So Much To Learn

So Much to Learn

I understand Evangelical Christianity fairly well. I’ve taught doctoral and masters level courses on contemporary American Christianity. I understand church planting among Evangelicals and have a pretty good awareness of Christian higher education, church growth, megachurch administration, worship, and more esoteric topics of Evangelical life.

Truth is I have always been curious. Talk with me about fracking and I will listen with interest. Strike up a conversation about the lives of women on the American frontier and I will enjoy the interaction.  Anything about America’s airline industry will get my complete attention and probably an opinion or two. Years ago a mentor told me, “You need to give yourself permission to be the Renaissance person you are.” Permission granted, I have learned at least a little bit about a lot of stuff.

These days, however, I am once again a novice. I know very little about the inner workings of the LGBTQ world. It is all so relatively new to me. For instance, in some settings you can use the acronym “LGBT” and all is well. In others you must add the Q (Queer) and in still others you must add an “I” (Intersex.) And no, queer is not the pejorative term you remember from 40 years ago. So much to learn.

Even within the LGBTQ community there are pockets of unknowing. Gays and lesbians are often uneducated about transgender issues, and a lot of us do not understand much about bisexuals.

We are all lifelong learners, some more committed than others. Both of my mentors were voracious readers and curious observers, right to the very end of their long lives. I have no doubt both would have been surprised to hear about my gender dysphoria, but their curiosity would have been immediate and their spirit, generous.

Most of my adult life was spent among well-educated straight white American males, so I tended to know the things they knew. None of us were aware how much Western civilization was tilted in our favor. Not until you go through a radical change like mine do you begin to understand the pervasive nature of white male privilege.

Now I am learning what it means to be a woman, or more specifically, a transgender woman. I am part of a tiny minority, seldom studied and little understood. I am humbled when I read about those LGBTQ pioneers who have gone before. They were truly courageous.

Many great truths are paradoxical. Light is both a particle and a wave; man both finite and infinite. The road to maturity requires both radical openness and wise discernment. It is a road of ever-increasing knowledge, held loosely, coupled with ever-increasing wisdom, held tenaciously. It is a life grounded in the past, yet leaning into the future, happy to be a part of this great mystery in time and space.

One of my mentors talked about the multiple conversions of his life. Each came when radical new information took him through liminal space onto a new road of trials. He discovered each road, traveled with open mind and inquisitive spirit, led to holy ground. He said he finally came to understand all ground is holy.

I will always be a student, grateful for the teachers who have come into my life. As I once again accept the role of novice, I hope both wisdom and understanding result from the many things I come to know.

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4 thoughts on “So Much To Learn

  1. I like the part about multiple conversions. In my 62 years I have been many different people in some respects, but always myself at the core. Thanks for sharing your journey. I too have a lot to learn about my LGBTQ sisters and brothers. You taught me that many of that community are Evangelical Christians and that surprised me, but my misconception was based on the disinformation put out by the church. Thank you for letting me understand that the spiritual journeys of LGBTQ people are identical with those of us who are ‘straight’–and I use the term straight with tongue firmly planted in my cheek. You are at your best when you describe your own journey–your courage always lifts me up.

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  2. Beautifully put, Paula. The real zinger for me was, “The road to maturity requires both radical openness and wise discernment. It is a road of ever-increasing knowledge, held loosely, coupled with ever-increasing wisdom, held tenaciously.” Funny how much less zing that had half a lifetime ago! xo

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  3. I’ve experienced favour and privilege all my life. My so-called achievements are modest to say the least when you take into account my advantages. Thank you Paula.

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