I Understand Your Pain, But…
I have noticed a phenomenon for which I have no name. It occurs when people from my old evangelical tribe contact me in good faith, but feel compelled to tell me how much it pains them to hear others speak evil of me, something that still happens with regularity. I understand their messages are well intended, but something strikes me as irregular.
As a pastoral counselor, I always ask a question of myself when I think about sharing personal information with one of my clients. Am I sharing the information for my client’s sake or for mine? As a counselor, if it is for the client’s sake I go ahead and speak. If it is for my sake, I put the thought away, unexpressed.
Over the past few months I have taken to asking a similar question to those who write and tell me of the pain they feel when others speak ill of me. I ask if they are telling me for my sake or for theirs. I suggest if they are telling me for their own sake, that is one thing. If they are telling me for my sake, I let them know it is just one more piece of flying debris from a storm I have left behind.
What I have come to understand is that those who bring these messages are often not fully aware just how much their experience is shaped by living almost exclusively within a heteronormative tribe. By placing themselves in a culture in which prejudice against my community is the norm, they assume I am going to be as bothered by what they hear as they are. I am not.
These friends remain in a world in which transgender people are seen as an anomaly or worse, an abomination. They do not fully understand that I inhabit a different universe. I live in a world that deeply respects the decision I have made, and sees me as a person of courage. I am part of a church and a movement of churches that is more vibrant than the one from which I was ostracized.
I chose to move into a world that is broadly accepting. My family has also chosen to leave the old world and enter a new one that includes a majority of our fellow citizens. Sixty-two percent of Americans are now supportive of the LGBTQ community. Fifty-one percent of millennial evangelicals are supportive. Even among older evangelicals the number supportive of marriage equality has increased from 26 percent to 36 percent in just eight years.
It is okay if my evangelical friends want to remain in a culture that believes I have gone astray, and I do appreciate that these good folks are supportive of me. But I no longer need them to be my advocates within a tribe in which I am persona non grata. If it pains them to hear nasty things about me, I would suggest they do not speak up in my defense, or better yet, consider moving on.
Christ is alive and well outside of the insular cultures intent on vilifying a group of healthy and whole followers of Christ. There is a big Christian world out there beyond the heteronormative evangelical culture. I moved into a more inclusive Christian world and found it transformative. The Christ in me is now more readily visible than it was before. Is it possible the same would be true for others?