She Became Him
Several years ago, a couple of women visited at a congregation I was serving. They brought along their three children, the older two of whom were the biological progeny of one of the women. The couple would soon adopt the youngest child to make their family of five complete.
It happened to be about the time the congregation began its trek into the UUA’s Welcoming Congregation process, designed to help churches learn to be more inclusive of LGBTQ people. As part of that process, we held an afternoon-long workshop about our assumptions, experiences, and beliefs around sex and gender. The two women joined us and brought along a mother and a friend.
As we introduced ourselves around the circle of forty people, one of the women said she was glad to be there because she was about to begin her transition from female to male and she hoped this congregation might be part of her support system while she did that. Not many in the circle that day had known any transgendered people to that point, but they quickly expressed willingness to walk the path with that individual and family as best they could.
It was quite the gift that family brought to that little church, being willing to share their triumphs and challenges, their celebrations and their struggles. We all learned a tremendous amount about gender and sexual orientation, about oppression and exclusion as well as about the joys of finally being able to express one’s true self to the rest of the world.
As time went on, we all marveled at the changes becoming apparent in the transitioning partner. He blossomed into a strong leader, both at church and in the broader community. His visibility in the region brought more and more trans people to the church; in response, the church felt the need to initiate a trans support group.
Not that it was all peaches and cream. The partner who remained female openly wondered, since she was no longer part of a lesbian couple, how she could explain who she now was - to herself and to everybody else? It was so difficult, in fact, that the couple split up for a time, though I understand they’re now happily back together.
I think often of my friend. I miss his leadership and his power and his dedication to justice in all its forms. I especially miss the light that shone from his newfound sense of poise and self-assurance that was so badly missing when he felt trapped in the wrong body.
If we do nothing else this November - which we have dubbed Trans Remembrance Month - I hope we can begin to raise up the stories of people who defy the old-style binary gender barriers.
We have so much to learn, about ourselves and about life.
See you in church,