As I walked across the stage at graduation, it still did not feel like I was done with my education, and as I have transitioned into post-graduate life, I have slowly realized how correct this statement is.
Life for me is like one large school; we are constantly learning and growing and changing.
I think one of life’s biggest educators is God. He provides teachable moments that will stick with us for the rest of our lives. Sometimes we don’t always recognize that it is Him at work, but as long as we learn, I think that’s pretty great too.
At first, I thought of coming out as trans* complicated my relationship with God. I worried about what the Church’s stance on transgender people was. When I identified as a gay female, I had accepted how most Catholics felt about same-sex relationships. I was okay with not having a relationship recognized by the church because I always felt the sacrament of marriage was made between two people and recognized by God. I even joined the Catholic Church after having already lived two years of my life as an openly gay female.
In May I graduated from Fontbonne University, a small private Catholic liberal arts institution dedicated to educating leaders to serve a world in need. I had gone to public schools my whole life up until college, and I have no doubt that God was at work when I decided to attend Fontbonne.
By my sophomore year of college, I had joined the Catholic Church.
There are many things I love about the Catholic tradition. I love knowing that as I partake in the body and blood of Christ on Sundays that a countless number of people across the world are doing the same, and we are all a part of the same community. I love being able to go to any part of the country and know that I can attend any Catholic service, and it is going to be the same. I find solace in prayers, patterns, and songs that are familiar. I love finding new ways that God is speaking to me in the same creed every week.
When I was ready to accept that I was transgender, during my senior year of college and after over a year of therapy, I was angry with God. I wanted to know why I had been born like this. I was afraid of so many things. I wanted to know if I would be able to transition. Would my friends accept me? Would my family accept me? Would the people in my life respect me enough to try and use the pronouns and name I asked for?
In the beginning, it all seemed like too much. I constantly asked why I couldn’t have just been born male. But I have come to realize that I would not be who I am if I had been born male. I would not be the caring, compassionate, feminist.
Without my trans identity, I would not be Jes Stevens as I know and love Jes Stevens to be.
I truly believe that God wants everyone to be the best version of themselves. How can anyone be the best version of themselves if we are not being true to who God wants us to be?
Loving, compassionate, kind, hard-working, thankful, prayerful, forgiving—these are all qualities I think everyone should have whether they are male or female. We are all called to be God’s children and to love one another. This was the greatest commandment of them all—simply to love.
I truly believe that I love myself and others so much better as I become more authentic to myself each and every day. This was the biggest lesson I learned when I started my transition, and it is still an uphill battle some days.
I will always be grateful to have learned this lesson so early in my life.
If you only have one take away after reading this, please let it be this: be authentic, and be you, you who God made you to be.
Photo via flickr user Fox Valley Institute