June 12, 2016.

June 24, 2012, I not only attended, but I marched in my first Pride Parade. That winter I had finally stopped wrestling with the theological implications of being attracted to women. I finally felt loved by God and free to begin to pursue a relationship.

I was 32 years old and hadn’t dated in 12 years. I longed to feel loved. I longed to feel a part of a community. I saw something online about The Center on Halsted looking for people to march, so I signed up.

As I marched down the parade route with the group and surrounded by an estimated 850,000 people, I felt proud that I stepped out of my comfort zone. A reporter for the Chicago Tribune talked to me as I marched and when asked what I felt marching in my first Pride seeing people from all walks of life gathered in one place – I was quoted “It makes you feel not so alone”.

I craved community. Previously, it was easy. I had been a member of a church for almost a decade. I worked as a youth group leader. I did all kinds of tasks and regularly brought the pastors coffee. I felt like community was built into my life. When I moved to Chicago in 2010, I lost that. I couldn’t find it. Looking back on that Tribune article, I see that I was still desperate to feel connection.

April of 2015, I found a subreddit that started to give me a feeling of community. I would read the posts of guys like me who were questioning their gender identity or beginning to transition. This group  would answer my questions, ask me for my take on their situations, and give me support when I felt I had no one who I could talk to.

September 8, 2015, I finally started my medical transition to male. I got my prescription for testosterone and gave myself my first injection. I felt like I finally was doing what I should be doing. I remember after texting my wife that it was done my next task was to tell that group of guys on reddit that I finally had my prescription. I got to share my joy.

February 6, 2016, I stepped out of my comfort zone (and against my social anxiety’s wishes) to a meetup with other trans guys. Malcolm (the FTM Traveler) set up a dinner with some brothers, so I went. The next morning we had another meetup for breakfast. I got to bring my wife and met more amazing guys whom I now consider friends. My community was expanding.

June 12, 2016, I awoke to the hateful massacre at Pulse in Orlando. The count of dead souls rose from 20 to 50 as I was reading the news.

June 12, 2016, I came home from a day of church and a neighborhood festival to read about a man who was arrested on his way to commit a similar act at LA Pride.

The truth is, whether I felt it or not – whether I was lesbian, gay, cis, trans, bi, queer, etc. – what happened in Orlando, what could have happened in L.A., it is still my community. We are all connected. We are connected through our humanity. We don’t need a certain facet of our life to be what connects us. The mere fact that we were born and breathe oxygen is enough – or should be anyway. Yes, it is much easier to relate to someone who has gone through similar struggles, but we are to love our neighbor – not just the one with the similar roof – the one with the peeling pink paint and Munsters themed doorbell chime (I made that up, but wouldn’t that be amazing???).

Community is a choice. Let’s choose to be in community with others. Let’s choose to love. Let’s choose to protect those who are the most vulnerable. Use whatever privilege you have to help the oppressed. Last week I was riding the L and saw a situation that I felt required action. I have the privilege of being seen as a white male, so I used that to try to help some women on the train feel safe. It ended up not being a big thing that I had to do, but I could see the relief on one particular woman’s face and knew it was a big deal to her.

I’m not saying it is right that there is such a thing as white privilege or male privilege (especially white male privilege), but I am saying that it does exist and until we can dismantle the patriarchal system, we need to find a way to use it to the advantage of the oppressed.

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2 weeks.

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I have a countdown app on my phone. I look at it constantly. Expectantly. Anxiously.

It wasn’t that long ago that it was just about 2 months. Today, it is now officially less than 2 weeks.

On the 27th, my name will legally be Oliver.
I will change my gender markers as well.
I will legally be a man.

My plan is to head from the courthouse to the Social Security Administration office and then to the DMV. Depending on how things go – I will then go to the bank so I can finally use my debit card again with confidence.

I can’t wait to feel relief. To feel recognized. To have legal backup.

On May 1, I will have a different (better) health insurance. That means I am shopping around for surgeons already. I have 2 in mind so far. One is super close, but in all honesty, I don’t think he will operate on me based on my weight. The other is about an hour away, not too bad. I can’t wait to have a chest that makes me feel comfortable. I can’t wait to stop binding and be able to take solid deep breaths regularly.

Life is getting good.

Sadly, for many, life isn’t getting good – it is getting harder. With more and more “bathroom bills” being proposed, states are in effect, criminalizing body functions for trans folk – especially trans women. States are claiming religious freedom trumps human rights. Maybe I am idealistic – but my theology states that all people are created in the image of God and thus have rights, value, and should be respected.

I pray for my friends in those states facing these bills. I pray for the lawmakers to see how this is just a new version of segregation. I pray for safety. I pray for bladders to not be infected. I pray that folks don’t get injured. I pray thanksgiving that I am safe, loved, and affirmed. I praise God that I pass well enough to not be looked at twice when I go to a public restroom. I give thanks that in 2 weeks, I can show an ID that says male.

transcend.

A couple of months back, I found myself writing out a statement of faith. What I thought would be easy- I mean, I love God and am obsessed with theology – became daunting. I kept writing and re-writing it for weeks. I finally got it to a place that I thought was clear and honestly, I was proud of it. I still am.
There is a point in it that I want to share –

Genesis states that God created both male and female in Their* image.  God used Themselves as a template for humanity and imparted Their spiritual essence into flesh. God molded us to be similar to Them. We are flesh and spirit.
Now here is where I take a less traveled fork in the road.
Both male and female in Their image. God’s image is both male and female. God transcends gender. God is not a man. God is not a “he”.

A year and a half ago, while researching for a sociology project, I had the opportunity to interview a film maker who was working on a documentary about transgender religious leaders. One of the things he said struck me. I remember meeting with my pastor to flat out ask if that was true. He said that trans folk are better suited to ministry than their cisgender counterparts in that they are closer to God because they have both sides of God in them.
I’ve contemplated that statement regularly especially these past six months. I don’t know if I agree totally with that, but it does give me comfort. What I do believe though, is that in a sense, God is transgender. God supersedes any and all notions of gender. God is under the trans umbrella. Agender, Genderqueer, Non-Binary, Gender Fluid, etc.
God gets me. God affirms me. My gender is not a sin anymore than God is sinning with Their gender.

Somewhere around 10 years ago, I was pet sitting for a pastor of mine at the time, and I was watching some sermons on tape (like I said, I love theology) and one of them was about the word Hebrew. The speaker said that it means to pass or cross over. I looked it up and this is what I found late Old English, from Old French Ebreu, from Latin Hebraeus, from GreekHebraios, from Aramaic ‘ebhrai, corresponding to Hebrew ‘ibhri “anIsraelite,” literally “one from the other side,” in reference to the RiverEuphrates, or perhaps simply signifying “immigrant;” from ‘ebher “region on the other or opposite side.” The noun is c.1200, “the Hebrew language;”late 14c. of persons, originally “a biblical Jew, Israelite.”

I want to point out “one from the other side”. You see, the prefixes cis and trans are taken from organic chemistry : “The terms “cis” and “trans” are from Latin, in which cis means “on this side”[2] and trans means “on the other side” or “across”…

I believe that it is not an accident that God’s chosen people of the Bible, the Hebrews are ones who crossed over. I believe it is not an accident that I have felt called and chosen by God – and I too have crossed over.

 

 

*I use They/Them/Their for God’s pronouns