Advent for, many Catholics, is a time of patience and reflection, a time of wonder and amazement.
This Advent for me is a lot different than the last.
Last Advent I was struggling to tell my family that I was transgender, struggling to voice how unhappy I had been. But since that last Advent I have been on testosterone for one year, changed my legal name, had one gender confirming surgery, and moved half way across the country.
But with all of these changes come the anticipation of returning home. Returning to a place that has been familiar all of my life. And although I was fortunate enough to visit St. Louis briefly in early November, I didn’t see many of the family members that I will be seeing over Christmas break.
So I worry about going home these holidays. Most of my family hasn’t seen me since August. I have been lucky to grow a substantial amount of facial hair. I’ve been eating healthier; I’ve lost some weight and have never felt more confident.
And yet, I still have anxiety about going home.
What will my extended family say? Do I go to the Christmas Eve party where half of the people in attendance do not know that I have transitioned? What about any high school friends, who may also be seeing me for the first time?
I don’t have the answers to any of these questions, and I think that is one of the lessons to be learned from Advent. While Advent is a time where the Catholic Church teaches waiting and anticipation for the birth of Jesus Christ, the same lessons can be applied to the waiting and anticipation we face in our own lives.
For me, it is the waiting and anticipation I face in seeing my family. The waiting we all face in trying to find the answers to our questions. I’ve come to discover that there will never be a right or a wrong answer.
I’ve learned that I can only do my best. My transition taught me a lot about what I would need to do to be a happy person.
This doesn’t involve extraordinary actions, but it does mean that I don’t stress over the things that I can’t control.
Like the response my aunt’s niece will have when she sees me for the first time in two years. Or the questions my partner’s parents will ask about our relationship. I can control my own thoughts and actions, and I can learn a lot about myself through patience. I can learn a lot about my outlook on life. I can learn from the people around me during this Advent season, and I can learn who I don’t want to be.
And in learning who I don’t want to be I can learn who I am. In learning who I am, I often come to question if I can be both Catholic and transgender, or even Christian and transgender. This is probably the biggest question to which I have no absolute answer.
But if I apply other lessons I have learned to this doubt, I know that exclusivity is not reality. I can believe in God, I can count on Jesus Christ as my savior and be transgender. There are people who may say otherwise and I have encountered these people.
But I am who God created me to be, and I know that this is one thing that I do not have to be anxious about this Advent season.
As I anticipate going home and seeing my family for the holidays, my prayers are with those who may not be seeing their families.
Photo via flickr user Rishi Bandopadhay