By Jenny Smith
As civilization marches on, we’re growing in our understanding of gender.
Many of us have grown up understanding there are two genders. Male and female.
But what if there’s more we don’t yet fully understand about our bodies and souls?
Our transgender friends are bravely naming their reality, and we’re invited to listen and find common ground so that we can be better together. Transgender people have been present in the U.S. since the early 1600s. Before Western contact, some Native American tribes had third gender people. People dressing and living differently from their sex assignment at birth has been documented since the 17th century.
A friend of mine recently shared her story. When her son was 3 years old, he often talked about being a girl when he grew up. When he drew pictures of himself, it was always as a girl. My friend and her husband weren’t quite sure what to do. So they decided to watch and see what unfolded. Their son eventually had language to explain he was actually a she. When she was 7 years old, a friend told her on the school bus that she was an abomination and God didn’t love her. My friend’s heart broke. This prompted her to answer the pull she was feeling toward God throughout her life.
She wanted to help her daughter find her spiritual path because what that girl on the bus said could not be true.
My friend is teaching me so much about what I haven’t understood. Gender is not as black and white as we’ve often thought. We’re invited to stop looking at people as only male or female. They are human beings. It’s dangerous to look at someone and assume their pronouns.
I asked my friend what fear she carries around for her children. “That the hate in our country will take my children away. Some days it’s so hard to let them walk out the door. Transgender people are craving acceptance and inclusion. This saves lives. The more we can learn and talk about it, the better.” She shared that most people struggle with their bodies and want to change something (weight, nose, hair color).
Imagine wanting to change the core of who you are. Walking around in your body and something crucial feels…off. Or wrong. Listen to the transgender people in your life. Ask them what it’s like to be them. What messages do they pick up in subtle and overt ways? Which ones have they internalized and feel are true? What if they’re not? God created all people. To be fully alive, whole, grounded in who they are and who they are not.
God wants transgender people to feel safe and confident of their place in this world. We all benefit when transgender children and adults get to be fully themselves.
Jenny Smith is pastor of the Marysville United Methodist Church. Her faith column runs monthly.