I’m still watching responses to my survey trickle in – as of this writing 32 of you have responded. Thank you so much!
I’m going to wait a couple more days before I really start compiling all the results. But, seriously, thank you for participating. I’d like to do this again, with more planning, next fall. I realize that the end of the church year is not the ideal time to do this.
What I want to post about today, however, is that I’m sad.
Last Friday I had a really, really fabulous meeting with my minister about, well, ministry. I left feeling really good. I was excited. “I could do this,” I told myself. People are coming around to different identities and as long as I was able to put up with some Very Special Teaching Moments I was pretty confident that some day I could find a place in ministry.
Then on Sunday I went to church. The sermon was given by our intern minister and was titled, “The Q.” As in “the Q” of LGBTQ. Queer, in this case, not questioning. It was a really good sermon. That is not what made me sad.
After the service I did the normal coffee/awkward conversation/try not to spill stuff as children hug me thing. I had a meeting at 1pm about General Assembly so I decided to check out the congregational conversation at noon instead of trying to occupy myself for an hour. Our congregational conversations happen once a month and this was the first one I had been to.
We used the “mutual invitation” style of discussion (which the 4th grade me still calls “popcorn talk!”) in which each person responds to the service and then picks the next person to talk. We started the discussion by having everybody say their name, city, and preferred gender pronoun (she/her/hers, he/him/his, ze/hir/hirs, etc). That was where my first problem with the discussion came in.
People were… not mocking it, but definitely treating it as something unnecessary. Using statements like, “you can call me ‘it’ for all I care,” and “it doesn’t matter what you call me” or “well you could just use my name!” These statements if coming from people who have sincerely spent time thinking about their gender identity are fine. But these statements coming from people who are cisgender and have clearly never considered gender anything they needed to consider? Then it’s just an enormous display of cisgender privilege. Or, as a commenter on my blog wrote once, “Saying you “don’t stress” about gender is actually just another way of saying you “have hella cis privlege.””
I was willing to let that go, though, had it not been for the rest of the discussion. It definitely set me on edge but I try to remember that a lot of folks really have never thought about the pronouns they identify with.
But then we got to the actual discussion, or rather “discussion.” I was invited to speak first, but passed for the time being because I didn’t a) have my thoughts sorted or b) know quite what I was supposed to do. And in a lot of ways I’m really glad I chose to pass because it gave me a little bit more to say when my turn came around again.
That hour sitting in the chapel was really one of the times in my life where I have most viscerally felt that people “just don’t get it.” As much as they claim to affirm and promote the inherent worth and dignity of all people they really have no idea how unwelcoming it is to be constantly misgendered and have to make the decision about coming out as trans to somebody and, therefore, derailing a conversation or ignoring it and letting people just continue without ever letting your gender identity enter their head.
A few people talked about how we are already welcoming, and another talked about how we shouldn’t have to focus on what we have to do but rather what we’ve already done. More than one person mentioned something about how “everyone in the room could be queer!” and others talked about boundaries being unnecessary, and one person even mentioned how our identity didn’t matter because it should be kept private.
I did finally get my chance to speak. I said a little, I did mention I was transgender, and I talked about how it was hard to hear some of those things because I didn’t really agree that we were as welcoming as many people felt we were. Then I passed the discussion to the next person… and everything I said was ignored.
So I left the room. I thought about walking out of the church – not just for that Sunday but saying, “You know what, no, clearly they don’t care.” Obviously I didn’t. But I was pissed. I AM pissed.
I’m pissed that a place that I felt safe suddenly became unsafe for me again. And I’m half-afraid to go back next Sunday, see those people who were in that discussion, and have to try to converse with them in a positive and cordial way.
But above everything else I’m mad because it proves my fears. It proves that congregations say that they are welcoming, open, affirming, and that they want you there. It throws me right back into worrying about ministry and whether I can ever hope to have a congregation who “gets it” enough to call me and be genuine with their call. It worries me and it makes me mad that this has to be a discussion.
I’ve been told that this was not a representative sample of the congregation! That other people felt uncomfortable in that discussion, too! That if I want to that they would love if I’d come in and talk about it, or go get ice cream, or coffee, or.., or.., or…
I don’t care if the group wasn’t representative of the congregation. They are members of the congregation. They are not outsiders, not foreign to what we stand for and what we hope for our highest selves to be. They are people I worship with each Sunday. They are part of my Beloved Community as we are so fond of saying. So it really, really hurt to realize that they do not really understand me and, furthermore, don’t really seem to want to. It hurt me, it scared me, it made me question everything I’ve been thinking for the past year or so.
Could I Should I Why WOULD I How When Where Am I Crazy?
It scared and saddened me. And I’m not sure what to do.