This testimony was originally given at The United Methodist Church of Red Bank on September 20, 2015. 

Listen to the audio version here.

Good morning.

My name is Angel Chasco. Many of you know my mom, Bobbie McArdle. Since some of you might not know a lot about me, I’ll just list a couple facts. My favorite food is chocolate, I have a cat, I love writing and drawing, I’m transgender, and I’m scared of going to the bathroom.

Okay, so that probably sounded weird so just let me go back a little. When I was born a doctor handed me to my mom and said ‘It’s a Girl!’ When I was 15 I handed myself to my mom and said ‘Just kidding, it’s a Boy!’ I’m transgender. I’m sure most of you have heard of Caitlin Jenner, a transwoman, or maybe Chaz Bono, a transman.

Here are the statistics that are used at every transgender related function: 41% of transgender and gender nonconforming people attempt suicide, which is about 18 times higher than the national average. 19% of transgender people will experience violence or abuse from a family member. Only 18 states have laws that clearly protect transgender people- New Jersey is one.

My problem with statistics, however, is that they’re just numbers. They don’t tell you what it’s really like, just the math behind it.

Now, I am an exceptionally lucky transgender person. I have a supportive family, school, group of friends, and church group. I have access to hormones to transition. I live in the state that is, debatably, the most accommodating to transgender people. But that doesn’t mean that my life is normal.

Every day I wear a binder to flatten my breasts and loose clothes to hide my hips. I used to put dark brown eyeshadow on my face so that it looked like I had a bit of scruff. Whenever I go out in a public place I am extremely conscious of myself: did my voice sound like a girl when I laughed? Are my clothes too colorful? Do I not walk like a man? Will anybody know? If they do, will they do anything? I use the men’s room when I go out, but I won’t go to the bathroom unless it’s empty or there’s a lot of people in there. I’m scared someone will hear me using a toilet when I’m supposed to be using a urinal.

Recently, I was at the mall with a friend and I saw somebody that I knew from fifth grade at the food court and I quickly told my friend that I wanted to look inside a store that was in a different direction so that they wouldn’t see me. I’ve started looking at colleges now and I have to think about things the average person never would. Do they have a strong LGBT group or club? What are the dorm options? Have they had a transgender student before, and if so, how did they deal with that? If not, then how would they if a transgender student was accepted?

But even with how much fear and concern I deal with on a daily basis, my life has improved exponentially since I came out. I have been told by both family and friend that I am noticeably happier and more energetic than I was during my middle school years, a time when it was not uncommon for me to wear sweatpants and baggy t-shirts for an entire week to hide my chest and hips, both from other students and myself.

Now, I am confident and not afraid to speak my mind. When I was little my mom used to call me ‘little miss sunshine’ because of how happy I was all of the time.

That stopped in middle school, but I like to think I have been cultivating the new and improved ‘little mr. sunshine’ since I came out.

I came to this church for the first time a few months before I transitioned. I was, understandably I think, scared to come to church. My mom was, coincidentally, looking for a new church at the time. She found the United Methodist Church of Red Bank. It had little rainbows on its sign and said it was welcoming to everyone.

I was skeptical. You can only watch so many so-called Christians rant about the sin and sodomy of being a homosexual and about how god hates gay people before you realize that they probably hate transgender people too.

I mean, hate the sin, love the sinner doesn’t actually make you feel loved. It just makes you feel guilty.

Even the new pope, who was initially thought of as progressive, has had negative views on transgender people. In his book, Pope Francis: This Economy Kills, he had a list of things that don’t recognize the order of creation. Among those things were the manipulation “of gender theory” and the use of “nuclear arms.” I almost felt a little complimented to have my power compared to a nuclear bomb.

Basically, I thought I wasn’t allowed to be a Christian anymore.

I wasn’t suitable. If God couldn’t love me, why should I love him? I spent a lot of my middle school years angry at God because he’s been making people for a very long time and he’s got the nerve to mess my gender up?

The night I came out to the youth group we were watching a video about an alternate world where most people were gay and being heterosexual was a sin. I left the room and cried for 15 minutes in the bathroom and on the bench in the hallway. When I came back I told everybody in the youth group that I wanted to be called Angel, and for them to think of me as a boy.

I was met, as you might have guessed, with open arms and enthusiasm.

The church welcomed me. I’m going to get right to the point. There’s going to be a vote in this church soon. The last vote was made by a council and made us a Reconciling community. This vote is open to any and all church members. This is important, because it’s us. It’s not just the leaders of the church anymore it’s the church itself. If the vote passes we’ll become a Reconciling congregation.

Will anything change other than the name? Before I came out I would’ve said no. It’s just a name. But now I would say this is a vital difference. This new title means that we will be welcoming. All of us, as a church, as a whole, and as a family, will be welcoming.

But we won’t only be welcoming new members. We will also be welcoming our friends, children, family members, and parents who are already a part of our community.

They’ve been working very hard at this church for a long time just like every other person here. Why shouldn’t we be as welcoming with them as we are with everyone else who comes here? The vote is on November 2nd, so mark your calendars. I’m going to be there and you can be sure I’ll be looking for all of you.

Now, when I was in middle school I was certain that God had messed up with me. What purpose could I possibly serve by being transgender? I believe that I’m serving my purpose right now, talking to the church I love. A church is a sacred place. When I think about my church I think of love and teamwork and friendship and family.

Other transgender people might think of hate, of being spit on the face, of being openly insulted, and of having their own religion turned against them. I was once told that the church shouldn’t have to welcome transgender people, because we left the church. This is not true. The church left us.

I’m going to close this up with one of my favorite verses from the bible itself. Romans chapter 8, verses 38 to 39: “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Don’t let the church be the one to get in the way.

Thank you.

Did you know that RMN has a transgender extension ministry? We’re the United Methodist Alliance for Transgender Inclusion (UMATI). Learn more about us on RMN’s website, or join our Facebook group.

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