It is not a coincidence that Trans Visibility Week falls just before Transgender Day of Remembrance. However, it poses an interesting dichotomy. Allowing the trans and gender-variant community to become invisible by not sharing our stories allows misconceptions and irrational fears to permeate the society around us.

But, being open about who we are is the most dangerous thing we can do as trans and gender-variant people. 

There is always a possibility that we are disclosing our gender-variance to someone who holds the aforementioned misconceptions. As a result, that person may become irrational or act out in a violent manner.

What can we do to counter the narratives that put us in danger? 

Whenever we feel comfortable sharing our stories, we must share them. The sharing of stories is an act of defiance against false narratives, an act of resilience against threats of harm, and an act of visibility in a culture of erasure for those who are often overlooked.

This is some of my story. 

The year of 2012 was a year of self-discovery for me. A season when I first embraced my attraction to women and began to explore what that meant. In August of that year, I met the woman that is now my wife, and a month or two later she asked me a timely and poignant question.

“Do you want to be a boy or a girl?”

As a result of that question, in November of that year, I began a journey to accept my whole self. At the time I was serving as a Youth Pastor at a United Methodist Church in Athens, Ohio and I knew I was in love with a woman who, quite frankly, didn’t sign up for a relationship with a transperson. So, from the very beginning, I knew this journey was about more than myself. It had to be. Still, some would need time to learn and understand, and a few would rather choose to walk away.

Along my journey, people would assume that I thought God had made a mistake on me. That somehow I slipped through the cracks. They would challenge my theology by assuming that I believed I was a “man trapped in a woman’s body.” I had to be intentional about holding onto my belief in God’s sovereignty and beauty of an all-knowing, all-powerful, and always present God. It’s true that I had to reconcile what I saw in the mirror as a woman’s body and what I knew in my heart was a man’s soul.

But one thing I always knew, was that God placed my soul in this earthly temple as an act of God’s sovereignty. I was not a mistake. 

As a transperson, I have experienced the rare gift of transcending the laws of humanity and the boxes and boundaries we choose to place around God. Because of my identity as a transman, I lived as a woman in this world for 24 years, and now I exist in this world as a man. A man who knows from personal experience what it’s like to be a woman has a unique capacity to change the world. Utilizing this part of my identity will forever be a part of my calling.

There was one thing that I discovered during this season that I still carry with me today. It’s that I can only do what God is calling me to do if I’m willing to be exactly who God created me to be. 

By diminishing. By suffocating. By repressing aspects of my identity, of my personhood, for all of those years, I was limiting the ability for God to work in my life and to work through me in the world.

Now that I have embraced all of the me God created, I can truly do my part to bring about God’s kin-dom, on earth as it is in heaven. Amen. 

 

 

Alex Shanks

Rachael's husband. Ella Marie's papa. Thinker. Woodworker. Story teller. Servant leader. Spiritual seeker. Transman.

Alex found The United Methodist Church 13 years ago when looking for a space to heal after his mother's passing. He fell in love with the emphasis on grace and the commitment to justice that he saw lived out in the world. Since then, Alex has served in local United Methodist churches, the West Ohio Annual Conference, as a nationally renowned spoken word poet, and as a faith organizer for Why Marriage Matters Ohio (a campaign to achieve marriage equality for same-sex couples). Alex is currently serving as Project and Field Director for Equality Ohio where he authored a faith training series called "Becoming Faithfully Inclusive," and as co-host for the podcast We Are Compatible. As Regional Organizer for the North Central Jurisdiction, he brings his passion for justice, advocacy, learning, and teaching, hoping to support Reconciling and affirming United Methodists as they remain committed to their call and their cause during such a time as this.

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