Monday, January 13, 2014

My highs and lows of transgender advocacy.

Workshop at GCN
Workshop photo by Kathy Baldock, GCN 2014
Jolt: no projector in the room for slides! (one of my lows)
But it actually worked out well as we interacted more freely (one of my highs)
Sometimes I preach to the choir, sometimes to the genuinely curious and sensitive; at other times to hostile skeptics, but often to myself.

I had the distinct honor and privilege to do a workshop at this year's Gay Christian Network Conference (GCN) last weekend. I cannot begin to describe what it is like to be among 700 attendees who have one thing in common, a hunger and a love for God, and for whom faith is not a legalistic dogma, but a the river of life.

To say that gays, lesbians, bisexual, transgender, and gender-queer persons are excluded from the "banquet" of the King is to deny the essential message of the Gospel, and comes pretty close to that unforgivable sin, which is to ascribe the work of the Holy Spirit to the devil. One only needs to meet the large number of parents of LGBTQ persons who attended this year's conference, listen to their stories and see the love in their eyes to appreciate our Heavenly Father's heart more fully. No one can sit through Linda and Rob Robertson's telling of their story and then accuse them of any heresy. And you better have a good supply of tissue on hand as they recount the process they went through when their son Ryan came out to them as a teenager, a process of transformation from narrow-minded religious judgement to unconditional love and support with a capital "S." Despite this transformation, they lost their son tragically and now they want churched parents to open the eyes of their hearts and consider the logs in their own eyes. If you haven seen their "gone-viral" presentation, allow me to infect you with the link: "Just because he breathes."

With Linda and Rob, one of my highs!
At GCN, Linda and Rob were gracious enough to recount their painful journey through their son's final moments and the years of struggle that preceded his premature death. Their love for the son is palpable, so too is their love for the church. They share their story to help us all grow in love for one another.

This was my third GCN conference in a row, and the third time I have given a workshop on what it means to be transgender as a Christian. I typically cycle through states of nauseating nervousness to transcendent peace in the days and hours before my workshops. I have identified two reasons why I go through this cycle: one, I am an introvert, shy and basically insecure person; and two, I am an introvert, shy and radically transformed person. The difference is that I am aware and cognizant for how God has been at work in my life. I see God's grace as a golden thread that is so intricately and intimately woven into the tapestry of my life, that it has kept me from unravelling.

Consequently, when I recount the process of how I was able to reconcile my faith to my medical diagnosis of gender disphoria, I too, like the Robertsons, have the privilege  to declare God's unconditional, transforming love and power. The truth is, I need to remind myself that I am truly loved, because even after five years, undoing 56+ years the effects of self-loathing takes time.