Finding an Accepting Church

Rachel Miller wrote a moving column ("Our Gender Family", Jan 1999) about how many church leaders seem unwilling to accept crossdressers, citing all kinds of hateful and "creative" interpretations of the Bible. Reading the comments from these men of God is very enlightening. But it's different than my experience as a crossdresser who has attended many churches crossdressed.

You can argue scripture with people, and you'll find that everyone reads the Bible differently, and everyone uses it to support what they already believe. There is lots of scripture to support Jesus' love for the transgendered. Dueteronomy 22:5 (and most of the Old Testament) is repealed in Acts 15:11,19-20, again in 24-29, and again in Acts 21:25, which is why people today don't worry about wearing blended fabric (Deut 22:11), tassels on their coats (22:12) or stoning nonvirgin brides to death (22:13-21.)

Some say that God made man and woman separately and that there can be no blurring between the two. But Galatians 3:28 says there is no male or female, all are one in Christ Jesus. 1 Corinthians 11:2 says all Christians are brides of Christ, a theme repeated in Revelations 18 through 22. And of course there is the very important Matthew 7:1-2, which cautions people not to judge others, because they themselves will be judged just as harshly.

But, of course, real life is much more complex. Pastors, like everyone else in today's society, have been taught by our culture that men in dresses are perverts. Having never met and gotten to know an actual crossdresser, they assume we are all weird and sinful. It's all they've been taught.

Yet when I've gone to church, even far-right churches, crossdressed, I've been received with open arms. And I don't think I passed.

Let me tell you of a recent experience in the Lutheran church to which I belong.

I attend one Lutheran church as Mark. Another nearby Lutheran church, "Redeemer", is a "Welcoming Congregation", meaning that gays and lesbians are welcome there. The Crystal Club, our local support group here in Columbus, had recently asked Redeemer for permission to hold our monthly support meetings there. (We were concerned about availability of parking at our current location.) The Redeemer council, with several gays and lesbians, didn't know anything about being transgendered. They pictured drag and 5 inch heels. They initially said "no" but made a committment to education to learn more about us.

Shortly after this had (unbeknownst to me) happened, I felt a spiritual need for my femme side, and I showed up to Redeemer as Mary Ann. I was welcomed and treated well. Over the months, I came a couple of more times (en femme) and found I liked it there. (The pastor reminds me a lot of a very clean George Carlin - I like him.) So I made an appointment to meet him during the week.

In this appointment, I came out to him. He said he "had guessed" about me, and asked lots of earnest, curious qustions, which of course I was happy to answer. I offered to be "out" to the congregation, and he suggested I shouldn't - that some members may not be comfortable with it. But I continued to attend.

I also came to a meeting of Lutherans Concerned, the GLB organization of the church, and came out to them. I was welcomed with open arms. Many of these same people are on the Redeemer council.

I invited the council to attend a Crystal Club meeting to see what they are really like, and over the summer, several people attended meetings. They came not knowing what to expect ("boas and sequins" according to one) and left seeing nothing wrong with who we are and what we do.

Redeemer made good on their promise to educate, scheduling two Sunday School dates about transgenderism. Meral Crane taught the first one, and led a panel for the second one. I was on that panel, and came out right there, telling my own story. Three wonderful local transsexuals made up the heart of the panel.

Toward the end of the Q&A part of the panel, a man in the class introduced himself and his wife. He is a professor at the local Lutheran Seminary and guest pastor that Sunday. He told us and the group "those who would condemn you in the name of Jesus are misguided." Several of the congregation told me later that they were happy to have me in the congregation, as Mary Ann or as Mark. The entire panel attended the worship service that morning. What had started as a nervous day for me (coming out and telling my story to my church) wound up warm and fuzzy, feeling great!

The lesson I have learned is that education is the key to acceptance. If people think they don't know anyone who is GLBT, they conjure up images that aren't very flattering, and their opinion is based on all the slurs they heard in Jr. High School and the media. People who know real, live, GLBT people, and see that we're ordinary and boring, are much more accepting. The more people we educate, the more people we come out to, the more accepting the public becomes.

Copyright (c) 1998-1999 Mary Ann Horton. All rights reserved.