Loyalty to the Inner Light

Loyalty to the Inner Light

I lectured at the University of Colorado this week and the students had questions about the early days of my transition.  It started me pondering about the insights I have gained since that difficult time.

First, I definitely underestimated how shocking it was for people to hear I was trans. I had been living with the knowledge since childhood, but only four people knew of my circumstances. Having chosen adaptation over authenticity, I had hoped to keep it under wraps throughout my life.   I finally realized I needed to come out.

Many Christians experienced my transition as a betrayal. One friend who has not spoken with me since, said, “I wish you had taken this to your grave.” Others felt keeping it a “secret” had been wrong. I protested that it was not a secret because there was no moral wrong in being transgender. It was just private, like your sex life with your spouse is private. Of course, when my intention was to stay in the closet, I had every reason to keep it quiet. I knew speaking up would end my career.

After I came out, many Christians chose to identify me as a person of questionable character. I suppose it made it easier for them to separate themselves from me.  With impunity, they told stories that were not true.   It was my darkest hour.

I had an “Aha!” moment early in the process. One of my family members asked a woman to watch a speech given by filmmaker and trans woman Lana Wachowski. The woman replied, “I started to watch, but her hair and voice were just too weird.” Her response made me realize that the narrow norms of the Evangelical community were going to stop most of these fundamentally good people from exploring the transgender journey. It was my loneliest time. Grief descended. As novelist Lindsay Clarke writes, “Loyalty to the inner light felt like stepping into outer darkness.”

Fortunately, time is a great healer. Brené Brown says before forgiveness can occur something must die, usually grief. As my grief expended itself in painful fits and gasps, peace arrived like a deep river. I learned to trust its flow.

I know my return to the church hastened my healing. The acceptance I have been shown by a small handful of people from my former church world has been powerful. The welcome I found at Highlands Church in Denver has been extraordinarily transforming. I love that church as I have loved no other.

The decision to forgive is a decision of the will, born of the heart, forged in the soul and sustained by the spirit. It is not cheap forgiveness, the kind offered prematurely by souls frightened by their anger. It is hard won, willing to go through the pain of briefs for the prosecution and briefs for the defense, and a judgment of guilt for both sides. It requires humility, and includes asking the forgiveness of others, for there are always two sides to every story.

I am very much at peace with my life and my faith. I am comfortable in my own skin. I hold no illusions. The attacks will continue. Just today I heard of an online group that has decided I am possessed by a demon, more than likely because of my playful picture in last week’s blog, which also appeared in the Huffington Post. There was no sting in hearing the news, just sorrow for the good people who might be affected by that kind of bigotry. It is a given that I will continue to be vilified. It is all right.  The truth is, I showed up, and it was difficult for everyone. But we serve a God of mercy and forgiveness.  And when the last rays of sunlight grace the western sky on each and every day of this sacred odyssey, I retire knowing love has won.