My greatest problem with being a Trans* person was coming to terms with my faith. I grew up in the Southern Baptist church. My earliest memories were of my church. It was always the center point of my existence.
I didn’t think I was being traumatized by my church while I was growing up.
I never felt persecuted or put down because I accepted the theology they taught. As a child I knew nothing of being transgender. I knew from a young age that there was something different about me, but I didn’t have words in my vocabulary to explain what I felt.
When I did start to make the connection that I wasn’t the typical red-blooded American boy, I instinctively knew that this wasn’t something I could talk to anyone about but knew as my Sunday School taught that I could count on Jesus to figure this out.
So I turned to my Southern Baptist theology to look for help. That theology told me that what I was feeling was wrong and that I had to pray and ask God to take this “sin” from me. I prayed and begged God to make me “normal.” I prayed this prayer to no avail. I also began for the first time to read the Bible and to study it.
I thought I was doing something wrong and causing God to ignore my prayers.
As I educated myself something interesting happened. I realized that much of what I was taught was not biblical, but rather, it was rules and regulations the church had created.
As I begin to question that theology, I reached the conclusion that I could no longer worship in my church. I no longer agreed with many of its teachings. If I stayed I would be a hypocrite. I reasoned I had enough sin already without adding hypocrisy to my plate.
So I walked away. But at that point, I still had a “dirty little secret,” which I thought was my great sin because I still assumed that my trans* feelings were something fundamentally wrong with me.
I still assumed my trans identity was separating me from God.
I began a search for answers and tried different denominations but found that I was overly critical of their theology. I also began questioning why God seemed to ignore me. This led me into my agnostic phase.
Did God exist? If God existed, did God care about me? I wasn’t finding answers in the Christian theology I was being presented. I thought perhaps the answers I was looking for could be found in other religions.
For the next twenty years I searched the world religions, everything from Bahá'í to Zoroastrianism. I was amazed as I learned about these faiths how much the great truths of each were very similar.
I also continued to look at Christ and became more amazed at the message that he taught.
During this spiritual and intellectual journey, I also educated myself on who I was and to explore being Trans*. I came to realize on an intellectual level that I had no more control over being a Trans* person then I did over having blue eyes. I say intellectual because in the back of my mind, although I had rejected much of the theology of my childhood, I still had that doubt: “What if they are right?” “Am I condemning myself?”
I still believed in the teachings of Jesus and had a better understanding of His message then I ever had before. If I am right why do the churches that profess to be Christ’s church reject and condemn me? Even after all this I still missed the fellowship of belonging to a church.
I spoke one day to a counselor about this. She said that not all churches condemn people like me. She suggested I look at the Unitarian church that they were welcoming. I followed her advice and found they welcomed everyone whatever your faith journey. I decided to try Unitarianism.
I was surprised to find that they walked the walk they professed, and I was welcomed.
I joined and became involved in my congregation. When our congregation was invited to do a program at a United Church of Christ (UCC), I was nervous. It was one thing to go to a congregation that welcomed all beliefs, but it was quite another for me to go into a Christian church. I was pleasantly surprised. I was welcomed there with open arms. I decided that I had to come back again.
It took a couple months to work up the courage to return to this UCC. The day that I did I was terrified. The first time I went we were invited and I was with friends. This time I was on my own. I waited until just before the service started to go in and slipped into the back row.
As soon as I arrived, people began to welcome me. I watched to be sure that they weren’t just distracting me while the deacons got the tar and feathers ready. But there were no noticeable hot tar smells! So I stayed, and the service began.
The service reminded me of the church of my youth but without the fire and brimstone. The pastor’s sermon that day was about Communion. In this sermon, I began to hear a message about Christ unlike any I had ever heard before. Then, the pastor finished her sermon, and she—yes, she!— stood in front and extended her arms, saying: “This is the Lord’s table, not ours, and just as Jesus would turn no one away, neither do we.”
At that moment I heard a still small voice in my head saying “Welcome home my child.”
I realized then that I had thought I would never be welcome in God’s house again, much less to share in communion. I began to sob. I asked why my prayers hadn’t been answered all those years ago. The reply was “I did. You prayed for me to make you normal. I told you that I had. You were too busy trying to please other people to hear me speaking.”
Since that day, which was over seven year ago, I have joined the UCC and am active in my local church and association. I also educate people and faith groups on trans* issues.
I bear no bitterness toward the church of my youth, even after they passed their resolution against transgender people last month. Instead I feel pity for them. I realize that when they read Christ words that we should love our neighbors as ourselves that they never learned the last part of that statement.
They never learned to love themselves.
Their theology tells them they are unlovable and that they should hate themselves, so they sometimes point to others as even more unlovable in order to feel better about their own perceived unworthiness.
I pray they learn to love themselves first so that one day they can experience that same unconditional love of Christ that I do each day.
Photo provided by Bobbi Prato