My husband and I were having a lovely evening at an old friend’s house a week ago when we heard a story that made the evening even more special. We heard a story that lifted us above the divisiveness, disrespect and generally nonspiritual tones that surround us lately.
The grown daughter of our friend came in for a minute, taking a smiling break from her house next door, full of her teenage kids and their friends. The daughter (I’ll call her Jen) was telling us about her childrens’ high school homecoming festivities. She told us about a child, growing up a girl through elementary years. Then she surprised us by saying, “And that child was homecoming king last week!”
We were a little bit confused at first, but realized quickly that, of course, Jen was telling us about a transgender youngster (I’ll call him Trent) who has taken the complex road from female identity to his true identity as a male.
The best part was when she told us about the responses of Trent’s classmates, counselors and teachers. The bottom line was, “It’s no big deal.” Not to diminish the importance of Trent’s change, but simply an acceptance of him as the human being he has always been, with all the God-given, endearing qualities he has always had.
I spoke with Trent’s mother and found out something that went even further in turning me away from the non-religious, mean-spirited things I seem to feel around us so often. Trent’s family are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. When they moved a couple of years ago and changed wards, his mom and dad went to church leadership to speak of Trent’s transition. There was no problem or fuss at all. One leader, possibly with a teasing tone, just reminded the parents that everyone needs to wear church clothes to church. Which, of course, they knew, but the sentence served to deliver, once again, the “no big deal” message.
We in the Unitarian Universalist faith have always been welcoming to transgender individuals. We know what a terrifically difficult path it is, even under good circumstances. And circumstances are not always good — assault and murder of these citizens is tragically common, and they frequently attempt suicide – especially when they are younger – wanting to just give up in the face of the inner and outer forces so often fighting against them. It just seems so difficult for some of us to understand that others do not feel the way we do as cisgender individuals, to understand the pain of coming to terms with a God-given reality that is different from how it looks to the world.
I am happy and grateful for Trent’s parents, siblings, friends, school and church. The Unitarian Universalist first principle is “the worth and dignity of every person,” the idea that the holy resides in everyone. Thank you, thank you, all of you, who embody this principle far beyond our walls. The matter-of-fact love and respect shown to Trent lifts us to a place where we can glimpse hope and faith, even when we are discouraged.
The Rev. Elizabeth Greene is minister emerita of the Boise Unitarian Universalist Fellowship. Contact her at email@example.com.
The Idaho Statesman's weekly faith column features a rotation of writers from many different faiths and perspectives.