Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Dear Franklin Graham: A plea...

I read your biography as a young Christian. I respected you and the struggle you went through to find yourself with your family pressures and background. You encouraged me, your organizations inspired me and then many years later you found Facebook.

I'm certain you'll probably never read this but here it goes anyway. When you are posting about Samaritans Purse, Operation Christmas Child, the poor, the needy, the neglected you bless people and you change the world. When you call your troops to pray for our nation without pointing fingers or immersing yourself in politics you bless people.

When you make a stand that further adds to dissension in the church, when you dig in your heals for one cause or another that segregates people, when you presume to know the hearts and minds of an entire group of people you hurt your cause, your reputation and a community who is already hurting. When you single out an entire community you openly say to them, all others sins aren't as important to me as you. All other sins don't deserve to be called out like yours. It shows a lack of humility and a false understanding of sin.

But I'm not here to argue whether or not a persons sexuality or gender is or isn't a sin. You can believe differently than me and still work along side me treating me as a sister in Christ; trusting that I have faith in Jesus, a moral code and a desire for justice and mercy in the world and for all to know Christ. The bottom line is those last 4 and how they play out in my life are things you shouldn't get to call me on. Because you don't know me, my heart, my family, my actions or how I live out my faith. This holds true for 99.9% of all of the people who read your post this morning.

You can't appreciate the struggle I went through and continue to go through as the parent of a gender non-conforming child. You don't understand the battle my husband I fought with our child for years. You don't have any value or compassion for the journey God has me on or the reasons why he chose me for this path. How do I know this? Because you use your mouthpiece to call out, not question. You use your voice to condemn in the name of Jesus instead of connect in the spirit of love. The world doesn't want you to see them as sinners, they want you to see them as people the way my Lord does. He sees them in all of their mess and with all of their struggles as Kings and Queens, as beloved, as heirs, as children. Thankfully he loves all of us as a father, one who never abandons his children no matter what their struggle but who is always waiting with open arms saying I love you, I died for you, come to me and I will give you rest.

Who are you to decide what that rest looks like? Who are you to decide what God has called someone to be? Who are you to take up arms against something that has no effect on you and your life and charge people walking an unknown path and tell them who they are to God? And quite frankly, how do you believe that none of the community you addressed this morning were aware of anything you've said? Do you think that anyone in the LGBT community doesn't know what the Bible says about them? If you believe that then you are incredibly naive.  

For the past couple months I've been reading through a Childrens Bible with my kids at night. It gives a small glimpse of the old testament from selected stories with the over all theme being, God gave laws, man broke laws, God is going to do a new thing. God gave the people what they wanted, people promised to follow laws, people broke laws, God said I'm going to do a new thing. God saved men, men alienated God, God STILL said, I'm going to do something new that will fix all of this. Throughout the whole old testament, "I'm sending a rescuer".

Then in the new testament, one of my favorite chapters is John 21. Can you imagine being a career fisherman and spending a long grueling night tossing net after net, each coming up empty? Then a savior comes along and says, "Hey, try the other side!" The haul just about sinks the ship.
You've been saying the same thing for years, the fish are beaten, bruised, committing suicide, turning away from you and your message because while you see hope they only see hopelessness. Jesus came and he said love your neighbor. He said love people as much as I love you. Treat them better than you treat yourself in word and in deed. He said love your enemies so much that you treat them better than your own family. He said if someone is coming after you with a gun, open your arms wide and let them shoot. He said, bring them to me, I've sent the holy spirit to prune, just love them to me.

I wish I saw more love on your page. Even your father understood that. Your father said that his job was to love people and show them Jesus and trust Jesus to take care of the rest.

I get that you're scared, but take heart you know who has won. Not a victory over biology, though our bodies will be made perfect. Not a victory over sexuality, though we will one day find all we need in Him. A victory over our minds, over our struggles with ourselves, our priorities, our hearts, each of us, intimately. Fight your own battle and fight for people who can't fight for themselves. The widow, the poor, the oppressed, the forgotten, the victimized...a lot of LGBT are those people. Their suicide rate is astronomical, their oppression is still staggering. Fight for their right to exist as people, as your brothers and sisters. Their sexuality or gender is none of your business, God will judge them. Your job is to love them. To act justly in a world where all are not equal. To love mercy in a world that seeks vengeance for everything. To walk humbly knowing that your sin is the same, your struggle is different and not everyone's faith journey has to look like yours.

You test my ability to do all of those last three but you are my brother and I love you. I love you because I have been loved without conditions every day of my life and long before. I love you because I have been saved by grace through faith, not works. I love you because someday I'll be seated next to you at a place prepared for a number of people far greater than either of us realize. I love you because it was commanded by a God that I don't understand fully, whose ways aren't mine to determine and whose grace I don't get to distribute. Bless people because you have been blessed. Love people because you have been loved.

Sunday, November 15, 2015


This Friday the 20th is Transgender Day of Remembrance.  It's a day set apart to remember all whose lives have been tragically taken for their gender identity.  Here's some info about #TDOR.

I never saw myself here.  I never saw myself standing up at a church speaking on a topic like this.  I've shared many stories in my life, I never thought I'd share this.  I never would have imagined how important and vital it is for a community to share their stories--until it was my story.  Until the wondrous mysteries of God became truth to me.  An unavoidable, unshakable truth that would, over time peel a veil from my eyes and slowly help me to see with God's sight and not my own. 

I have known for 4 years that my child was “different”.  Born to relatively conservative and yet mildly church wounded parents as Owen, she was the tipping point that capsized us into uncharted territory.  We got to watch and learn as she slowly came into her own.  Our families did not get to watch along with us and when faced with the prospect of having to explain to them that we had a gender non-conforming 5 year old—well, let’s just say I had heart surgery a couple months ago as a result of the anxiety.  Not knowing how we would be received, knowing exactly how we’d be received and fearing the worst.  I’ve had a few run ins with family both blood and church and I’ve never been so grateful for our move down to Dayton four years ago.  I can’t imagine having to explain this over and over to conservative family that we would have seen on a regular basis.  We were and are extremely blessed. 

We continue to be blessed, as we continue to have to “come out” to people in new situations.  It’s this process that never ends, and the fear and anxiety right along with it.  New church, new friends, new school, new job…it’s like you’re holding something back.  There are plenty of reasons to fear, will you lose the new friends, will the school cooperate, will the church be affirming, will you lose your job?  I’ve never known persecution in any form until the transition of my child.  For me though it isn’t the actual persecution—that just triggers my mama bear instincts.  It’s the fear of persecution and all the worry that goes with it.  Preparing yourself for any and all circumstances.  I interviewed for a new job back in September and the night before the interview I couldn’t sleep.  I spent an hour on my phone scouring the bio of every staff member listed on the website to find out their religious affiliations.  I felt like God was leading me to this job, but also that it might not be a good fit if they publicly listed their Christian service.  I was hired, I’ve told just about all of my coworkers about Elly and the reception was shock and curiosity, but not negative.  The paranoia about how I would be treated because of my parenting was almost panic-inducing. 

That hardest part of having a beautiful, vivacious and inquisitive gender non-conforming child isn’t actually the fact that she doesn’t match her anatomical gender.  It isn’t the anxiety, or the fact that I’ll likely be telling our story for the entirety of my life.  It’s the fact that now, after years of research, praying and hard questions I realize that I shouldn’t have to.  I shouldn’t have to “out” my child.  I shouldn’t be exposed to parent-shaming.  We shouldn’t live in a world that gets to qualify our lives.  Knowing that, after years of being the oppressor, all the damage I have caused.  My child is beautiful.  She is exactly who God made her to be.  There was a reason God made her exactly the way He did and I can’t wait to see what she contributes to the world, because she’s already grown me more in her short 6 years than I have in my whole life. 

I hit a metaphorical wall almost a year ago.  I was faced with the reality of the consequences of my actions.  Leelah Alcorn, born to her parents as Joshua walked into oncoming traffic on December 28 to escape a world of conditional love and conditional acceptance.  She left a world where her parents only tried to help her within their own scope of understanding, where she was forbidden from being herself and faced numerous attempts to rid her of the "evil" that resided in her. 

She left the world and transgender issues exploded in the media, facts and opinions on all sides.  I was faced with a choice.  I could have a happy and healthy daughter or someday I could face a dead son.  My faith was rocked, I got depressed and I sought help.  I stumbled into an online community of over 800 moms of LGBT kids who loved Christ and loved their kids at the samtime.  Those women save my life, physically and spiritually and catapulted me into Elly’s outward transition and my inward one.  Within eleven days of joining that group I had emailed both the childrens church leader and lead pastor at our church explaining the situation, allowed Elly to begin to express herself more and visited Harmony Creek Church. 

I saw the last line on the cover of the bulletin and I cried.  It's safe here.”  I cried for my child, I cried for myself.  I had never realized how much I craved absolute safety, a place with people who had the ability to see my heart regardless of my struggle.  A place with people who love my kid, regardless of the name she chooses, outfit she wears or which door she’s obsessed with this week. 

This is what the transgender community needs.  Safety, a place for them to be transparent.  A place for them to grow around people who will grow and learn with them.  A place of authenticity where they can discover themselves without being defined.  A place of equality, where silent stares, misgendering, and justification fall away leaving only acceptance and love in their place.  I’m so grateful that Harmony Creek is one of those places. 

Monday, November 2, 2015

A cold dose of reality

A few months ago a friend who has known me my whole life shared in the same week a link about the atrocities of allowing transgender people in the military and then a link to a video of a rare mutation of hummingbird that was born without pigment saying something about how beautiful the mutation is and how God does things like that on purpose to show how special they are.  I was flabbergasted. I couldn't say anything because I was afraid that I'd go off.

How is it that when it comes to accepting the mutations of the human condition we rate our fellow brothers and sisters as less than a flipping hummingbird?  You personally don't agree with medical experts and so that person isn't allowed to volunteer to fight for your freedom?  What is it about gender identity that lumps it in with sin?  Why is it so hard to accept?

Have you ever read the history of downs syndrome?  It's terrifying what people used to do to people who they believed were products of evil.  It's heart breaking that some parents still choose to abort children that they believe will be born with downs syndrome.  Casting these babies aside as though they aren't worth the effort.  Downs syndrome is a product of a mutation and people with Downs Syndrome are as beautiful as you or I, and in a great many cases their souls are much much more beautiful than ours.  It took a long time for us to understand exactly what and why Downs syndrome happens.

In 1995, literally 20 years ago a study linked the brain to what was then referred to as transsexuality. Every human hypothalamus has a nucleus that varies in size in relation to their gender.  Males have a larger nucleus, females smaller.  The study found that in untreated (prior to hormones) trans males (born female) the nucleus was the size of that found in natal males.  They found the same thing in relation to trans females (born male) and natal women.  Couple this with the fact that the brain and external genitals don't develop at the same time and you have a recipe for just about anything to happen.

This never seems to be enough for some people and I repeatedly get handed Genesis 1:27.  God made male and female.  You're right.  He did, he absolutely did.  But he didn't stop there, so stop saying he did.  When you try to tell me that there is only male and female you negate an entire percentage of the population.  No, not transgender people, intersex people.  You know, the I in LGBTQIA+, more people who get marginalized and dismissed because God only made male and female.

The thing that kills me about this though is that Jesus actually recognized that intersex people exist, and yet we still dismiss them.  Matthew 19:12.  There are eunuchs who are born (born with indiscernible genitals), voluntarily made (self-castration usually to rid themselves of sexual desire, which we now know doesn't mean jack), and forced castration (punishment, etc).  But God clearly said he only made male and female....so who's wrong?  God or Jesus?  And then there's the fact that intersex people have been incredibly documented over the course of history, so obviously there is NOT just male and female.  Which means that at the very least that physical variations are possible and that somewhere along the way fetal development was interrupted.  If it's interrupted enough to cause these very obvious physical issues, it could happen in the mind as well, right?

I have been told that my child is only confused and that if I were more firm or sought proper help my child would be the boy that he's supposed to be.  This is offensive to me.  It questions my parenting, it says that I'm not doing my job properly and it suggests that my child is a fickle thing able to be swayed in any way I am consistent with.  I'll agree that my child can be fickle.  With her love of meat, it changes by the week.  With her favorite show, right now we're watching Frozen Fever for the 80th time but tomorrow it'll likely be back to Hoodwinked.  With whether pink or purple is her favorite color, whether she's currently obsessed with phones or keys, whether she wants clips or headbands or none of the above.  Even when she let us call her Owen she was still calling herself a girl.  Even after years of having the boy=penis, girl=no penis conversation she STILL called herself a girl.  So for those of you who think that my kid can be "persuaded" with the right help, I direct you to the story of David Reimer who was the product of a botched circumcision.  The doctor was convinced that the parents should take their boy and allow him to craft a vagina, raising him as a girl.  They did and "she" had extensive therapy, was treated in every way as a female and exposed to some of the most disturbing methods to reinforce "her" femininity.  David never complied.  He began defying at 9, telling the doctors and parents he was a boy.  He eventually transitioned back to male at 15, ceasing the estrogen and allowing his body to properly develop in line with what he knew he always was.  Sadly he lost his battle with severe depression, no doubt resulting from years of attempted brainwashing and improper mental care. Your genitals do NOT determine your gender.

Do you need further proof that your external doesn't determine your sense of self?  In the Dominican Republic there is a village where the guevedoces live.  These are babies who never grew their genitals in the womb and who are born looking relatively female and are most of the time raised as such.  These babies are deficient in an enzyme called 5-a-reductase that converts the shot of testosterone given in utero to dihydro-testosterone which is necessary to cause the testicles to descend and penis to form.  These children are raised as girls and when puberty hits and the testosterone begins flowing their testicles descend and they grow a penis...at roughly 12 years old.  How many of them stay the girls they were raised to be?  None of them, because none of them felt like girls anyway.  They had guys they hung out with and enjoyed sports and rough housing.  In America we'd call them tom boys...until their penises grew.  How would we treat these medical mysteries in the States?  I imagine we'd call them abominations, blame their parents and say that they simply need serious counselling.

As someone who believed that same-sex attraction was a result of sin and that transgender people were mentally disturbed I've been trying to wrack my brain as to why I believed it as deeply or for as long as I did.  Why would I admire the incredible odd flecks of purple in the sky but when it comes to human sexuality, gender and all things related consider it perverted?  Because of Genesis 1:27, even though it's clearly negated by Christ himself?  Because of those 6 verses people have been using to clobber homosexuals for centuries?  Because my strive to be like Christ was actually a strive to do what the preacher said on Sunday and adhere to what would my mentor do?  Is this Christianity for all evangelicals?  I don't believe so.  But it was mine. I read the Bible through a lens of sin, not a lens of grace.  And when my sins weren't obvious to me, or I was convinced I was working on them it meant that I needed to point out the sins of others and instruct them to make peace with God.  I stopped seeing people and I saw scripture.  I didn't care why or how you are who your are, the Bible clearly says this ... so you need to repent.  I was awful and i had to make amends.

In the interest of not answering questions we limited the number of people who knew the struggle we were having with our kid.  We had no idea what to do other than encourage "male" behavior and reinforcing gender, which is difficult with an oblivious autistic kid.  She dressed up in my clothes, traipsed around in heels with bags draped over her shoulder or the crook of her arm.  When we went out in public it was very clear that boy clothes were necessary.  We plainly marked the lines of where and when our child was allowed to express, so much so that her preschool teachers of 3 straight years are still not understanding our decision.  Neither are geographically distant family and friends.  They ignore our struggle, ignore the opinions of medical professionals who have actually talked to our kid and charge us with joining the latest fad.  It truly hurts and I will admit that with rare exception I haven't fought that hard.  I haven't tried to save these relationships, not as hard as I should and I've felt guilty about that.  But this past weekend I got clobbered by someone I've loved for half of my life and the phrase that kept coming to my mind while the web of what ifs and whys swirled through my mind was, "one more reason to be grateful for my kid".  I'd read it on a blog almost a year ago.  A mom whose church showed their true colors when her child showed theirs.  "One more reason to be grateful for my kid."

One more reason to be glad for the struggle that got placed in our path.  One more reason to embrace all of life's crazy insanity and mystery.  One more reason to trust that in spite of the hurt God knows exactly what He's doing here.  One more reason to thank God for where we are geographically, and spiritually.  One more reason to be grateful for all the people who have stood by us, listened to us, supported us and who just understood, even when they didn't.  To those people, I have never been more appreciative for you than I was this past weekend.  Thank you for seeing that nothing has changed in our lives except a name and a wardrobe.  Thank you for seeing that Elly is still the same person she was 8 months ago.  Thank you for recognizing that parenting is a struggle and that no one has it down.  Thank you for seeing that my family, while wrought with various struggles is one that is full of love and truly happy kids.  Thank you for researching, thank you for sharing your research with us, thank you for thinking of us, thank you for just being there.

Thank you for asking questions.  Thank you for wondering what made us allow our child to transition.  Thank you for asking why and how and what and allowing us to share our story with you.  Thank you for asking instead of speculating.  Thank you for being direct instead of gossiping.  Thank you even to the loved one who said I don't agree, I don't get it but I won't lose our relationship over it, I love you too much.

I have a lot of answers, I've had to search and pray and weigh truths to find them but I don't know it all. I think this is our great failing as a species - we need answers and we need to be right.  The inability to accept what is clearly real shows a lot more about your character than mine.  And I hate to break it to you but only God knows all the answers and I'm not pinning the future of my child on some unresearched biased opinion. God loves my child beyond gender and that's the job He tasked me with when he made me her mother. It's the job Christ gave you when He told you first love the Lord with all your heart, mind and soul (funny how body is irrelevant) and love your neighbor as yourself.

You don't have all the answers, clearly the Bible doesn't either. So please, just love my kid. Call me crazy, I can handle the hurt. Just love my kid because she's incredible.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Due Diligence

A phrase I hear often is, "they have no skin in the game".  It is usually said by a mom who has gone to hell and back with and for their LGBT child.  It's usually said in reference to a quick dismissal or invalidation of a person or their experience due to someone's own personal beliefs or opinions.

When your opinion is so loud that you lose the chance to connect to someone.  I do this, we all do.  We know all the answers, or we know what we want to hear so we skip out, we shut down or we ignore an opportunity to enlighten ourselves.  I know for me a lot of it was fear that I would be wrong.  Once I accepted where we were at and the decision we had to make for our child my spiritual life fell apart.  Not because God left me.  I was so scared.  I was scared of losing people, I was scared of losing the faith I'd always had and I was so scared that trusting God would mean I was doing the wrong thing.  I'd read the Bible from the point of view handed to me for my whole life and I didn't want to go back to the person I had been before.  

Hebrews 4:12 has always been one of my favorite verses and once we let my daughter transition I became terrified of it.

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

This past Monday I went to a board meeting at Troy High School with a lot of angry parents.  If I was where they are I'd probably be angry too.  Two women got up and spoke to the board citing bible verses to a room of about 50 during impassioned speeches pleading for the perceived safety of their children.  They used their Bible verses to try and condemn my friend.  They called him a homosexual, which he isn't and said he would burn.  

Ever since Monday Hebrews 4:12 has come at me with a fresh understanding.  I believe the Bible.  I struggle with it and I pick it apart, I always have because I'm curious.  It's been my sword.  But if we look at the Bible as a sword that makes it a weapon.  A weapon that is sharper than any sword.  A weapon that cuts straight to the heart.

I have quite a few friends who have their CCW.  The checklist for actually getting a license to carry a gun is pretty crazy: http://www.buckeyefirearms.org/ohio-ccw-application-checklist I totally get it, you could kill someone if not properly trained.

Yet with the sharpest weapon in our possession we don't need a license.  Heaven and Hell.  That's some pretty big stuff.  I mean you're talking about someone's eternity.  

We drop Leviticus: Engage.
We drop Romans: Lunge
We drop Matthew 19: Parry
We drop Gen 1:27: Allez
We drop 1 Corinthians 6:9: Touch

We lunge and lunge waving our sword with our eyes closed, other arm on our hip in abject confidence.  We have the Bible and the God of the universe behind our speech, we close our eyes as a show of trust.  "Dear God please prepare their hearts for what I'm about to say."  Quoting myself.  God is big enough to pick up the bloody mess I've left behind but does the person I've just injured understand that?

In a room of 50 people telling the couple trans people who you don't understand and have never met that they are going to hell is pretty...I don't even think I know the word for it.  It leaves me with anxiety.  You took your sword, closed your eyes to the person you were aiming for and shot true.  Thankfully this person had people who know his heart, who stand by him and have loved him through years of well-intended flesh wounds.

The same can't be said for every person we battle.  The word of God has stopped me in my tracks at times.  It has created paradigm shifts in my life and all my life, even now I've had support from good and godly friends and family.  I can't imagine the reality of handing someone any part of Leviticus with the best of intentions without knowing that you'll be there to handle it.

I remember my spiritual parents helped bring me back to Jesus 16 years ago and they sent me home with instructions to read James.  They knew me.  They loved me.  They'd be there to help me flesh it out.  They knew I had family and a church to back me up.  James was rough and I think I'm due a reread with fresh and more mature eyes.

Before you wield your sword you have GOT to know your battle.  You have got to keep your eyes open to see the damage you may be inflicting.  You have to have some background.  You have to understand where your "opponent" is coming from.  You can't open fire on just anyone.

I'm a self-admitted fan of Girl Meets World.  BMW was such a HUGE part of my childhood, why wouldn't I watch?  Last week they tackled autism and I cheered.  Because awareness!  Because Farkle!  Because education!

Farkle: Thanks for the way you guys treat me.  And thanks for studying all of it.
Cory: Woah woah woah, you guys studied?
Lucas: Hey, our friend was worried about something.
Maya: So we learned about it.  If I knew it was studying I wouldn't have done it.

The kids studied because they had skin in the game.  They had a friend who was going through something.  They did their due diligence so they could understand and be supportive.  They did their research so they could be better friends.

Talk to people.  Learn about people.  Jesus did.  

When you do battle, be ready.  Know what you're going into, know why you're going in, know the person on the receiving end like the back of your hand.  When you know what you're facing and your own personal motivation it WILL affect your battle strategy.  You may be causing undue damage.  You may be inflicting wounds you aren't prepared to heal.  You may not notice the wounds that are already there and yours well may be the final blow.

The word of God is living.  It's active.  It judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.  I should be wielding that sword in my own direction to whittle away the undesirable.  I will never wield it at a stranger.  Please, never wield your most dangerous sword at a stranger.  Drop John 3:16 instead.  Drop love.