By Transgender Clergy Person
Becoming more active in the LGBTQ community, I realize I am often much older than others; older not necessarily in chronological age, but in transition age. Thirty-four years is a long time. It is longer than many of the people I meet in the community today have been alive. Someone once referred to me as a 'pioneer', which I guess is the truth. As one person recently said, "It's a different world than when you transitioned." In many ways this is true; in others, it seems little has changed. One change I especially appreciate and celebrate is the move towards transparency in life. "Back in the day" as they say, the particular medical team I worked with counseled me to live a post-transition life completely disconnected from the past. I was advised to fabricate 'facts' from early years if necessary, and closely guard who I shared my true story with in the future. I remember arguing there were things about this counsel that did not feel right. I asked one psychiatrist how I could possibly have authentic relationships which such a large part of "me" left out? He responded saying it was no more an issue than the fact most people do not generally share their deepest 'secrets', even with spouses and close friends.
As I reflect on this advice and all that has happened in the years since, I can say two things. First, I am certain that on some level this counsel was intended to be helpful, and even protective. On the other hand, this standard also protects society from the pressure to openly discuss gender identity and sexual orientation from anything other than a binary, polarized, and polarizing perspective [For further reading on this see, 'Omnigender' by Dr. Virginia Ramey Mollencott, Pilgrim Press]. From my vantage point today, in accepting the 'Harry Benjamin Standards of Care' that contained these guidelines, the medical community practiced a type of "Don't ask, don't tell" policy with its transgender clients. Such a policy ultimately fails and does harm while enforced, as people are encouraged to hide aspects of their authentic selves. It also allows society to continue unjust policies and practices towards LGBTQ people. If we do not exist, why do we need protection and equal rights?
For the third time this week I have shared my story with friends or members of my congregation. Last evening I enjoyed a picnic dinner during which I shared my story with two more people. Each time I have risked this move into transparency, the results have been dramatic. Last night was another blessing as walls came down, pretense and facade fell away, and five individuals experienced genuine spiritual community together.
I am grateful for this particular change among those working with LGBTQ persons within medical and counseling communities. At the same time, I continue to grieve how the Church reinforces these out-dated standards in a futile attempt to protect itself from the very abundance of life it espouses. There are some things that must be left where they belong, "back in the day."