Heart and Soul
"What's confusing about being trans?"
Well ... some of us have it all together, but a lot like a bit of mental and spiritual encouragement in our day. Here are some articles and thoughts designed to help lift your spirit and brighten your smile.
God Doesn't Have Boobs
Well-meaning Christians who don’t understand how someone can be transgender often quote the Bible to defend their dislike, disapproval or fear of someone who is transgender. It gives them a safe and what they feel is a Biblically based reason to justify how they feel about people who are transgender.
I’ll admit that there a few Christians out there (I know, I’m being kind) who just like to use the Bible to bully other people as if to let the world know just how holy they are – because they understand EXACTLY what God meant for every person in every situation. But those people are fortunately very few compared to the majority who would, if you asked them, admit that they simply don’t know everything.
But whether it be from trepidation or pomposity, there are a few verses in the Bible used by Christian to justify their belief that God disapproves of people who are transgender, we call them “clobber verses.” We call them that because they are usually used in a self-righteous way as if to beat down the “sinning” person into some sort of repentance.
The Hebrew word for male is pronounced zā-ḵār. The Hebrew word for female is ū·nə·qê·ḇāh. Both of these words refer to the biological makeup of the individual. It’s not specific to humans. The same words are used in Genesis 7 where in the story of the flood, Noah was to bring in a pair of each animal and “every kind of bird, male and female…”
My point is that God doesn’t have arms and legs like we do, nor does He have wings or beaks like birds or a tail like a horse. There is no scripture that hints that birds, frogs or any other animals were made in the image of God. Only humans. He made us male and female because it’s a pretty convenient way to keep all the species around generation after generation.
And when He made us male and female, He also wired us differently – literally. As you know our brains are divided into two hemispheres. One difference is that men have more connections within each hemisphere. Women, however, have more connections BETWEEN hemispheres.
Brains between men and women differ structurally as I mentioned previously, but also chemically and hormonally.
Men and women THINK differently. Perhaps you remember the book “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus”. It’s true. Men and women react differently, interact differently, talk differently, have different emotional needs.
So when Genesis speaks of how we were created in His image, it’s not talking about our physical bodies. God doesn’t have boobs. We are ALL created in the image of God. There are different aspects of God that are more common in men, and other aspects that are more common in women. Yet we are not clones of each other. Each one of us is unique. It’s what makes the world go around.
Read the full article here: Transfigured Hearts
Discovering Abby & Becoming Myself
It was the day after Thanksgiving 2006. My entire extended family had gathered at my brother’s “cabin” on the banks of the South Fork of the Snake River for a traditional turkey dinner the day before. My mother and step-dad went home to Pocatello after dinner, but the rest of us stayed overnight, sleeping on couches or wherever else we could find a soft spot.
I started telling people I was going to transition over the Labor Day weekend.
After much worry and discussion, I decided the best time to tell my family would be when everyone was together for Thanksgiving. However, I didn’t want to disrupt Thanksgiving dinner, so I told everyone that I had an announcement for the family that I wanted to make the next day.
My father died of cancer in 2000. A few years later my mom remarried to a man she had known since high school and whose wife had died a few years before. They reconnected at the Baptist Church I attended as a child. I had only met him briefly and was a little nervous about his reaction, because of his Christian background. It didn’t help any when the first question he asked of one of my cousins he hadn’t met before was “Have you been saved?”
I was already living mostly full time as Abby by then, so it was torture being there with everyone and pretending to be the guy they all had known for so many years. (I was 53.)
Plus, everyone was curious and asking about my announcement. I simply told them they would have to wait.
Fortunately, Thanksgiving dinner went well. I even managed to not be totally shutdown with worry about what would happen the next day.
The next morning, after breakfast and coffee, I gathered everyone together in the living room. There were 20 or so people there, some of whom I didn’t know very well. I sat on the hearth facing them with one of my daughters on each side of me. (I had told them and my ex a couple days before. All was well with them.)
I had written a long, and (I thought) heartfelt letter to read, so I could be sure that I said everything that I needed to say. I told them about how difficult and sad my life had been and how I had embarked on a spiritual journey to learn how to be happy, something that I had never learned.
It was that journey that led to me peeling off the layers of fear and shame that had protected and cut me off from the world. Underneath, I discovered Abby.
I cried as I read the letter. There wasn’t much emotion on the faces listening to my words.
After I finished, everyone was quiet. My sister, an evangelical missionary who has helped found churches all over the world, told me she didn’t agree with what I was doing, but still loved me. She gave me a hug and we parted.
My older brother and I had never gotten along very well, but we saw each and our families from time to time over the years. Just before I left, I said goodbye to my brother. He shook my hand and said “Good Luck.” He hasn’t spoken to me since.
I planned to tell my mom alone, so we would both be more comfortable. I had two hours driving to Pocatello to ponder what was about to happen. After I arrived, my mom and my step-dad sat on the couch; I sat across from them. I started reading the same letter I read to the rest of my family, but I didn’t get very far before my mom interrupted and asked, “Do you have any pictures?” I had prepared for that question before I left Arizona, so I sat between them and began scrolling through the pictures on my laptop. Within five minutes, my mom was talking to me about shoes and hairstyles and electrolysis. I was so grateful there was no drama.
My family was never much for hugs, but that night, as we were going to bed, my mom gave me a hug and said, “You do whatever you need to do to be happy, and we’ll adjust.” And they have.
The next spring, my mom got to meet me as Abby for the first time.
They had a summer place in northern Arizona, so I arranged to spend a weekend with them there. Shortly after I arrived, some neighbors from the local church my mom and step-dad attended stopped by. I, of course, was a little nervous about meeting strangers, but my mom didn’t miss a beat. She turned to them and said, “This is my daughter Abby.” I couldn’t have asked for more.
I became a member of the Unity Church in Prescott, Arizona, in 1995. Before I attended as Abby for the first time, I warned the pastor and a few others, but I was still a little nervous. As it turned out, my first Sunday as Abby was Mother’s Day. When I walked in, the greeters handed me a yellow rose, as they did with all the other mothers.
As I found a place among in the sanctuary, I remembered that the pastor would ask all the mothers to stand to be blessed by the congregation, just as he did with the fathers on Father’s Day. I debated whether it would be better for me to stand with the mothers or the fathers. It didn’t take long to decide that standing with the mothers on Mother’s Day was likely to cause less consternation.
Read the full article here: Believe Out Loud
Wild Wise Woman
I believe transgender people are highly spiritual beings and for centuries have been systematically removed from our divinely ordered place in society.
As a trans woman, I depend on spiritual expression to communicate to the world who I am, when my body often betrays me.
Because of this betrayal, I have yet to feel completely connected to my body. I’ve spent my entire life trying to restore balance to my mind, body, and spirit, but I’m still in recovery from the spiritual violence and trauma I experienced from folded hands in prayer.
Spiritual Trauma happens when the very essence of who you are is under attack, denying access to life-saving truth, especially at early ages when your sense of being is beginning to manifest. Long-term effects of spiritual trauma include “unpredictable emotions, flashbacks, and strained relationships”, and although these feelings are normal, many trans people have difficulty moving on with their lives surviving a devastating blow to their sense of self.
When pain prevails and dominates the trans experience, many of us develop forms of mental illness, dysphoria, addiction and other symptoms that are sometimes fatal.
Without some sort of spiritual practice, it is nearly impossible to get through the gauntlet of transition scot-free.
Growing up, Sunday was one of my favorite days of the week. My mom, my little brother and I would all get dressed up in our Sunday’s best. My step-father, however, never came with us to church. He was extremely skeptical of “the church.”
“I went to church with your mother once, and they started hollering and speaking in tongues and jumping all around,” he would say as he got up off the couch to act out his comical re-enactment, “and then right before this woman was about to fall out from the holy ghost, she pauses, takes a few side steps to the left and BOOM!” he said smacking his right hand into his left, “Fell out! As if she knew if she fell in that spot she would hit her head. Now I could be wrong, maybe the holy ghost told her to move two steps to the left to help her out!”
We would all laugh knowing he was being funny, but also being honest. “Ya’ll go ahead, have fun, tell Jesus I said hello” as he sat back on the couch and flipped between a few football games on TV. To him, it was all one big show.
The show began with an A & B selection from the choir, followed by a charismatic performance from the pastor on deck. Some members were more obvious than others in the fact that they were only there to see the show or to be in it. Greater Grace Temple Church of God in Christ was no doubt home to one of the best choirs around. The smell of polished wood, old bibles, perfume and cologne worn by the elders of the church seemed to welcome you as soon as you opened the doors to the sanctuary.
Sister Brown, the choir director, was one of my early fem-spirations growing up.
I was hypnotized by the way her hair bounced from left to right as she directed the choir. And she could sing. Boy could she sing. Sitting in the pews many days I daydreamed of going home with them after church. The whole family was musically talented. They were like the gospel version of the Jackson Five. Her husband and her son played the drums and the piano, their daughter also sang effortlessly.
I often wondered what it would be like to live in their house, to be a part of their family. At our house, I was always going around singing, sometimes in full phrases, other times it would just be short bursts of notes in hums, oohs and yeahs. “Go sing in the closet” my father yelled as he turned up the TV. To this day, I still burst out in song at any given time of the day. Usually when I reach a point of extreme joy or sadness, I can’t help but let out what I’m feeling in song.
After school, I would hang out in the stairwells and play with the acoustics as I sang songs I heard in Church and secretly wanted to one day have the courage to audition for the solo part. “Speak to my heart, Holy Spirit, Give me the words, that will bring new life. Words on the wings of the morning, the dark night will fade away, if you speak to my heart.”
When I got home from school, I would retreat to my room most days where I learned to piano by ear on my little Casio keyboard around the 4th grade.
I didn’t like going outside and playing with my brothers and the boys. I didn’t like getting dirty. I didn’t like how hot the sun was in the summer. My mother also didn’t like me being out in the sun.
“Boy you better stay out of that sun, or you’re gonna get as black as your bicycle seat” she would say, revealing some of her many internalized oppressive thoughts that would eventually bind us together as I evolve into her daughter, her reflection, as a black women who is denied her truth. My journey would turn out to also be hers, a continuation of unfinished business.
My ancestors, both black and Native American, gifted me with rich dark skin and high cheek bones; with spirituality and religion. With that I also inherited the spiritual trauma my people faced for centuries. Our souls pillaged by white supremacy and cloaked in salvation.
Historically we’ve been seen as savages needing to be saved, and wild women who need to be controlled.
Generations of oppression created an internalization of lies in the form of thoughts and action that my grandmother, my mother, and myself learned to give and take as truth. When we as women lie to ourselves, we lie to our daughters.
“Forgive them, for they know not what they do.” My mother lied to me and for that I forgive her. She had not been told the truth either and therefore was unable to give what she didn’t already have. Of course, I didn’t always have such a namaste attitude towards it all.
Finding my truth is what set me free, unbinding me from the suffering and the lies that muffled the voices and suffocated the spirits of my ancestors. Wild, wise, women raise their voices, and speak truth in spirit.
To speak truth, you must be clear, to be clear, you must be disciplined in your actions, in your practice at being human.
How do you respond to the moments of your life? It may not always be easy, but it is always the goal to respond with love.
Source: Believe OutLoud
Study Reveals Positive Aspects of Being Transgender
Ellen Riggle and Sharon Scales Rostosky published The Positive Aspects of a Transgender Identity in The Journal of Psychology and Human Sexuality.
They used data from 40 transgender participants were analysed for thematic occurrence. Only 10% felt there were no positive aspects of being transgender while the remainder answered with several positive themes including: congruency of self; enhanced interpersonal relationships; personal growth and resiliency; spiritual growth; increased empathy; a unique perspective on both sexes; being beyond the sex binary; increased activism; and connection to the LGBTQ communities.
Almost half of the participants in the survey cited the congruency between their inner feelings and outer appearances as a positive aspect of claiming a transgender identity. For some, this congruency resulted from self-identification as transgender, thus giving a label to and starting to normalise their feelings. For others, the congruency came from transitioning from one sex to the other. The congruency sometimes included being able to express their inner feelings through their choice of clothing or manner of style. A transgender identity allowed several participants to express ‘honesty’, ‘truth’ and ‘unity within yourself ’, which they had not previously been able to experience. Some participants expressed that they had been living with a ‘sense of denial towards a true part of their personhood’ before transitioning. Congruency brought feelings of ‘true peace’, ‘relief ’ and ‘being whole’.
As a ‘woman who must live with a male shell’ stated, embracing a transgender identity had a ‘calming effect [that] has allowed me to begin growing as a complete person for the first time in my life’ [age 61, father of two, married to a woman]. For a ‘straight man’, 37, transitioning to a male body meant having ‘an exterior that you can more readily identify with. You can live the life that you know should be yours, [not] being stuck in a foreign body ... being whole, happy, and peaceful.’ For a participant who had transitioned to a female body, ‘transition taught me courage, truthfulness, authenticity, love, honour – all the things the pop psychology books try to sell’ [‘bisexual, female’, age 36]. For another group of participants, expressing their gender through clothing was an important part of living congruently. A participant who self-described as a ‘normal woman’ stated, ‘It was horrible wearing a costume every day. [I feel] joy at being able to dress and interact as a woman ... picking the clothes I will wear each day, brushing and drying my hair just right’ [age 57, ‘straight, female’]. An ‘asexual, transgender’ (age 18) participant indicated, ‘I can wear any clothes I like since neither men’s nor women’s really applies (or fits properly).’ The importance of congruency for some participants is illustrated by their statements about prior depression, substance abuse and suicidality. One ‘straight, transgender FTM’ (age 40) individual commented, ‘Since allowing myself to be the person I am, my suicidal depression has completely vanished. I am more self-confident.’ Another participant stated, ‘It was horrible wearing a costume every day. [I feel] the burden of hiding and guilt lifted. [T´vm] not hiding in bottles of alcohol anymore’ [age 57, ‘normal woman,’ straight].
Personal Growth and Resiliency
Over a third of the sample reported that a positive aspect of transgender identification was the personal growth and resilience they experienced. Many linked being ‘more self-confident’, ‘stronger’ and ‘more self-aware’ with their transgender identity. For one participant, a transgender identity was linked to ‘gaining good introspective abilities, getting to know oneself well, learning how to stand up for oneself ’. Meeting and overcoming challenges from a variety of sources, internal and external, contributed to this sense of personal growth and resilience. A 57-year-old ‘trans, gender Psychology & Sexuality 151 evolving’ participant reported, ‘I wouldn’t wish my life on anyone, but if I had the choice to be transgender, I would do it all over again. All the problems have made me a much stronger and better person.’ Another participant simply stated, ‘I am stronger and wiser because of my struggles as a transgender individual’ [age 22, ‘gay genderqueer’].
One in 10 participants specifically indicated that their transgender identity was linked to their spiritual growth and referenced a variety of religious and spiritual traditions. A 40-year-old ‘straight, transgender, FTM’ participant stated, ‘I am experiencing true spiritual growth now because I have come closer to understanding God is the one that created me in His image.’ Another participant wrote, ‘I’ve become stronger in my faith because I have had to decide to follow the spirit rather than heterosexist rules’ [age 25, ‘genderqueer, mandyke, lesbiman, queer’]. A couple of participants referenced identification with the Native American ‘two-spirit’ people and the strength that implied. A 57-year-old ‘bisexual, trans-woman’ described her transition as, ‘a sacred and spiritual experience [that] gave me an understanding of what Buddhists call “attachment to desires” and when I lost those attachments I felt as though I had entered a new world’.
More than one in four respondents indicated that a transgender identity allowed them to experience increased empathy for others. Empathy emerged as a general sensitivity to the feelings of others as well as to injustices suffered by members of other minority groups. For some, the empathy was general. For example, participants stated that ‘it gives me empathy with others in a way I didn’t have before’ or ‘being more accepting of others’. For some, it was empathy with both sexes. A 36-year-old ‘straight, female’ participant wrote about understanding the ‘cultural pressures males and females operate under and use against each other’. A 33-year-old ‘genderqueer’ participant wrote that, ‘experiencing discrimination definitely lends more empathy to others’ causes’. For a 36-year-old ‘straight woman’, ‘transition taught me empathy and taught me to take a stand for others’. For another participant, ‘Being trans has helped me understand and empathize with other people’s struggles in a way I could not otherwise. It makes me think about my world in a way that not being trans could never do’ [age 29, ‘trans, queer’]. A 37-year-old ‘transsexual, transman’ participant reflected, ‘It has forced me to think about stereotyping, about being and feeling marginalized, and has increased my empathy with others in minority groups or on the margins. I think I have become a more sensitive, thoughtful, and compassionate person.’
Positive Interpersonal Relationships
One in six participants noted the positive interpersonal relationships that they experienced when family and friends accepted their sex or gender expression. One respondent eloquently stated, ‘The act of self-disclosure, when done with sensitivity toward the person you are sharing with, is a liberating experience, and while potentially scary because you risk rejection, it is probably the single most important thing you can do towards mental, emotional, [and] physical health’ [age 39, ‘transsexual, questioning’]. Respondents indicated that their relationships strengthened as they informed their spouses or children about their transgender identity. A participant who has been living ‘fully identified as a woman’ wrote, ‘My wife has totally accepted me, [she] sees me as I really am without the need to withhold any feelings I have’ [age 61, ‘lesbian female’]. A 61-year-old participant poignantly noted, 152 E.D.B. Riggle et al. I don’t think I feel any positives, however my daughter says I wouldn’t be the same person to her if I wasn’t transie so she says it’s a good thing. Come to think of it the closeness with my daughter is a positive thing [‘transgender, bisexual, feminine woman’].
The most common theme, mentioned by half of the participants in the sample, was having a ‘unique perspective’ or insight into both sexes/genders. For some, this unique perspective was the result of their experiences of being perceived as both male and female. For others, this unique perspective came about from transitioning and experiencing hormonal changes such that they felt they had experienced living as each sex. for several participants, having experience as each sex allowed them to identify male privilege and also understand the oppression of women. An ‘FTM, butch dyke, lesbian’ participant [age 57] stated that, Being not ‘one or the other’ but being ‘both and’ is a place of privilege that allows me insights into the complexities of gender identities and gender relationships that many people do not experience. Being transgender presents a challenge to accepted thinking and stereotypes and encourages us all to examine our own prejudices and blinkered views. For another participant, the transition process allowed the valued insight, I have had the experience of going through puberty two times, once as a female and once as a male. ... PMS is terrible for women. I am one of the few men in the world who really understands what they go through. Also, I understand menopause because I’ve technically gone through that as well.
Living Beyond the Binary
Over one-third of the sample’s participants reported that living beyond the gender/sex binary was a positive aspect of transgender identity. These participants appreciated the opportunity to challenge gender norms and the stereotypes of a male or female identity. Some participants described gender as ‘fluid’; others found the female/male binary to limit their self-expression. One participant wrote, ‘To be bound as a “woman” or “man” is stifling’ [age 18, ‘free, bisexual, female’]. Another participant responded, ‘I don’t need to worry about whether my behavior suits my gender because there are no set rules for “transgender” the way there are for “man” and “woman” ’ [age 22, ‘no label, transgender’]. For some participants, experiencing both gender roles led them to see themselves as gender ‘ambassadors’ who could ‘translate’ between the sexes. For others, their gender experiences allowed them to express themselves more fully. As one 27-year-old ‘feminine male, gay transman’ participant wrote, ‘I think it is positive to not be at a complete end of either the male or female sides of the gender spectrum, but exactly smack dab in the middle. A perfect balance.’
Greater Social Activism
Just under one-forth of participants saw their activism as a positive aspect of transgender identity. Activism took the form of being a role model and educating others, as well as general social justice work. Activism provided a way to make the transgender community ‘visible’. Some participants educated others about transgender identity in the classroom or at their church to dispel stereotypes. One participant stated, Psychology & Sexuality 153 It is important to me to be an advocate and educate audiences about misconceptions and stereotypes. It is even better when I am able to educate them through my own experience as a transgendered individual and my identity as a gay man [age 27, ‘transman, FTM’]. For one participant, ‘living openly as transgender’ was seen as being, ‘an inspiration to others, from trans-identified people to non-trans identified people. In fact, more non-trans people thank me for having the courage to express and say who I am ... for teaching and sharing with them’ [age 27, ‘transgender, genderqueer, FTM, gay’]. Many participants expressed the desire to ‘fight for civil rights’. One participant, a 43- year-old ‘polysexual, polyamorous, transman’, stated, ‘I do not allow discrimination for any reason ... either grandma raised me right or by being an intelligent Transsexual, I learned to fight for right instead of just being a victim.’ Engaging in social activism also created a path to community. A 57-year-old ‘bisexual, trans-woman’ wrote, ‘Another way I have found positive things is by being active in the [fight for] civil rights for GLBT persons. To be able to work for those protections is very rewarding.’
Links to the GLBTQ community
Being a part of a transgender community or the larger GLBTQ community was a positive aspect noted by 13% of participants. Supportive relationships within the transgender and GLBTQ communities were perceived to lead to increases in self-acceptance and understanding. A participant stated, ‘It’s nice to have a supportive community of those who know what it is you are going through’ [age 23, ‘trans, queer, male’]. A 33-year-old ‘genderqueer’ participant stated, One positive aspect is my relationship to the trans and queer community. I feel like my gender and sexuality have a home in a unique culture. Having trans and queer space means I always have a place where I can get and lend support, and can have access to activities and events geared toward the community. Whereas in the mainstream culture my identity would be marginalized, in trans and queer spaces, it is celebrated and normalized. Another participant stated, ‘I feel fortunate to have people in my life who are wonderful friends and who I can trust that they accept me because they know and have accepted my “difference” ’ [age 40, ‘queer transman’].
Read and Download the full Study Here: ResearchGate
Open the Locks with Love
My hope is that by being openly-transgender, people will see our truths more clearly. How sad that any young person would not be able to believe they can be their authentic self. My heart is broken but my resolve is re-doubled again.
I hate the ignorance and the religious intolerance that precipitates actions like the ones chosen by Leelah Alcorn.
I hate the fear and the refusal to acknowledge the simple science that aligns with the diversity of God, or nature, or even the science itself. We are all different.
The notion that my body tells my mind and soul who I am on the gender spectrum is utterly absurd. I hate that this simple truth has ever been, or would ever be, a point of contention. It is not possible for anyone other than me to know my gender. But I cannot hate the people whose actions and beliefs are at the very root of why a transgender teenager would find it necessary to end their own life.
Believe me, it’s not because I don’t want to hate them. Every ounce of my being screams out to hate them, to punish them, to destroy their evil wickedness.
Every cell in my “XY” body and every cell in my “XX” brain are concurrently exploding in anger and pain.
I have stood in the meeting rooms of city councils and state legislatures and I have listened to person after person come to the podium to denounce my humanness and the humanness and dignity and value of all people who are transgender. I have spent the wee hours of the morning on the phone with transgender teenagers who are trying to find just one reason why their lives have meaning; why they shouldn’t just end their pain.
Martin Luther King, Jr. understood the dynamics of effective change. “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
Jesus understood the same thing. “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you." (Matthew 5:44)
Hate is not the answer. Hate will never bring about the change we hope to see.
Only love can open the doors that are locked.
A few years ago, I began to understand what was needed to open these doors, and I wrote these words that have sort of become my mantra:
Knowledge and information are the keys to acceptance and understanding. Fear and ignorance are the locks. When one person shares, a key is placed in a lock. When one person listens, the key turns and the lock opens and another human being has a bright new shiny key. Together, one person at a time, we change the world.
Where does the hate stop? Should we all hate Rush Limbaugh, and Bryan Fischer, and Tony Perkins? Should we hate the Human Rights Campaign for abandoning transgender people in 2007? Should we all hate John Boehner for not putting ENDA up for a vote?
Where does it stop? Should we hate all the people who believe being gay or transgender is a sin? Should we hate the people who don’t have a problem with LGBT, but go to the polls and vote for candidates who do have a problem?
How is all of this hate going to make things better?
I know that the road to change is paved with the bricks of love. I have seen in my own journey as doors that would seem to be locked forever have opened and light has replaced the darkness that lived there before.
Please don’t misunderstand me. Love is not quiet. Love is not hidden. Love is not a way of seeing things. It is, it must be, a way of doing things. My friend Caela, who is the pastor of First Congregational United Church of Christ in Manhattan, Kansas, responded to my Facebook post that is repeated as the opening paragraph to this blog.
She said, "Resolve is strengthened to do better, to do more, to love loudly." This is the answer. It is the only answer. Perhaps we could try to find a way to love those who harm us.
This is the only possible response that will bring about the change we hope to see.
Last year, I started the Transgender Faith Tour. I was able to visit several faith institutions in Kansas, Oklahoma, and Missouri and share this message of love. I saw doors open that seemed to be locked forever. This next year is already promising possibilities for visits to churches in Arkansas and Florida, perhaps more.
The last thing we need to do is to hate those who harm us. The only thing that can make it different is unconditional love. Does your institution of faith have the knowledge and information it needs? Maybe, someone like me could come to a church like yours and place a key in the lock.
Maybe, if even one person listens, the key will turn and the lock will open.
Read the full article here: Believe Out Loud
Transgender pastor celebrated at renaming service
By Caitlin Mota
The Jersey Journal
HOBOKEN – Churchgoers attending Sunday service at St. Matthew Trinity Lutheran Church celebrated the renaming of their pastor.
The Rev. Rose Beeson has been transitioning from woman to man since last summer, sharing the journey with parishioners.
After giving a sermon on what is known in the church as Transfiguration Sunday, the Rev. Tracie Bartholomew, bishop of the New Jersey congregation, held a "renaming ceremony" where Beeson will now be called Peter.
Parishioners watched on at the bishop blessed Beeson with holy water from the baptismal fountain in the back of the church.
"Will you be a beacon of welcome and inclusivity for those who are yearning for a Christian community," church council president Leslie Neve asked the congregation.
All replied "we will."
Read the full story here: NJ.com
A Gospel Message for Queer People of Faith
This article is for everyone who’s been kicked out.
If you have lost your home, your loved ones, your faith community—this is for you.
If standing in your truth is a sin, we’ve all made the fatal error. When waking up, living, breathing are de facto outside of your community’s moral bounds, and you are screwed by your own honesty, you are in the best company.
I thought about this often in the years after I left the Church. I nourished my faith in saints that faced both the persecution of their own time and the shadow of later generations’ discomfort and judgment.
When Pope Gregory the Great proclaimed that the three Marys mentioned in the gospels were all the one Mary Magdalene, it was easy for believers to reduce the rich image of Jesus’ closest disciple and model of a gentle loving heart to nothing other than a reformed prostitute. In the hands of Renaissance masters, she shrank into a destitute penitent, tortured by her own history and sexuality.
And if it weren’t for St. Joseph’s patience, the Virgin Mary would have been a destitute divorcée in a culture that had a legal case to stone her to death.
Growing up, I took refuge in those ancient stories.
I had been sexually abused from a young age and identified with the early women whose character was automatically questioned and smeared by thinkers, theologians, and artists.
Nobody but Jesus had one nice thing to say about the woman who anointed Jesus’ feet. Everyone was too concerned that when she sat at his feet and listened, yearning for his teaching, that it proved her laziness and poor work ethic.
Jesus was the only man who advocated for her and saw her worth. When she broke down and washed his feet with her tears, the male disciples crowded around complaining she was wasteful with her money.
As I became an adult and transitioned medically and socially from boyhood to womanhood, I also confronted growing instances of discrimination and marginalization.
A college graduate that speaks four languages, I suddenly became unemployable.
My housing was no longer stable. I had to sell my body in order to put food in my own mouth and keep my place of living for just a little longer. I, too, found myself in a culture that only valued my sexuality, at the expense of a rich life yearning for value and human connection.
In those dark moments, I knelt before icons of the Blessed Virgin and asked for her protection. I sought out the comfort of Jesus’ words, and like Mary Magdalene I tried to follow his passion through the mysteries of the rosary.
While the male disciples had mostly already fled, Magdalene found herself under the cross, and wept after Jesus when they placed the body in the tomb. When the other women ran to tell the community of faith that Jesus had conquered death at the resurrection, St. Mary Magdalene lingered in the garden, weeping for the man she loved so much, wondering where he could be. I wanted to follow with her, and I wondered at the hole I felt in my heart, asking why God wasn’t with me.
Even in those dark places of poverty, unemployment, and hunger, I was looking for Jesus.
I sought him in the faces of everyone entering my home and saw his hands in the hands that paid me so I could eat, and his face in my nightly visitors clouded with shame and loneliness. I saw that if God is in all of us, then God is not much different from me, and God can certainly find something to love in everyone.
St. Mary Magdalene was the first witness of Christ’s resurrection, the first to see his transformed face. She turned from tears to joy in moments, crying, “Master!” and reaching to grasp the one she loved. But in that moment, God called her to something higher. Jesus said, “Stop touching me."
Strange words from the one that loved her so much he defended her to his closest friends and followers. Strange for the man who only wept at his friend Lazarus’s death once he saw Magdalene’s tears.
Why would Jesus come back to his loved one only to refrain from physical connection?
And here is the answer that arrived to me through meditation: St. Magdalene loved Jesus in a close, physical way. She dared touch him and minister to him, considered him her teacher and friend. She was attached to his manifestation as a living, breathing, human being. And that was good.
But Jesus died. And when he came back to life, things were different. He had overcome his life so far that he had also overcome death, and so on back to his Father. It was time to make room for a deeper communion, a deeper connection to God than the previous manifestation allowed.
Because she had loved so deeply, it was St. Mary Magdalene who first received this message. Everything she knew had changed. By releasing one form of her maker, her teacher, and the man who loved her, she prepared for the greater communion that would occur at Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit entered each disciple and created a deeper community of love and faith.
She could not cling to what passed away. Instead, Jesus called her to look forward to something greater.
God asks the same of us when we lose everything we have. The physical is a wonderful vehicle to enjoy the good things of life, but the real challenge is to recognize them as such and look forward to an even deeper unity with God. With that unity, bitterness, shame, anger, and hurt can fall away, making way for a new life. This is the special secret of Magdalene’s life—not unrelenting remorse for her womanhood, not disgrace for her past.
No, the real message of St. Mary Magdalene is this: To love deeply is to ultimately release, so that a greater love may take its place.
Those of us who have been kicked out, shamed, and hurt, receive this special blessing from God. Our inheritance is strength, unity, acceptance and love.
This inheritance lasts forever, no matter if anyone else can recognize it.
We all have an intimate place for us in God’s love, and no matter the people who stand aside and denounce us, we are welcome at Christ’s feet and—ultimately—into a family that stretches back as far as our faith.
Photo via flickr user Lawrence OP; Originally published in August 2015
Story written by Leslie Rouser. Original Article can be found here: Believe Out Loud
Why Transgender is a Gift of the Holy Spirit - by Shirley Boughton
What makes us transgendered? Why are we transgendered? Is it a blessing or a curse? These are questions I have struggled with for a lifetime. The answers seem somehow critical to my very survival as well as my ability to accept myself as a transgendered person. My personality drives me to dig deeply into who I am and why.
The question for many of us who are transgendered is whether our transgender nature is a result of a mistake of nature (akin to a club foot) which should be fixed, or whether we have been deliberately designed by the divine creator for a special spiritual purpose. Do we need to seek medical assistance to conform our bodies to match our brain patterns so we can better fit into a two-gender society, or do we represent a third gender with a specific role to play? Do we shape our bodies and our forms of dress to fit gender stereotypes, or do we do these things to achieve harmony with our soul? I have now come to believe my transgenderism was hard-wired before I was born, and that the divine architect intended this for a reason.
A relatively small number of us have begun to address the spiritual implications inherent in the existence of transgendered individuals. I believe our individual spirituality is deeply connected to and flows from our biologic reality and is shaped by the particular culture into which we are born. Scripture tells us, ?Truly you have formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother?s womb. I give you thanks that I am fearfully, wonderfully made; wonderful are your works.? [Psalms 139:13-14] Or, drawing from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, ?The Lord called me from birth, from my mother?s womb he gave me my name.? [Isaiah 49:1] As a transgendered person, I am a child of God and I am wonderfully made.
A Native American Perspective
Holly Boswell has been one of the leaders in exploring transgender spirituality. She and her partner, Zantui Rose, sponsor spiritual retreats for transgendered persons at their retreat center in the mountains near Asheville, N.C. Holly?s paper ?The Spirit of Transgender? can be accessed through a link on the Kindred Spirits website . One of Holly?s references is an anthropological study by Will Roscoe entitled The Zuni Man-Woman, which describes the role of transgendered persons amongst the Zuni people, a native North American tribe.
Since there is no recognition of a legitimate transgender role in the society in which we live, it is instructive to look to other cultures and other times for clues to our spiritual identity. Roscoe?s book focuses on the life of a transgendered Zuni from the late 19th Century. We?wha was a biologic male and a recognized and respected member of his tribe who lived, worked and dressed as a Zuni woman from early childhood until death near the age of 50.
Zuni society is a matriarchy in which men and women have distinct roles based upon mutuality and respect for all aspects of creation. They strive to live in the middle place, between extremes of any kind, including those of gender, which is the most fundamental rift that divides human from human. Their origin myths and religion have this balance as a central tenet, and one of their most prominent gods is transgendered. The role of this god was to contribute a corrective influence upon the ruptures of social specialization. All Zunis were to strive for a balance between their feminine and masculine selves, but the transgendered persons among them served as concrete examples by freely moving in both male and female social worlds. They helped both men and women reach a greater understanding of each other and themselves. The Zunis attributed transgendered individuals with multidimensional personalities that express important aspects of an archetype of wholeness. The transgender identity, once crystallized, was as strong as that of male or female identity, entailing a complete constellation of skills, attitudes and behaviors. In short, the Zuni transgendered functioned as a third gender, neither male nor female but, encompassing aspects of both.
Originally appeared in Transgender Tapestry #097, Spring 2002.
Read the full article at The International Foundation for Gender Education
Danielle McGrogan Rises Against All Odds
Imagine being born into a world where you were never able to be your true self. A place that forced you to manifest from the outside in, rather than the inside out. My desire wasn’t the kind that could hurt anyone or anything, but it was against every moral and societal code that existed in my world. In all honesty, I didn’t want to write this article, but a deal is a deal. Join me on part of my journey toward enlightenment and learn how I removed the shackle of judgment.
It was October 2011. I was 30 years old, overweight, an alcoholic and unhappy. I was shopping for a new diet; one that would not only help me become healthier but help me transition into the life I felt I needed to live.
I had a vision for myself, however, and it was going to take radical change. I was planning on progressively changing my gender from man to woman. This wasn’t something I decided as an adult; this was something I dreamed about ever since my earliest memories as a toddler.
I have always gravitated toward femininity. I can’t explain why, but it’s just the way my brain works. The problem is, in the world in which I grew up, boys weren’t allowed to be feminine. As a child, I would be corrected and told no when I would be caught playing with makeup or girl’s things. This wasn’t my parents’ or teachers’ fault; this was just how society was programmed. So I conformed but continued embracing this side of myself in secret.
My transition began during the fall 2011. I had had enough of living a lie and couldn’t continue anymore. I was so unhappy. I weighed 242 pounds, had a size 42 waist and could barely tie my shoes without losing my breath. I also tried to quit drinking alcohol many times without any success. I knew I needed to start planning my escape from my current life. So I started to shop for a new diet because I figured my body would need to be functioning optimally with what I was going to put it through.
I stopped watching TV earlier that year, so in my free time, I read books. My main interest was U.S. history, but I would occasionally throw in a book on healthier eating. The very first dieting book I read was You: The Owner’s Manual. This book was good, but it didn’t quite have all the information I was looking for. It did inspire me, however, to learn how my body works. The next books I read were about being a vegetarian and vegan. Both of these diets sounded OK, but neither really caught my attention because, at the time, I wasn’t sympathetic toward saving animals. I was really just searching for a diet that would help me lose weight, provide me with the nutrients I needed and help me stop relying on doctors.
And then I found it. Raw food. The information was so simple and exactly what I was looking for. I first learned about eating raw while watching the documentary Food Matters. The rest was history. I loved eating raw so much. I knew I had a future in it but wasn’t sure where.
I was taking things slowly and going at my own pace. The changes were subtle, and as time went by, my clothing choices progressively became more feminine. After being on hormones for about three months, the holidays were approaching, and I needed to start telling people before I saw them in person. My family, who already knew my secret from my first round with hormones, didn’t know I was back on them, and my closest friends had no clue. What were they going to think of me? What would happen to my reputation? I am a small-business owner. What would happen to my business? Would I lose everything? The idea of having to tell so many people and losing any of them was terrifying to me, but it had to happen because I didn’t want to run away from everyone and everything I knew.
I felt lost and had a heart full of fear, and this is when I had my first real conversation with God. The interesting thing was, I wasn’t close with God, but I think once I hit rock bottom and had nobody else to put my trust in, I handed myself over in complete surrender. At the time, my ego was kicking and screaming, and it was time to put it in its place because I was no longer willing to live my life like a prisoner.
Read all of Danielle's story here: Fruit Powered
Transgender people are far more spiritually attuned
grateful and selfless than the general population, maintains a Vancouver-based researcher.
Lisa Salazar, a transgender masters student at Vancouver School of Theology, says she has discovered transgender people “are more than twice as likely to be spiritually touched by the beauty of creation, seven times more likely to be thankful for blessings and two-and-a-half times more likely to feel selfless caring for others.”
Salazar, who is about to graduate from Vancouver School of Theology, is also the author of a book, titled Transparently: Behind the Scenes of a Good Life. It describes how Santiago spent the first decades of her life as a married, heterosexual man, father of three children and devout Christian.
She was eventually diagnosed with gender dysphoria, a term she says describes the challenges, and opportunities, that some have with sexual identity. But it would take almost ten more years to reconcile this diagnosis with her Christian faith before she could decide to transition to womanhood.
...Key findings? There were several, including these: • On a daily basis, trans persons are more than twice as likely to be spiritually touched by the beauty of creation, seven times more likely to be thankful for blessings, two and a half times more likely to feel selfless caring for others, almost three times more likely to accept others even when they do things [they] think are wrong, and 25% more likely to desire to be closer to or in union with God/Higher Power, and in general, feel close to God/Higher Power, than the general population. • Being trans caused or compelled some to shed religious conditioning and dogma. For others, being trans has made their spirituality more authentic and honest, and has made them become more compassionate. For others, their spirituality has intensified and become transformative. And for the majority, being trans has made them feel more connected to God/Higher-Power, to others, and to life.
Read the full article at the Vancouver Sun.
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