The world today is not an easy place to be trans, more so to be a trans child or teen. Just last week my own state senate passed an anti trans athletics bill and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has called on professionals to report parents for child abuse who give their kids gender affirming care. My heart sank, my stomach turned in knots. Sadly, similar bills are making their way to the floor in other states as well. It's hard enough to be a trans kid without this added trauma.
The bills we see that seek to ban you from sports or block you from receiving access to medical care to transition are wrong. Full stop. They are another wave of oppressive efforts to use LGBTQ people as pawns for political gain.
Many years ago I was in similar shoes to yours. While I was still figuring out my gender identity, or rather, coming to find words for what I knew deep down, I remember being a closeted queer teenager just trying to get through the day. Meanwhile, the world around me seemed to have us trapped as pawns in a culture war.
At that time, politics focused more on gay and lesbian maters. Trans people were mostly invisible to me. I remember just trying to figure life out and all the while debates raged around me. It was scary and disorienting. I was just shy of fourteen when Mathew Shepherd was murdered. I remember “don’t Ask Don’t tell” becoming military law, and debates raging over “same sex marriage.” All around, my humanity was up for debate in some sort of cultural and political jostling for power. Being a young person trapped in the middle of a culture war is not fair. It robs a person of their childhood and teenage years.
What you are going through isn’t fair either. You should be thinking about soccer games or band practice. You should be worried about math class and what to wear to prom, not if you will be allowed access to medical care or allowed to participate in sports.
In 2015, I was sitting in a conference hall in Cleveland, Ohio during my denomination's national bi-annual gathering as we heard the news that the Supreme Court had issued a decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, making same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states. There was cheering, tears of joy, hugs - all at a church conference.
I was happy- 14 year old queer me lived to see a small part of cultural change.
Yet, If I am honest, I was also a bit afraid. As an out trans clergy person involved in activism, I knew that the gay and lesbian rights movement had won a symbolic victory of mainstream acceptance in that moment. I also knew that the religious right were already turning their targets towards trans and gender diverse people. 2016 brought us an onslaught of anti-trans legislation in the form of “bathroom bills.” It was dehumanizing in a way that somehow was deeper than the marriage debates ever were.
I share this to say that I do believe that change is possible- I have seen it happen in small but important ways. I want you to have hope that we will fight with you, and I do believe that in time we will see justice.
And yet, I want to acknowledge that in the meantime it hurts. It hurts and it's not fair. Being an adolescent is supposed to be a time to explore, to figure out who you are and what you like. It's not fair that your personhood is on a national political stage. It felt confusing and gut wrenching for me. It felt scary. I can only imagine that some of those same feelings might be true for you. As much as I want you to know that we are fighting for change, I also want you to have the tools for resilience to be ok now. As I think back, I wonder what my earlier self would need to know to find that resilience. These reflections come to mind.
I want you to know that it's more than just “ok to be trans,” It's wonderful. You are a special and important reflection of the Divine, you are beloved, and your life matters.
It can be easy to internalize the hateful rhetoric around us. However, many faith traditions actually celebrate trans and gender diverse people. For me, reminding myself of this helps on the hard days. If I can center myself in the truth of my worth and dignity I can stay grounded even when the world around me is stormy. In my faith tradition we believe that all people reflect the image of God. I will echo what many trans theologians have pointed out - that God is in fact beyond gender. Genesis 1 tells us that God created man and woman in God’s image, and while some would use this to harm us, we know that in fact this means that God in turn encompasses both masculinity, femininity and everything in between and beyond. Trans people reflect an important part of the image of God. And it's not just this passage that would lead us to this conclusion - we see in the scriptures both masculine and feminine images for God. These metaphors have led me to the conclusion that you could say God is genderqueer. In this way, trans people have a unique gift in representing this aspect of the divine that transcends and dare I say, transgresses gender.
On the days when the world seems cruel I remember that my trans-ness is a spiritual gift to myself and the world around me. It is a blessing to embody a transcendent space in the same way that so many spiritual realities defy categories or definition. Rabbi Elliot Kukla notes that while the Jewish tradition often categorized things into binaries, it also celebrates the ways creation cannot fit into boxes. Using twilight hour between day and night as an example he writes, “we might have thought that the ambiguity of twilight would have made it dangerous or forbidden within Jewish tradition. But in fact, our sages determined that dawn and dusk, the in-between moments, are the best times for prayer. Jewish tradition acknowledges that some parts of God’s creation defy categories and that these liminal people, places, and things are often the sites of the most intense holiness"1
As trans people, we are more than just OK, we are especially gifted to show the world a glimpse of the Holy that transcends, that defies categorization, and that manifest beauty in diverse ways. We reflect our creator as we co-create our lives, or even bodies, to be our fullest selves. We are more than ok, we are wonderful.
I want you to know that there are people and communities that will celebrate you. The voices of hate are often loud, but they are not the only voices. Perhaps you are lucky and are already in an affirming family or community. If so, I pray they are wrapping you in extra love and care at this time of cultural turmoil. If not, know that there are those of us who will. Whether it's through a spiritual community, or non-spiritual one - we will celebrate your journey alongside you.
I want you to know that you are not alone. There are others like you who understand. Some of us are older, some are your age. We get it. It's also my belief that God is very present with you as well, as I believe that God is especially near to those who are hurting. I want you to know you don’t have to fight alone either. As much as it is hard to see these debates play out on stage, I have found some comfort in the voices that have spoken up and out. I see trans adults who are sharing their truth. I see cisgender queer and straight allies fighting for a world where you can simply be. I see parents who are speaking up for their trans kids, and public officials who have stated they will defy the unjust demands to out trans kids or turn their parents over to protective services.
My sibling, you are a beloved child of God. Your light is sacred and special. The world is a more beautiful place because you exist.
1 Kukla, E. (2008) A Created Being of Its Own: Toward a Jewish Liberation Theology of Men, Women and Everyone Else. TransTorah. http://www.transtorah.org/PDFs/How_I_Met_the_Tumtum.pdf
About This Blog
I will write from my own experience and place in life. My goal is to share what I’ve found to be helpful in my life. It may or may not be something that works for you. I aim to share, not to “should” on you. I invite you to explore and reflect with me.