As a part of our transgender interview series, I want to share with the second question I asked of Andrea Hawkins-Kamper. As I reflect on the questions Andrea and I shared, I can’t help but notice how timely they and Andrea’s deep answers are for this time of Lent. There is wisdom here—wisdom gained in the wilderness time and brought back to us, in community.
May the light shine on us all.
Andrea has discerned a call to ministry and is currently attending Meadville-Lombard Theology School. Although she was raised Methodist and still considers herself Christian, she is seeking ordination in the Unitarian Universalist denomination. Related to her study, Andrea currently services as an intern with the Environmental Defenders of McHenry County. In life outside of seminary, she is an author, poet, artist and story-teller. Andrea is a happily partnered trans woman and lives with her wife, their two cats and a Chihuahua (all rescues) in Woodstock, Illinois.
What opportunities or challenges have shaped my perspective?
When I was eighteen years old, I embarked on a path to ordained ministry, serving the call of my faith. When I was twenty years old, that path suddenly closed as I was presented with a choice: the Church, or myself. I could not serve the church as my authentic self, the person God created me to be, without running afoul of the rules Man placed on that service. So I walked away – bitter, raging against the temples of stone and wood we have raised to capture and contain the boundless Divine. I was young, naive, and impetuous, all results of living as a closeted transgender person with an undiagnosed mental illness.
I wandered in the metaphorical desert for twenty years, always searching for a truth that I could internalize and hold as dear to my heart as I once held my faith. The life experiences of those intervening years formed layer upon layer of scar tissue, a balm to my soul’s Gilead. Some of those experiences where incredible, the birth of my daughter for one; some of those experiences were abhorrent. All of them became walls, and I built a prison to lock myself away from everything.
My world came crashing down around me in 2010 during the Great Recession. Everything I knew was laid bare before me, and, for the first time, I saw the whole of what I had become. One night, early in the morning (or really late at night, whichever), I sat on my porch in Humboldt Park in Chicago and sat shiva with my life. In the hours before false dawn, I heard again a still, small voice – “The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not comprehended it.”
That experience was a wake-up call, a clarion that it was time to rise, to lay siege to the past in order to build a new way, an authentic way forward. And so it began, and so it continues. Personal evolution and refinement, for me, are based in the reconciliation of who I was and who I am, integrating that which I was into that which I will become. From ashes I may have come, and to ashes I will return, but for now, well – now I rise, burning brightly, being both the darkness the light shines against and the light that shines in the darkness.