Friday, July 1, 2011

Sadly for some, disclosure of sexual orientation and/or gender identity can result in judgement from family, friends and church.

Though my disclosure was about being transsexual and that I was in the process of making changes, I had not yet come to the place where I felt I could transition and still did not know when I would finally take that step. At the time, my dad was 89 and my mom 83 and I feared my disclosure would make the few remaining years of their lives more difficult. I also had not disclosed to our adult sons either, but I had already shared with many of my friends—including my pastor. Though I was loved and affirmed by all with whom I had shared, I knew I would not be able to transition until I shared with my parents, or I would have to wait until they both died. Could I wait another five to ten years to transition?

One day I was thinking about my sons and I was praying to God if any of them had some issue they needed to tell me about, that they would never fear that I would reject them and condemn them for it, regardless of what that issue might be. How sad would that be, that they would fear coming to me? That is when the thought hit me, that my parents probably felt the same way about me. I knew at that moment that I needed to tell them. I had feared how they would respond and had imagined the worst-case scenario, that my mom would be devastated and blame herself and that my dad would kick me out of the house and tell me I was dead to him. This is not what happened; the complete opposite occurred. This was three years ago and I am always in awe at how the two of them have embraced me and love me unconditionally. From time to time, they get the pronoun and name wrong, but after having known me for six decades by one name and gender, what can I expect?

Fear is an insidious thing, it can paralyze us and keep us from moving on. I lived with fear all my life—I feared rejection, being different, being laughed at and being lonely as a result. I also feared how my disclosure would impact the most important people in my life, starting with my wife, followed by sons, parents and siblings. I did not want to hurt anyone and I would have preferred death if all my fears were realized. I was not immune to suicide, but I know that whenever I entertained those thoughts, that the Lord was able to keep me sober of mind and protected me from self-destructive behaviors and actions. For this, I am grateful.

I have met other transsexuals for whom it has not gone well, who have been rejected by their “Christian” family and their churches and condemned to hell. I have tried to understand how this could be and as I have compared notes with my new friends, all I have come up with is that for years Christians have been sold the binary view of sexuality and that everything else is an abomination. “He created them male and female…for this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife…” Ironically, this is the same verse I used to flog myself with in my attempt to “retrain” my mind, hoping to exorcise the demon inside me. It is also ironic how it wasn’t until I read the full passage in Matthew 19:1-12 and understood its context that I was able to reconcile my faith to my transsexuality. Those are sobering words that Jesus spoke, that not everyone would be able to understand. He was referring to the fact that sexuality was not always binary, that some people did not fall neatly into one sex/gender category, the implication being that sexuality was not binary to begin with.

I have discovered that when people are able to understand this fundamental truth, that their fundamentalist view of sexuality, gender and orientation get turned upside down and they suddenly get it. My prayer is that more people would be able to receive it.