I spent this past weekend at the Transgender Religious Leaders Summit. It’s a gathering for trans* identified people of faith to gather and share experiences, knowledge, and build community. This is the fifth year the event has been held, but the first year I have been able to attend. It’s a pretty cool group of people. Mostly folks from the Abrahamic faiths, but also a couple of pagan folks and others. Each year I think they get a more diverse crowd.
While at the summit I didn’t attend very many sessions. I get impatient and I’m usually over socialized and exhausted at conferences. So I gave myself permission to do whatever felt right. This time it meant that I spent a lot of time in the lobby or outside just talking with folks. (I did lead a discussion for trans* identified seminarians but that’ll be for another post.)
Reflecting on the weekend I am struck by a couple of things that I want to sort out over a couple of blog posts. Tonight I want to talk about community.
Being trans* isn’t my entire life. I’m sure it seems that way if you read my blog or twitter stream, but in reality during the day to day it doesn’t always come up. I don’t usually talk about it. I certainly don’t often forget that I’m trans*; I’m reminded of that in lots of ways throughout the day, but for the most part I have the privilege of moving through life without it being a major issue. But even that silence can wear on a person. (Although this statement isn’t entirely true as there are many things I have to contend with daily: bathrooms, a heightened awareness every time I step outside, etc.)
One of the afternoons of the summit I sat around with a couple of other trans* guys. We laughed a lot. We talked about the unique challenges we face as trans* men, as ministers, the complications in our dating lives and in our church work. And it was so nice. I didn’t have to explain myself. I didn’t have to clarify or educate. I could make jokes and know that these men would get it. We could laugh at our experiences. I left feeling so comforted.
It can get really lonely sometimes. There are things that I have to think about and worry about that other people don’t understand. There are parts of my ministry that are more complicated. My ordination process is going to be longer and more involved than it is for other folks. There are fears that I have that I can’t really share with other people, or if I share them they won’t be understood. That sense of isolation can be exhausting.
The reality is that unless you are trans* there are certain things about being trans* that you just can’t understand. It was so nice to have a space in which the voices and experiences of trans* people were given priority. A space for us to share our stories. But this wasn’t just about being heard, it was and is about building a movement that works toward the liberation of all people.
I am so thankful for the gift of this weekend. Thankful for the people that shared their lives and hearts with me. Thankful for their willingness to be open about their own fears and struggles. Thankful for laughter and silliness.