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Lenten Repentance and Seeing Your True Self: From Male to Female to Non-Binary and Back Again

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The season of Orthodox Great Lent is upon us. This is a time of serious fasting—40 days without meat or dairy products, followed by the same rule in Great and Holy Week, leading up to the Lord’s Resurrection—Pascha (Easter). For those who truly strive to keep the Church’s “rule,” they also eat less in addition to amending what they eat, they devote more time to prayer, to spiritual reading, to almsgiving, etc. etc.

But all of these things are not the end, but the means to the end. The true aim, goal, purpose of Lent is repentance—the turning from everything within us that is unworthy of God, from everything within us that is broken. As God is infinite, Uncreated, and we are created, this is, in fact, a never-ending process—there will always be more godlikeness we can acquire.

This is serious business, and the Orthodox aren’t messing around about it—especially in the first week of Lent when every evening Monday-Thursday, we pray a portion of the Great Canon of St. Andrew of Crete—an extended reflection upon salvation history, focusing on both the good and bad examples from the Scriptures to teach us how to care for our own souls. Here is a small sample of the text. There is a refrain of “Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me,” between every troparion:

Where shall I begin to lament the deeds of my wretched life? What first-fruit shall I offer, O Christ, for my present lamentation? But in Thy compassion grant me release from my falls.

Come, wretched soul, with thy flesh, confess to the Creator of all. In future refrain from thy former brutishness, and offer to God tears in repentance.

Having rivaled the first-created Adam by my transgression, I realize that I am stripped naked of God and of the everlasting kingdom and bliss through my sins.

Alas, wretched soul! Why art thou like the first Eve? For thou hast wickedly looked and been bitterly wounded, and thou hast touched the tree and rashly tasted the forbidden food.

The place of bodily Eve has been taken for me by the Eve of my mind in the shape of a passionate thought in the flesh, showing me sweet things, yet ever making me taste and swallow bitter things.

The service goes on like this for quite a while. All of these penitential prayers are meant to engender within us not a mere psychological state of regret or self-loathing, but a true spiritual state of repentance given by God Himself, where we recognize everything within us that needs healing, and we turn to God for that healing.

Such spiritual work is an artform, and indeed, the highest and truest artform. But we have to begin somewhere, and simply recognizing and accepting our faults is a necessary foundation. In this regard, I would like to take a look at the story of Jamie Shupe, America’s first officially non-binary person, which I just came across.

Jamie Shupe as a "woman"/intellectualtakeout.org

Shupe was a pioneer in pushing the sexual minority alphabet soup agenda, but now he’s coming out and saying it was all a sham. Trying to live like a woman, trying to change his biology, pushing the envelope on legal gender categories—it was all a great mistake he now realizes. Perhaps he isn’t experiencing the depths of true spiritual repentance (or perhaps he is), but in today’s America, it can be revolutionary just to accept and confess the errors of the LGBTQ ways.

He writes in the article “I Was America’s First ‘Nonbinary’ Person. It Was All a Sham.” at Intellectual Takeout that he had initially chosen to live as a woman because he “had wanted to live ‘authentically as the woman that I have always been.’” Then three years ago he decided he was neither male nor female and became internationally famous after an Oregon judge allowed him to legally identify as non-binary. He even went so far as to have a new birth certificate issued.

“Now, I want to live again as the man that I am,” he says now. That is, whether or not he believes in God, he has realized that the biology he was born with is who he truly is. If done from a spiritual perspective this would certainly be repentance. In any case, it is at least his unshackling of himself from the insanity of modern liberalism, which is quick to embrace every immorality and perversion and brand it not only as not bad, but as something wonderful and beautiful, something to be celebrated.

Jamie has seen through that mess, and he is grateful that despite six years of transgender medical experiments, his body remains intact (unlike many others he has known), though, as he says, his “psyche is eternally scarred.”

The real Jamie Schupe/intellectualtakeout.org

Here is precisely where true repentance would come in. It’s not beating yourself and wearing heavy chains and heavy guilt, but turning from such scars and finding healing. Nothing, I repeat, nothing has the ability to eternally scar us if we are serious about it not doing so.

Schupe tells how as a child he was sexually abused by a male relative, and later in life, suffering from PTSD after serving in the army, he decided he was a woman during a time of mental illness. What he found was that doctors were more than willing to go along with his new identity without really knowing anything about him. LGBT activism had made it nigh on impossible for them to go against the stream and recommend that he seek treatment rather than encouragement.

Schupe makes a very important statement: “I do not have any disorders of sexual development. All of my sexual confusion was in my head. I should have been treated. Instead, at every step, doctors, judges, and advocacy groups indulged my fiction.”

Our faults, our fallenness, our brokenness, our immorality, our perversions, our conditions are not who we are. This is a great lie of the modern age—that we should identify ourselves inextricably with our disordered peculiarities. This realization was fundamental to Schupe beginning to get his life back in order, and it is fundamental for the true repentance that the Orthodox Church points us to.

God created everything good, and even in its fallen state, creation remains good in its essence. Creation groans and labors in a diseased condition, but it did not take on a new nature when man introduced sin into the world. We are good in our essence and we can turn from the sicknesses that beleaguer us.

Be like Jamie Schupe. Be honest with yourself and discard the lies being thrown at you every day by our media culture. See yourself as you truly are. Then go visit an Orthodox church during Lent and being to taste of real repentance and let its healing power work on you.

Author: Jesse Dominick