Beginning yesterday, and extending through Wednesday, 2,000+ people are gathering at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky to discuss homosexuality and the preconference intensive is entitled: “Transgender Confusion and Transformational Christianity”.
The conference is co-sponsored by the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors and the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. Those gathered are discussing ways to speak to those they categorize as struggling and confused, and offer what they believe is wisdom that will encourage Christ-centered transformation.
I am a former Southern Baptist. I learned that we are all created in the image of God. I was taught how to pray powerful prayers and how to lead worship invoking the presence of the Holy Spirit. I learned about the power of fasting and sacrificial giving. I was encouraged to take every problem and issue of life to God and weigh out every decision against the Bible. And I was taught to trust that the leaders of the church had God-given authority.
As someone who openly identifies along the LGBT spectrum, I am looked upon with pity and concern by those who believe in a vengeful, anthropomorphic God; and I’ve been compared to Satan by many from my former tradition. In fact, my grandmother was so afraid for my soul that when I was in high school, she arranged a meeting at our house where family members gathered to exorcise me along with one of my aunts who struggled with drug addiction. None of us had knowledge of the word: transgender, so my exorcism was performed to rid me of what they called ‘the demon of homosexuality’.
Even with the exorcism, fervent prayer, and isolation from my community, my internal state did not change. I still had gender dysphoria and same gender attractions. I was taught that because I could not fight this and because my spirit was not willing to turn away from these feelings, my soul was going to spend an eternity burning in a lake of fire. I internalized this message and concluded that I was in a no-win situation: if I was going to live in the misery of rejection and isolation, and I was going to die and continue to exist in misery, then it made no sense to live.
“…it made no sense to live.”
After my failed exorcism and being further isolated from an affirming faith community, I tried to commit suicide because of the teachings of the Southern Baptist church. When I regained consciousness in the hospital, my grandmother was standing over me with tears in her eyes and a Bible in her hands as she spoke, “I prayed and prayed and God spoke to me. He would not create anyone just so they could be hated and rejected. He didn’t tell me to hate my own blood, the church taught me that. God made you who and how you are. Please forgive me.”
I have since learned that there is a difference between God and the church. God cannot be fully explained or understood by mere mortals, and the church is filled with imperfect people clouded by the lenses of their own conditioning and ignorance. The only struggle I ever had as a transgender person was trying to gain the favor and acceptance of those who wish to hide behind misogyny, fear, and biblical misinterpretation.
For the 6 months following my suicide attempt, my grandmother and I prayed together and combed through the scriptures, and we healed together. It is during this time that I learned about my true identity as a child of the Most High God. It is also during this time that I learned that no person and no room of haughty experts has a monopoly on God or the authority to speak for God.
Each of us who has been called out of the darkness of oppression and into the marvelous light of God’s freedom knows that we don’t need to gain favor with anyone because we already have favor with God by virtue of being in relationship with God. Now that I am free, it is my mission and calling on this earth to use every last breath in my body to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ to every soul who desires freedom—including those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender. My soul prospers and I now have peace; and it is because of this that I encourage everyone to get to know God for yourself.
“We become like what we follow.”
We become like what we follow. Groups like the Southern Baptist Church thrive on fear and exclusion, whereas Jesus operates through love and inclusion. I am a follower of Jesus, and through Jesus, I am part of a royal priesthood—a holy people, with the freedom to co-create with God a more loving and peaceful existence that is not confined to or defined by anyone’s religious or political agendas.