Finding God In Transition

by Nicole Garcia

From my teens to my early twenties, I was a good Catholic boy. I went to mass several times a week, which included playing guitar with two different church choirs. In college, I even went to Protestant Bible studies to hear the Word of God. When I was 18, I began to explore becoming a priest, but my grandmother’s expectations for a grandson included marriage and children, so I went to college instead.

I graduated with a BA in ’82 and ended up wandering around Boulder like a lost child.

I used alcohol to help me to figure out who I was. I would often wake up next to whomever I partied with the night before. Their gender didn’t matter. I assume that is why many people thought I was gay.

After several years of wandering, I ended up living in the back room of my cousin’s trailer. In 1989, after a day of heavy drinking, I ended up in detox. I was on probation due to a DUI, so when I went back to court, I was given the option of treatment or jail. I chose treatment and began my first stint of sobriety.
In 1994, I married a beautiful woman and a couple years later, I started a career in law enforcement. The job gave me regulations to follow and I learned how “to be a man.” I tried to live into the role, the male role, I was supposed to live—I had a wife, a house, and a mortgage. It didn’t feel natural.

From a young age, I always liked wearing woman’s clothing. 

I would dress at home, but never go out in public. I loved Halloween because I could buy whatever I wanted and tell the clerk the dresses were for a costume. I remember spending lots of cash on a wardrobe, then feel guilty about wearing women’s clothing, and throw everything away.

Now that I was married, I had a reason to be the man I was supposed to be. But trying to be “macho Michael” took a lot of energy. After a few years, I started drinking again and always felt angry. My wife and I drifted apart and, in October 2002, we divorced.

Just before Thanksgiving that year, I became suicidal. What had gone wrong? I had a beautiful wife and a big house in Denver. My wife and I had good jobs and nice new cars. I should have been really happy and I couldn’t figure out why I walked away from it all. Thankfully, I knew I couldn’t take my own life, but I had to ask myself what was going on in my head.

It was at that point that I turned back to Jesus.

A couple days later, the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) sent a bulletin around the office offering six free counseling sessions to those who might be feeling depressed around the holidays. I made an appointment. At the end of the second session, the EAP therapist referred me to long-term therapy. Within about six weeks, my new therapist had helped me stop drinking and got me through the worst of the depression.

My therapist and I started talking about why I was never successful in relationships. It just came down to how I was thinking about myself and the fact that I could not accept the fact I was attracted to people of both genders and that, for most of my life, I liked wearing women’s clothing.

When I finally told my counselor about my desire to wear woman’s clothing, she referred me to the Gender Identity Center of Colorado (GIC). I spent a lot of time there. I grew a lot over time. In February of 2003, I attended the “Goldrush,” a conference sponsored by the GIC, where I attended a workshop discussing transsexualism.
In that workshop, I heard many stories, but I realized they were telling my story. 

I knew then and there that I had to transition. Anticipating a less than positive reaction from my family, I took a lot of time to create a schedule for my transition. I created my timeline on my own as there was very little available about transgender identity in 2003. I had the book, True Selves, but not much more. I discovered my insurance would not cover any aspect of my gender transition, so I paid for hormone replacement therapy, electrolysis, and gender affirming surgery out of pocket.

A very important aspect of my transition was my need to pray and desire to find a church home. I had come to terms with my identity as a woman and had created a support network, but I wanted to reconnect with my faith. A friend recommended St. Paul Lutheran Church.

I was a recovering Catholic, so going to a Lutheran church was a big leap of faith. I walked into St. Paul in April 2003. I found a home there. In October 2003, I officially became a member of St. Paul Lutheran Church in downtown Denver.

I was invited to be a member of St. Paul’s Reconciling in Christ (RIC) committee.

The RIC committee did a lot of education and outreach to enable the congregation of St Paul to be open and welcoming to the LGBTIAQ community. By July 2008, I was also serving on the board of directors of ReconcilingWorks: Lutherans for Full Participation as their transgender representative (formally called Lutheran Concerned).

I had become an activist on a national level. I also became a facilitator for the Building an Inclusive Church program through the Institute for Welcoming Resources. I recommend this training for anyone who wants to help congregations become open and welcoming to the LGBTQ community.

On July 31, 2014, I resigned my position in law enforcement. On May 17, 2014, I will earn a master’s degree in counseling from CU Denver and, in July 2014, will open a private counseling practice in Longmont CO. My hope is to provide affordable counseling services to the LGBTQ community.

I am also following my calling to be an ordained minister in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America.

I have been granted entrance into candidacy. I am currently a student at Luther Seminary in the M. Div. Distributive Learning Program. The program is a hybrid online/on campus program. I am called to proclaim the Gospel of inclusion by living the life I know Jesus wants me to live.

Nicole Garcia’s story was originally told to Becky Garrison, who interviewed Nicole with her mom and cousin, in her home in Louisville, CO.

Image via flickr user Jerry Worster

Comments (1)

Josh Fernandez

I haven’t fully committed to
I haven’t fully committed to religion, but I fear it’s the only way I can find myself out of addiction. It seemed to do you well. Maybe it’s something I can try. Maybe the salvation will help me forgive myself.

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