*The following was originally written for KAIROS, a student publication of Austin Seminary and published on Nov. 20th, 2013.
With a full month of Kairos dedicated partly to the idea of fellowship, I (Layton) have been thinking a lot about the voices in our community. But I have also been thinking about the voices who aren’t in our community right now and what we’re doing to see them and welcome them. Today, November 20th, is the Transgender Day of Remembrance, and I am particularly aware today of the absence of trans voices at APTS and all the gifts I believe that some of my trans friends could bring to this community. I am a cisgender woman and I cannot (and will not) try to speak for the trans people who are not here. Instead, I asked my friend Freddie Bell, whom I met earlier this year at the More Light Presbyterians Conference and who is a prospective seminarian, to share his thoughts about being trans in the church and how a seminary community like ours could be trans inclusive. Here is what he had to say:
My name is Freddie and I am transgender. I was born into a female body but identify as a man. A few years ago I began my physical transition. Today, I am typically recognized as male. Which is great – that’s what I wanted, right? It’s what I thought I wanted. It is nice to have my identity affirmed, but only partially so. I am proud of being trans and I want people to know. But that means I have to tell them. Which means I have to consistently face the fear and anxiety of how people will respond.
Transgender Day of Remembrance always reminds me that many people respond with hatred and violence. I am very lucky to not have experienced this, but it makes my fears all more real. This fear manifests in different ways in different communities. Where I work, my gender experience is considered an asset. Where I live, it’s seen as new and ‘strange’ but ‘totally cool.’
Ideally, church related communities should be the easiest to face. My God is my home and my home is where I should feel safest. My church should be a place where I don’t face these fears. Unfortunately, it’s typically the place where my fears and anxieties are strongest.
I feel called to share myself and my trans experience with the church. It’s sharing our stories that help us all grow as people and as the Body of Christ. I’d like to go to a seminary where I can share with ease that I am a queer transman. I believe that this ease comes when a community is fluid and open to change. When a community doesn’t focus on what is right and wrong. We must focus on love and love alone. We have to remember that the church is a living, breathing body that grows and changes everyday. I think it has little to do with accepting LGBTQ people and everything to do with just accepting that we are all people trying to figure out a way through this crazy world. Being trans is just how some of us have to do it.