Some of you have read most of this in previous posts over the years but I just submitted my coming out story to "Soulforce" as part of their "Repent Campaign" which is directed towards Fundamentalists. I present it to you here:
Coming out has been a long, painful, cathartic and ultimately very rewarding process. I will start with my conversion – itself a process with full of coincidence and comedy, and in the end God “got me” with his sense of humor.
Several times in my youth people shared the Gospel with me using the old standard Billy Graham “Steps to Peace with God” tract and I remember each one very clearly from 8 years old at a friend’s home up to and including the time I was riding with a friend in a loaner car while his new Toyota truck was in for repair and we found a copy of said tract in the glove box. We, being college-age smart-alecs, made a mockery of it by crossing out “God” and putting in “Toyota”, references to Jesus we changed to “your Toyota dealer” and several other things that made it hilarious and over the years we have laughed about it heartily. Sometimes I still do because this is how God woke me up to his existence in my life, all my life, all the way back through all those encounters with godly people and that little booklet – and may I say that it is still God’s sense of humor that endears me to him the most because we can laugh together – me with God. Go figure, laughing like school-children together hand-in-hand with God instead of at Him.
I would never have believed it possible until one Saturday afternoon in April of 1980 I was sitting alone in my apartment recovering from the previous day’s extreme drug abuse. I was a person deeply troubled by many issues that have only in the last few years become clear and some diagnosed and treated. I was severely ADHD and also it turns out transgender. In my struggles to cope I had turned to drugs for escape, to feel like I could be someone else, someone with some inner peace. Though the drugs always fell short of that goal it was the best I could do on my own to cope with being female on the inside and so obviously male on the outside and so screwed up in life; that inner turmoil never giving me any peace and always messing up my life at just the wrong moments – what a wretch I was. That Saturday I knew that without a doubt I was lost and without hope in the world after the bender I had been on, and then…
Two people at my door with a survey. It turned out to be a Campus Crusade for Christ survey being used by a local home based Church near my home. I invited them in and got them cokes to drink because it was a very warm So. Calif. day and they looked kind of worn out. We sat and I took the survey and we became friends as we laughed about stuff and made small-talk too. Just as they were getting ready to leave – Sandra asked if she could share a little book about the Gospel with me and out came that little Billy Graham booklet!
…Oh no! It couldn't be...
You know that sinking kinda feeling you get when you are busted with your hand in the cookie jar or when you know you are really caught in something wrong? Well, it was in that moment that God got me and I knew it. In that same instant I knew God and Jesus were real and in my life and had always been there just waiting for me to look them in the eye and believe, and I could feel them laughing and saying “gotcha!” So I promised to come to the Church meeting the following weekend, I did and I met lots of nice folks and made some friends and I seemed to fit in. Then a few weeks later I went to their big service, called the Rally, where all the home churches met and heard the Pastor preach and during that message I was convinced of my sin and need for salvation. I wanted to belong to Jesus with all my heart so I rushed forward and that night I put my trust in the Lord – that was May 4th 1980. I still have the recording of that sermon and I listen to it from time to time.
As a newbie I got involved in lots of stuff in the Church and continued to feel welcome and wanted, after a few years I even got married to a girl I met there and had 2 sons (who I was just reunited with earlier this year after being apart for many years). But as the euphoria of being newly saved wore off I became more and more aware of my old inner gender turmoil and the struggle with what I now know to be ADHD. Being unable to stay focused in times of stress and feeling like I was holding on to and keeping down a big dark blob in my soul pressed on me to the point I felt like maybe I wasn’t really “saved”. During that time my gay brother passed away from complications of AIDS – Kaposi’s lesions all the way into his lungs – it was an ugly death and the only “comfort” I got from the Pastor was being told (I paraphrase but this is the very gist of it) “Don’t feel too bad because you know he chose that lifestyle, so why don’t you pass out Gospel tracts at the funeral” (And I even did it – what a snot I was in those days).
As a result there was a lot of inner turmoil, doubt, self-hatred and self-loathing in my life and drugs started to become an escape from feeling again because I could no longer find help or understanding in the Church where, for a while I had even been the poster-child of “salvation from the evils of cross-dressing”. But still I towed the line of the Church and stayed very busy with the work and even participated in the Church’s reparative therapy sessions to no avail. But there came a day that I was thrown out of that church for disagreeing with the Pastor on a point of scripture – at least this was the proverbial last-straw – he wanted to sue another Church because some people had left our Church and started going to that other one and then started bad-mouthing us as being a cult and stuff like that. (Sadly much of what they said was true but I never mentioned I harbored such thoughts to anyone in those days but it weighed on my soul because I felt conflicted by it). I said we should not sue them but the Pastor twisted the words in Corinthians to imply that because they left us they were lost and not truly Christians or truly a Church and therefore they could be sued without violating Scripture. I disagreed, saying that we ought to be able to turn the other cheek and not air our dirty laundry in the courts. And it was about a week later I got a letter from the Church’s Associate Pastor dropping me from the Church and barring me from ever attending there again. That was the very same day my father died from Alzheimer’s disease and Lung Cancer. The Pastors knew I was struggling with this but cut me loose after 14 years of my faithful, obedient and zealous service without mercy or compassion.
I discovered that the love of God was no longer there in that place and that hurt to the core of my being. I felt so used and abused. My life hit the skids then because I lost any and all of my spiritual moorings, though somehow God kept hold of me even through the very depths of depravity to which I sank, and it was a very long and deep darkness.
Crash and burn.
Over the next decade, among many other disasters, I got busted for drug possession, my marriage failed, my children were taken away out of state in contempt of court and I could not afford the lawyers to stop it over the Christmas holiday. So I died another death in my soul, and my life became more and more riddled with drug abuse to the point of destitution and homelessness.
I learned to hate the Church and hate people who proclaimed the gospel but showed no mercy to people they didn’t know or understand – like I myself had done for many years in that Church preaching on the streets of Los Angeles, Hollywood and West Hollywood – preaching fire and brimstone messages in front of the clubs and sex shops even while knowing that I might be hurting some of the hearers. I learned to openly hate myself and everything about my life because I felt I was living a total lie. And yet there in my deepest despair was God trying to love me – He never did let go of me – while I was yet sinning and ruining my life more and more.
Then finally I got help for my mental disorder – a demonstrably life-long Christian relative (I call her my Catholic angel – the only person in my life who did not simply write me off) got me to see a therapist and that is how I found out that I wasn’t crazy or just cursed by God but had a diagnosable condition, severe adult ADHD that was to some extent treatable and I got the help I needed for the anxiety and depressions and panic I suffered with. Then with some clarity of mind I was finally able to address my gender dysphoria. Knowing that I wasn’t crazy allowed me to understand that in being Transgender God had given me a gift and not a curse.
It took many years after this for me to heal enough and forgive enough – myself and others – to get back to Church, to trust a Pastor, or a congregation, and I must say I still distrust many Evangelicals and Fundamentalists, especially those who run large, I call them “industrial strength”, super-churches because they leave so many people with so many wrong ideas about God and Love and mercy and compassion. But I have found my way back into a Church and a congregation that has fully embraced me. Finding my way back to faith enabled me to come out fully to the world around me and begin my transition in earnest.
Being transgender is how I was lovingly formed in the womb with the full intentions of my loving God. God does not make mistakes and does everything because he is Love. Therefore I was not and am not a mistake!! God loves me the way He made me! I am very much made in the image of God! Accepting myself this way was like being born-again a second time.
God rushed back into my life because now I could worship Him in Spirit and in TRUTH; the whole, contiguous me was no longer divided with self-loathing, there was no longer any dark “evil” blob to keep hidden deep in my soul because that was actually the very best part of me being kept down by hurtful dogma and tradition. The lie I had been trying to live all those years was gone. There was just me and God holding hands and laughing again because I was really free to be me!! I didn’t have to hide the best part of me from God or anyone anymore. Talk about a revival of body, soul and spirit.
To be whole and complete and free before God and man! Even the need for drug abuse faded away – 7 years clean now - because I have nothing to hide and no need to run away from myself anymore and in the place of the running and hiding I get to celebrate my freedom with God. In this reconciliation of myself-as-created with the God-who-never-let-me-go I get to be God’s girl now and I am privileged to share God’s love with people I meet. In don’t have to judge but only share the love.
Though I am disabled – in part I am sure from trying to live the wrong life for so long as all the fear, hiding and shame surely took their toll – now I am a volunteer activist here in the Riverside, Calif. area for LGBT, civil and human rights for all and also as an activist for Faith without Prejudice and I get to work and speak out for justice; I do what I can, when I can and somehow God gets me through the days when I can’t. This past November at my Church (First Congregational Church, Riverside – an Open and Affirming UCC member congregation) I organized our 2nd annual Transgender Day of Remembrance observance and we will keep it up every year. And I occasionally get to speak about my life and better still I sometimes get the opportunity to preach the Gospel and that is my most favorite thing to do because it is so awesome to know that God’s truth is being spoken through me – me this quirky, shy, nerdy, sometimes very disoriented and fragmented trans-woman gets to feel God’s inspiration writing the words and then nervously (because I still have a lot of anxiety and hypertension) stand up to preach them and feel the Holy Spirit flow through me as I do. I understand now how Scripture in some places was inspired because I have experienced it.
I hope one day to be able to take this message of God’s love for every person he created back to the Fundamentalists who actually did lead me into my living relationship with God back in May of 1980. I know the main Church is still there in Downtown LA because I have walked past it on several occasions while changing buses on a nearby corner and seen the faces of a few people I used to call friends in that other life I tried to live.
I don’t know what their focus or ethos is now, but based on what I know of them from my time there from May 4th 1980 until June of 1995 this is what I would say to them (and I believe I hear the Spirit of God saying “Amen”):
Please keep zealously loving God and each other, but don’t put God in the narrow box that the old traditions would have you do because it shuts out so much and so many that God is creating now, new, perfect and complete. God has made the World and the Universe completely diverse and God is continuing to do so with the Human Race – there is no gender binary in God’s creation just as there is no binary in the spectrum of light. There is a whole range of beauty and blessing in every shade and hue of humanity, so let ALL the people bloom. Each person, whether straight, gay, lesbian, bi or whatever ones attractions, and transgender folks – also a whole range of gender diversity and expression unto themselves – should be accepted openly and fully into the family of God. Every living soul should be allowed to live openly the way God made them, even if you don’t understand them or understand how such a one can be ”that” way.
Simply let God understand them and you pass on His love to them.
Trying to force someone to change their nature is like trying to force the leopard to change her spots – it can’t be done without killing the leopard. Be instruments of God’s love and inclusion to all humans, so that, if they will, they can come and drink freely of the water of life. Don’t pick and choose among people and don’t hinder any of these little ones from coming! Don’t choke out the Good News! That narrow and judgmental view of people and of what is misconstrued as “choice” that you call “truth” is really only a tool of the Devil used to spiritually and emotionally clobber people and keep them away from salvation, and it generates so much anger and confusion, pain and resentment – and results in death in many cases – in the process. Please let that all go! Rise to a higher level of spiritual awakening that includes every living soul.
Please for Christ’s sake let it all go. Let healing and reconciliation take its place. Please. In Jesus’ name I pray.
Hugs and Blessings,