This has been a difficult week for us. I was approached by some parishioners on Sunday and asked to step down from a ministry in which I’ve participated for nearly four years. I had offered to do this several months ago but was reassured by our rector that it wasn’t necessary at the time. Over the intervening months as transition has resulted in a decidedly more female-looking person, the attitude of nearly everyone has changed. While some people seem nicer, some seem to have withdrawn from me completely. What seemed inevitable back in March is now imminent– we’re looking for a new church.

I’m not leaving because I was asked to step down from a volunteer position at church– I’m leaving because of the reason for which I was asked to resign. Being transgender in a conservative parish has been…… challenging. I’m probably the only trans person in the parish, and even if I’m not, I’m definitely the only one who’s out or transitioning. Gender transition makes people uncomfortable. It challenges their assumptions about gender and the way we acquire gendered behavior. It challenges their assumptions and beliefs about men and women, and the relationship(s) between them. It challenges their ideas of marriage and what a committed relationship looks like. I’m resigning because other people are uncomfortable, and that has caused me to understand something heart-breakingly important: the wrong people have all the veto power.

If I allow that situation to stand, I will never be able to be fully active in my parish because any one person would have the power to take that away from me by objecting to my status as a trans person. One objection by one person is all it would take. This disenfranchisement would foreseeably prevent me from doing those things I love most, and it lets other people decide how I may serve God. I do not mind being subject to other people, but I do mind it when they don’t have my best interests at heart.

I had received some information from the diocese about lgbt friendly churches in my area, and was very pleased to hear back from the rector of St. George’s Episcopal Church. He informed me that I’d be contacted by one of the married lgbt couples from his parish and that they should be able to answer any of my questions. Three things in that message stuck out for me: married lgbts from the lgbt community in that church.

I’ve been a member of a church where lgbt people were whispered about, were rumored to exist in that place, but never actually surfaced. I’ve been in a place where lgbt people are accepted only if they are celibate*. I’m finding out that there are churches with communities of same sex couples, which implies (at least to me) that there is more than one. We’ve felt like the odd couple at our current parish because there’s no one else like us, no one who understands us, and no one who really groks what we’re going through. People don’t understand me and they pity my wife.

Going to a place where there will be something other than fear and pity is an exciting prospect. So rather than waiting for God to find me, I’m going to go looking for Him in a place where I’m allowed to be myself, free of shame.

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* “Attracted to people of the same sex? That’s okay, as long as you’re celibate”. I mean, what do they think it actually means to be gay?

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