My exchange with Linda Seiler, ex-trans Christian evangelical

Chi Alpha—a conservative evangelical student group—invited Linda Seiler to share her testimony on being ex-transgender (like ex-gay, but for transfolks). Through prayer, she became cisgender. Or something of the sort. Anyhow, some students (myself included) organized a counter protest and affirming space to debunk her lies. I wrote her an email after the events and she finally responded. I am documenting this exchange here. First, my letter. Then her letter.

——
Hi Linda,

My name is Benny, a doctoral candidate in the department of Communication Studies at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale.

I am one of the primary organizers who organized a response to your presence on our campus last night.

Your use of outmoded, unsupported research on a research institution aside, we were saddened that you did not show up to our event after your own where you could interact with our NUMEROUS queer-affirming religious leaders throughout the Southern Illinois region.

In the future, we hope that such “apologies” are not buttressed with pseudo-scientific research and without inviting affirming and queer people to speak alongside yourself.

Sincerely,

Benny

—-

Hi Benny,

Thanks for your note. I apologize for my delay in getting back to you as I’ve been on the road for 10 days and have fallen behind in emails.

You have every right to disagree with what I’m saying. As I stated Monday night, the university should be a marketplace for the free exchange of ideas where students each come to their own conclusions on issues presented. As far as outdated & outmoded research, I think you’re right that I need to strengthen that part of my presentation. Thank you for the feedback as I’m always trying to improve. However, I did cite the latest known twin study (2008) and also cited a more recent APA quote (2008) than was quoted on the info sheet your group distributed when we arrived (your quote on point #2 was from 2000). I find it ironic that I am charged with outmoded information when something I shared was more recent than what your info sheet stated. That being said, if you know of any more recent scientific studies (regarding a genetic link to homosexuality), I would like to learn more if you have any links to pass along. I agree with you that a presentation at a university needs to be up to date on the latest research. I am just not aware of anything published after 2008 when the APA changed their statement to include that the cause of homosexuality is likely a complex mix of nature and nurture—hence, my assertion that there are a variety of environmental factors that can contribute to same-sex attractions which can be substantiated by reputable sources at www.narth.com (a secular organization of research scientists, psychologists, and psychiatrists that parted ways with the APA due to their research findings that contradicted the politicized views of the APA). In fact, Narth produces the “Journal of Human Sexuality” which is an excellent source commenting on the latest research out there. I agree  with you that I should document my sources better so people understand that what I’m sharing is from documented research and not just my own ideas. Thank you for that reminder.

In the end, you have every right to disagree with what I’m saying and to host similar events to promote your own ideas. I don’t want to live in a culture where you don’t have that right. But I hope that you would agree I should be afforded the same right to share my own story and the reasons why I have come to the conclusions I have. To disagree with someone else’s beliefs is not hate speech. I think a culture that allows for differing views to have a seat at the table so people can come to their own conclusions makes us a stronger society as a whole.

Also, I did want to come to your gathering on Monday night, but I was held up by people who wanted to talk to me afterwards, and I wanted to give them my full attention and answer their questions instead of rushing off. However, even if there were not people who stayed after to talk, I have to be honest and say that after the last student who stood in line to ask a question (I don’t remember his name) stormed out of the auditorium in a fit of rage, I did have concerns for my safety. I didn’t feel threatened by the majority of your group during the evening (most of you were very gracious to me, thank you), but seeing that young man lose control of his emotions and leave before I could even finish my sentence left me feeling like I was not welcomed. In other words, it did not feel like a “safe zone” for me. If I had come, I would have felt like I needed to bring several people with me for safety reasons. Obviously, this is a volatile issue, but I think we need to learn on both sides that keeping our emotions under control, taking time to truly listen, and making others feel like they are valued as a person is important. But if we yell at each other and don’t let one another finish our sentences, we are not truly listening and valuing the other person, even if we disagree with their ideas. Disagreement does not have to be denigration. I did my best to speak with compassion and to reiterate multiple times that you don’t have to agree with me, and I am not forcing anyone to change. Each individual has a right to decide whether or not they want to accept or reject same-sex attractions (if they experience them at all). I don’t hate any of you, and I did not raise my voice or cut anyone off during the Q&A time. And yet, that same grace was not extended to me by some members of your group. I realize that is not representative of your whole group, and you especially have been respectful towards me in your emails and your FB posts on your alternative event which I appreciate. Thank you. As I said Monday night, I agree with you regarding the concept of a safe zone, and I refuse to denigrate a person because of what they believe, even if they disagree with me. But I would hope that the safe zone would not be a double standard and that someone like me would not be denigrated and publicly maligned because of what I believe. If we both call for a safe zone, let’s practice what we preach.

Thanks again for writing, Benny. I will take your comments to heart and work on my documentation. Hope you stayed warm and safe during the storm today.

Blessings,
Linda

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About Benny

My name is Benny LeMaster. I am an academic, activist, and artist. I research questions of identity, culture, and representation. I am interested in exploring ways to relate to one another in critically affirming ways. In terms of identity, I identify as queer, trans, mixed-race Asian/white, fat, and, frankly, fabulous. Let's talk!
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One Response to My exchange with Linda Seiler, ex-trans Christian evangelical

  1. Gary says:

    Hi I’m a transgender who go to church in Alabama after seeing. Linda story I wanted to write. But it took a year to do so. I been told it’s wrong but when dressed it feel right I love to look as femmimie as I can but j do go to church as a male I’ve even have implants so I can feel what j like feeling even seen a dr who she told me I should be living as a female I showto much her I guess it go back to my mother God rest her soul she told me at age of 8why do j remember this it Been there since she told I was born of the wrong sex I should have been a girl I waited to late to do anything about it listen to me I’m just needing some to talk with who been through a transition. Bye would like learn more about what Linda is doing for God god did ask me would go out for him and a vision was a place where water would be shippedi in love g

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