Just Collateral Damage

That was quite a week.  It began with me preparing a sermon about doubt being an essential part of faith. I rode my mountain bike Monday and Tuesday, and ran on Wednesday and Thursday.  The most exciting thing that happened was a couple of rattlesnakes on the trail.  Then Thursday came.

I survived the morning, profoundly changed by the courage I saw in Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. But then the afternoon happened, and I realized the truth.  The Republican Senators had not seen Dr. Ford.  Not really.  If the tables had been turned, I’m not so sure the Democrats would have either.  The focus was not on Dr. Ford.  It was on the locus of control.  Who held the power?

It was a Monday, December 16, when I was summoned by email to a meeting with the executive committee of the board of directors of the ministry I had directed for more than two decades.  I was to meet them at a hotel at the Denver airport two days later.  We met in one of their rooms, where Cathy and I sat on a couch looking up at them, as they all sat in the desk chairs they had brought from their rooms.  For a couple of hours I talked about my gender identity.  They were warm and cordial, as they had always been.

Afterwards we went to dinner at the Ruby Tuesday’s next door.  We laughed and talked about our families and ministries.  When we left, Cathy asked how I thought it had gone. I told her I trusted those men.  I would be given the time I had requested to wind down my ministry.  Except, I wasn’t.

Thirty-six hours later I was called and told that if I was willing to resign immediately, I would be given a severance.  If I did not resign and word got out that I was transgender, there were no guarantees I would receive anything.

I had been with the ministry for 35 years.  I had never had a bad review, but I was given no other option.  There was no law stopping them from letting me go.  If you work for a religious corporation, there are no laws protecting you from being fired in any state.

I have never written specifically about that day.  It was traumatic.  When I saw the confidence of the Republican Senators last Thursday, I realized the truth.  It did not matter what Dr. Ford said.  Their minds were already made up.  It did not matter what I said in the hotel at the Denver airport that night.  One way or the other, my employment was already over. I could not admit I was transgender and expect to survive.

I imagined how Dr. Ford might feel, realizing her heartfelt words did not matter in the hearts of those powerful men.  They were doing what they thought they had to do.

And what did both groups of men “have” to do.  They “had” to preserve the power of their tribe, because they felt the integrity of the tribe was at stake.  In one case the Republican Party.  In the other case, the ministry I had once directed.  The humanity of a single person was secondary to the integrity of the tribe.  And that was all right, because their tribe was the group that was really looking out for the best interest of all people.  They were sure of that.  And sometimes a single person has to be sacrificed for the good of all, right?

The Republican lawmakers held no ill will toward Dr. Ford.  Our board held no ill will toward me.  We were collateral damage.  Minds were already made up before either one of us spoke. She would not be believed.  White men seem to have a hard time believing that one in three women in America has been sexually abused.

For me the problem was not that I would not be believed.  The problem was that being transgender was unacceptable to the tribe.  You’ll get a nice severance.  But the work you have loved for 35 years will be taken from you. It’s sad, but necessary.

Yes, I was triggered last Thursday.  I wept and wept for hours.  The memory of that week in December is vividly lodged in my hippocampus.  It is a scar now, no longer an open wound.  But Thursday brought the memories back to the forefront.  It was obvious the same was true for Dr. Ford.

The Republicans will do what they will do this coming Friday, just as our board did what they chose to do less than 36 hours after hearing from me.  No hard feelings though.  It’s just collateral damage.  The work our tribe does is important.  When it’s all said and done, we’re saving America.  Right, Paula?  Right, Dr. Ford?

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