Archive for ‘Growing Up’

July 8, 2013

“I have the kids tonight, Elizabeth is in the ER”

The semester is over. It’s been over for quite some time – a couple of months now – and I have a couple of months before classes start up again. I had hoped that this chapter of my blog would be a quirky but poignant chronicle of my time in seminary, filled with revelations and tidbits I’d want to remember. I made fewer than ten posts and none of them exactly revelatory.

I joked on facebook that if I had to title my first year of seminary it would be, “I have the kids for the night, Elizabeth is in the ER.” Elizabeth, my housemate, was diagnosed with breast cancer last May and I continued to live with them and help out with the kids over the course of the year in exchange for a room. Not that anybody has a particularly good experience with cancer and I suppose her outcome, that is “not being dead,” means that in many ways she had a better outcome than most but she ended up in the hospital a lot with scary high fevers and things that just didn’t feel right. Many nights I ended up unexpectedly watching the kids while Elizabeth hung out at Mass General.

I attended Dorian’s preschool graduation, let the kids watch a little too much TV while I worked on assignments, taught them the difference between the Old Testament and the New Testament, tried to hide my exhausted crying from them, and gave them lots of hugs. Choosing to live with somebody going through fairly aggressive cancer treatment (including chemo, radiation, and more than one surgery) was not the most logical decision but, hey, the price was right and I love the kids. Housemate is in remission, I’m still living here, and I feel like things are very much at a standstill right now.

In a lot of ways I’m scared to leave. I have a routine here; it’s the only place I’ve called home in any real way in a ten years. Sunday mornings are the epitome of that for me. The other thing I did during seminary was attend church every Sunday. I only missed twice when I was in town, once because I was super sick and once because I decided that drinking coffee with some queer friends was what my spirit needed. There were a couple of Sundays when I was out of town with my now-ex and it always felt weird to not be in church. Church is my routine, my rock, and I love that stability.

The kids love that stability, too. They’ve been coming to church with me almost every Sunday that I attend for a couple of years now. We don’t actually attend church all that close to where we live; First Parish Cambridge is clear across town though, realistically, it’s only a 30 minute train ride. Even that train is part of our routine. We walk to the station, in snow and sun and wind. We comment on the trees and the flowers, we talk about what we did with our week.

I’ve watched them grow up on these walks. When I first started taking them to church V was still in her stroller, not talking much, and D was a very shy 4 year old who didn’t want to leave my side. There’s a small wall at the corner of our block that D would walk on, holding the handle of V’s stroller. Slowly we phased out the stroller, instead of clinging to my side D started leading the way and running ahead. V scraped her knees every other week in an effort to keep up with her older brother, and slowly started to balance on that small wall herself holding my hand. Then slowly she no longer needed to hold my hand, not even for the “super hero jump” at the end.

We get off the train at Harvard, after crossing the river and inspecting it carefully for any signs of boats. D doesn’t often sit on his knees to look out the windows any longer; he’s too busy reading comics. We hold hands to cross the street and go in the side door of the building.

When I’m the worship associate the kids help me set up the sanctuary since childcare doesn’t start until 45 minutes after I have to be there. We set out new candles, make sure the pulpit is set up and arrange hymnals in the right places. I lift up V to hang the hymn numbers and let D light the starter candles. They both scamper around the sanctuary like they own the place. I usually let V test to make sure the mics are working. And the kid who wouldn’t leave my side got up this year, with three of his classmates, and spoke into a microphone in front of the whole congregation.

One year ago I agreed to stay for an extra year. It’s been a year and I know I need to move on. But I can’t imagine my life without walking those two to church on Sunday mornings and watching them grow from the “big kids” they are now into even bigger kids. And I can’t imagine not having them to distract me from school when school is too much.

June 12, 2013

Human Ecological Religious Leadership

My “call”

In seminary the most common question after “Wait, that’s due TODAY?” is “so tell me about your call”; in other words, “when did you know you were called by God/god/the Holy Spirit/the Divine/some higher force to go into religious leadership?” I knew some folks who have a very definitive “call” story but for me it was a long series of revelations. What it boils down to is that I loved social justice work but I felt like there was something missing and, for me, that something was spirit of community.

Discernment

When I started seriously considering religious leadership as a career path I contacted the alumni office and asked for a list of any COA alums who had gone onto religious leadership. Recognizing that not everyone keeps in touch with their undergrad and still others may be highly active in religious communities without having attained a professional degree in the subject, it was still a disappointingly small list.

There were four names on it.

Now I know that College of the Atlantic is not a large school but even within that reality four is a small number of people. Organized religion is just not a huge part of the day to day life of students at College of the Atlantic; it wasn’t really a big part of my life when I started there in 2007. Over time, though, I found myself being pulled in that direction and grasping hold of the thought that ministry was not an incompatible goal within the context of human ecology. I even wrote my human ecology paper on the 7 principles of Unitarian Universalism as my personal definition of human ecology.

I took those names and happily one of the people, Paul, was a minister from my own denomination, Unitarian Universalism; we were able to talk on the phone and even meet up in person at our national denominational meeting the following June. Later, when I was accepted into the Master of Divinity program at Boston University School of Theology, Paul shared that news with his congregation during their sharing of joys and sorrows.

Religious Education

Boston University School of Theology isn’t like College of the Atlantic in almost any way. There are students, faculty, staff, and buildings but beyond that they are pretty dissimilar. I’m at one of the larger research universities in the country, sitting in lectures with nationally renowned theologians, and a member of the Boston Theological Institute which gives me access to all 10 divinity schools here in Boston and the surrounding areas. Martin Luther King Jr. went to seminary here as the school is so fond of reminding people.

When I walked in here on that first day of orientation I was met with the nervous energy of a bunch of adults acting like middle schoolers at that first dance where nobody wants to step into the middle and just go for it. If you’ll remember COA orientation it involves a scavenger hunt and jumping into the ocean. Seminary orientation involved prayer and a whole lot of Jesus.

Unitarian Universalism is unique in that it’s not a specifically Christian denomination that grew out of the merger of the Unitarians and the Universalists in 1961. We’re historically very liberal; both denominations have been ordaining women since the mid-1800s, openly gay people since the late 1970s, openly transgender people since the 1980s, and we’ve often been at the forefront of various social justice campaigns.

While at College of the Atlantic my identity as an openly transgender social justice activist was never a concern to almost anybody; in seminary I realized I had little in common with my classmates. There were a few gay and lesbian people, and a person here and there who clearly had some understanding of LGBTQ issues. I wasn’t suddenly thrown into school with a bunch of people who were going to try to save me from the sins of my homosexuality but I wasn’t with people who I felt like I could relax around.

Now THAT’S what I call Human Ecology

I have a therapist. I swear the first two things ministers tell you when you tell them you’re planning to go into ministry are 1) “don’t” and 2) “get a therapist.” So I have this therapist who said to try to treat school as an anthropological exploration. She wanted me to act as an outsider learning about this other culture without fully immersing myself in it if that was too painful. That’s not how I learned to learn in my time at College of the Atlantic. As human ecologists we don’t learn only by observing but by immersion and participation in community.

As a human ecologist I am asked to study how I and others interact with our natural and human-manufactured environments. Seminary is a human manufactured environment; we sit in rooms and learn how to read ancient texts, or how to talk to somebody about a crisis in their life, or how to evangelize (yes, that is an actual class and no, I don’t plan to put it into practice as it was taught). I cannot learn from the outside; I have to jump in and try to carve out a space for myself while respecting that others don’t see that space for me as valid.

So I’m here. Things have calmed down a little. People are used to seeing me around even if a number of them don’t really agree with my “lifestyle.” I know that my own denomination is fully supportive even if some of the people I’m in school with don’t understand how that could be. I am serving my denomination on a national level as the Young Adult worship coordinator and on a local level I help lead worship, work with children, and provide pastoral care for people going through difficult times.

The future

I’ve only just finished my first year so I don’t definitively know where I’m going in the future. If I could pick my ideal future career I’d serve as an associate minister with a focus on social justice. I’d be able to continue my social justice work through a ministerial context while still working within a congregational setting. I think the liberal faith voice is essential when “liberal” and “faith” are often pitted against one another in our national dialogues. My background as an activist is integral to my future as a minister and my education as a human ecologist is the lens through which I act in the world. College of the Atlantic has been a non-traditional but hugely beneficial platform from which to approach seminary.

May 21, 2013

Praying With Johnny and Other Thoughts from Trans Day of Celebration

I’ll admit to kind of rolling my eyes when the idea of the Transgender Day of Celebration was brought up. I agreed to take part in the service and did my bit to invite folks but I kind of figured it would be a bit of a letdown. “Who was even going to come to this?” was my primary thought. Secondary thoughts included, “I have nothing of value to say” and “why does my voice squeak so much when I’m nervous?” Tertiary to those was, “crap, I have to iron a shirt.”

I procrastinated on writing. I angsted to friends online, I convinced myself anything I had to say was crap, and finally on Saturday night I erased everything and started from the beginning. It was only 5 minutes of talking, it wasn’t like I trashed a novel I’d was almost done with.

I walked into the narthex of the church and dutifully found who I needed to. We did all the run through stuff and scribbled down some cues and just went for it. There was surprisingly little direction; mostly I think we all just assumed that we’d done enough church in our respective lives that we could pull off this service with all the advance planning Jamez had done. Which was totally true; the main folks in the service have done a LOT of church between us.

My reflection went well I guess. You can tell it’s a queer service when people give you snaps to affirm what you’re saying.

So much of my time preparing for this service had been put into trying to figure out how to encapsulate my trans experience, in relation to Psalm 139, into under 5 minutes that I had completely ignored that I’d agreed to offer personal blessings during the service.

I walked up to the front and the first two people who came up to me were people I, at the very least, knew somewhat well. I knew their names, I knew their pronouns, and I knew enough of who they were and what they were doing with their lives that I could somewhat tailor the prayer to them.

And then Johnny Blazes walks up and I’m like, “crap. Really?” Not because I don’t’ like Johnny. I think Johnny is awesome. I’m basically in awe of Johnny. I don’t, however, know Johnny very well. We travel in a lot of the same circles but, being an antisocial grad student who leaves the house only under extreme circumstances like “I’m out of coffee,” I’m not sure we’d ever had an actual conversation. I may have complimented their hair once at Trannywreck.

So Johnny comes up, we hold hands, I ask their pronouns and just kinda went for it.

I prayed. I probably said the word community like 20 times, asking that they be upheld by the community that they do so much to uphold, and it was all over pretty quickly. I mean, it’s a prayer, not a dying declaration. Shortness is okay.

Nobody else came up to me. I was fine with that.

I keep realizing how much personal prayer means to me. I’ve posted about it at least twice before here and here. It wasn’t something that spoke to me for a long time but I keep realizing time and again how important it is to me to be able to sit with somebody and be prayed for or to pray for them.

It’s another fucking growth opportunity, okay? I’ll work on it in seminary.

The rest of the Trans Day of Celebration was awesome. It was like all the best of my community all in one room doing awesome things. Red Durkin did some of the funniest stand up I’ve ever seen. Liam and Johnny and Bethel and Evan and so many other people sang songs that spoke to all of us and Evan’s kid stole the entire show, no questions asked, by singing part of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star with, I think… trigger warnings prefacing it. Evan’s kid is 2.

So basically what I’m saying is twofold: my thoughts are totally scattered and it was awesome.

The end!
Look, we sang This Little Light of Mine!

April 16, 2013

Let Yourself Mourn

I was stuck underground on the train for a good half hour today. A minor inconvenience in the grand scheme of things, seeing as there were literally explosions happening around a mile from where I was, but I didn’t know that. They kept making vague announcements about police activity and I figured somebody was shot. Eventually when the train moved it went through three stations without stopping. When I was finally above ground again and out of the immediate area my phone started buzzing with text after text. People asking if I was okay over and over, my housemates and friends and exes.

I stopped somebody on the street and asked if she knew what was happening. She said she didn’t, but that she was wondering too. We stood there trying to find information on our cell phones while I gave her son a pack of stickers I had in my bag to distract him. She was the first to find something. “Oh god.” She said, “a bomb went off at the marathon.”

Boston and Cambridge and Somerville and all the places I spend my time in have tons of young adults. All around me at the coffee shop I was at people were answering their cell phones with “I’m fine, mom, I’m fine” and “don’t worry, grandma.” The coffee shop decided to close as there were still reports that things might be happening in the area. I went with a church friend back to her house while things got sorted.

And it was kind of scary and kind of nerve-wracking and yet all too familiar. I’ve been through this before. We, as a country, have been through this before. September 11th happened during my first week of high school and I’ve never known this country as anything but a culture where my shoes are a threat at the airport but an assault rifle in someone’s car is normal.

I sat with my friend Jess and we watched the coverage, saw friends update their status to say they were okay, and waited for the public transit jam to let up so I could go home. It seemed normal and almost routine to not be more freaked out.

But while it may not be extraordinary in the grand scheme of the world and it may seem like more American self-centrism that we focus so much on this when so many more die around the world daily I can’t help but get a little defensive when people minimize the damage with statements like, “Did you know that 30 were killed in Afghanistan today? Puts things in perspective, doesn’t it?”

I mourn for all those lost in large, tragic displays of human violence and in smaller tragedies of cancer and car wrecks. I mourn because I am a person who values other people but it’s okay to mourn at a different level when the city you live in and love in is attacked.

My dear Bostonians, let yourself mourn if mourning is what you need to do. Let yourself mourn without guilt that your mourning is a ‘first world problem.’ Let yourself stand in community or solitude, whatever feeds your soul. Cry out to your God, or your gods, or simply into the stillness for an end to needless violence without worrying that you aren’t crying out for the ‘right’ things. Let yourself be grounded in resolve to work for peace and healing. Let yourself breathe.

April 15, 2013

A prayer after communion

A friend was preaching tonight at the local Metropolitan Community Church and since he’s somebody I have a lot of respect for and whose ministry I value, I went. I figured “it’ll be a lot of Jesus” which isn’t a bad thing but it doesn’t really mesh with my theology. I was right; it was a LOT of Jesus.

It was a really small service, maybe twenty people in the room all told, and I think I was personally greeted by at least ten of them before the service started. I finally agreed to fill out a visitor card just so they’d stop offering them to me. When reading through the order of worship before service I noticed that they were doing communion and looked around for an explanation of their communion practices.

I’m not as stringently anti-communion as I was when the school year started. I spent a good part of spring break reading about communion practices and came up with my own “guidelines” about when I would and would not participate in communion. Suffice it to say I didn’t figure that an MCC church would have any issues with my participation in communion.

Most denominations that do communion have the same general principle behind it and then mess with it just enough to be “unique” and to “confuse newcomers.” At this church it is common practice to take communion and then receive a short prayer.

Honestly I couldn’t figure out how to not participate. Everyone else was and I was confused so I just made sure to step to the side where my friend was praying with people since, hey, I trust the guy.

I’ve had some bad experiences with folks praying over/with/about/to me. Lots of praying out the demons of homosexuality, praying out the demons that cause me to be rude to my parents, the demons that make me cuss and, when I was 10, the demons that led to my owning a CD by Hanson (perhaps that prayer was justified). Two years ago I prayed with a chaplain at general assembly which sort of made me okay with the practice in theory but it really needs to be somebody I trust in order for me to really hear the prayer rather than focus on the ten kinds of awkward inherent in the situation.

Tonight I held the hands of a friend and minister and he prayed for me and, like I said, I trust him and I respect his ministry and he’s a good person. But the really touching part was that this guy knows me. He knows I don’t really do the Jesus thing much. So he fit the prayer to me. He didn’t end with “In Jesus name” he didn’t throw much (any?) God into the prayer, and there was no hierarchical “Lord.” He held my hands and he prayed for me in a way he knew I would find accessible.

I’m always collecting bits and pieces of what effective ministry looks like but I’m not some cyborg seminary student who simply collects information whilst ignoring emotional situations. I’ve had a pretty rough year and it was really touching to feel cared for and ministered to in a different way than usual.

February 23, 2013

My identity is the message I scrawl inside

I can’t write you each a thank you note
because there aren’t enough thank you notes in the world.
And I don’t have your address.
I think I lost it when I moved.
And a lot of you don’t have addresses any longer.
But let my body be that envelope
for that thank you note
and my men’s clothes the pretty picture on front
and let the simple fact that my identity exists
be the message I scrawl inside
thanking you
for all you’ve done for me.

For all the butches out there
but especially those first strong, fierce, bold women
who took their identity public
and political
and said “this is who I am” with their dapper hats and pressed shirts.
From the Beebo Brinkers
to the Leslie Feinbergs
to the unnamed women who kicked those stones out of the way
so those of us who came after them
didn’t have to tread quite as carefully.

Thank you

For all the femmes out there
who said, “oh honey, I love you exactly like you are,”
those fierce ass women who society loves to ignore
or fetishize,
for all of you who told the people I’d date in the future
that it was okay to date the girl
in the button up
and the ill-fitting men’s pants
and the too big boots
and thus led to too many flings and lots of loving embraces.

Thank you

For the drag queens
who said enough is e-god-damn-fucking-nough

Thank you

For the parents who chose love for their children
above societal expectations
and who dutifully plugged away in libraries and on websites
filled with outdated and incorrect information
only to make mistakes
and apologize
and still walk their kid down the aisle
toward her wife
or up the courthouse
after she was fired from a job she loved because other people were
too afraid of her.

Thank you.

For all of you who have been arrested
for being the fabulous queers you are
and for all of you struggling
to be fabulous queers while incarcerated.

Thank you.

For all my friends who didn’t outwardly flinch when I came out
and allowed me to have a life outside of being “the trans guy”
and who sang with me at open mics
and laughed with me while we crowded into our hallway
to watch bad TV
and who let me cry when the world got a little too tough.

Thank you.

For every one of the ministers
mentors
teachers
lovers in my life who has ever said “I believe in you”
whether they believe
in the current incarnation of me
or one of the many identities I’ve traveled through
to get to this spot.

Thank you.

For all my contemporaneous queers
who fight these fights
and accept these struggles
and lift each other up
when we get knocked down.

Thank you.

©Andrew Coate. Please do not share in full without linking back to http://www.thoughtsonblank.wordpress.com

February 7, 2013

“Love the new look.” Coming out to my middle school science teacher.

Last week I was working with a group of high school seniors and I made them brainstorm on a teacher, or teachers, who had made a positive impact on their lives prior to high school.  The “prior to high school” caveat was mainly because they were all still in high school and I wanted them to think back.  We talked about what makes a good teacher and eventually settled on the answer, “it’s the little things.”  Then I made them look up an email address or, if needed, a physical address of a teacher they remembered had made an impact on them though “the little things.”  We wrote letters, by hand and on computers, thanking those teachers for what they’d done, detailing that “little thing,” and updating them on where their former students were now and where they hoped to go in the future.

They told me I should do it, too, so I sat there contemplating the question.  I’d certainly had some great teachers and I’d had some really awful teachers.  Most of the good teachers were in high school and college and certainly not all of my “teachers” have been in schools.  But middle school had a dearth of teachers I felt like cared at all.

I got caught up in the rest of the day and didn’t really plan to follow through with sending off a letter and forgot about it until I got home and turned on my computer.  I had a Facebook friend request from somebody who had bullied me mercilessly in middle school.  I couldn’t figure out why she’d want to be friends; this was a girl who scribbled “fag” all over my backpack and was such a “nice girl” in front of the teachers that, when she told one of them I’d copied her test rather than the other way around, I failed and almost didn’t pass math.  And how had she found me?  I’d changed my name since middle school and there was no way she should have known to look me up.  I considered, strongly considered, sending her a nastily worded message about how bad she’d made my life.

It got me thinking again about those teachers who hadn’t done the right thing and played into the idea that bullies have low self-esteem and let them get away with murder.  Then I remembered an incident on the playground before school; this person was bullying me and my science teacher came up to us and completely diffused the situation.  I started thinking about that letter I hadn’t written.

I searched out my middle school’s website just to see if she happened to still work there.  She did.  I grabbed the letter format I’d made my high schoolers use and started to write.  Almost immediately I realized that I’d either have to come out as transgender to this teacher or use only my legal name and an old email address to avoid coming out.

I came out to her; I figured I lost nothing if she never responded, or thought it was spam, or didn’t care, or just never saw the email.  I explained why I was writing, thanked her for standing up to a bully for me that one morning (the little things!), let her know where I’d gone to undergrad and where I was in grad school, and signed off.

Less than fifteen minutes later she sent me a friend request on Facebook.

Okay, so much for her never seeing it, or not responding, or not remembering who I was.

So I did what I do.  Sent her a Facebook message.  “That was an awkwardly fast response to a completely random email.”  She responded that she’d been avoiding grading.  And we started chatting.  She had family in Maine and Boston, relatives associated with Unitarian Universalist Churches.

Then she said, “love the new look.”  I made some sarcastic comment about moving quickly from Dykesville to Tranny Town after high school but inside I was saying, “Oh, thank you, God.”  She was fine with it; it was a nonissue.

I don’t know why it mattered.  This wasn’t somebody I’d even really thought of since I left middle school and had she never responded to my email I wouldn’t have really thought about it.  And if there HAD been some issue with it then, hey, what did it matter?  She was my science teacher, for one year, thirteen years ago.  I’m pretty sure in the prioritized list of “people who need to accept my gender identity” that’s… pretty low.

I’m at the point in my life where I’m not closeted to anybody I’ve met in the past five years and anybody from before that who I’m friends with in any capacity online.  I’m out to my parents and my siblings and a couple high school teachers who I’ve stayed in contact with.  But because Facebook didn’t become public until after I left high school I never ended up friends with almost anybody I went to school with.  Anybody who tries to seek me out now won’t find me under my legal name.

Therefore anybody I contact from before I transitioned I have to make that choice with.

Should I come out to you?

Are you safe?

Does it matter?

Sometimes the conversation is great.  This teacher was wonderful about it.  Last time I came out to a former teacher she was… less okay with it.  She’s come around, and we’re fine now but her initial reaction hurt.  A few people never questioned me when I changed my name online while others asked about it and then never brought it up again.

But it will always be the little things that make the biggest impact.

“Love the new look.”

January 12, 2013

We lost a hero this week

Did you know a hero died this week?  I suppose the argument could be made that heroes die every day of every week of every month but a hero died this week.  Jeanne Manford passed away at the age of 92 after living a life of acceptance with grace and compassion.  Manford founded PFLAG; Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays.  In 1972 she marched in the New York City Pride Parade carrying a sign in support of her gay son, Morty.  Morty’s life was cut short, as so many of my queer parents and siblings lives’ were, by AIDS.  Jeanne Manford continued to fight for acceptance of LGBTQ people; she evolved with the times, moved with the movements, and was an ally and a presence for her entire life.

We lost a hero this week.  The LGBTQ community lost not only an ally but a parent and a grandparent.  Because of activism like Jeanne’s so many of us were able to go further, faster, and with less fear of not being accepted and knowing we were entering a world with greater understanding.  She didn’t solve the problem of families that don’t accept their children but she helped let those children know that other people did accept them.  She brought allies into the movement; a necessary step in bringing the oppression of LGBTQ people into the greater public knowledge.

A prayer for the heroes

Thank you, God, for giving us the heroes
The down to earth folks who speak quietly
From living rooms
And computers
And through small acts of kindness

Thank you, God, for giving us the heroes
That shout from the rooftops
And the pubs
And the street corners
Whether anybody listens or not

Thank you, God, for the grandparents
Who stand up and say
No
Oppression wasn’t okay in my time
And it’s not okay now, either

Thank you God for the younger siblings
Who never question who you are
Since you’re always the person
Who stole Halloween candy
When you were eight

And thank you, God
For the blessing of those who stand
When we cannot be our own hero
Or when we don’t want to be
Or when one voice isn’t enough

Thank you, God, for the allies
Who stand by our sides
And let us lead
And follow with gusto

Thank you, God, for the heroes
The every-day
And the extraordinary
And the old
And the young
And the visible
And the invisible
God, thank you for the heroes.

November 16, 2012

Corrupting the Future of America

I live with a couple of absolutely amazing kids.  DangerLad is 5 and AdventureLass (their parents’ picked the nicknames) is 3; I’ve known them since they were born and they’re tons of fun and I’ve lived with them for almost two years now.  DangerLad, at least, knows that I’m not a “regular” boy, or he did at one point but sometimes he wants it explained again.  It comes up really infrequently with him and is definitely not a part of our day to day conversations.  AdventureLass, frankly, is a three year old.  She just knows me as Andy and that’s enough for her.

Last night I took the kids out to dinner.  It was just a chain restaurant but they’re young enough that it’s still a big treat.  AdventureLass was sitting on my lap and asked what the button on the collar of my shirt said.  I took it off and pointed to the words as I read them.  “Trans Rights Now.”  DangerLad piped up with, “what’s that mean?”

It’s Transgender Awareness Week which ends in the Transgender Day of Remembrance so I wore my button from the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition to class.  AdventureLass, being three, is interested in anything shiny.  But DangerLad, at the ripe old age of 5, wanted to know what the shiny thing meant.

This is where I feel like people get hung up on explaining stuff to kids.  They’re afraid that they’ll scar the kid, or that the kid isn’t ready to have their questions answered.  This is how I’ve chosen to explain being trans and the fight for equitable rights to the kids; I know that they won’t understand every word but hearing a message of inclusion is important.  Their parents have never specifically asked how I’ve explained my identity to them but their kids seem no worse for the wear and they trust me to answer the other questions the kids ask… so why not these?

When people are born their parents or their doctors either call them a boy or a girl and usually those little baby boys grow up to be big boys and then men and usually those little girls grow up to be big girls and then women like your mommy and daddy.

Sometimes, however, those baby boys don’t want to grow up to be big boys or men; they feel like they aren’t really a boy.  Maybe they feel like a girl, and maybe they don’t feel like a boy or a girl, so they might dress differently or cut their hair differently than people think a boy should.  And sometimes those baby girls don’t want to grow up to be big girls or women so they might dress more like boys and maybe cut their hair.  That’s called being transgender, or trans.

Some people are mean to trans people because they think they look different or sound different but that’s not nice.  In church we learn that EVERY person is important and that we should be kind in everything that we do and that we should treat everybody fairly.  That is what a “right” is – treating everybody fairly and being kind to everybody and not just the people who are just like you.  So “Trans Rights Now” means that transgender people, or trans people, deserve to be treated fairly like everybody else.

This isn’t, of course, verbatim what I said.  I checked in with DangerLad a couple times to make sure he understood, and he asked a few questions that led to short tangents.  It was more of a conversation than a lecture.  But… yeah.  That’s how I explained being transgender to a 5 year old.  He’d heard most of it before, in various ways, but it never hurts to repeat it.  It also never hurts to answer questions.  And as he gets older I’m sure he’ll have more questions that either I, or his parents, will answer.
So yes, folks, this IS the gay agenda.  We corrupt children over cheap faux-Mexican food.  Be afraid.

August 30, 2012

It begins

My minister has a framed picture on the wall of his office at church – it’s the Tichh Nhat Hanh meditation “I have arrived.  I am home.”  Since I’m in his office a fair bit, between meeting with him individually and for Pastoral Care Associate meetings and such I have stared at this picture a lot.  I love it.

 

I started seminary today.  I was a nervous wreck for the past few days and then… I got there.  And in all of its fluorescent lit, mediocre bagels and bad coffee glory I had arrived.  I took a seat and started talking to people.  People, mostly people close to my age, doing the same thing as me.  This thing none of my college friends understand even though they’re being really nice about it.  It felt so right.

We did all the normal orientation things.  It was explained what a venerable and esteemed institution we were at, the multifaceted, and I’m sure very unique, benefits were tossed around, and we mingled.  I met new people and old people and I laughed and I felt, well, blessed.  To be there.  To be able to be there.  I felt like I belonged.

After lunch four of us ended up outside playing Frisbee and already we have inside jokes (they involve me aiming at freshmen).  We went on a hideously long walking tour of Boston immediately after which we had to go to a fancy hotel to meet our professors.  We ate fancy-ish hors d’oeuvres and laughed at how underdressed almost everyone was.

It was good.  I returned home happy, and content, and thrilled, and all kinds of other adjectives.

And it was good, too, because when I posted a happy status about being in seminary over FIFTY of my friends “liked” the status on Facebook.  These friends who have been following me from when I first declared I may, possibly, be interested in seminary to today, when I started.  Friends from college and friends from church and minister after minister after minister saying “Good for you.  I’m glad.”  It was such a fun, good feeling.

Not everything was perfect.  Almost nobody got my pronouns right, and while my name was correct on my nametag it was incorrect on my folder and my advisor letter.  I am pretty sure there’s no gender neutral bathroom that’s easily accessible in the building.  I was too scared to correct people much.  I am incredibly dehydrated because, well, if you don’t think there’s a place to go to the bathroom you don’t drink enough water.

But I have arrived.  I am home.  It’s not perfect and there are going to be speed bumps and awful bits but, right now, in this moment, I’M THERE.  That’s what matters right now.  I am THERE.

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