My Spouse’s Transgender Story!

by Charlie Cunningham, with Jim Cunningham

I am proud to be married to Charlie for 24 years now. Charlie’s transgender story began six years ago. In the fall of 2017, I was the Interim Pastor for Preaching and Pastoral Care at Church of the Redeemer in Westlake, Ohio. On the first anniversary of their vote to become an ONA congregation, I invited Charlie to share Charlie’s story. At the time very few people knew Charlie was my spouse. This is what Charlie shared and with Charlie’s permission I share it here.

Hi, my name is Charlie. I am a pretty average person…although many might disagree. I also live with an incurable chronic illness. About 5 years ago I realized, after a lifetime of suffering, that I am transgender. I was born Charlene, a girl who loved things like skeet shooting and motorcycles and cars. The doctor even told my parents before I was born that I was, indeed, a boy. However, Charlie is my legal name now.

Up until the moment I came to the realization that I was indeed a man, I suffered from treatment-resistant depression. For over forty some years, I was so depressed that many days I could barely function. After my discovery, the depression lifted immediately.

I started out as many transgender female to male transgender people do. I hoped that one day very soon I would be able to pass as a man. I started on my path of transition, beginning with a double mastectomy. Next were male hormones. I was on my way. After a few months on testosterone, it was very clear that I was becoming sicker and sicker from the testosterone. For a while I was even wheelchair dependent. My plans changed immensely at that point. I could no longer take the male hormones that would change my appearance and voice to that of a man. I would never have facial hair and my body would never take on the physical changes of a man. My bodily transition was over.

I have no breasts, but my features still look female. Due to this, I am under scrutiny and wonderment from the people in society that observe me. I have been embarrassed and bullied to the point where I fear for my safety at times. I have been asked to prove my gender on more than one occasion. In hopes of a smooth transition, I changed my name and also my gender on my driver’s license and Social Security. The U.S. government now recognizes me as a male. It is a paradox to look female, with no breasts and be recognized on paper as a male. I now consider myself gender neutral or non-binary. Somewhere along what is a spectrum of gender possibilities. I try to dress as ambiguously as possible to avoid further shaming and questioning glares and stares.

Inevitably people still wonder and stare and this is the life that I live. One of the only places I should feel totally safe in is the church. This is not always true, however. Even in some Open and Affirming churches, I am still judged. I have found a few wonderful churches that love and accept me just as I am and that means the world to me. Thank you for being an Open and Affirming church.

I ask myself, “How can we learn to look at individuals in this world without judgment? How can we just see a soul and a human being without sizing a person up and forming conclusions about that person?” I am still looking for answers to that question and it has taught me to view others in a whole different light…without judgment.

There is one person who has lovingly stood by my side throughout the journey. He has supported me unconditionally and taught me so much about what love should really be. I am so grateful for my husband. I can truly be myself and feel safe at home.

May we all learn to love without judgment. Thank you for listening, and now back to my dear husband, Jim Cunningham.

Your Extra Hour

by Talitha Arnold

So what are you going to do with your extra hour?

You know—the extra hour we get the first weekend of November
when Daylight Savings Time ends and we “fall back” to Standard Time.
A full hour of free time on a Saturday evening or Sunday morning—
what a gift!

Of course, we’ll “lose” the hour next spring when we start
Daylight Savings again. But right now, what are you going to do with
the gift of those extra sixty minutes?

Because that extra hour is a gift. In fact, all time is a gift, going
all the way back to the beginning of creation. In Genesis, after God calls
forth light, God then set the great lights in the heavens—the sun to rule
the day, the moon to bless the night. God creates the days and the
seasons, and at the end of it all, God creates the Sabbath day—the
“Cathedral of Time,” as the great Jewish theologian Abraham Heschel
called it.

So what are you going to do with your extra hour the first
weekend of November?

We pay attention to time in the church. There’s the practical
aspect of making sure worship starts on time, keeping meetings within
time limits, getting the newsletter out on time. But as people of faith, our
relationship with time goes far beyond the practical. We set aside time to
mark special times in human life, from birth to death. We acknowledge
the passing of time, as when a child starts first grade or leaves childhood
to start adolescence.

Moreover, the church keeps time differently than the world
around us. We begin the “church year” with Advent, a month before
New Year’s Day. The liturgical seasons of Epiphany or Lent seldom
coincide with actual months like December or March. Some seasons
have specific lengths—twelve days of Christmas, forty days of Lent,
fifty dates of Eastertide. But Epiphany and Pentecost stretch from weeks
to months.

Time in the church gets confusing at times. As people of faith,
we always live in two different time zones—world time and faith time.
World time is “kronos” time—chronological time defined by the ticking
of the clock or the numbers on a digital watch. Faith time is “kairos
time (from a word meaning “fullness of time’). Kairos time is measured
not by the passing of time, but by the fullness of time. Not by minutes,
but by meaning.

We are in kairos time when, no matter what we are doing, we
are aware of God’s presence in that moment. Kairos time is time filled
with God’s hope and love, or perhaps simply with the fullness of God’s

May this month’s extra hour be a kairos hour for each of us.

No matter how we spend it, may we realize that hour is a gift—just like
every hour is. Indeed, may all November be a kairos month. No matter
what happens, may we trust that God is still present in our time and in
this world. And in this kairos time, may we be fully present to God, one
another, and this world.