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Wrestling with the Church As an African-American Transgender Woman

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As an African-American transgender woman, I am spiritually sensitive and truthful, yet many religious organizations and churches reject and ostracize the transgender individual. Many churches claim that the life of the transgender person is doomed and headed to hell. The accusation of the church is that the transgender person lives in darkness and shame.

I was raised in a strict, Christian home by God-fearing parents, with the love and support of a strong church family. The Bible, the word of God, was our guide to following the teachings of Jesus Christ. As a family we were deeply involved in the church and were taught to live by the teachings of Jesus Christ. I enjoyed my 18 years in the church, because it taught me to be truthful and honest, to treat others with love, and to always love the Lord.

I knew even during this time, from the age of 6, that I was a different bird and a special child, but I did not have the knowledge to identify my inner feelings, which I now recognize as confusion around my gender identity. The church says transgender people are living a life of deceit and untruthfulness, against God's will, according to the Holy Word of God. Religious leaders and pastors have told me many times that the fact that I'm transgender will bring shame on the church and be offensive to many within the church body. But my response has always been this: how can truth and light be wrong in any individual's life? The Bible speaks of telling the truth and living in the light, and that is exactly what I have done for the last 20 years. I am condemned for being honest with myself and others, while as a street prostitute/escort/mistress I engaged in activities with men, some highly respected and revered, who will deny even today that these activities occurred.

My entire life has been filled with internal struggle, with both my religious beliefs and the difference between what I looked like on the outside and what I felt like on the inside. I do believe there is a purpose for transgender people through God's will. I sang as a child and youth in the church choir, and the songs were always about God's love, mercy, and understanding. I struggled for almost 10 years with my transgender identity and with the attitudes that others might have if my inner secret were revealed. I felt ashamed that I felt like a woman and wanted to be one. I knew that if this truth were revealed, I would become a outcast in the church and among many of my closest friends.

But my spiritual foundation rose again, because in my darkest hours I prayed and cried unto the Lord to help me and guide me. Prayer is an individual thing, and anyone can pray at any time and in any place, and it costs you nothing to do so. The next day I saw some light, some sunshine, in my otherwise dark life, through the beginning stages of my transformation from male to female. My journey has led me to fully believe that if you work hard and do your very best, God will do the rest. He guided and uplifted me when there was absolutely no one else there. God is there for everybody, regardless of race, creed, sexuality, or gender. My personal journey has led me to realize that if I love myself from within and believe that God loves me, I am loved and important. I have value. I am somebody. In this life we are all searching for love, but we must first love ourselves before we can receive love from others. The best description of love I have ever found is in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

So that means, for all my transgender sisters and brothers, that God is love, and love is for everyone, regardless of who you are. Love yourself for who you are, and always, always demand respect from friends and partners. Remember, love does not cause pain, hurt, humiliation, or degradation. I am an African-American transgender woman and will always be true to myself. My prayer is that the church and its religious leaders and followers will be able to recognize all people and discover more fully God's love for us all, because we are all God's children. I strongly disagree that I am out of the will of God. I believe that the truth I live in is a truth that God demands of us.