Over the years I have faced many challenges, as all transgenders have. It is not a life we choose, but a life that chooses us. Like so many my age, I went through many years of doubt, fear, hiding, questioning. In addition, I did so much of it alone, in a hostile world that knew nothing of what transgenders were. Therapists and psychiatrists knew nothing, and what little was published was generally wrong.
But I endured. I suffered the loss of my first marriage, and a level of alienation with my son, and the rejection of relatives. I have lost jobs as well, and had careers dismantled because I was trans, but still living in the shadows, struggling with my inner self against my outward image.
Like so much in life, there is a watershed moment, a crisis point, where everything changes, and I was no different. I was a teacher, struggling with my word, even though I loved it, with having to hide who I was by day, until I was attacked by a student and left disabled. I have already been suffering with other disabilities, but this last one was more than I could handle. I walked away from teaching, and walked away from my fake life.
I was fortunate though in being in a marriage where my wife always knew, and always supported, and this last decision she was fully behind me, but I still needed to do something beyond sitting at home in pain and having my life pass by. I did have my passions, and outings, friends and even family, but it wasn’t enough.
When my foster daughter died, my world collapsed. Killed the day after her birthday in a single car roll-over, she died instantly, but it changed me. I didn’t want to be strong for anybody, but I had to be. Others around me hurt also, but I fell into depression. On the heels of this, my wife had a stroke, and then Ovarian cancer, and depression or not, I had to fight for somebody else again. We got past both of these, and she has remained cancer free, but the stroke had a horrible side affect…dementia, which raised its head a decade later. I still have to be strong, but where do I get my strength with so much constant pain?
Religiously I was never dogmatic. Raised a Lutheran, I went to church in my youth, but as I got older, I drifted away. It never dimmed my faith in God or Christ, but I found no solace in the structures of a formal religion. I also felt unwanted because of who I am. No church seemed to call to me with welcome and hope. In the midst of the death of my daughter, and my wife’s illness though, I came into a church family that welcomed me with open arms. It wasn’t so much the denomination, which at that time was the Metropolitan Community Church, but it was the people, and the Pastor. I spoke to him about becoming a deacon, but he felt something more in me, and within a year, I found myself, openly trans, attending Seminary Graduate School, and four years later graduating with my Masters in Divinity.
During those years, I preached, I did what outreach I could, always with the belief in my heart that there was a place in church, and religion, for transgenders. As things progressed, I encountered more who were, mostly transmen, but that was important. A year after I graduated, I was ordained as a Reverend, a very proud moment, and a major accomplishment, and two years after, I transferred to the United Church of Christ.
My faith journey is by no means complete. But on that journey I have learned a great deal so far, and I continue to speak out on a religious, faith platform for Transgenders. My voice is not as loud as the Haters out there who say that transgenders are an abomination and hated by God, but I will resist that hate and preach a different message of Love every change I get. I do so because I know something the haters don’t know…I know that the Bible, which they seem ignorant of, speaks to us all, in hope and compassion and love, and yes, even to transgenders. We too are in the Bible, albeit referred as eunuchs in scripture, but that is us. Highly respected in the courts and finer homes in antiquity, we served in trusted capacity others unlike us were not trusted to. We are mentioned by Jesus in Matthew, were he identifies himself with the transgender, and finally, as the first non-Jew convert to Christianity in the Bible with the Ethiopian transgender in Acts 8.
Such praise and recognition in scripture placed who I am in life, and how I serve in church into a brighter light. I know, after all these years, that God looks on all of us with love, and with the special gifts we have as transgenders, we are even more loved. Do not let your gift go to waste. Be proud of who you are as a person, and remember, you are a child of God, and blessed for it.
I make no plea for you to join a church. That is up to you. But I do say to all who feel they have been turned away by the hate from so many pulpits, that hearts and minds, and times, have changed. Along with the Metropolitan Community Church and the Church of Christ, the Disciples of Christ, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA), the Episcopal Church, the Presbyterian Church of the USA, and even elements of the United Methodist Church welcome us in compassionate love.
I know they rarely seek us out, or go into the trans community and try and convert. That is not our way for the most part. But the doors are open, as well as the hearts. There are still the haters and fear mongers who do not know Christ, and they still make a lot of noise, and even inspire violence in their words. Stay away from them. They will be judged in time. But there is much hope still out there. I found it, and I became a part of it. So, I welcome you, in love. I welcome you into my own church in North Hollywood, California, and I welcome you into our Virtual Reality church in Second Life at First UCC SL. In short, I welcome you to a safe place in love.