This Easter, I will be putting on a shirt and tie and attending my first church service in just over two years. I grew up in the church and am very close to my mother, who is a pastor, so I never thought I would say those words.
However, I also grew up as a daughter instead of the son I really am.
A lot has changed since I walked out of the stained glass doors for the last time. I have endured medical troubles, changed career outlooks, fought depression, overcome numerous hurdles and begun my transition. As I approach the one year anniversary of my lowest points, the (much thicker) hairs on my arms stand up just thinking of how truly transformative this journey has been.
To the average person, those changes pretty much remain unseen. Recently, a close friend of my partner was astonished to discover that I was transgender, because she had never known me before I began hormone replacement therapy. That was mind-blowing to say the least, as there have been many days no amount of progress can make me feel like I can pass flawlessly.
There are times when I feel ashamed of the journey, too. I can’t tell you how embarrassing it is to have to explain myself every time I accidently tell a childhood story to someone who doesn’t know that I am transgender. I never wanted to be stealthy about it, yet I find myself in positions all the time where, for whatever reason, it’s safer to just fly under the radar. But when I go back and sit in a pew, it’s not like my parents are going to deny me as being the same child they raised.
More and more, I find myself supported and my identity validated as just a necessary part of God’s plan for me.
For me, the true meaning of Easter is in the concept of forgiveness, and of Christ overpowering that which oppresses us the most: death. No day has passed when I haven’t felt the presence of something much greater than me in my life, even though I have only talked to a chaplain twice in the past two years. Even when I don’t want to look up, I know that my soul and my life are consistently valued and lifted up by Christ’s understanding. I still turn to the same old hymns when I am homesick, and I read the RMN blog to keep the reminder that I am welcome in the Christian faith at the front of my mind.
Jesus has been my friend and my savior through all the changes in my life, the painful, the positive, and the permanent. And I think that’s something I should be proud of.
So, when I go home to sit in those old wooden pews once again, no matter how many prayers I mutter to myself about it, I will be visible as a transgender man. I will celebrate the resurrection that has meant so much to the world as a part of a congregation that remembers me only as I was before, but will now get to know me as I am. Once again, I will bring before Christ the burdens I have carried and lay them at the foot of the cross, knowing that there is more in life for me than that which I have gone through.
As Christ rose to live again, may my relationship with the church have the chance to begin again in honesty, acceptance, and lightness. It would bring me a joy greater than life to be a part of a community in worship and fellowship, fully accepted for who I’ve been, what I’ve endured, and who I am.
But no matter what, my heart will always belong in God’s hands, for it is God that gave me life and the opportunity for an existence that brings me closer to Christ, and to peace.