For much of my life I’ve felt like the odd man out. I’ve always been out of step. I was never one of the cool kids. I never had the same interests or hobbies. I’m introverted. I like to read and spend quiet weekends alone. I wasn’t the happy, bubbly high schooler. I wanted to talk about bigger issues, not the latest whatever. I’ve found it difficult to make and keep friends. I tend to be rather intense in relationships and I prefer a smaller group of very close friends rather than a large group of more casual friends.
I have often felt like the “wrong kind” of whatever. The wrong kind of person, christian, catholic, priest…the list goes on and on.
Lately, though, I am beginning to see my outlier life as something that is a blessing not a curse. I know what it is like to be on the margins. I know what it is like to feel like an outcast. And I know what it is like to be myself even when no one around me is willing to accept me.
I’ve been thinking a lot about community; especially church community. For years I wanted to be a part of different organizations. I wanted to fit in, to be picked. When I was reading Seth Godin’s The Icarus Deception: How High Will You Fly? one thing he said really stood out to me, “No one is going to pick you. Pick yourself.” You have to pick yourself. You have to follow your heart. He goes on to say, “I think it’s because their outlier tendencies made it clear to them early on that they would be less likely to be picked. Less likely to be at the top of their class or chosen by the fancy college or recruited by P&G. Precisely because they didn’t fit in, they had little choice but to pick themselves. And once that choice is made, it becomes a habit.”
One of the things that being trans* has taught me is that integrity is worth the cost. For years I ignored my gender discomfort because I didn’t want to risk transitioning. I was terrified at what it would cost me. And I’m not going to lie, transitioning has definitely cost me. But it has also given me peace that I have never had before. That moment when I walked into the office and got my first shot of testosterone I picked myself.
I spent a lot of years trying to fit in with certain church or christian groups. I wanted to be liked by them, I wanted to be respected. I wanted to be asked to speak at their conferences and sit at their tables. But all the while I was miserable. I had to come to realize that they aren’t my community; they aren’t the people I am called to be in community with. And that’s okay! So now I am trying to do the work that calls to me. To listen to my gut instincts (because I can generally trust my gut). I want to do work that is honest and that speaks to my heart and I trust that by doing that it will bring together other people who are on the same journey.
At my ordination more people watched the livestream than were there in person. Community is forming even if it doesn’t always look like other people think it should. Some folks laugh at me for spending time on twitter or for taking the time to livestream the ordination, but they don’t understand that these folks are my community. You are my community. You are my friends. We are charting a new world together.
I get a lot of messages saying I wish there was a community like yours where I am. I think the answer needs to be, start one. Pick yourself. Live your most authentic life and other people will be drawn to what you have to offer. Find your community; on twitter, on a blog, in a coffee house. Do the work that only you can do and your community will find you. Stop trying to fit in when you were born to stand out. Stop not saying what you want to say for fear of how others will respond. Stop blending in, holding back, sitting down. Be bold. Be yourself. Community will follow.