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Excerpt: Life Beyond My Body


EDITOR’S NOTE: In a publishing landscape that focusses on the stories of white trans people, when trans people are featured at all, Lei Ming's Life Beyond My Body is a blessing. Its harrowing, honest narrative conveys the vulnerability of growing up trans. Its gripping depiction of overcoming unthinkable situations with faith and determination is a testament to spiritual transcendence and an inspiration to trans people of faith everywhere. We hope you enjoy the first chapter as much as we did, and buy the book from Transgress Press or through Amazon.

CHAPTER 1: Who Can Give a Man His Name?

To the one who is victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it.

Revelations 2:17 (New International Version NIV)

In the same way animals don’t mind what people call them, I did not care what people called me when I was little. My name was merely an identifier, as everything had a name. I began to care about what I was called after I discovered my name was at odds with my inner being.

From that time on, I rejected the name printed on my identification (ID) card, which was known and remembered by my family, hometown fellows and schoolmates from kindergarten through college. Why? Because it was such a girly name and the thought of it following me for a lifetime was too upsetting.

Everyone else in my life approved of my given name, because they believed I was a girl from the moment I was born in 1986 until my graduation from university in 2008. But I knew I was a boy, and I wanted a name that suited me.

When I was about eleven-years-old, I started scouring the dictionary for characters I would like to take as my new name. Casually and beautifully, I signed names I liked in the margins of my textbooks, sketch papers, notebooks, or any other surface I could find, during the boredom of class. Some of the names were profound, some were plain. Some lasted a long time in my heart, some a few moments. Those names were like clouds, formed and then dissipated in my own little sky. They described the self only I knew and the man I intended to become: a writer, painter, traveler, lover, husband, and father.

Those names never came to light, but that wonderful name for girls dogged me through the years of my lonely childhood, bewildered adolescence, and idle college days, on forms, test papers, certificates, and identification cards. There are a lot of gender neutral names in Chinese, but I did not propose a name change to my parents, for my original name was alright to them. Besides, I knew I was too insignificant in their eyes to warrant the trouble of going to the police office to change my name. I wasn’t so silly as to imagine my parents would do that for me.

After I graduated from university, I no longer had to worry that a schoolmate or friend would “helpfully†say to a new acquaintance, “Come on, don’t you know Lei Jing is a girl?†As long as I didn’t need to show identification, the people I met couldn’t possibly know my history. Sometimes I used my real name, and sometimes I used whatever name came to my mind. Either way, I did not feel good. If I used a chosen name that I was not accustomed to, I felt like a criminal. Once, however, I was honest with a co-worker.

“A girl’s name,†the guy commented.

“Ah. . .yeah,†I simpered.

Eventually, I started working at a school where we all used English names, and I adopted the name I use now. People rarely ask my Chinese name, but if they do and I don’t have to show identification, I give my chosen Chinese name. But none of these names can be used in this book as long as I want to protect my identity.

So here, I use “Lei Jing†in place of my legal name—that wonderful name for girls. “Lei Ming,†which means “thundering,†shall be my chosen Chinese name. “Ray†will stand in for my English name. Although they are not the “real†names I use in daily life, it doesn’t matter. I’ve come to understand none of these names reflect my true essence, anyway.

Abram was renamed Abraham when he was made the father of many nations. Jacob was renamed Israel, after he struggled with God and humans and overcame. Simon was renamed Peter when Jesus beheld him. What name accurately reflects my true nature? What name did God give me when he created me?

“He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.†(John 10:3 NIV)

What name will Jesus call me? Will he call me by my wonderful name for girls as if I’m just a deranged woman?

“[B]ut rejoice that your names are written in heaven.†(Luke 10:20 NIV)

If my name is written in heaven, I hope it’s not the name I was given at birth. Perhaps it will be a name known only by God, a name beyond my imagination, a name in which I will find complete belonging and assurance.

Read more our 5 Questions Interview with Lei Ming for more!


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