Igniting The Fire

No matter what I do, I don’t think I will ever forget this date. May 17th 2008. Eight years ago today, I got married. Eight years ago. Perhaps I should think about moving on with my life. There is a certain sadness that revolves around this date, but it isn’t the loss of a marriage that brings the sadness… It reminds me of a time that I surrendered the fire that I once had in me for something I thought I had to do. Never again will I surrender my life.

It is kind of a trip when I look back at the old photos or video of that day. It seems like a whole other life ago. It doesn’t even feel like that is me walking down that aisle. I want to simultaneously slap and hug myself. I had no idea who I was, nor did I have any idea that I was letting fear lead my life.

At the time, I thought that the life I was leading was what God wanted for me. I was a devout Christian. I went to church every Sunday, I tried to be a living example, I saved myself for marriage and I found someone who I thought also shared the same faith and morals. Life seemed to be going as it should… but what I didn’t realize at the time was that I wasn’t following God with love, I was following with fear.

There are a couple of things in life that are powerful at bringing people together. Those things are love, and fear.

I felt the fear of God’s wrath way stronger than I felt God’s love. I think that often many churches or relationships are built more on fear than they are on love. Fear of consequence, fear of judgement, fear of hell, fear of abandonment.

After my divorce, and at the beginning of my coming out process the only way that I was able to move away from fear was when I asked myself. “What if there is no God?” What if this is all for nothing and I am just creating my own personal hell on earth? The only way that I could get rid of my fear, was by abandoning God.

There is something wrong here.

I was taught God’s “love” in a way that it was all or nothing. You follow him, or you don’t. It is hell or heaven, right or wrong. Have you heard the good news? Sounds more like an abusive relationship to me.

I had an abusive relationship with God and I broke up with them. I stormed out the door middle finger in the air and never looked back until I realized that my relationship with God was built off of fear.

I no longer hold onto anger when thinking about God. People often ask how I can be trans and believe in God. My simplest answer to that is that although I believe in God, I still don’t believe in the God I did when I got married.

So what do I believe in now?

I think I am still on a path at discovering who God is to me, but so far I do know that God is love.

God is those moments where you can’t help but feel an overwhelming sense of love, joy, gratefulness and peace. Maybe you find God in the sunsets, or the sunrise, the moments in nature where you stop, take a deep breath and are overwhelmed with sense of being completely present in that moment. Maybe you find God at a concert, or during worship. The music overrides your body and that sense of presence brings warmth to your life. God is in those moments when you share love, compassion, and joy with others. God can feel and mean something different to everyone. That is why it is a “personal relationship”.

As I walked down that aisle eight years ago…I never would have guessed I would be where I am at in my life today. May 17th, 2008 doesn’t exactly carry the same meaning with it that I thought it would. It is not an anniversary to celebrate, but instead it is a life marker to look back on and see how far I have come.  May 17th 2008 is perhaps a record of one of the poorest decisions in my life… ( lucky you if you were there to witness it! ) but what has come out of it has opened my eyes, helped me grow, and help me become a more resilient and appreciative person. This date is now a reminder to always live with fire and follow what I am most passionate about and do what makes makes me feel most alive.

If nothing else, at least I can say that I have been married, divorced, gay, and transitioned from female to male all under the age of 30. Imagine what I can say by the time I am 40.

“God is the absence of fear, for there is no fear in love.”

IMG_7832

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Love The Sinner

“Love the sinner hate the sin” not much can get my blood boiling faster than this phrase. It is only a reminder of how far we have to go in order to breakdown the barriers between the church and the LGBT community. I think that generally, the church is still pretty lost in its stance with the LGBT community. There has been some progress and there are churches that welcome LGBT people with open arms… but then there are those who are still confused. They find themselves questioning how to love. Which seems pretty strange for a religion that follows Jesus; the most loving and accepting  man to have ever walked this earth.

The biggest problem with the phrase “love the sinner hate the sin” is that it was created without people ever really learning how to love. It takes out any personal connection, it’s vague, distant, and hurtful. Just because your view of theology doesn’t agree with someone else’s, doesn’t mean you can’t see the good in someone and fully embrace them with love first, just as Christ embraces you first. He doesn’t wait until you get your get your act together. He embraces you just as you are. Broken, and a sinner. You do not have to agree with the way someone lives their life in order to completely embrace and show that same love. Focus less on how to “live right” and more on how to love right.

There is a very specific type of venom that Christians spew when they feel they are defending God. Unfortunately the LGBT community has fallen victim to this venom for many years now, and it has led to a lot of pain, hurt, and anger. So how do we fix this? What is the anti-venom?

Love, empathy, and respect.

I think one of the biggest fears that Christians have is that fully embracing someone who is LGBT will create this image that they condone their “lifestyle” ( this word makes me cringe. ) Or that it is doing the other person a disservice by not keeping them in line with God. But, here is the thing. That is not your job. Other people’s salvation, is not your responsibility, nor is it in your hands. God is always doing his work in you, do you not have faith that God is also doing his work in others? Embrace with love before anything else.

I think it is pretty easy to enforce your convictions on someone else if you don’t personally know someone who is gay, or transgender. I feel like many people in the church hold certain assumptions about the LGBT community because they have never really had a personal encounter or experience with it. Believe it or not, but we do more than just frequent the local gay bars and parade through the streets with rainbow flags. Our community is more than just one big gay pride parade. We are your family, friends, neighbors, co-workers. Most importantly, we are human beings. Just. like. you. We are human beings that need and deserve love and respect. How would it make you feel if people just made assumptions about you without truly knowing who you were as a person?

I think people have gotten so caught up in their own fears , assumptions and insecurities. Barriers that seem impossible to break down have been built off of a lot of misunderstanding…but I don’t think it is too late. So how do we break down the barriers?

It may seem too simple, but remember when you were little and you did something that hurt someone else? Your mother, teacher, or etc would hold you by the shoulders, bring you face to face with that other person, have you look them in the eyes and tell you to apologize.  ( twice if it didn’t sound like you meant it ) It was never a pleasant experience but necessary to move on.  Unfortunately apologies don’t get any easier in adulthood…but they are just as meaningful. Perhaps, this could be the best way to start.

IMG_6688

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Open Letter

It was brought to my attention that there is a local church here doing a sermon series called “Battle for the Black & White Choosing Christ Over Culture.” I was curious so I decided to check it out. Here is a video preview about the sermon series.

You can listen to the sermons here. or through iTunes.

I have listend to all of the sermons in the series so far, but I can no longer keep quiet. I have decided to write an open letter to the pastor. Here it is:

Dear Pastor Phil,

I am writing to you today regarding your recent sermon series called “The Battle For The Black and White. Choosing Christ Over Culture.” First off I wanted to thank you for teaching love and compassion. Often times these things are over-looked and forgotten but they are some of the greatest reflections of Christ. I admire you for standing up for what you believe is God’s voice.

In your sermons you speak about all humans being broken, and focus on those who may have been born with certain bad inclinations or that are “walking through the waters of same sex attraction”. I am one of these people. I am transgender.

I know that I am broken, but I don’t believe that being transgender is what makes me broken. I grew up in the church and went to a Christian school. I believed the same things that you teach about in your sermons. I spent years of my life trying to fight these “inclinations”. I did everything that I thought God would have wanted me to do. I went to church, I prayed, I read my Bible, I didn’t drink, I didn’t do drugs, and I saved myself for marriage. I fought this “battle” as hard as I could only to find that it left me feeling empty, depressed, and incredibly angry at God. I can guarantee you that the years of my life I spent fighting and trying to do what I thought was right, was the time in my life that I hurt the most people and was the most destructive.
I thought that I had to make a choice. I either had to choose God or to be Gay or to transition. Since coming out, medically transitioning, being transparent, and living as authentically as I can, I am seeing clearer now more than ever how God has worked in my life and that I don’t have to choose. The God I was taught to believe in valued our souls over anything else. My soul was created in his image, and it remains unchanged. I know in my heart that God cares for me, he loves me, and he supports me. I know that your concern for other people’s salvation and morality is coming from a place of love but battling for the black and the white doesn’t get rid of the gray areas. It only creates secrecy and shame. I spent so many years of my life hiding due to shame. It was some of the darkest times in my life and I wouldn’t wish it upon anyone.

I am not writing you this letter to argue Biblical interpretation or science. All I have is my own story and life experiences to share. You spoke about caring for those of us who are homosexual or transgender. You prayed for us, you encouraged your congregation to get rid of any prejudices, to invite us over for dinner, to have compassion, and to love us. You shared your message, and your beliefs. I challenge you to listen. Let us share with you our stories, and our journeys. Get to know us on a more personal level, immerse yourself in our community and practice empathy. We are all human. God gave us all a soul, and each soul has its own unique journey.

 

Shame

Shame is something we all learn at a young age. Perhaps you were once told “shame on you” for something you did wrong. Or maybe you recognize it as that queasy, gut wrenching, heart pounding, nervousness right as you debate whether or not to confess to your mother you broke one of her prized possessions. Can you glue it back together? Will she notice? Or should you confess now and hope for the best? It was an accident after all, maybe she will go easy,  or maybe if you don’t say anything she won’t notice…but that feeling of shame will remain if you don’t tell her. Surely if you do not tell her, God would know. God always knows. Better fess up.

I have struggled with a lot of shame over being gay. The moment I learned what it meant to be gay, that familiar feeling of shame rushed over me. I felt as though I had done something wrong. I had been taught that I was immoral, and would be boxed into the same sexual perversions as bestiality, incest…etc. This was worse than accidentally breaking one of my parents belongings. This could break their hearts. It became my deepest darkest secret. There was no way I could be gay, so denial became my lifestyle of choice.

Denial only works for so long. When my marriage ended I had a choice. I could either start living true to myself, or I could keep living in denial. It was a hard confusing process but I chose to start being true to myself. The hardest part to get through was the shame. Even though I had stopped living in denial, I constantly worried. What will my parents think? Will they still love me? Will they be ashamed of me? What will my friends think? What if they don’t want me around their kids?

My secret was eating me up inside. I couldn’t keep this all to myself any longer. I finally built up the courage to come out to my counselor. It wasn’t exactly the best first coming out experience. When I told her I was gay she asked me. “Well, is this something you want or don’t want?” I was confused. I replied “Who would want this?” She proceeded to tell me there were groups out there for me where I could “beat this.” That there was hope for change. But what could these conversion groups do that I hadn’t already tried? I prayed to God, and I got married. To a man. If that doesn’t work I don’t know what will. Then she said something to me I will never forget. “You will never be the woman God wanted you to be.”

Those words stung worse than any other words I had ever heard. I left her office and never looked back. She tried contacting me multiple times through text message saying that she hoped that I hadn’t given up. Well, I had. I had given up lying to myself and believing that I had something to be ashamed of. I realized that all of this shame I was feeling wasn’t from God. It was from people. How does she know who God wants me to be? I already tried to live how I thought God wanted me to, and I failed miserably. I was living a lie. Doesn’t God say thou shall not lie? I believe this means  you shall not lie to others… or yourself.

For a long time I thought being gay meant you could no longer believe in God. That I couldn’t be a christian and be gay. I no longer believe that, and I no longer feel shame. I know God loves me, and he doesn’t just love the sinner and hate the sin. He loves all of me. No person can ever tell me who God wants me to be.