Communion and My Transgender Experience

by Joe Nutini

A note from the Southwest Conference: This is edgier than our usual posts. It graphically describes an authentic spiritual experience. If that’s not for you, we will see you next time. But didn’t want you to be caught off guard.

 

I knelt down on the red wooden kneeler before the priest. His well adorned robe flowed gently over the railing separating us. He held the body of Christ in his hands. This was a sacred duty. We were to be subservient to the lord who had reportedly sacrificed himself for us. I did not share this story. For me, even as a young teen, the Eucharist was much more than that. I knelt because the cells of my body knew that there was something special, something mystical about the transubstantiation that took place in the communion ceremony. I did not kneel for the priest, I knelt for the mystic Christ who transcended all boundaries.

When the Eucharist touched my tongue, I often had an almost erotic experience. His body, his miracle touching me physically…this was something tangible. I could eat the in-between space that the risen Christ occupied. I felt it in my cells just as I felt my most recent first orgasm. I often experienced signs and visions that I now understand to be communications with the spirit world. When I took communion I did not feel so alien in my body. For a moment, though my gender and physicality did not fit quite right, I was able to overcome this painful conundrum.

Now here we are many years later. I started transitioning about 13 years ago. In that time I have become much more interfaith in my spirituality. I believe in variety of things, many of which could be termed new age.  I practice Buddhism as a way of life. Today I see most religions and spiritual practices as being a part of a large interconnected web. We are experiencing this web in both this world and in the metaphysical plane. My transgender experience has allowed me to see this more clearly and to feel it viscerally. There are no borders or barriers between this world and the next. Just like there are none when it comes to gender. There is only fluidity and change…there is only sacred and mystical blending, bonding, separating, transmuting and impermanence.

Thought I look much more like a man outwardly, I still consider myself a transman.  I am more on the masculine side of the spectrum. Yet, like my experience of Jesus in the Eucharist, I move through the fluidity of gender. There is a flow in my body. An existing in two spaces simultaneously.

There is a certain dharma to my transgender existence. I do not know what it means to be a cisgender man because I was not born one. That is my experience of being a transman. It certainly isn’t everyone’s experience. But for me, the lesson is to be able to occupy a space with which I resonate, even if it does not fit the boxes that society has created. In the 13 years that I have engaged in physical transition, I have not once said I was a man trapped in a woman’s body. I never had that story. I don’t feel a need to have the story to justify the physical changes I’ve made. It is simply what needed to be done. When the time came I knew and felt that it was right. This is a spiritual practice of trusting one’s own intuition and internal guidance system.

I often think back to the days when I was young and practicing Catholicism. The same catholic church that later threatened to excommunicate me if I came out as queer, provided the mystical experiences I needed to fully grow into myself as a transgender person. My body, like Christ’s risen body, occupies a mystical space. It is a physical manifestation of what Buddhists call impermanence. I think we all exist in this state. A state of in-between. A state of a body, a person, a mind, a heart and a soul in flux. I believe transgender people are here to be visible manifestations of this concept. I also believe we are here to help cisgender people move away from the rigidity of gender roles and into a more relaxed way of being.

The Sacred Path of Transition

by Joe Nutini

Today I want to talk a little bit about the concept of “the sacred path of transition.” This topic came to me after starting classes on Shambhala art. I am not necessarily a visual artist but I am definitely like to write and I do enjoy art a great deal. It’s interesting being in this class because I’m surrounded by people who seem to be very into visual art and that is really not my style. For me, the way that I write is how I express the Images and concepts in my head.

Often, I feel little bit insecure about writing and drawing in this class, even though that is really not the point at all. We are really guided to look to the moment for inspiration. Sometimes, I find that hard to do this when I am feeling insecure. Which brings me back to this concept of the sacred path of transition.

There is a lot of fear there for me when I think about writing on this topic. For starters, I wonder why I even want to write about something that is so personal to me. What is it about writing on this topic that is so important? As a transgender person, I feel like I would have to out myself. I feel like people would also assume that I’m writing about something that is only about being transgender. There are so many more transitions that we go through. There’s birth, death, illness and other things that happen in life that move us from one experience to another. These can all be considered transitions. For now, I want to begin by sharing my feelings and thoughts around the whole concept.

So what do I mean when I say, “the sacred path of transition”? I’ll start by breaking it down a bit. To me, the word sacred means that something is holy and deserving of respect. This could mean that it is attached to something that is religious or not.

The word path, in the context that I’m using it, simply means the road upon which we walk. Of course, I’m speaking about this in a metaphorical sense. What one believes about the concept of “path” could be more complex. It is possible to believe that the path leads to somewhere, perhaps a particular destination. It could be that we are simply on a path that we have labeled “life”. Perhaps as we live we begin to grow end evolve into something more than when we first arrived. Maybe it means that we are slowly making our way back to that which we actually were to begin with? Of course this is all very esoteric and up for discussion and discourse.

So what do I mean when I put the words sacred and path together? The way that I like to think about this is that we’re on a journey that we call life. This journey is holy and worthy of respect. For me, this also means respecting the fact that everyone is on their own sacred path by virtue of simply being alive.Therefore, each person’s life is ordained and worthy of exploration. We may feel as if we have the best idea of what would benefit this person most on their path. Perhaps sometimes we do. However, this concept is one that lends itself to believing that there is value in pain, pleasure, anger, sorrow, and all of the other emotions that we experience. Without these things I wonder if we would be who we actually are supposed to be.

So what does this have to do with being chronically ill and transgender? I will tell you that at one point or another in my life I wished that I was not transgender and that I was not chronically ill. I wished that I was not transgender because of society and the things that I had been taught by certain religious organizations. I wished that I was not chronically ill because I found this to be a huge barrier to my desired lifestyle. However, both have taught me that there’s something sacred and profound to be discovered when life presents us with circumstances that may seem difficult.

In regard to being transgender, I feel that this concept of sacred path is also important because many people view the transgender experience as one that is problematic in some way. I will say that I’m only speaking for myself when I say this but for me I’ve come to realize that being transgender is a blessing. Even though it can be a difficult life to live, it has afforded me a very unique experience. I lived my life for about 21 years as a person who was perceived to be female. I have now lived my life is a person who is perceived to be male for about 15 years. This has given me unique insight into the ways in which gender and gender roles affect both men and women. It has made me a much better therapist. It has also brought me more into myself.

I also believe that if there is a creator, they made me this way for a purpose. In experiencing chronic illness, I believe there is a purpose as well…even if it is simply me using my mind to find purpose within it. Thus, this experience is one that is ordained and holy. At the same time, I recognize that there’s a lot of suffering that happens as a result of holding an identity that is often looked down upon in society and to be living with illness on a daily basis.

Right now this is where my thoughts are on this topic. As I said I am sitting down to write a book about this and I will offer some blogs based on my writings as time goes on. I look forward to ongoing dialogue with you all.

The Gift of Being Trans

by Davin Franklin-Hicks

I’m not a man because I have facial hair, though I do love having facial hair.

I am not a man because people perceive me as one, though I love the affirmation of that recognition.

I’m not a man because my parents call me their son, though I adore my parents knowing I am their son.

I am not a man because my wife calls me her husband and my son sees me as his dad, though that makes my heart full.

My manhood comes from accepting myself and living into my gender rather than denying truth.

My manhood comes from lived experience of white, heteronormative, dominant culture and my personal commitment to rejecting privilege,extending power out to those long hidden and long suffering.

My manhood comes from understanding power and potential abuse. And in making sure I stay as far from that line as possible.

All of these things are true for any lived gender experience. My manhood has nothing to do with other’s expectations of gender role performance.

My manhood exists as part of the intrinsic value of being fully who I am. As does womanhood. As does any personhood.

I don’t hesitate to cry as a man. No one ever told me not to as a child.

I don’t hesitate to tell my guy friends I love them and give them hugs. No one taught me that was weakness as a child.

I don’t hesitate to express emotions. No one ever told me this was bad when I was young.

I don’t hesitate to affirm someone’s lived experience as valid. As a kid, no one ever indicated that I should somehow know more about someone than they would know about themselves.

No one ever told me these things, that is, until my medical transition.

I then heard these messages frequently from well meaning guys who just wanted me to know the lay of the land regarding their understanding of manhood.

I actually got to skip masculine gender construction in my most vulnerable years. As well meaning people attempt to “teach” me about their understanding of manliness, I get to try things on and throw off the crap that doesn’t fit me.

I didn’t transition to live out western culture’s stereotypes of gender. That would be awful if I had. I transitioned so body, mind and spirit would have congruence. Authenticity was, and is still, the aim.

This dude loves to give hugs, loves to express emotion, loves to listen as you tell your lived experience.

My manhood has nothing to do with this culture, but has everything to do with my humanity. And yours.

Image credit: Creatista

A Transgender Trinity

by Karen Richter

Have you ever noticed what happens in the gospels when Jesus gets asked a question? The people ask “Jesus, THIS or THAT?” and his reply comes from the side always like a quick and sly slanting pass, pushing the question back on his audience. How many times does Jesus respond to a question with, “well… let me tell you a story about that…”? He has a tendency to leave everyone a bit bewildered, especially the disciples.

  • Who sinned that this man was born blind?
  • Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?
  • Why does this Teacher eat with sinners and tax collectors?
  • Are you the One we have been expecting or shall we wait for another?

In his responses, Jesus begins the training of the disciples in non-dual thinking. Duality thinking that we find so natural and easy is the tendency in the human brain to see things in opposing pairs: good and bad; dark and light; male and female.

Easy, right? If I write the word up, you think “down.” It’s the way our brains are on auto-pilot.

Getting past this is tough work, and I have a lot of empathy for the disciples. In our own time, the Holy Spirit has taken over our training in non-dual thinking.

And the gentle leading of the Spirit over the generations is a gift to us – a gift that includes a strange and wonderful idea: that God’s nature is simultaneously 3 and 1. This seemingly esoteric and even outdated dogma can stretch us into new ways of thinking, if we let it.

There’s an Episcopal mystic whose books I sometimes muddle through – Cynthia Bourgeault. She talks about Trinity as PROCESS rather than PERSON. In other words, the Trinity is about how to think about things rather than about creed and doctrine. Trinitarian thinking is a reconciling approach that interweaves what at first appears to be a dichotomous choice. This kind of thinking is a spiral upward, beyond the either/or. When we get to an impasse – a problem, disagreement, decision – when we feel stuck, it’s an opportunity to look for a reconciling path, a third way.

And it’s this Trinitarian thinking, this PROCESS of sitting with mystery, that is so helpful when talking about gender. We have long misunderstood gender as an either/or scenario, driven by chromosomes and anatomy. The lived experiences of our friends tell us that we are wrong.

Knowing when we are wrong is useful information. What do we do next?

Well, moving away from the gender binary is a SPIRITUAL PRACTICE. If I have friends reading this, they are laughing at this point because I sort of think everything is a spiritual practice.

As with most spiritual practices, getting beyond the gender binary is about building a pause of awareness before our response. When we practice listening to others, when we practice holding open the question of another person’s gender (often this looks like letting go of our curiosity), when we let go of the need to put people into little boxes marked M and F, when we are willing to be vulnerable, willing to admit we’re going to get it wrong sometimes and we hate getting things wrong, when we practice – we train our brains to take a deep breath.

Breathe, and let go.

Over and over.

With much practice and patience, this makes us into a gentle welcoming people. We grow into the welcome that we profess, with trans and gender non-conforming people and with everyone!

A pediatrician friend and I were talking recently about kids who are late bloomers, shorter and smaller than their peers. She said that with her late blooming patients, sometimes there’s an appointment, after a period of growing, that their height and weight finally appear as dots on the standard growth chart curve. And they pause for a little celebration: “Yay! You’re on the chart!”

Just like the disciples, we’re beginners in the Trinity way of thinking – that kind of nondual thinking that led Jesus to respond to questions in that wacky way we love so much, the nondual, Trinity-shaped thinking that can be part of our learning about gender. WE ARE BEGINNERS, but we’re on the chart. Thanks be to God.

Notes and sources:

Cynthia Bourgeault’s book is The Holy Trinity and the Law of Three: Discovering the Radical Truth at the Heart of Christianity.

For fantastic transgender educational resources, see PFLAG’s Straight for Equality project at straightforequality.org/trans.

For the Love of Basic Needs and Dignity

by Davin Franklin-Hicks

Sigh. North Carolina. What a painful month for our trans sisters and brothers that reside there. It is so disheartening and fear-inducing to witness.

In the midst of this prejudice, bias, and discrimination, I’d like to draw us back to the humanity and dignity of transgender folks everywhere and remind us that we are loved by a still speaking God.

I lived in this world for 30 years being perceived as a girl and then a woman. I am transgender. My body was that of a female and my mind that of a male. Hard stuff when there isn’t room for such things in your understanding of the world. The flip side of that, though, is amazing gifts when there IS room for such things.

Transition is a radical act of love. My transition is a radical act of love for me, but it is also a radical act of love for you. I am saying, “Hey! I want to be all in with the care and connection we have, but I need something to be made visible in order for me to be authentic with you.” To share honestly is loving.

North Carolina is going through some stuff like a sullen teenager. It’s dressing in black and playing death metal through its headphones. It’s so over you, America, what with your equality and loving kindness in allowing queer folk to marry. It’s pretty insolent and sulky, but that turns quickly to being mean and a bully. It’s akin to a thirteen-year old that is sent to her room and she trashes it, not realizing that she just hurt herself more than anyone else since she now has to clean that up and lost some valuables while throwing a fit. Teenagers, am I right?

North Carolina is hurting itself by bullying and harming its own who are vulnerable and beautiful and, often, alone. I keep getting this image of the school bully hanging out in the bathroom between classes to grab the first person it sees and give that person a swirly. Poor unsuspecting kid trying to take care of his most basic needs, going to the bathroom, and the bully makes him wet his pants instead.

Do you see the indignity? Can you feel the undercurrent? “You are not human in the way we understand humans so you cannot exist. Your pee-pee and doo-doo are no good here. Move along.” Imagine going to work and trying to find the nearest non-gender specific bathroom so you can void your toxins while avoiding arrest. Or worse, attending school that legally locks you inside its walls during school hours and refuses you access to the bathroom. This is insane.

I have fantasies of asking Paul McCartney to remake “Let it Be” to “Let Us Pee”. Anyone know him? Let me know. Could be a hit. Another one of my fantasies is Kit Kat doing a commercial and changing up that jingle, “Give me a break. Give me a break. No, really, I could totally use a bathroom break. Seriously. Please. I really gotta pee.”

Did you know that I, along with many others, see being transgender as a gift? We are quite literally living Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now”. I know what it is like to walk this world being perceived as a girl and a woman. I know what it is like to try and be what the world demands of a woman. I know what it’s like to suffer rejection after rejection as girls and women harm each other so they can feel better about the ridiculous demands placed on femininity. I had this lived experience for thirty years.

My transition wasn’t because I didn’t like being a woman. I transitioned because I wasn’t a woman. My transition into manhood is affirming and gives me a sense of congruence where I had none before.

I want you to work on something for me if you can. It will help, I promise you that:

  • If someone you previously thought to be a woman tells you that he is actually a man and requests you use male pronouns (he/him/his), rather than thinking this is a woman who wants to be a man, think this is a man who is revealing more about himself to me. He is already a man.
  • If someone you previously thought to be a man tells you she is actually a woman and requests you use female pronouns (she/her/hers) rather than thinking this is a man who wants to be a woman, think this is a woman who is revealing more about herself to me. She is already a woman.
  • If someone you know is fluid in gender expression and identity, think this is a person who is revealing more about themselves to me. Ask which pronoun would be best and prepare to learn other pronouns that may be unfamiliar. It’ll be clunky at times, but it will also be okay.

The reason this will assist us all in transition or expanding our awareness of gender is because we are saying to the person who is revealing their gender identity, “You know more about yourself than I know about you. I believe you. I see you.”

The work of our reconciling church is very much in the midst of all of this. That radical act of love I do believe is what was meant when we were invited to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength and love your neighbor as yourself.” That’s the work. That’s the call. Oh, and, by the way… This call for us to love extends to the bully lurking in the bathroom. If there is one thing I know about bullies, they are the ones that often have the most need for love and the smallest amount of capacity to create that in their own lives.

To the bullying powers that be in North Carolina: this Trans guy sees your fear, your uncertainty, and your anger. I see it. This is hard stuff for you, all this change and uncertainty. Gender is so foundational in your thoughts about life and God and country. This is upending a lot for you. You have fear. I have amazing news for you, though. Ready? Love drives out fear. Give it a go, this choosing of love over fear. I think you might really like it. It may even allow for you to emerge from that dark, dingy bathroom and into the sun.

Let us pee…

I Just Wanted to Tell You Something

by Davin Franklin-Hicks

I just wanted to tell you something. I think it’s time that I did.
I’m 37 when I write this.
I’ve known a lot of people who have died.
I’ve never been to war.
I don’t live in a prolific crime area.
I don’t work in a hospice. I don’t spend time in places where one would expect the end result to be death. Yet I have known a lot of people who have died.

“Get a suit. You are going to go to a lot of weddings and a lot of funerals.” Someone said this to me in 2011 when I admitted I had a problem with drugs and alcohol and wanted a different path. I spend time in places where one would hope the end result to be extension of life. Yet, I know a lot of people who have died.

What’s more is I have known a lot of people who have died recently. Their families are still reeling, recounting lost moments, angry conversations, desperate pleas, wishing they had done things differently. Their friends are still tearing up with the thought, “I can’t believe you are gone.” Their voice still hangs in the part of the brain where one can swear they JUST HEARD IT. It’s fresh grief because they just died last month, even the last week of the last month. It is likely going to happen today where I live that someone who is attempting to alleviate the endless aching of deep, deep soul pain will use the solution that always worked before and this time it will kill them.

This is nothing new. As long as there has been access to life threatening mind-altering drugs, people have used them and people have died. There is nothing new under the sun. Yet, I can still hear their laugh and their intention to stop as they wished for something better so I think I need to tell you a few things that will make me feel really vulnerable. I do feel vulnerable in this writing, but I also feel called so, here it goes…

I was different in my faith tradition and spiritual practice when I was younger. I was a super, uber born-again, biblical literalism Christian as a teen with values of complete abstinence from drugs and alcohol. I took myself to church when my friends were taking themselves to parties. I was scared of drugs and alcohol. I had lived experience of addiction from adults in my life since I was very young and I desperately wanted a life where none of that existed. I sought after a life where none of that existed.Though my values and my attempts at daily living were to walk away from any situation where drugs and alcohol were involved, there was also a deep aching for me where my sexuality and gender identity were concerned. Since this did not match the teachings and beliefs the broader church that I subscribed to at the time held, I very much felt intense shame and pain, constant preparation for rejection, a feeling of otherness at a level that sometimes relegated me to exist alone and isolated in my room, feeling desperate for love. It also led me to thinking of dying nearly all the time until I was 21. I am a queer person and transgender and this pain is a common story. My story is one of so many.

This pain accompanied me. One day, I tried alcohol. Hello, sweet relief! No pain, no worry, no fear. And the people I drank with did not care one bit that being a girl and female didn’t ever fit for me, but I was super glad it fit for them: “Hey girl, how you doing? Come here often?” I could tell the truth about the person I was and they did not reject me. With that first drink, my internal and external world had congruency. So I sought that moment over the next many years, again and again and again. Richard Rohr poses that the only reason we do something again is that the last time we did it, it wasn’t entirely satisfying. We were left wanting. The alcohol that flowed into places never touched before and met a need I never knew could be met before, awakened a wanting that would never leave. I wanted to feel that way forever and ever and ever. Amen.

I also did not want that addiction thing I grew up despising. The loss of control for me was gradual. I had dreams, I had wishes, I had hopes and even though I found sweet surrender in alcohol, it took some time for that to become my focus. It was gradual, seductive and debilitating. Without too many details, this ebb and flow of trying to be in the world and follow dreams, live values, be authentic, seek spirit while also trying to meet this ever growing need that took me further away from everything that was life-giving became a tsunami of pain, loss and certain death. I expedited this when I discovered opiates.

People often die when they combine opiates and alcohol. This combination is one of the deadliest in the world. They may not die the first time, often not the second, but if it continues, they will die at a higher rate than either alone. I know that. The reason I know that is that when all of this was happening in my life, I worked professionally as someone trying to help people who were in addiction and asking for help. It is my craft and my career. Those words, on paper, in front of me now, seem ridiculous. I was drowning trying to help those drowning. Here’s the thing, though, I didn’t know I was drowning. That’s the trickiness of this whole painful disease: you often don’t know you have it until it nearly kills you. And I thought I was breathing fine as the tsunami overtook me.

I knew if I took these pills and I drank, I could die. I didn’t consciously want to die. I had developed a lot to live for. There was incredible pain deep within that beckoned me to consider death, but I wasn’t aware of it most days. I drank and I took those pills. A few things led me to ask for help. We got that alcohol thing in check. That just freed me, though, to really start taking those pills. And I was addicted to opiates in nearly no time at all.

There are stages of addiction. It is a deadly disease, once activated, it often ends in death, but along the way, it separates the sufferer from experiencing anything loving and life-giving at all. It depletes the world from light; darkness overtakes everything in its final stages. What’s so awful, though, what’s so incredible soul wrenching, is when it started, I felt like I had finally found light. Isn’t that the worst thing ever? I finally felt peace. Ease. I felt equanimity, truly. I feel sacrilegious for that statement since there is nothing I know more soul stealing than addiction, but it finally gave me that “We are meant to love and be loved” awareness that overtook everything bad. And then it immediately started killing me.

Opiate addiction is its own animal in so many ways. I have a teacher in my life, Dr. Wen Cai, an expert in the field, who gives an amazing talk about opiate addiction I have listened to a number of times. One of the things he talks about is viewing this as the disease that it is. He describes opiate addiction as the cancer of addiction. People are dying at an alarming rate if it is not interrupted. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that every day in the United States 44 people die from prescription opioid overdose. Add another 21 people who die every day due to heroin overdose. Put another way to help us fully understand this magnitude, there are now more deaths from opiate overdose than all motor vehicle accidents and the numbers are growing. And how do we fare in Arizona? Arizona is ranked in the top 10 states struggling with this epidemic.

When someone activates the disease of addiction with their first use, opiates commonly administered the first time in pill form, they are stepping into a life and death situation. It’s a gamble every time a person uses. That alone is awful. You know what makes it even worse? The person putting that pill to their lips for the first time is often a teenager wondering what this thing their loved one has been taking feels like. And they just activated a disease that could have them dead before they ever have a chance to live.

I’m 37 when I write this and I have a full life expectancy because my disease, for all intents and purposes, is in remission due to the work I do daily to maintain recovery. If I were to use again, I would be back in the gamble of life and death.

I have known a lot of people who have died and I desperately want that reality to change. It is the work of the church with extravagant welcome to consider our role in addressing what the CDC has described as the worst outbreak of opiate and heroin addiction in the history of the world. This submission to you is just a start for a conversation I hope will be very much ongoing.

I just wanted to tell you something. I have the disease of addiction and I have hope.

They Don’t Need Glitter

by Jeffrey Dirrim

Matthew 5:47-48 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

“And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

The smell of wet glue and drying paint lingered near the kitchen table filled with new arts and craft projects.  My sister asked if I could tell which of the creative pieces had been made especially for me? I nodded no and then she slowly began to point out all the ones with glitter. We hadn’t yet talked to the kids about my sexuality, but as an out gender-queer gay person I chuckled with her at what my young nieces and nephew had seemingly picked up on.

I’m not personally a fan of glitter, but it’s been around a long time. It can be traced all the way back to cave paintings in 40,000 B.C.  Ancient civilizations (including the Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans) used it. It’s quite possible glitter could have been a part of any number of our Bible stories. Maybe the dramatic Bathsheba wore it in shimmering make up long before the androgynous Ziggy Stardust in the early 1970’s? Maybe the prodigal son had celebrated with it like the New York City club kids did in the 1990’s?

The at-risk and homeless LGBTQ youth I minister with LOVE glitter for all the reasons I don’t. Glitter reflects light, it covers up imperfections, and it has a dark side. Yes a dark side, because it gives a false impression. For these beloved youth, glitter brings sanctuary. Through their experiences they’ve been taught they’re unattractive, unworthy, and disposable. The glitter hides deep scars and makes the ugliness of their world appear more beautiful. God knows they deserve some beauty.

Skylar Lee became a statistic this week. He was a 16-year old high school student and transgender advocate with a bright future. He was an accomplished writer and had just published a story about his difficult journey to self-discovery. Identifying as a queer transgender person of color, he found it difficult to survive while sharing messages of hope to other young struggling trans teens. Last Monday Skylar posted a suicide note on Tumblr and then took his own life. Social media was abuzz.

We act surprised. We grieve. But let’s keep it real. A 2014 analysis of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey by the Williams Institute found that more than 50% of the students who were bullied in school due to anti-transgender bias had attempted suicide. If that wasn’t bad enough, the number of reported suicide attempts jump to 78% for students who’ve experienced physical or sexual violence at school. And surveys of shelters in 2011 & 2012 found that 40% of homeless teens identified as LGBT. That number is staggering when you consider what a small percentage of homeless teens actually identify as LGBT. These are our children. Why are we so apathetic to their plight? Why do we reinforce the negative lessons they’ve learned, through our silence? Why aren’t we diligently working to create positive systemic changes for them? Why don’t we realize they’re dying?

The Hebrew word for “perfect” is “tamiym.” It’s translated as without blemish, whole, and complete.  I believe our LGBTQ youth/young adults are perfect. They’re almost all survivors of the worst neglect and/or abuses. I thank God every day for the miracle that they are still alive, and fighting to remain so. A few have served time in prison, a few have issues with alcohol and/or drugs, a few sell their bodies for food and shelter; and I’d like to believe in God’s eye’s they all remain unblemished. We need to be the adults. We need to take responsibility for relegating so many of our own children to the gutter. We’re the imperfect ones, we should be carrying their scars.

In faith we are asked if we are greeting anyone besides our own brothers and sisters.  We are asked to move into perfection ourselves by caring for the unlovable stranger. I’ve heard it preached that perfection in the Bible is often referred to as blameless.  Skylar Lee was blameless. We failed to teach Skylar of his worth and now he’s gone. No doubt there will soon be another announcement of an LGBTQ youth/young adult committing suicide.

Isn’t Skylar’s life enough?  What are we going to do? What are our churches going to do? When will we attempt to move toward perfection by making a difference in the lives of today’s LGBTQ youth and young adults? They don’t need glitter. They need us.

PRAYER

While dreaming of a world where glitter is no longer needed, we pray to our unlimited and unconditionally loving God. You have called us toward perfection. May we be moved toward you by loving the unlovable. May we be moved toward you by giving voice to those told they are disposable. Move us through our complacency to action as we bring health, wholeness, and justice to our LGBTQ children. Amen, let it be so.

DID YOU KNOW?

The first American transgender suicide helpline, entirely staffed by transgender people, has just opened. God’s transgender children can call the Trans Lifeline at 877-565-8860.  Please share some light and spread the word.