Viv Taylor writes about her experience as a transgender Christian. She was one of the members of TransEpiscopal who witnessed at General Convention in Indianapolis. She graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill, served as a chaplain’s assistant in Iraq and wrote about the experience as Sam Taylor for The Chapel Hill News from 2010-12.
This is the first in a series about her transgender journey.
One night near the end of the week, the preacher started hammering away at those felt called to ministry. “If you find yourself feeling any attraction to someone of the same sex, or have any questions about your gender identity,” he warned, “stay away from ministry; it doesn’t need you. Until you take care of it, you’re a liability.”After the sermon, we were told there were ministers waiting at the back of the auditorium if we needed to confess anything, if we needed to ask for forgiveness and pray with someone.
I got up and walked to the back of the room, tears running down my face. A young seminarian put his hand on my back and asked if I wanted to step into another room to talk. We walked down the hall to an empty classroom.
So what’s going on, he asked.
I think I’m gay, I said. I knew I wasn’t exactly gay, but it felt close and easier to explain. The seminarian didn’t look surprised or angry like I had expected, just heartbroken.
At first he sounded scripted, asking if I was looking at pornography online or was involved with anyone. Then, he stopped and looked at how upset and scared I was. Look, he said, are you going to hurt yourself?
If I could dig it out or burn it out I probably would, I told him.
He looked so scared. Hurting yourself won’t change anything, he told me; hurting yourself can’t make anything better. God loves you. God loves what He made.
The seminarian said these things quietly, in a frightened voice, as if he was slipping a starving person contraband bread.
We prayed. and I went back to my group.
I never knew his name. Still, even though he was conflicted, maybe as deeply as I was, he came through and was a minister, someone who did Christ’s work of love and acceptance in the world. In the years since, I’ve left the Baptists, but I’ve never left that moment of knowing that whatever I might be, I am loved by both my Creator and many of my sisters and brothers in this world. That’s made all the difference.
This was a moving testimony, made at the recent General Convention of TEC, by a trans-gender person, (and reported here on ‘Episcopal Cafe’ blog-site) who speaks of her experience at a Baptist Seminary as a prospective theology student. Fortunately, her situation was met with an appropriate response at the time by one of her mentors.
This story no doubt helped some Episcopalians present at the General Convention to begin to understand the difficulties experienced by trans-gender persons in the Church. I hope that anyone reading this post may gain some insight into what it takes for a person who realises that they are somehow different from their peers, to talk about it with someone in authority in their local Church. The trainee pastor in this case helped Viv. Taylor to understand that God loves her ‘as she is’. If only all such people were met with this degree of pastoral care.
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand