In college I started a blog. The website was orange text on different-orange background that hurt the eyes to read. The top was emblazoned the title “HYPOCRITE,” and below the title was a quote from the book of Matthew. It was the scene of Judas betraying Jesus, but I’d cut the context and just left the kiss. I thought if that small passage was seen out of context, it might be read as beautiful instead of sinful.
At least, that’s what I hoped for.
It was my little rebellion. I knew the way I lived my faith was different than the way people around me lived theirs. I knew that because of my moderate beliefs and my transgender identity, people might call me and my ways sinful.
But, through a lifetime of seeing my faith change and grow—sometimes in ways that were different than those I loved and respected—I also knew a God that was larger than any one person could understand. And with that God, I could feel comfortable being myself, even of others called me a hypocrite.
This wasn’t the only place in my life where I felt different. When I was young, I didn’t know any other queer people, let alone trans people. There was no one in my life I could ask about what I was experiencing. I didn’t have a real-life role model I could meet face to face.
If I wanted to understand myself, the only resources were online.
So I scoured the internet, pored over message boards, and sometimes, when I was lucky, I would find a person to actually talk to. Unfortunately, all my potential guides had long ago lost whatever faith they might have had. To them, religion was a force that fueled bigotry and hatred; it was a wedge that isolated them from loved ones. And after a lifetime of being pushing them away, faith was the last thing they needed to hear about from me.
So, even then, I could only bring part of myself to the conversation. We all have to master this to some degree. We round off our edges, we deaden some parts of our personality, and we pass as part of a community. And I hoped that, through all of my different communities together, I’d somehow be able to express my full self.
But no matter where I was, some parts of me were never safe to express. So I shared those things through my writing. As much as it sometimes felt like I was alone, I hoped that if I put myself out there online, my people would find me.
I don’t know if anyone did ever find me.
I don’t know if anyone ever read what I wrote. But writing was a way to deal with the parts of me that were, up until then, only between God and me.
Soon after graduation, I moved to a new city and started looking for a new faith community. I found a list of queer-friendly churches—I knew a big city must have them—and I started attending one.
It was a remarkable experience to be in a place that was affirming to my identity before they even knew what it was.
I was out to one of my pastors early on, and she was encouraging and gracious and patient with me until I was ready to be out fully. And I finally met other transgender Christians—people who knew intrinsically what it felt like, without the need to justify or explain.
I could sit and talk to them, and they just knew.
Even though our traditions and beliefs may not have perfectly aligned, it was as if we spoke a common language that I had previously only been able to speak privately.
The summer before I came out, I was at a bar with my partner, a seminarian. She introduced me to another trans person she had met earlier that day. I asked her at one point if she had advice for me. She said, “When you come out—for many it’s a place of so much anxiety and fear—but when you come out, your friends should have a party for you. They should celebrate that they finally, after all this time, they get to know the real you.”
Six months later, we were celebrating. In the seminary I lived in, in the churches I attended—this is how I wanted to be out to my communities.
There was singing, embracing, and prayers shared with the laying on of hands.
But the thing I remember most clearly is when a pastor stood in front of the congregation. Called out my real name. And said that I was a beloved daughter of God.
Photo via flickr user Natalia A