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.”

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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.