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When Did You Know?


If you're fortunate enough to be born into an easy placement in the dominant paradigm, i.e. straight and cis-gendered, you may never have heard this question. I hear it quite often.

I invite you to walk with me and imagine yourselves in my loafers - feel and think about how different your life might be if this was your experience. Ask yourselves: Where will I go to find out about God? What church would have me? Can God still use me?

I knew when I was three years old that boys and girls weren't the same. I also knew that I felt like a boy. Being a child of the church, I believed in miracles and prayed fervently for God to "re-align" me - change how I felt or change my body to match how I felt. When puberty came along, I felt that God was punishing me - because I was already attracted to little girls and because all I'd ever heard was that I was just wrong, broken, an abomination.

As I grew up, I was mystified by my feelings - I was clearly attracted to girls, but didn't feel like "lesbian" felt accurate. I remember asking my girlfriends if they would still love me if I was a boy. They didn't understand why I was asking and, truthfully, neither did I. Also, I would periodically get major crushes on boys and when I had an opportunity to date them, realized that I didn't want to be with them, I wanted to be them!

When the first of my friends transitioned, I had a mix of emotions - exhilaration, anger, fear, grief. I was thrilled that I could actually "become" the man that I felt on the inside. I was angry that I had difficult life choices to make - life as a black man in the  US isn't exactly an exalted position. I was sad to imagine that many of my friends in the lesbian and women's communities would no longer see me as a trusted ally. I was fearful of telling my mother and losing her love and support and I was dismayed at the thought that my life couldn't begin until she passed on.

I knew I had to have the courage to transition - I didn't want to wish for my mom's demise on any level and I knew I would only have peace when my insides and outsides matched. I had the advantage of having a Pastor that I could turn to with my concerns, including the biggest of them all - telling my momma!

Over a decade has passed since then. My mom and I are closer than ever and I am at peace. I also received an unanticipated gift - finding a purpose and call in God. In this place - the intersections of gender and affectional orientation - my ministry has been revealed to me! I am grateful to serve God's people in the margins - those who are seeking the "who-so-ever" love of God!

Note: This reflection also appeared on the blog of the Association of Welcoming Baptists in April 2013.


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Transfaith board member, Yadi Martinez, was interviewed on Wednesday about how gendered expectations impact young people

We celebrate the ordination of Transfaith's executive director, Louis James Irving Mitchell, at South Congregational Church in Springfield, MA on September 23, 2018

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