fearfully and wonderfully

“You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous–how well I know it. You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.” ~ Psalm 139:13-15

For Transgender Day of Remembrance 2018:

I wanted to write something eloquent to honor your lives

To remember all your beautiful faces and mourn you properly

But all I could think of was how your lives were cut short

I wanted to write something powerful to honor your lives

To remember all your names (YOUR names) and grieve you somberly

But all I could think of was how your lives were cut short

How your lives were cut short and we do not even know exactly how many of our beloved Trans siblings we lost because so many of you will be misnamed, misgendered, and mis-remembered.

So many of you have had your lives taken from you either by someone transphobic or by internalized transphobia.

And I do not just want to remember those of you we have lost.

I want to acknowledge those of you who are still here.

I want you to know that your life matters. And that when they tell us that God didn’t create us to be trans, I want you to remember:

You are fearfully and wonderfully made. In all your trans ness. In all your complexities. In all your struggle and beauty. I want you to know that you are fearfully and wonderfully made, dear ones.

Don’t let go of that. Don’t let anyone take that from you.

I wanted to write something poetic to honor your lives

To remind you of your belovedness

And all I could think of is how magnificent you are

No poetry in the world could capture the beauty of the trans community. But we are here together remembering who we have lost but also honoring those who are still with us.

You are fearfully and wonderfully made, dear ones. No one can take that from us.

 

expecto patronum

Today, in Harry Potter and the fight for Trans Rights

Expecto patronum…

expel all your fears and embrace your new beginnings

expecto patronum…

don’t let the dementors get you down, you are more than your soul crushing self-doubt

Expecto patronum…

because the darkness doesn’t get to win today

Expecto patronum…

damn it, Donald Trump, you cannot take away trans rights or anyone else’s rights without a fucking fight.

Expecto patronum…

because we are Dumbledore’s Army and you will not defeat us

Expecto patronum…

Because being trans and non-binary is terrifying sometimes and all I know is, I just want to hide some days. All you and I ever wanted was to be able to live freely and fully as we are. And I wonder some days if my patronus is strong enough to expel that darkness that is caused by dysphoria both social and internal.

EXPECTO PATRONUM

You are not alone. You are enough. You are beloved. You are beautiful. You have a voice. You belong. You are loved. You are good. You may not feel safe but we will fight this together. We will keep you safe.

My dear trans siblings:

I love you. I am sorry this is happening to us. I am so sorry we are not yet liberated from transphobic bullshit. Take the time you need today. Lean on your community for support.

P.S. My patronus is a cat according to Pottermore so…here’s this:

IMG_7068

opening the door

grlapuzss4unr1yilkpgw.jpg

“I am not a stranger to the dark
Hide away, they say
‘Cause we don’t want your broken parts
I’ve learned to be ashamed of all my scars
Run away, they say
No one’ll love you as you are
But I won’t let them break me down to dust
I know that there’s a place for us
For we are glorious
When the sharpest words wanna cut me down
I’m gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out
I am brave, I am bruised
I am who I’m meant to be, this is me
Look out ’cause here I come
And I’m marching on to the beat I drum
I’m not scared to be seen
I make no apologies, this is me” ~ This Is Me, The Greatest Showman
“In the out-of-way places of the heart,
Where your thoughts never think to wander,
This beginning has been quietly forming,
Waiting until you were ready to emerge…” For a New Beginning, John O’Donohue
For National Coming Out Day 2018 and Finding Calling
Why is coming out such a big deal if you’ve already come out…
Looking back to the first time I began to come out as gay three years ago, I realize it’s very much like crossing a threshold into a new world. And you have no idea what that new world is going to look like. Especially since my coming out experience wasn’t and isn’t linear…and being in the closet was seeped in shame and trauma, that new world was both tantalizing and terrifying.
Here I am now, embarking on a new adventure, and although most people in my life are aware of it, being on that journey is a lot harder than it may seem.
I started seminary in September online, but part of my program involves fulfilling residential requirements one week a quarter. So this week I’ve been on campus and got to meet my online cohort in person for the first time. The entire experience has been amazing and intense. But it’s allowed me to ponder some things anew.
In most spaces out in public, I’m not afraid to hold my wife’s hand. I’m able to be read as a gay person and not judged for it. What I am not able to do most often though, is be non-binary. Not really anyway. So let me explain this new coming out by inviting you in…
I still make apologies for using they/them pronouns. I am still afraid to use public restrooms especially since I know I eventually want top surgery and will then be read as “male” although that’s not how I identify.
Many of you can go to the restroom without even being afraid. There’s a restroom FOR YOUR GENDER specifically. There isn’t usually for me where I live. And living out as a non-binary or genderqueer person is a little terrifying. I’m slowly crossing that threshold and reaching for the door knob.
I’m slowly learning I can be fully who I am and fuck whoever thinks that I can’t be. “I know there’s a place for us.”
Bathrooms are just one example of terror. And living everyday in a body that feels like it has betrayed me since puberty with its developing chest and everyone calling me “lady” and “woman” when it never felt right.
I don’t want to be scared anymore. I want to be bold enough to say, hey, this IS a big deal when you use wrong pronouns and don’t correct yourself. I’m shy…but it’s not ok. It’s not ok to pretend that people don’t exist outside of the gender binary.
I’ve had enough violence come to my body for being perceived as weak and vulnerable.
Here I am being vulnerable and strong. I am non-binary. I don’t need you to understand what that means. But I do need you to respect me as a human being.
No one gets to force us into a binary, or into a closet. People don’t live in closets. I refuse to let people’s perceptions of me keep me from being myself. No religion,
bible, pastor, or church controls me or gets allowed to cause me or others harm.
I am non-binary…I am gay. and all the pain of coming out and the joy of it…
This is me.
That door is wide open and I am walking through it on this journey of fully becoming who I’m meant to be.
And I am called…to help others walk through that door. Especially those who have been pushed into the closets and margins and not allowed to be who they are.
I will walk with you. You do not have to go alone.
This particular live version of this song is incredible:

burn the house down

“I’m a little kid and so are you. Don’t you go and grow up before I do. I’m a little kid with so much doubt. Do you want to be there to see how I turn out?” ~ Turning Out, AJR

“Way up, way up, we go. Been up and down that road. Way up, way up, oh no. We gon’ burn the whole house down. Watch me stand in the line. You’re only serving lies. You’ve got something to hide. We gon’ burn the whole house down. We gon’ burn the whole house down.” ~ Burn the House Down, AJR

This coming of age story is brought to you by dystopian fiction, dystopian reality, and burning bridges that only led to my own destruction.

From ashes come new life.

Here’s to 7 years of healing from sexual assault, 23 years of surviving sexual abuse, and 27 years of surviving fundamentalism. Here’s to burning it all down and walking away from things that hurt me. I think I turned out alright.

And still the body remembers. The body remembers what you did to her. The lies, the manipulation, every unwanted touch, every chisel you used to sculpt her into what you wanted. The body remembers and she won’t go back there.

Childhood is such a strange thing. Especially when it’s stolen from you.

“You say I turned out fine. I think I’m still turning out…” (Turning Out, AJR)

They tell me I’m resilient now. That this has made me stronger. And it has…but I never wanted to be strong. I only ever wanted to be a kid with a “normal” childhood where I wasn’t afraid of hell, or my father, or the deacon and neighbor in my church. Or my ex-boyfriend.

One thing I’ve realized is that I was robbed. Robbed of innocence, of my early adulthood years. So I’m taking back what was mine. Because it was never theirs to begin with. They had no right to take ownership of this body, this soul, this mind. I will have the last say and the last laugh.

Childhood is such a strange thing. Especially when it is taken from those who become presidents, senators, judges, pastors, fathers.

We are taking back what is ours. Which means we are willing to make your lives a living hell for taking from us what was rightfully ours.

We are our own and no one else’s.

We will burn the whole house down and leave no brick standing. Not only will be burn the house down…we’ll rebuild it as a healing, safe place for everyone to coexist.

So, to all the men who stole my childhood:

You can go fuck yourselves. We’re out here exposing you for what you are.

We’re burning the whole house down.

This coming of age story is brought to you by people who are taking their lives back, by  the healers, the over-comers, the arsonists who burn bridges when they need to.

And this coming of age story is brought to you by those of us who are building new bridges. We turned out alright.

From ashes come new life.

 

 

dreams within a dream

0HibVeZITR6klGvjV8d37g“Don’t ask if your dreams are crazy. Ask if they’re crazy enough.” ~ Colin Kaepernick, Dream Crazy Nike Commercial

“Now may the God of peace make you holy in every way, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ comes again. God will make this happen, for he who calls you is faithful.” ~ I Thessalonians 5:23-24

Once upon a time, at a conservative Christian summer camp I felt God “calling me into ministry” at the age of 14. And then the church broke my fucking heart. They told me I didn’t belong and couldn’t possibly pursue a calling into the pastorate. For a while, I didn’t want to and avoided it like the plague because let’s face it, organized religion often doesn’t have a place for those of us on the outside looking in.

But God has a funny sense of humor doesn’t she. Guess what past abusers, my undergrad college, friends who left me because I came out as queer and not a republican: This kid’s starting an MDiv program pursuing ordination and chaplaincy next week.

I fought it as hard as I could and here I am. I was Thomas seeing my Lord crucified and having all my dreams crushed. Because they weren’t my dreams but the dreams others had for me. And yet, much like Mary Magdalene, I’ve seen the risen Christ and still he calls me and has never stopped loving me and accepting me as I am even when the church did.

Like Mary Magdalene I say, “I have seen the Lord…” and no one believed me either, Mary. They laughed, or black balled me and told me I was a heretic. And yet Jesus calls to me still and I say, “My Lord and my God.” 

Self-doubt is persnickety. That’s a sentence I wrote earlier this week and thought, who the hell says persnickety. Jesus. I’m way too hard on myself and most of that is learned behavior. I am so tired. and I am done with people ignoring my boundaries.

Boundaries…because I need to be able to give myself fully to whatever task I’m doing presently or whoever I’m with instead of dividing myself up so everyone can have a piece of me to use and/or abuse. That hurts everyone including me.

Boundaries…because even the ocean and the sky have some separation.

Boundaries…not to shut people out but to only let in what is helpful and good not what is harmful and destructive to me.

BOUNDARIES because it is not a sin to take care of yourself so you can take care of others better.

Boundaries because I am not a hotline for folks to call at all hours of the day or night. I am a human being who needs to recharge before I get overwhelmed.

I have learned finally that my body, my mind, my soul are not reusable resources for abusers to pimp out, or well meaning but overbearing mothers to manipulate. Or even for friends who come calling.

This calling requires of me to realize that I am a multidimensional person and am worth protecting and conserving energy for. Who knew you could be more than one thing when you grow up.

I am a renewable energy source but only when I take the time to renew and recharge.

All that to say, I have finally let myself dream again and pursue those dreams. Whereas before, others controlled what I let myself dream. I was living in someone else’s dreams and those dreams were often my nightmares.

It’s time to dream again even if it seems crazy to other people or if they are offended that I’m prioritizing my self for the first time ever.

I’m here to give you a message from an unlikely source: Maybe there’s more to life than meets the eye if you’re brave enough to seek it out.

“Don’t ask if your dreams are crazy. Ask if they’re crazy enough…”

the greatest of these is love

 

“We’re like the legend of the phoenix, our ends with beginnings. What keep the planets spinning, the force of love beginning. We’ve come too far to give up who we are. So let’s raise the bar and our cups to the stars.” ~ Get Lucky, Daft Punk

“Instructions for living a life: 

Pay attention.

Be astonished.

Tell about it.” ~ Mary Oliver

“Who’s gonna save the world tonight. Who’s gonna bring you back to life.” ~ Save the World, Swedish House Mafia

Sometimes making yourself write things doesn’t work out so well, so I guess I’m going to try the streams of consciousness method today. *beats head against keyboard* You could say this is a Part 2 to my last post “of noisy gongs and clanging cymbals.”

Good news: I’m starting an MDiv program at Iliff School of Theology in less than a month!

Less good news: Life doesn’t seem to be slowing down at all and I’m having a hard time processing everything. Especially hard is that my brain has decided to process things from being isolated from my family/former church RIGHT NOW instead of like, 6-9 months ago when it seemed more relevant.

Healing is not linear, someone on Twitter said not too long ago. And they sure as hell were right.

Why so anxious dear one? Nothing needs to be solved. Just let things be. Even the sad, painful things. Don’t lose your soul to grief but by all means let yourself feel your pain.

My mom keeps saying that God is speaking to her so that’s why she keeps pestering me with emails complete with Bible verses, cards, letters, etc even when I’ve asked for boundaries. But I guess sometimes God works in mysterious ways.

The most recent two page letter I received last week mentioned my mom’s time in the hospital with cancer and how everything happens for a reason. She wrote, “Someone told me the other day that most people don’t live through what I did when I had my cancer and was in the hospital. But I had never thought about it like that. God had a plan and it was for me to still be here right now. Making the most of the time given is what He wants me to do. It’s what He wants all of us to do…”

The rest of the letter is pretty rambly and mostly sounded like she’s guilty for how she and the church treated me and that I’m hurting. It’s such fun to have someone vent to you about you.

Nonetheless, I do think God was speaking. Not necessarily to my mom but through her in a sense. See, I think God speaks through love. Even attempts at love though they may be manipulative or misunderstood. Love gets through the cracks of the most broken things that still need to be healed in us. Love gets through and sometimes it comes from unexpected sources. God speaks through that.

I’ve been wrestling with what my calling to ministry is since I’ve all but given up on serving in a church setting. One thing I’ve learned is that the church exists outside of buildings, systemic oppressive worship spaces, and denominations that cover up abuse and brainwash their parishioners.

I think God has a plan. It’s for me to still be here right now when being in the church I grew up in almost killed me. I think God has a plan for me to minister to those who’ve been pushed out of church, those who are in psych wards and hospitals who are in need of pastoral care.  I think that calling is to be a presence. Not simply of a spiritual advisor who had all the answers. But someone who could be a presence of calm and care in moments of trauma and pain.

I would like to be the pastor that I never had as crazy as that sounds.

Sometimes a “calling” into ministry doesn’t look like the fundamentalists told me it did. It doesn’t look like being a submissive and silent person who lets men decide all their decisions. It doesn’t look like denying myself happiness and self-care. It doesn’t look like denying your sense of self, sexual orientation, or gender identity.

I once wrote these words almost a year ago and I put them here again:

For those who have been pushed out when they should have been welcomed in

For those who were promised a safe space but were met with shame and hatred of Other

Peace be with you. May the love of Christ surround you.

For those who were willing to give up everything for their faith but then their faith asked them to kill a piece of themselves to exist.

For those who feel broken and used by those who promised love and acceptance

Peace be with you. May the love of Christ make you whole again.

Peace be with you and to you because Christ is for you and in you.

There is a place for you at the table. Come, sit and know that you belong and that you are loved.

Peace be with you and may the love of Christ fill you.

In the words of Mary Oliver, I think the wild geese are calling for me to take my “place in the family of things.” (from her poem, Wild Geese) The best way to fulfill each of our callings on our lives is to allow ourselves to be fully who we are without apology or shame. The best way to do that is to love ourselves and each other well.

As Jesus puts it, “A new commandment I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” ~ John 13:34

of noisy gongs and clanging cymbals

bINq5RB3Rr+Bk9hHR26amw(Content Note for talk of hell, spiritual abuse, etc.)

“If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging symbol. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plants and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it, but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.” ~ I Corinthians 13:1-3 (NLT)

“We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in god, and God lives in them…Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love. We love each other because he first loved us.” ~ I John 4:16, 18-19

Growing up, fear and love were inseparable concepts. Because my parents “loved me,” they would punish me and my siblings physically instilling fear anytime I remotely thought I might be doing something wrong.

Because God “loved me,” and didn’t want me to die and go to hell, God supposedly killed his son, Jesus on a Roman cross because of my sins. Unsure what “sins” a 6 year old can commit exactly other than maybe being a kid and not always listening well to my parents, but I do know I believed all of that. And “got saved” at that age–which is fundamentalist/evangelical speak for I confessed my sins to God and “accepted” that Jesus died to take the punishment for my sins.

Love and fear might as well have been the same thing. And all the other kids I grew up with most certainly didn’t want to go to hell either. To the point that we were told we had to evangelize our classmates in elementary school so they wouldn’t go to hell.

Love also included never questioning anything the adults or pastor said and inevitably meant never questioning anything. Which is pretty damn hard for an inquisitive kid. As it turns out, the reason I often don’t ask questions today is because I’m afraid. I am afraid that asking questions will mean getting into trouble with authority figures, or friends, or even sometimes my partner. As it turns out, I’m also afraid to ask for what I want or need. Better to sit in silence and never speak out than to suffer consequences.

It turns out that’s how cults work but not how the real world is supposed to work.

“Such love has no fear,” the Apostle John wrote of God’s love. And yet my mother sends me emails often about how much God loves me while also implying I should forgive my abusive father. The word forgive here meaning still interact with regardless of past abuses.

“Such love has no fear…” Love and fear do not coexist. Where love truly is…fear cannot come. Fear is not welcome here. And love is not manipulative. It is not saying “I love you” a hundred times over like a  faucet dripping constantly. It is not shouting “I LOVE YOU” while disregarding boundaries. It is not bible verses sent with an ulterior motive. It is not telling your gay kid they need to repent because they’re embarrassing you in front of your church friends. It is NOT gossiping about people’s “lifestyles” behind their backs.

“Such love has no fear…” Love and fear do not coexist. To be truly loved is to be safe and cared for and accepted as you are. 

Love is not a noisy gong or clanging cymbal. You’re just making a racket and giving everyone a headache.

If you speak of a God of love, justice, and compassion, a God who saves. And then you tell me that God’s love, justice, and compassion are conditional for someone like me, you are a noisy gong and clanging cymbal. If you say you love LGBTQ folks and are “concerned for our souls and eternal destiny” but aren’t concerned that we’re being murdered and committing suicide because of your beliefs…YOU ARE A NOISY GONG AND A CLANGING CYMBAL.

And while I’m at it, and still pissed off at The Gospel Coalition and the “religious liberty task force”:

You speak of morality and religious liberty. You speak of ethics. What is unethical and immoral is denying part of who people are. Denying them access to healthcare, public restrooms, jobs.

My identity is in Christ… as an LGBTQ individual created in the image of a God who not only created human beings as male and female, straight and cisgender but ALSO everywhere in between. Intersex, non binary, bisexual, gay.

Let me put it this way:

The universe is vast and wonderfully beautiful and complex. It is beyond binaries that we have created to understand it and the humans that exist in it. Human beings exist outside of predetermined categories. God created us to express our differences including sexuality and gender identity. How else could you get a world that not only has millions of ice cream flavors, billions of stars, and queer people.

Broaden your horizons, dear ones, because your god seems small and full of contradictions if you think everything is binary. We don’t even know half of what’s in the ocean. A God that can exist outside of the gender binary is not bound by narrow hermeneutics.

That is a God of Ethiopian eunuchs and Apostle Paul

Of Mary Magdalene and Simon Peter

Of the woman at the well and Nicodemus

That is a God who walked 33 years in our shoes and loves all of us as we are.

“Such love has no fear…”