The Road Less Travelled

Two years ago, when I came out, Evangelical Christianity wasn’t a thought on my horizon, as I really hadn’t been involved in the Evangelical world for almost a decade.  And yet, in fall of 2018, I found myself smack dab in the middle of a Southern Baptist Church in Fresno. Yep. Me. An openly queer transgender woman, attending services in a large Southern Baptist community.  I was as surprised as you probably are.

Halfway through my first event at the church - a women’s worship event - I knew God wanted me in this realm, but my skepticism kept me at a distance.  And so, later that evening, I stopped the women’s ministry director and told her about my story, asking the question, “is this even a place I can belong?”

That evening sparked an ongoing conversation between a pastor on staff and I, and the welcome I received there was such an affirmation to me and where I was.  I knew there there were significant disagreements with where I was and how i identified, but at the end of the day, I was happy that the pastoral staff saw me as a Christian, and that even though we disagreed on my fundamental identity, they respected me enough to not turn me away.

I realize that identifying as an LGBTQ+ Christian is not a common thing.  

It might even seem, to some, as a paradox. And yet here I am, living that paradox out in public, both sharing with my fellow LGBTQ+ community that God loves them, and sharing with my Christian community that God loves my community.  It’s hard work at times - often combined with rejection, criticism, name calling, and accusations - but necessary as I navigate not only my own identify, but my faith as well. Because for me, there is no more separating my gender and sexual identity from me any more than I can separate my faith from who I am.

This past month, that Southern Baptist Church launched a sermon series aimed at discussing “hard topics,” which, as you can probably guess, included a message on the LGBTQ+ community.  Let me begin by saying that I don’t believe that the intention was to hurt me, but that’s where I am: hurting. With that being said, I wanted to not only share the message here (trigger warning), but to respond in kind to the things that were shared from the stage that morning.

A few weeks ago, I started working at “It’s a Small World’ at Disneyland Park.

It’s an amazing job, and I work with a wonderful team of supportive and friendly cast members to help our guests appreciate the historical attraction each and every day.  In our training, not only did we learn all about the workings of Small World and how to operate, open, and close the attraction, but we read pages and pages of materials on what to do “just in case it’s ever needed.”  And while we learned all of the information and was able to recite it, not long into my time there, one of those situations presented itself. I saw the lights go off on my control panel, and our working lead told us that we were going to have to evacuate the ride while we waited for maintenance to arrive and fix the problem.

My heart pounded as I tried to recount the information I had only read about but never experienced.  And let me tell you, experiencing it gives a whole different set of knowledge than just reading about it.  

For most people, especially those who identify as cisgender (the gender they were assigned at birth) and straight, it’s easy to read the passages in the Bible and to hear the sermons preached from the front of church about homosexuality and the trans community and simply take it to heart as knowledge.  

But imagine with me something deeper. Imagine with me that there, in the audience, is someone who has known their entire life that something was off - that somehow they were different, whether it was in the way they understood their gender roles or in the way that they understood sexuality. Imagine that the message that is ingrained in their hearts and minds was that who they are is sinful.  That it’s something to be ashamed of. And so they pray and pray. Sometimes they go to counseling, camps - whatever they might need to try and overcome this part of themselves that just exists.

I get it - many people don’t understand the issue at its fullest, because they’ve never experienced it.  And because they don’t understand it, they turn to people they feel they can trust to tell them what it all means.  It’s only reasonable. Problem is, that most of the time in conservative Evangelical circles, it’s the leadership in the church that they turn to - who, for the most part, don’t have the same experience, or if they do, have little experience.  Then along comes someone like Christopher Yuen, Joe Dallas, or Rosaria Butterfield, who, through their experience in “overcoming homosexuality” provide the evidence that church leaders have been searching for in order to prove their points that the LGBTQ+ community does not belong.  And while their experiences ARE valid, the damage left behind by saying that they are the norm is painful and I believe, grieves the heart of God.

I don’t know how many of you have kids, but I absolutely love mine.  

Sure, they drive me up the walls at times, and in the midst of my separation and pending divorce, I miss them like crazy, but the important thing is that I can’t think of anything they could do that would make me love them less.  Even when I hear that they don’t want anything to do with me, I’m still there, waiting for a chance to embrace them in life’s journey.

Jesus, in His teaching on prayer, mentions this:  “Which one of you fathers would give your hungry child a snake if the child asked for a fish? Which one of you would give your child a scorpion if the child asked for an egg? As bad as you are, you still know how to give good gifts to your children. But your heavenly Father is even more ready to give the Holy Spirit to anyone who asks.” (Luke 11:11-13, CEV)  It’s that passage, along with my own love for my kids, that began to open my eyes to the reality of how God really does care for each and every one of us - even in our queerness. How in the world can we even think for a moment that God would reject us as His children when that’s definitely not the way we are wired to respond in our humanity?

There are a LOT of theological answers around if homosexuality is sinful or not, and when the word actually appeared in the Bible.

(Bonus info - it wasn’t there until 1946.)  And I could have a long conversation about that here. Perhaps one day, but for now, there are some excellent resources I’ll link to at the end of this post. In the meantime, though, I want to ask you simply this:  Is your view of the LGBTQ+ community serving to bring community and relationship between you and them as well as them and God, or is your viewpoint serving to help sever those ties and relationships?

In the message given, the challenge was to go counter-culture with Jesus.  And I don’t disagree - but here’s the thing to remember. Jesus was counter-culture because He fought against organized religion to get to the heart of the matter - that in the end, it’s all about people.  It’s all about loving God and loving each other. He fought religion to do that. He loved those that religion said were unlovable. Those that were “too sinful.” Those that were deemed “unclean.” He reached out to the poor, the needy, the sick…. And in the end, it was the religious leaders that killed Him.  So, if the challenge is to go counter-culture with Jesus, perhaps it’s time to ask and pray about what that might look like when you hear messages like this. Because for too many people like me - hearing a message condemning an entire people group is the reason so many of them leave the church, thinking that God could never love them, and even worse, take their own lives.  Your decision to love and welcome the LGBTQ+ person into your midst isn’t a matter of agreement or disagreement with an issue. It’s a matter of whether or not you choose to see the image of God in EVERYONE around you, or if you are going to allow religion to tell you that it’s okay to turn a blind eye to those who are desperately hungering for a sign that God loves them too.  Which will YOU choose?

Interested in learning more?  Here are just a few of the excellent resources available on the topic of homosexuality and transgender Christianity:

One response to “The Road Less Travelled”

  1. Soooooo goood!!! This hit the heart of the matter! Thank you so much for sharing aspects of your story. It is a beautiful reflection of the Love of God in your life.

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