From Sexual Confusion to Chi Alpha Campus Director
By John W. Kennedy
Pentecostal Evangel | July 27, 2014
Linda Seiler has a warm smile, stunning eyes and perfect teeth. The petite campus pastor appears to be the picture of femininity with her long hair, eye shadow, lipstick and earrings.
At age 41, Seiler believes God is going to bring a husband into her life at the right time.
Yet it’s taken much of Seiler’s lifetime for her to reach that conclusion as she struggled with confused gender identity.
“I never experienced an attraction to a man — until recently,” Seiler says.
As part of her ministry, Seiler tries to teach Christians to compassionately understand the plight of transgendered people.
“From my earliest memories I had a desire to be a boy,” Seiler says. “It was the driving force of my life.”
In her case, Seiler believes she experienced an “emotional deficit” in childhood stemming from not feeling completely affirmed in her gender. Consequently, in early adulthood, she sought unhealthy nurturing relationships from women as a means to connect with the feminine she sensed lacking in herself.
“For some reason, there is a breakdown in our identity, and the God-given connection with our same gender never happens,” Seiler says. “In adulthood, that emotional deficit becomes sexualized.”
Seiler says in some cases gender confusion and same-sex attraction can be the result of a breakdown in the parental relationship because of divorce, abuse or death. In her situation, she says rejection happened subtly, and involved perception more than reality.
For instance, Seiler experienced an underweight birth and spent her initial days in an incubator, rather than being held and bonding with her mother. Additional family dynamics and subsequent childhood experiences contributed to Seiler’s feelings that it would be better to be male than female.
As Seiler grew up, her parents had no clue of the depth of her profound sexual ambiguity issues. They made no connection between her tomboyish appearance and behavior with her discomfort as a female, and they figured she would outgrow the phase.
Starting in fourth grade, Seiler says, she began contemplating sex reassignment surgery as the way to relieve her sensations of being a male trapped inside a female body. Still, such a radical notion bothered her.
“Intuitively I knew those desires were wrong — even though I hadn’t read Bible verses saying so — since the law of God is written on our hearts,” Seiler says. “Because the conscience is so strong, people have to be talked into believing such desires are OK.”
Years later, Seiler heard the gospel for the first time at a Youth for Christ Outreach. She thought a turnaround would happen after she accepted Jesus as Savior during her junior year in high school.
But without relational discipleship and emotional healing, Seiler’s sexual fantasies didn’t disappear. She prayed over and over for relief, but kept gravitating to nurturing females with whom she had become emotionally vulnerable. Although she sensed a calling to ministry a year after salvation, Seiler didn’t feel safe in sharing her struggles with anyone in a church setting.
In college, Seiler led a double life. On the one hand, she led Bible studies, served on a leadership team, and led worship with Campus Crusade for Christ at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Yet at the same time, she sank to the depths of loneliness and despair, harboring secrets that drove her to the brink of suicide. She loathed herself because of sexual addictions that included overactive fantasies and habitual pornography use.
Seiler never fully embraced the gay lifestyle. Like most people who call themselves transgendered, she didn’t have a sex reassignment operation. But because transgendered people have a strong desire to be the other sex and a persistent discomfort with their own bodies, they usually make the transition in their minds, and that means they will dress and wear their hair like the opposite sex. They may or may not be homosexual.
During her senior year of college in 1994, Seiler summoned the courage to confess her sexual sins with the Campus Crusade for Christ director at the University of Illinois. Rather than view her as damaged goods, the pastor explained God could set her free.
It didn’t happen overnight. Seiler distanced herself emotionally from Christian women in an effort to avert improper romantic entanglements.
In 1999, Russell and Nancy Trahan took over as pastors at Crossroads Campus Church, which Seiler had joined after college while working as a high school teacher. Seiler credits the Trahans with helping her through some of her darkest hours.
“When I hugged her when we met, she felt hollow inside,” Nancy Trahan remembers. “On the outside she seemed to have it all together as an intelligent professional. But in her physical being I discerned something amiss, an emptiness that didn’t match her external confidence.”
Seiler soon divulged her gender confusion and same-sex attractions to the couple. Nancy Trahan began a weekly discipleship process based on sanctification of spirit, soul and body as outlined in 1 Thessalonians 5:23. Trahan provided much-needed mentoring to help Seiler form appropriate boundaries with female friends. Trahan also assisted in Seiler’s physical transformation to embrace womanhood.
“She had an aversion to wearing anything that would make her look attractive,” Trahan recalls. “Sweatpants were her standard ensemble. She always looked like a coach.”
Seiler’s appearance began to change dramatically in 2001. She grew her hair longer, started wearing makeup, and began carrying a purse. All these efforts pushed her out of her comfort zone.
Trahan calls the discipleship process lengthy, messy and draining — but worth it. To spread the workload, Trahan recruited several other solid Christian women to come alongside Seiler for emotional support to prevent Seiler from fixating on Trahan.
“I firmly believe if someone wants to be free, no matter how emotionally off-kilter they are, God will intervene,” says Trahan, who now is an Assemblies of God minister based in Geneseo, Ill. “And Linda knew she wanted to be free.”
In an effort to experience sexual wholeness, Seiler read books, attended conferences, prayed and fasted. Despite outward appearance changes, she still struggled inwardly.
Dale Crall met Seiler in 2002 when she worked with Chi Alpha at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and he pastored the Chi Alpha group at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. Chi Alpha is the Assemblies of God campus ministry at secular colleges.
A couple of years later, Seiler asked Crall if she could study under him, and she revealed her transgender troubles. Crall helped Seiler through the final stages of the healing process, and had faith that she would be fully redeemed.
“I was amazed at her compelling level of truthfulness,” says Crall, who spent two years discipling Seiler. “She was desperate.”
Crall suggested Seiler seek help from Mark Sandford, a prayer counselor at Elijah House in Coeur d’ Alene, Idaho. There Seiler experienced deep emotional healing and a transformational spiritual breakthrough in 2005.
“I believe God can set anyone free from anything if that person is really humble and really honest,” says Crall, who left the SIU Chi Alpha in 2013 after 26 years. “I didn’t have any doubt God could transform Linda because she was so shamelessly honest in her desire to be free from a life-controlling issue. I had never seen that level of honesty in someone with that kind of problem.”
The arduous healing journey took 11 years, and included sessions with counselors and ministers who said they never had seen transgendered people set free before. Seiler ultimately experienced healing at the age of 32 as she says Jesus enabled her to forgive those who had hurt her and she repented of her own sinful responses. As a result, her unnatural sexual attractions diminished.
“I never thought I would be ‘normal’ enough that I would be a heterosexual woman attracted to men,” Seiler says. “But the goal isn’t heterosexuality; it’s holiness.”
Seiler says she waited on the Lord for eight years before publicly revealing her past issues and transformation journey. She believes now is the right time to share because of the transgender debate going on across the nation. Transgendered men and women, the “T” in the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender), are driving to expand civil rights, and their views are suddenly at the forefront of culture clashes.
This year Seiler has begun telling her story in churches and on university campuses, including Purdue in West Lafayette, Ind., where she has served as Chi Alpha director since 2007. Elsewhere she has held workshops on a biblical approach to sexuality and engaged in panel discussions with LGBT representatives.
“Emotional brokenness can become sexualized with experimentation and because of the normalization of homosexuality in the media,” Seiler says. “The church must know how to demonstrate compassion without compromising what the Word says. My story is proof that Jesus came to set captives free.”
Christians shouldn’t treat the transgendered or homosexuals as a special category of sinners, Seiler believes.
“All sin is a form of brokenness,” Seiler says. “We need to love them in the same way we would a co-worker who is sleeping around or who indulges in binge drinking.”
Seiler now has an excellent, transparent relationship with her parents, whose love and support played a significant role in her healing process.
In May Seiler’s parents attended her graduation from Assemblies of God Theological Seminary in Springfield, Mo. Her master’s thesis was “Compassion Without Compromise: A Christian Response to Homosexuality.” Seiler has started pursuing a doctorate at AGTS to further develop her calling to equip churches to respond biblically to LGBT issues.
JOHN W. KENNEDY is news editor of the Pentecostal Evangel.