Saturday, January 20, 2007

Uma Goodness and the Transgendered Believers

God still shatters my paradigms.

I'm not even surprised anymore. I'm amazed and in awe at the things the Lord does and shows me. But i'm not really all that surprised. He consistently makes me think, "Wow. I would have never thought . . . ."

Transgendered Christians.

Honestly, I don't even know if I had/have preconceived notions about the trans community. Truth is, I don't know all that many very well. The ones I've met have always been very nice and kind and awesome actually. But I haven't asked all of those tough and uncomfortable questions that help me to understand what it's like to be transgendered.

I don't understand the experience. I can own that.

And I think that, like me, many people place judgments on the trans community because we simply don't understand. Frankly, in my observation in my area, many of the G's, L's, B's, and T's don't regularly interact as much - and even tell jokes about each other - because we all don't understand each other. You'd figure that the GLBT community would be pretty united but it's not really - at least here where I live.

So as a gay man, if I can own the fact that I don't understand the reality of a transgendered individual, then I can presume that similar (if not harsher) judgments would be made towards them by the mainstream straight community.

And to top it all off, there are also Transgendered Christians . . . .

Is it so hard to believe that God would indeed be moving and loving within this community? Well, it was enough of a paradigm shift for me to accept the reality of gay Christians, like myself, who sincerely love God and don't feel like we're compromising core salvation doctrine. In theory, I used to make reference to the GLBT community within the Church and that the Church ought to make room for us - or at the very least, acknowledge us as spiritual siblings in Christ. But I had never gone so far as considering the reality of a person of faith who is also transgendered. There aren't all that many churches that are not only inclusive of the trans community but are also represented by the trans community.

Last week, I had the opportunity to visit one. It is a church in Riverside, CA called Safe Haven. It's a church plant of the New American Christian Church. Not only are they inclusive of all people, but they are also comprised of mostly individuals in the trans community. A GCN friend of mine does drag show sermons and so Anthony was invited as "Ms. Uma Goodness" to speak to their congregation. Anthony extended the invitation to some of us other GCN'ers. If you're interested in contacting the church, you can see them listed on this page.

It was amazing to see the genuine smiles on their faces as they worshipped the Lord. Not only were they obviously feeling free to approach the Lord authentically, but i can see that the smiles on their faces were because they were actually in front of the Throne as they worshipped.

Seeing Ms. Uma share the Word and be of tremendous encouragement to all of us was incredible. I was quite impressed by the way that God is using Anthony in ministry! I was proud to call him my brother and friend! =) Plus, I instantly thought Uma looked "gorgeous and fabulous"! (Anthony too!)

I know that it can be easy to judge them based on mere outward appearances. An observer may notice a person who appears to be of a male gender but is wearing a dress, lipstick, and a wig. It could cause a person to stare. A person may also be tempted to doubt the sincerity of their faith and worship.

But God doesn't judge by outward appearances. Rather, He sees a person's heart. As i spoke to many of these beloved people afterwards, I sensed an incredible love and heartfelt care from them. From what I had seen so far, I cannot deny that these indeed ARE my brothers and sisters in Christ!

Jesus talks about knowing a tree by its fruit in Matthew 7 and Paul talks in Galatians 5 about the fruit of the Spirit being love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. I have witnessed this fruit in my transgendered brothers and sisters yet many people in the mainstream Church would deny that they are of the same Spirit. The irony is that they condemn with a form of judgment, disgust, and disdain for what they do not understand. If that's their fruit, what kind of a tree are they?

Throughout the service, I kept hearing God remind me of what He began speaking to my heart before I started my recent journey of reconciling my faith and sexuality. From 2003-2005, back when I was still Side X and thought it was wrong to be gay, I had been part of city-wide prayer meetings where we would pray against the gay community in our city. In my Sankofa testimony part 3, I talked about how God continued to pose two questions on my heart during these prayer meetings. Those questions were:

Why am I praying against a people I don't even know? Why am I praying against "them" when I am one of "them"?

Back then, He was showing me that not only was I not praying in love (when I prayed against the gay community, my community), but also that I had no idea at the time that He had been working and moving and loving within these very people I was praying against. I saw for myself over the past year and a half just how much He loves His people.

So during the service last Sunday, I looked around the room and I watched them lift up their hands in worship and they praised God with their hearts and there was a sincerity in their smiles. And God reminded me of how I used to pray against "these kinds of people". I heard Him say, "See. These are some of the ones I was telling you about. You didn't know about them, but I saw and heard and received their worship of Me."

And for that moment, I could imagine what Peter must have felt like in Cornelius' home when he saw these Gentiles speaking in tongues.


M said...

Oh wonderful, simply wonderful. This post made me smile, both on the outside and in my heart.

Anonymous said...

Wow. God is truly amazing. Thanks for being a willing vessel, Eric. God is using you to expand my horizons as well.

Anonymous said...

As someone who identifies as transsexual, I'm moving from male to female and almost there, I'm very proud of my faith and the support I get from my church and the community. I belong to a Disciples of Christ church (Edenside Christian Church) in Louisville, Kentucky and we are an open and affirming church. I am just one of four or five transgender individuals who are members. Heck, they even voted me in to be a Deacon for this year.

As for the community at large, each year, The Louisville Presybetarian Seminary hosts the Transgender Day of Remembrance when we remember those who were taken because of their gender identity. It's a loving seminary that is progressive and open to people of all backgrounds.

Thanks for writing this post. The T in GLBT is often overlooked and nearly always misunderstood. Any time you put that many initials together, it's sometimes hard for everyone to get along or interact but believe me in that we all have a lot in common and share the same goals.

Unknown said...

Great post, as you captured some things that I could relate to. I don't know many--maybe any--transgendered people. I think I would stare too, and I'm not proud of that. I would love to talk with a transgendered brother or sister and ask those hard questions that hopefully wouldn't make them feel uncomfortable so much as it would help me understand. Thanks for sharing yet another piece of your journey.

Anonymous said...

Eric, your post made me cry...thank you so much, my brother! It took me 25 years to reconcile my trans-ness with my sincere desire to follow Christ, and I'm only six months into the process of coming out. Your words here give me hope, but they also give me a new and deeper experience of God's love for me.

Peterson Toscano said...

Ah, Anthony is wonderful. But no surprise there are transgender Christians; the Bible is loaded with trans, genderqueer and gender "different" people. (In fact, my next play will be about them and it is a fascinating and wonderful research time I am having.)