Faith will always be a key part of my life. I’ve not only studied the Bible for years, I’ve read it cover to cover twice. Each day, I talk to God as if he is sitting in the room or walking down the street with me. Though my love of God has never wavered, my feelings towards the church have been complicated.
It started over 20 years ago, when I opened up to my pastor about my closely guarded secret: that I knew I was transgender. The next week, when I tried to walk into the building to teach my Sunday School class, ushers blocked me from the door and told me I was no longer welcome. I tried to call all my friends but they either let the phone ring or hung up on me. I had been excommunicated from the church.
My pastor and congregation reinforced what I had been telling myself my whole life. For years I preached messages to people just like me, telling them that they were bad and needed to change. I did that hoping to win God’s favor, hoping that he would turn me into what he wanted me to be.
Losing my church was draining and demoralizing, but it gave me the space I needed to reflect. Still, self-discovery and acceptance do not always take a linear path. It took me a long time to accept myself as transgender. It took even longer to accept myself as a transgender Christian.
Despite my past experience, I was drawn to the Church. But every time I would try to attend a different service, I would carry a great amount of suspicion in with me. I didn’t believe members who said they loved all of God’s creatures because the caveat “as long as you change” usually followed.
“It took me a long time to accept myself as transgender. It took even longer to accept myself as a transgender Christian. Though my love of God has never wavered, my feelings towards the church have been complicated.”
Finally, it was my turn to learn the lesson that people can surprise you if you keep your heart open. After almost a lifetime of struggling with my gender identity, I gained the courage to openly show the world the woman I am. Unfortunately, my boss did not accept me and the next day fired me from my bartending job.
Although I was cast aside again, this time I wasn’t alone. A member of a church I went to offered to do pro-bono legal work for me. You see, the state of Washington has anti-discrimination law that made it illegal to discriminate against transgender people like myself. Because of this help, I was able to win a small settlement that helped me to pick myself back up.
But recently, there’s been a push to roll back the non-discrimination law that helped me when I needed it most.
Right now, opponents of equality are trying to qualify I-1552 for the November ballot. If passed, it would repeal Washington’s 11-year-old non-discrimination law ensuring fair and equal treatment for transgender people like me.That means that if I’m out in public, I might need to show my birth certificate or submit to invasive violations of my privacy just to use the restroom. And the law would sanction this humiliation, unlike years ago when it helped me defend myself from discrimination.
Transgender people already live with the fear that people won’t accept them for who they are—and I-1552 would make it impossible for us to walk into any public place without having that fear magnified. If I-1552 passes, I would have to re-think whether or not my community is truly as welcoming as I thought it was.
You see, Washington’s non-discrimination law not only helped me with a settlement, it showed me that I had a caring community that would be there for me. Through this support I was allowed the space to come to terms with who I am. I am a transgender Christian who is deserving of God’s love.
“Transgender people already live with the fear that people won’t accept them for who they are—and I-1552 would make it impossible for us to walk into any public place without having that fear magnified.”
Feeling like I could trust again, I joined a church community where I now take water coloring classes, teach Bible study and catch up with friends. Basically, I’m treated like any other member of the congregation. And Washington’s transgender non-discrimination law ensures that, no matter where I am, I’m treated like any other Washingtonian.
These days, I have been diagnosed with a neurological disorder that limits my movements. Church is no longer just a balm for my soul, it has become my haven—a place I look forward to attending every week.
At the same time, I can’t forget that there are people who would like to make it harder for transgender people like me to move around the world safely and privately.
But thankfully, many of my fellow Washingtonians are pushing back against these attacks. While opponents of equality are collecting signatures for I-1552, a dedicated group advocates are mounting a counter-campaign urging people to Decline to Sign I-1552 and educate their friends about I-1552’s harmful effects on their transgender family, friends and neighbors—like me.
But we need your help to spread the word and ensure that discrimination stays off the ballot in Washington. Will you help spread the word by joining the Decline to Sign I-1552 effort?