Easter service was exactly as one would expect, uneventful even, for most of those gathered that morning. As I joined my congregation early that day, I was greeted with the traditional “Alleluia! Christ is risen!” and the blast of the organ and choir singing, “Christ the Lord is Risen Today.”
I took a breath, binding constraining my chest, but I led the opening liturgy anyway.
Yet a part of me knew that my Easter story had not yet begun.
I’m genderqueer. While I was assigned female at birth, that never really fit. As a child, they called me a “tom boy” and encouraged me to think of myself as a girl who liked sports.
But it was deeper than that. As a youth, I struggled to find any clothes that felt right. I didn’t like “girly” stuff, but I wasn’t allowed to wear the men’s clothes I was drawn to. I was pushed to be more feminine and told it was just a matter of not liking “uncomfortable, tight fitting” clothes.
But it was deeper than that. In college I stumbled around as a butch lesbian. Still, this didn’t fit either.
In seminary I bought my first bow tie.
As I put it on with a neatly pressed suit and dress shirt, I finally felt normal in my clothing. I began to feel more comfortable and confident as I identified as trans-masculine.
The clothes helped, but it was deeper, still, than that. Beneath it all, my body just didn’t feel right. For years, I tried to get by with my body as it was. I bound my chest. I wore loose pants to hide my hips.
But the desire to see my body match how I felt as a masculine person just wouldn’t leave. I wanted nothing more in life than to wear just a shirt without binding. I wanted to look in the mirror and see the reflection match who I was. I decided I needed to have gender confirming top surgery—a procedure that forms one’s chest to a more masculine appearance.
That Easter was just another Easter for most people, but not for me.
I was scheduled to finally have my surgery that following Thursday in Florida. I was nervous and a little afraid—not totally in the mood for the trumpets of Easter morning. My faith community carried me; they sang for me that day as I was still awaiting my own Easter celebration. After all, it’s hard to sing an “Alleluia” with your chest bound so tightly that you struggle to breathe.
What I discovered over the next several weeks is what so many transgender people of faith have experienced: that our gender journeys are nothing short of a story of resurrection.
The Easter Story is one of new life, of a God who brings forth beauty from ashes. While ultimately Christians believe that our souls experience new life after death, I believe that our Easter story is one that we experience in this life. Whenever God moves us through pain, death, or darkness and into new life, we experience resurrection. We experience Easter.
I had not felt fully alive in my body, so I traveled to Florida in search of new life.
As I recovered from surgery, I waited in the tomb under anesthesia, wrapped in the bandages of uncertainty of what would come in the months ahead. But as the weeks past and the bandages came off, I looked at myself in the mirror I began to see the person I was supposed to be all along.
Set free of the body that had in so many ways entombed me, I felt I finally understood the journey of the butterfly as it moves into a new and beautiful life. I understood resurrection on a deeply visceral level.
I am not sure if I will ever be able to put into words how alive I feel now. It seems nothing short of a miracle. For weeks as I recovered I would wake up everyday almost in disbelief that my life could be this wonderful, that I could look in the mirror and love what I saw.
I will never forget the feeling of doing yoga for the first time without a binder and being able to actually breath deeply. I will never forget the feeling of sitting on a patio with friends for the first time that summer and not having on layers of binding in the Georgia heat to hide my chest.
On the final Sunday during that Easter season, I stepped back into the pulpit for the first time.
In that moment, I realized that Eastertide had been my own time of resurrection. With the entirety of myself: genderqueer, beloved, whole: I took a deep breath and spoke the words I’d waited all season to say, and a lifetime to say as my whole self, “Alleluia! Christ is risen!”
And now, so am I. Thanks be to God.
Photo via flickr user dany13