Nicole Garcia created and donated a religious stole to the National LGBTQ Task Force’s Shower of Stoles, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary of telling the stories of LGBTQ people of faith. Click here to see how you can bring the Shower of Stoles project to your community.
On Friday, as we celebrated Good Friday, I wore my new cassock and preached at Mount Calvary Lutheran Church in Boulder, Colorado. Thirteen years ago I would have laughed if anyone told me I would ever write that sentence and actually meant it.
The Holy Spirit has a really quirky sense of humor.
In April of 2003, I was early in my gender transition when I walked into the sanctuary of St. Paul Lutheran Church. I was terrified that the people would just point and laugh at the man in a dress—but they didn’t. They asked me if I wanted coffee and invited me back.
The people of St. Paul gave me a place to celebrate my faith in Jesus Christ as my Savior and Lord. The first visit to St. Paul Lutheran Church would be the beginning of a new incredible journey of faith.
In my teens and early twenties, I was a devout Catholic. When I was 18, I began a conversation with one of the priests about Holy Orders, but my mother and grandmother insisted I not pursue that life, so I went to University of Colorado Boulder for my undergraduate degree.
By the time I graduated from college, I turned away from the church.
I rebelled against the patriarchy and hierarchy of the church, but I still believed in God. I was not sure what God was up to—so I decided God could do what God did without me, for I thought God had abandoned me.
I prayed and prayed for God to fix me. I had these feelings of not fitting in. I didn’t feel like a man, instead I felt like I was a woman and dressed as a woman as well. I begged God to rid me of those feelings, but to no avail. So if God hated me that much, I had no use for God.
I spent most of the 1980s wandering around Boulder as a lost child. I drank copious amounts of alcohol. By the end of the decade, I found myself praying to the “porcelain god” in detox. I couldn’t figure out what had gone so terribly wrong.
I sobered up and threw away all my women’s clothes.
Within four years, I had a job in retail management and married a beautiful woman. In 1996, I became a law enforcement officer for I was sure wearing a uniform and carrying a gun would make me a man. Unfortunately, the facade took a toll on my emotional well-being. I started drinking again.
After eight years of marriage, my wife decided she no longer wanted to be shackled to an angry and intoxicated spouse. I blamed her for all my despair, so I quickly agreed to the divorce. But it wasn’t long before I realized I walked away from a beautiful wife, a house, and a new car.
Why in the world was I miserable enough to walk away from that life? At the same time, I began to consider suicide, but I knew I couldn’t take my own life. I turned back to Jesus. I didn’t whimper a plea for help, I demanded help.
I told God if I came back into the fold, so to speak, God better step up and help.
Within a few weeks, I was in therapy. Somehow I got the guts to tell my therapist I felt I was a woman. She suggested a support group and I went. I found people who had the same feelings I had. I told one of my new friends about my deal with God and I was searching for a new spiritual community. She told me about this open and welcoming community, I went to a service, and I was hooked.
As I prepared my Good Friday sermon, I had been reading and re-reading the 18th and 19th chapters of the Gospel of John, and I realized my suffering doesn’t compare to the agony my Lord Jesus Christ endured. But I am comforted by the fact that Jesus can understand what is like to live on the margins of society and what it is like to be persecuted for being different.
Jesus persevered and transcended the oppression. I know my Lord, Jesus Christ has been with me and guided me for it is a mystery how I was given the courage and strength to begin a journey toward ordination. Yes, early in my transition I found a new home in my Lutheran faith, but I had no idea I would ever become a seminary student and be allowed to wear a cassock.
As Christians–particularly LGBTQ Christians–all across the world prepare to celebrate Easter, I reflect on the Gospel of John and my eyes fill with tears when I read the stories of so many of my transgender siblings. So many suffer and die because they are not accepted as beautiful children of God.
My heart aches for the pain so many have to endure, for we have the ability to end suffering through love.
Jesus died on the cross to end our pain. When Jesus walked out of the tomb, he showed us the power of love. Jesus died to destroy death and he gave us the power to show us how much he loves each and every one of us and we, in turn, must love and help each other.
Header Photo by Lori J Photography