Archives for June 2010

mary

John 20:11-16 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” When she had said this, she turned round and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? For whom are you looking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (Which means teacher).

Photo Credit: bogenfreund via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: bogenfreund via Compfight cc

Another well-known scene from the Gospels, Mary goes to visit the tomb and finds it empty. She begins to weep thinking that someone has stolen the body of her friend. It’s a response that makes sense. First to see your friend and the person you’ve been following brutally murdered; and then when you go to pay your respects, to feel close to the person you’ve loved and lost and to find them gone one couldn’t help but weep.

And in her grief she has an encounter with someone who she thinks is the gardener. You wonder how different Jesus looked as a resurrected person that Mary didn’t even recognize him. Was she blinded by her tears? Or did he look completely different? Either way, she doesn’t realize that she is talking to her friend until he calls her by name. What a moment. I wonder what it was in the way Jesus said Mary’s name that made he realize it was him. Did he have a special way of pronouncing it, or was it the tenderness with which he said it? In that moment, the moment of Jesus speaking her name, Mary knows she is with her friend again.

I remember the first time someone I knew didn’t recognize me. I was maybe a year into my transition, maybe not even that. I ran into one of the professor’s assistants from my seminary on a subway platform. I had her the previous semester and hadn’t seen her since. I went over to say hello and she just stared at me blankly. I waited for a subway car to pass by (drowning out our conversation) and told her who I was. Then she recognized me and we had a nice chat.

It was a surreal experience. I honestly didn’t think I looked all that different, but here was someone who I saw for an entire semester once a week who had no idea who I was. On the one hand it was a great moment. I was finally becoming the person I was meant to be. I was being seen as who I am. But it was also strange to think that people who knew me before wouldn’t know me now.

There’s a bit of a disconnect that comes about once the old you becomes unrecognizable. I see the photos of myself from the past and I don’t know who that person is anymore. It seems like I was wearing a costume that hid my real self. And this new body that I walk around in is my true face. But what does that do for the people who knew me before? People who might not have contact with me in my day to day life now.

I think of my mother and my siblings who only see me a couple of times a year. I go home and I look like a different person. Do they feel they are losing me as my face changes? I think of people I haven’t seen in years who I could probably walk past on the street today and they would have no idea it was me. Even people that I was incredibly close to. You have to work really hard to not lose the person you were in the midst of your transition.

I think early in transition there is a sense that anything is possible. That you can become a new person. And it’s true in that in some ways you can. You can reinvent yourself as you inhabit the new life you are meant to live. But for me, as my transition has gone on, there are a lot of parts about myself that I thought I had lost that I am reclaiming. There is my love of baseball and my fascination with military history. Those things that I pushed aside but now feel like I can pick back up (for a multitude of reasons). In so many ways I feel more authentically myself now that I ever did. I feel more connected to my childhood now. I think in some ways it’s because as a child I didn’t have the same disconnect with my body that I did as a teenager, but in other ways being at home in my body has allowed me to be whoever it is I feel called to be. It means that I don’t have to worry that if I shave my head I’ll be seen as female. I can wear a pink shirt without worrying about being misgendered. That is a freeing place to be.

And in being the most authentic person I can, I think that will translate into my relationships with people who might feel like they are losing the person they loved. It will translate to those people who don’t or won’t recognize the person I am now. Just like Jesus had a certain way of saying Mary’s name, I trust that there is a certain way that I interact with and speak to the people I love that will help them to recognize me even though I have a beard now and even though my body and face are different. There will be a certain way that I say “mom” that lets my mother know that she is not losing her child.

No matter how different I look, how much I change, the essence of who I am as a person remains the same. Transitioning allowed me to let go of all of the baggage I was carrying and become who I was meant to be. By becoming myself I am freed to love more wholeheartedly than I ever could before. And that is the biggest blessing of all.

lillian

a great spoken word piece i found on youtube.

ave maria

Throughout the gospel of Matthew we only see glimpses of Jesus’ mother. Unlike in Luke she is barely a footnote in the birth of Jesus. Here the text centers around Joseph. There is no mention of Jesus’ childhood in Matthew so the next glimpse we get of Mary the mother is in chapter 12 when Mary and Jesus’ brothers come to see Jesus. His response: “Who is my mother and who are my brothers?” It never mentions whether or not he went outside to talk with them. In the Matthew text Mary isn’t at the foot of the cross, doesn’t come to the grave. These are the only two mentions of her in the gospel.

In the Gospel of John, Mary is present at the cross, in fact, Jesus even addresses her: He gives care of his mother to the disciple referred to as “the disciple Jesus loved” and that disciple takes Mary into his house from that point forward. (John 19:26-27)

Photo Credit: Christopher JL via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Christopher JL via Compfight cc

Why is Mary sometimes important to the text and sometimes banished to barely a mention? What was her role in Jesus’ life and ministry?

I think a lot about Mary. How complicated a person she must have been. Filled with such strength to birth a son out of wedlock in a time when that was judged harshly. Strength to keep relying on God in the midst of not knowing what God was doing. Then to watch her son grow, to watch him leave her home and travel teaching people. To hear word of his deeds make it back to her ears and wonder what would happen to him. She must have heard as the public opinion changed toward him, must have worried that her baby was getting himself into trouble.

I wonder why she showed up with Jesus’ brothers wanting to talk to him. Did she want to bring him home? Did she want to tell him to stop with all of this foolishness and take care of his family? And what pain she must have felt when he claimed those gathered as his family instead of his flesh and blood.

We transgender sons and daughters have complicated relationships with our families. I know that talking about mothers and fathers strikes a chord with a lot of us. Some of us have had families that outright rejected us; kicked us out of the house and cut us out of their lives. Some of us have families that have been super supportive and loving.

My own journey has been more of a middle road and is a continual process. I find myself drawn to the story of Jesus and his mother. His biological father is nowhere to be found and his step-father seems to be a semi-remote figure that disappears either before or when he reaches adulthood. This is much like my own situation.

Growing up my mom and I were incredibly close. I was an only child (until my sister was adopted when I was 20) and I was homeschooled throughout highschool so I spent a lot of time with my mom. I talked with her about everything. Until I started to realize that the path I was on was one of which she would not approve. Then I stopped talking to her as much. Or I would talk to her but not tell her the things that were really important to me and over time the rift grew. From my perspective I thought she was too conservative, unwilling to listen to me, wouldn’t understand. I’m sure from her perspective she worried that I was making the wrong decisions and saw me growing farther and farther from her.

When I came out (first as gay and in a relationship with a woman) she was upset, but was kind. She accepted my partner, invited her to family functions. She even came to our wedding even though she didn’t approve. Throughout it all I tried to keep her in the loop on what was happening, told her when my partner and I got engaged, told her when we were getting married. It was hard to have those conversations with her but I knew they were important.

Then I moved out on my own; moving in with my partner. I realized that I was trans and knew I needed to transition. Much of my time in therapy in the lead up to beginning my medical transition was to talk about how my mother would deal with things. I was terrified. In fact, I think one of the reasons that kept me from realizing I was transgender for so long was a deep-seated fear/knowledge that my mother would disown me. And with that fear came a new fear; that she would keep me from ever seeing my adopted siblings again. So I kept putting off the conversation. I started testosterone and still hadn’t told my mother. My voice started to change and I still hadn’t told her. Finally I just stopped calling her because my voice was too different to pretend that nothing was happening but I just could not get up the courage to tell her what was happening.

After six months on testosterone I sat down and I wrote my mother a letter. I felt like a coward coming out to her in a letter but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it any other way. So I sent the letter and I waited. Terrified.

Her first response was that she needed time but that she loved me. It was a relief that she was still saying she loved me. Then she wanted to meet so we went out for lunch. I was tense and felt like I was going to throw up. The lunch was civil. I shared a bit about what was going on with me and she shared what she was going through and then it was over.

The next several months were up and down. A harsh phone call on my birthday that left me feeling like I was losing my family, then a kind email somewhere else. It seemed to me, though, that my mother would always see me as her little girl and that nothing would ever change that no matter how hurtful that was to me.

Then I decided I was going to get surgery. My mother was upset. Begged me to change my mind. Asked me to talk to her pastor. Her pastor emailed me an angry email telling me how unhappy I must be in order to change my body when in reality I was happy for the first time in my life. It was hard to get those emails and phone calls. I felt like maybe this would be the thing that would cause my mother to disown me.

Around this same time, though, my little sister ended up in the hospital. I dropped everything and came to stay at my mom’s house with my little brother. I stayed there for a week, calling out of work, changing all of my plans, being there for my family and things started to change with my mom. She never mentioned that I didn’t email her pastor back. When I got back from surgery she hugged my partner and thanked her for going with me and taking care of me. She called on Christmas morning (we got back from surgery Christmas eve) and invited us over because she wanted us to be with family on Christmas.

Since then things have only gotten better. She still uses female pronouns for me, but calls me her child instead of her daughter. She apologized to me once for calling me “woman”. I am still in my sibling’s lives and they have supported me throughout my divorce.

And it makes me think of Mary’s trajectory; going from being shut out outside of the house to being present at the foot of the cross. She just wanted to keep her baby safe. Maybe she was outside of that house to warn Jesus, to make him see that he was getting into trouble. And then to follow him to the cross; to watch her baby boy die not knowing if he would be resurrected. The anguish only a mother can feel at watching her child suffer.

I’m sure there were times when Mary was angry with Jesus for following what he was called to do. She probably thought he was turning his back on his family, turning away from the things she had taught him. She thought he was making stupid decisions and getting himself into trouble. But yet she was at the cross in the hour that he needed her most.

We don’t get Mary’s perspective in this text. We only see her through a lens of Jesus. What a story she must have had to tell. What a story my mother has to tell.

I know there have been times when I have been impatient with my mother. When I have left her outside in the cold. When I have claimed other people as my family over her. But throughout it all she has stood by me, not perfectly, but steadfastly. I try to remember that this is a process for all involved. That she needs time to figure it out just like I need time. And so I try to let her in as much as I can. But most of all I let her know that she is my mother and I love her. I let her know that my family comes first and that I am there for her no matter what and will continue to be there for her no matter how much my body changes. I still carry the name she gave me and I am still her child, even as I hope that one day she will be able to call me her son.

huh?

i’ve discovered many new things while writing through this passion narrative. it’s been really great to read these stories with fresh eyes. while doing that reading i came across the following passage and i have no idea what to make of it. i don’t remember it ever being taught in either my church or my classes. i plan on doing some more research, but i was wondering if other folks were familiar with this passage and what interpretations you had heard of it.

matthew 27:51-53: At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, and the rocks were split. The tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised. After his resurrection they came out of the tombs and entered the holy city and appeared to many.

just another one of the joys of doing theology! weird bible passages!!

have at it, friends! what does it mean?

easter saturday

Black-Wallpapers-Desktop-Windows-7

There’s not much in the Passion narratives about Easter Saturday. We know that they hurriedly buried the body of Jesus because it was nearing the Sabbath. Then the next we hear of them is when they go to the tomb to anoint the body on Easter morning. What were they doing in the meantime? We don’t know if the twelve and the women were gathered together or if they were separated. We don’t know where they were staying. They had spent the last three years roaming the countryside, they had left their jobs and homes. I’m not sure where they would have gone. We know that after the resurrection they were gathered together in some room somewhere with the doors locked. Maybe they went there right after the crucifixion. There is nothing we know about this day.

In the silence emotions must have been raging. Maybe there were no words to express what the twelve and the women were feeling and so it seemed better left to silence. The person they had given everything up for was gone and it seemed they had nothing to show for it. They were alone. They were probably scared. And nothing really made sense. What is there to say about that?

There was a time in my transition that was like Easter Saturday. I wasn’t sure how things were going to turn out. I had left behind who I was. I was becoming unrecognizable but I wasn’t resurrected yet. My body was broken in a lot of ways. My surgery wounds were still bright red and angry. My body and voice was shifting and unsettled. My acne was out of control. It was awkward and painful. I was only being perceived as male about half of the time. This transformation was both public and private. The world and my friends could see me changing in a really public way, but I was still transitioning privately in a lot of ways. I couldn’t explain what I was going through. There weren’t words to explain how I was changing. I found speech more difficult than I ever had before. Words would get lost in the space between my mind and my mouth. I had to withdraw in order to process what I was going through. In a lot of ways I had to entomb myself in order to prepare for the resurrection. I know I said this before in the section about the crucifixion, but it bears repeating; after death and before resurrection is this weird silence.

In that time of silence my friends and family were left to wonder what was happening. They were left alone in the silence trying to figure out where they fit in my new life. They saw me changing but couldn’t quite tell who I would be. In a lot of ways their process had to be separate from my process. I think some of them probably came together to process what was happening while others tried to deal with it on their own.

I was on testosterone for over six months before I finally told my mother that I was transgender. In this way she lived her own Easter Saturday. We exchanged emails over that time, but there were no phone calls for about 2 or 3 months (and we had spoken fairly frequently before that). She must have known something was up by my silence. As she lived her own Easter Saturday, I lived mine. I was in a tomb that I wasn’t sure I was ready to emerge from. I didn’t know how to tell my mother about what I was going through. I didn’t think she could handle seeing or hearing from me as who I really was. I didn’t think she would be able to handle my transition. And then once she knew, but before she saw me (I came out in a letter), that waiting was its own kind of Easter Saturday. Would she recognize her own child? Would the child she gave birth to look like a stranger? Would the intimacy be lost? We dealt with our questions in isolation from one another.

The process of transition is a messy one. Both public and private. Both internal and external. When you set out it’s really hard to tell where you’ll end up. I had no idea what I would look like when all was said and done. Would I immediately start balding? Would facial hair grow in fast or slow? What would my chest surgery results be? How would my scars heal? Would I still be able to sing once my voice settled? How long would it take until I looked fully male? So many questions and no real answers. I was told that it all takes time. You just have to wait. And so I withdrew into my own head, my own heart to prepare myself and wait.

It’s this time that is perhaps the scariest part. At least when I was in the beginning there was always something to do; I had doctor’s visits to attend, blood work to get done. There was surgery planning and preparation. Then there was surgery and healing. And my friends and partner rallied around me to make sure that those things got done and I was supported. But then when it was all over there was just the waiting to see how it would all turn out. It was then that we had to face our real feelings about what was happening. I had to really decide who I was becoming. My friends and partner had to figure out how I fit into their lives now. And it’s terrifying. What if the resurrection doesn’t happen? Or what if it happens but it’s different than you were expecting?

And so we were all in silence. We were all waiting. For that is what happens on Easter Saturday. The world waits. The silence is complete. The story pauses. There is nothing and there is everything. There is darkness and then there is light.