Yourself as the Audience?
For decades I remained silent. On rare occasions I would share snippets of my struggle. I asked an Old Testament professor about the meaning of a passage about cross-dressing, “for a friend.” I told another professor enough for him to show compassion and give my circumstances a name. In my twenties, three friends knew a fair measure of my story. Interestingly, none of them have been in touch since I transitioned.
As I grew older I began therapy and confided less in friends. If I told them, I knew our relationships would never be the same. Based on the way they reacted after hearing the news, I was right. Evangelicals do not have maps for dealing with transgender individuals.
Talking with Cathy last week, we both lamented how often I was not fully there. When she looks at pictures of Paul, there is a sadness, not just because Paul is gone, but because a part of Paul was never really there. Until we had today’s comparison, I don’t think either one of us knew how true that was.
I have heard from closeted transgender individuals who still minister within my denomination. They saw the public ridicule I faced, and it affirmed their decision to remain in the closet. I do not blame them. Yet in their voices I hear a tragic loneliness that causes me to fear for their lives. I lament that they are not fully there.
It did me no good to hide. In John Steinbeck’s novel, East of Eden, Samuel Hamilton asks a penetrating question of Adam Trask, a man who suffered a great indignity. “Do you take pride in your hurt?’ Samuel asked. ‘Does it make you seem large and tragic? Well, think about it. Maybe you’re playing a part on a great stage with only yourself as the audience.”
Suffering alone leads to tragic self-absorption. It does us no favors. We are communal creatures and need to work out our lives in a safe place in which our true selves can`be reflected in the love of an accepting community.
Through my family, church, and friends, I have that community. On Wednesday I am meeting Mark Tidd, one of my pastors, at the Bacon Social House in Denver. I will have two of my granddaughters with me. Every time I think about the day my heart is warmed. I will have lunch with three people who take delight in me just as I am, no questions asked. And I will be eating candied bacon. What more could you ask?
Today, I am present to my life and the lives of those around me. Even on my darker days I have energy to bear burdens, share a little insight, and leave the world better than I found it. I live whole-heartedly.
This past weekend was the annual retreat for the staff and board of the Gay Christian Network. Over two days I spent 19 hours with 12 people working hard to plan a vibrant future for GCN. We want LGBTQ Christians to find the one thing lacking in the world they inhabit – hope.
GCN’s board includes a psychologist, three attorneys, two pastors, an accountant and two lobbyists. We are black and white, gay and straight, trans and cisgender. But the common bond that holds us together is our conviction that love wins.
I am silent no more, and I am a better person for it. I end with the final stanza of another poem I wrote before transitioning:
There is no way but east to west
No stopping time or turning back
No wishing for what’s left behind
Just hearts aflame unyielding