To the person who feels the need to comment on every news story or Facebook post about the immorality of anything outside of the heteronormative life, I can’t change your mind. I know this, that’s why I don’t engage in that way. I know that if I share my story in the comment section I will be treated poorly and called names. I know that if I tell about my family and the way I was raised, you will say horrible things about my parents and my upbringing. So, I stay quiet.
But I want you to know a few things: I don’t remember my childhood without Uncle Marlin and Uncle Allen. They are were at all my family gatherings. I didn’t think twice about two Uncles arriving in the same car or living in the same house. They weren’t any different than the families that had an Aunt and an Uncle. I didn’t know that this wasn’t common in all families.
I want you to know that the love my grandma had for Uncle Marlin and Uncle Allen was the same love she had for all her other children and their partners, gay or not. Her love for her children was unconditional. I saw that. I noticed the way she included everyone, even when some of her children behaved otherwise. I noticed her all-encompassing love. I have no idea what her theological beliefs were on human sexuality, but that didn’t matter — she loved no matter what.
To the person at the recent United Methodist gathering who stood up for “one man and one woman” in marriage, I can’t change your mind. I know this, that’s why I had to stop listening the day you spoke in front of that gathered crowd. I knew if I kept listening to you, I would have judged you and called you names. I had to stop listening because I didn’t want to turn you into an enemy, even though it felt like you were doing that to people I love.
But I want you to know a few things: I may have been in elementary school the first time I went to an Indianapolis Men’s Chorus concert (to hear my Uncle Marlin sing). It was held at a United Methodist Church. I remember standing in the narthex and looking down at the legs next to me. They were strong, sturdy legs — hairy legs, as I recall. But, unlike legs I’d seen like this in the past, these legs were covered in nylons. I saw large feet in high heel shoes. I looked up and was a little confused, so I asked my mom. I hope I wasn’t overheard, I hope I didn’t offend her. However, this was my first encounter (that I was aware of) with the concept of transgender. I learned about this in church.
In that moment I learned that all were welcome in God’s house. I learned that life is hard for some people. Can you imagine what it would be like to not feel whole and complete in your own body? Can you imagine what it would feel like to be told you’re one gender, but know you’re another? I wish I could go back and give her a hug. I wish I could tell her what it meant to me to stand next to her — uncertain, full of wonder and, I’m sure, lots of questions. She wasn’t the first transgender person I met in church. I’m so grateful for that safe, welcoming place to learn about the depth and breadth of humanity.
To the dedicated, loyal United Methodist pastor who believes in Biblical Truth, I know I can’t change your mind. I know that the embedded theology you’ve learned from childhood through church camp into seminary will not be swayed by my personal stories of love and openness. I know that you (likely) won’t listen to my understanding of the biblical narrative, which is why I keep it to myself or among those who I trust. I know you believe in your understanding of the scripture just as strongly as I believe in mine.
But I want you to know a few things: God created all of humanity in God’s image and God said it was good. Good. God said that you’re good and I’m good, not because of what we do or accomplish. We are good solely because we were created in God’s image. You and I — we are good. God created us differently, for sure, but God created us and called us good. We are all — all — beloved children of God.
The Bible is complicated, as you know. It was created over many years by many people with many different agendas. I know you probably won’t agree with this, but just as your sermon on Sunday is inspired by God, so were the written texts written centuries ago. What they had to say then isn’t any different than what we have to say now. They were human just like us. They had their own agendas just like us. I sure hope no one picks up my writings hundreds of years from now and takes it to be truth to follow word for word. Sure, maybe they’ll read it and be inspired by it — maybe they’ll get some ideas to help them live a better life, but I hope they don’t expect my writing to be a dictation on how to live since I’m from a different time and culture. (And, just to be clear, I don’t actually expect this to be read hundreds of years from now!)
I know I can’t change your mind — any of you. I can’t change your mind, but I can keep speaking what I believe to be True. I can keep telling my story.
I can’t change your mind and that’s okay. If you believe as strongly about the sinfulness of my LGBTQ friends and family as I do about their inherent worth, then I can see how we might be at an impasse. If your heart broke and if tears fell from your eyes had the One Plan passed the same way mine did when the Traditional Plan passed, then I guess we’re stuck.
I don’t know the answer. I do know I can’t change your mind, as much as I want to.
In high school I attended Chrysalis, a formative experience in my Christian upbringing. At one point I was walking by candlelight seeing the faces of those I love standing nearby singing:
Let your light shine before others so they may know Our God of love’s in the land/ Let your light shine before others so they many know the Kingdom of God is at hand. Maybe you sang that song too?
So, here I am, knowing I can’t change your mind, while refusing to back down. I refuse to do anything other than let my light shine so that others know God’s love is here for them. Maybe that’s one thing we can do together? Maybe?