God under whose judgment we stand condemned, to turn to the light of God’s holiness which exposes and incriminates us, to turn to God in love, and to allow God to respond, to come to us. The Lady Holy Spirit calls us by revealing the Lord Jesus to us (to our spirit)—God in humanity, the humanity of God—who comes to us as a penitent, joining us not in our sin but in our alienation, putting himself with us under the judgment and condemnation of God; putting himself there and loving God and being loved without limit by God for having put himself there. This revelation is all there in the scene of Jesus’ baptism, but it is played out as he approaches the cross. The Lady Holy Spirit reveals the Lord Jesus to us in the Gospel, she awakens our spirit to his call, and we join him. As we join him—the Holy Spirit now dwelling in our awakened spirit—we share with him the divine promise given to his own person by his obedience. But we join him by also becoming penitents like him, by renouncing the world and living under the judgment of God with all others, and as we love God being loved by God (who first loves us) as the Father loves the Son—we too become the same object of love as the Son, and we do this by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit within us as she begins to persuade and nurture and permeate our souls.
The great facts of my existence is my sin, which I deplore, and the goodness of my creation, and the mercy and love and grace of the Father, our Mother, of Christ our Lord, God’s Son, and of the Holy Spirit, our Lady who—being equal in dignity (etc.) to Christ—is herself and makes us Christ’s bride. God is one, but it is the oneness of love, manifested in the mutual, active and outgoing love between the three co-inhering persons of God.
In all this I am affirming the little way, the way of penitence and joy modeled by Francis and Clare of Assisi according to the Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, which is according to the evangelists Matthew, Luke, Mark and John, in fulfillment of the Torah and the prophets and the canonical poets and sages of Israel, and is interpreted by Luke and the apostolate chosen by Jesus, by James and Jude the brothers of Jesus, by John the disciple of Jesus (with the mother of Jesus), and by the prophet John of Ephesus (if he be not the same John).