You just heard that that beloved cousin, honored aunt, or grandchild has come out as transgender. They are someone you love deeply. Yet, right now you’re terrified of hurting them. Here are my secrets that I wish my family had known and enacted when I came out. Clearly now, not all of these hints will be the same for everyone or each experience. Now, I share them to give you starting points for supporting your family member.
First, listening and trusting someone to know their best self is always good advice. Next, if someone tells you their name, believe them, even if it’s a name that sounds foreign to your ears. Yes, the same goes for pronouns. Try them out, and don’t be afraid of messing up – we all mess up – and we all get to try again. Check out http://www.practiceWithPronouns.com.
Whatever you do, take your fears somewhere else. Also, take your warnings somewhere else. Your family member is facing a world full of hate. Your fears and warnings sound a whole like like that hate they see everywhere. Today, the world hates transgender people; the world as it could be does not have to.
Then, affirm them in their gender, affirm them in exploring. Celebrate all that they might encounter.
Finally, find a trans friend – not your family member – and learn from them. Love them too. You can learn from them the foundedness -or not – of your fears and warnings.
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Every year, my favorite days lie in between the Reign of Christ and Christmas. These four weeks are often called Advent. They are some of the strangest moments in the Church year. Even though this period straddles two church years the readings all have a common theme – looking ahead to a time when Christ reigns, and Caesar, Fascism, Racism, Kyriarchy, Evil, Hatred does not. A time when the world as it could be is the world as it is.
Each year as I hear the words from the Prophet Isaiah versified “Comfort, Comfort, ye my people,” I imagine the endless flow of suffering and joy juxtaposed in the human experience that is existence. What might it be like if each moment was a flowing river leading to the time when Christ reigns, or what if each moment was the opportunity to see God’s reign. Rather than relying on a God who imposes their views on all humanity, the persuasive view of a God who permits humans to put God on the throne, and to shift and change with humans seems so much like the warning and promise in verse three of the hymn “[…]
O that warning cry obey!
Now prepare for God a way;
let the valleys rise to meet him,
and the hills bow down to greet him.”
Every person gets to play a role in bringing about the future as we each imagine it. What if we could imagine a world together, bringing our distinctnesses and find a world that is as safe as it could be for each of us – and that pushes us to be better people. That who we are now does not have to be the final world for who we are as humans. We get to prepare a way for the world as we want it to be, lifting valleys and bowing mountains. We get to change, just as God does.
As life flows from one moment to the next, so do the emotional experiences and the ongoing sense of success and failure. The entire experience is in flux, as is the whole of the church year in this period from when we declare: Christ Reigns and Fascism does not, Christ Reigns, and Caesar does not. Christ who reigns is not yet born, and however, the Word made flesh reigns in our hearts with the whispers of the wind, encouraging us to take the next right decision.