When news of Bruce Jenner now Caitlyn Jenner coming out as transgender hit the media, there were many supporters and there were many people outraged by this decision to live “more authentically” SO publicly. When I came out as transgender, I had notable people in my life walk away, declare me as mentally ill, reject me and assume the worst of me also.
But it hasn’t been all bad. I’ve had people rally around me and love me into who I am… offering me jobs when no one else would; giving me a place to live when I had no where else to go; helping me to heal after surgery; and making sure that the comforts of life were still recognizable.
What I have learned is that while it hurts to have people you respect and love treat you like garbage that can be thrown away, there is a certain freedom that comes when people show you who they truly are and release you from their toxic reality. I spent so much time before my gender transition trying to gain the favor of others and trying to fit in; now that I am comfortable in my own skin and love waking up in the morning, I no longer feel the need to prove myself to anyone. I am me and I love me.
The greatest gift, besides our time, that we can give someone is our love and I have found since transitioning that if someone actively withholds their love and time from me because of their own ignorance, bias or hatred, it’s probably better that way. Before transitioning, I thought I needed the acceptance of others but now that I love me and I feel the power of God’s love flowing through me, I don’t need anyone else to validate my existence.
There are gifts, skills and talents that I possessed long before coming out as transgender that I still possess now today. And there are things about me that will always change and evolve as time changes and evolves; but the essence of who I am will always remain the same. With a name change, gender marker change, gender confirmation surgery, and the trajectory of my life changing, there is still the person who dreams, laughs, loves and gives wholeheartedly. The only difference is that now these things come much more freely.
Yesterday during New Member Sunday, I said, “I do” to living in covenant with Linden Hills United Church of Christ as a member of this faith community. I covenanted with them to serve God and the church fully as my whole self. This community loves and affirms me for everything that I am and they don’t judge or resent me for everything that I am not. Even knowing my differences and my unique attributes, this community has gathered around me and filled my life with love. I am treated like a human being with gifts, skills and talents…and I am not tokenized, broken down or regarded as suspicious because I live differently or come from a different path than others in the community.
For the last year and a half, I have gotten to know the community of Linden Hills UCC and they have gotten to know me. From day one, they looked at AND beyond my color, age, socio-economic status, gender and differences, and they saw the essence of me. There is something wholly energizing and affirming that happens when people see you for you and love you for it. There have been too many times when I have sat across from people who looked beyond the essence of me and judged me by external qualifiers. For the first time in my life, I have found a community of people who choose to see into me, into my soul.
When we look at one another deep enough, we can see the essence of our humanity and find the things that draw us together and closer to God. This is what it feels like to be free and to have true community: to open up completely and to have space to be exactly who you are. When you find such an opportunity to live freely and abundantly, you grab hold of it and you soar. Likewise, when you meet shallowness, or critics, where the only concerns are material and surface things, you know that there is only so deep and so far you can go comfortably as yourself.
Caitlyn Jenner owes no one an apology. For those who cannot see deep enough into this human soul to see the light, peace and freedom of God, they don’t deserve the gift of her presence because it would be lost on them entirely anyhow. It is not wise to cast our pearls into a pit filled with swine because such precious jewels will be destroyed.
I’ve waited my whole life to find a faith community where I could be an active member in that community and not feel pressure to conform or subdue any part of myself just to gain acceptance. And while we all will have our differences and conflicts because we are human, it is freeing to be part of a community where we can express our gifts and diversity without fear and judgment. There are those who may perhaps never like me or understand my life choices, but after the hell that I have lived through to find this heaven, I realize that life is too short to waste it on people and things that don’t really matter anyway.
Not everyone will like you or agree with you, and that’s ok. Just as it is ok to know that we don’t have to give our power, time and energy to things that won’t appreciate or value the wonderful attributes in us. Sometimes we focus so much on our brokenness that we forget that there are plenty of whole, secure people who want to love other whole and secure people.
It might take some rejections before you find those who fit, and when you do find those who feel like home, you love them through the seasons of life with everything you’ve got in you as an expression of gratitude for the gifts of love, honor and acceptance you’ve received because no one thrives in isolation. We are all bettered and empowered by affirming community.