Because I’m both a proud supporter of GLAAD and a children’s minister, kids struggling with their sexuality/gender identity and the church write to me sometimes. I think they sense that since much of their pain has originated from the church, they need their healing to come from the church too. I get that. Makes sense.
These precious ones’ stories are usually similar. One child recently described himself to me as transgender, and then went on to say that he feels both male and female. He’s just not sure. He’s unsure and he’s living in a world of people who seem to be sure and who fear uncertainty. Kids at school tease him and his church kicked his family out because this child’s being was causing “too much confusion.” This is an especially sad development, because he is now starting to doubt that God loves him. People are leaving scripture on his doorstep to prove to this child that he’s an abomination. He is distraught, but, even so, he’s been reaching out to other transgender kids online–encouraging them to keep living. His parents are loving but confused and afraid. You can imagine—this is hard all around. I felt such compassion for all of them—for this family and all of the ones who write to me. I always write back, even though I feel scared and unprepared and unqualified. I write back because somebody’s got to, and I’m the one on the other end of the email. I’m sure what I write to these kids isn’t perfect. But I’m trying. I’m trying not to let the fact that I don’t know how to love them perfectly keep me from loving them at all.
Anyway—here are a few excerpts of letters I’ve sent to these precious ones. Thought now might be a good time to share.
Hey, J. G Here.
Holy texts are like shovels—some use them to dig up the earth and plant new seeds and some use them to bang people over the head. Most of us do both.
Let’s dig, J.
Check out this scripture. It’s from right there in the beginning—the beginning of the Bible about the beginning of time.
So God created mankind in His own image; in the image of God He created them; male and female He created them.
J, did you catch that? It says that when God wanted to create people in God’s own image, God needed to create two genders to express God’s self fully. Could that mean that God’s image is both male and female, too? Both, J? Just like you? Maybe God is just like you, J.
You need to remember that being rejected by church is not the same as being rejected by God. God did not kick you out of church, honey. The church kicked God out of church. Listen—I love the church, J. I spend every extra minute I have in mine. But I am here to tell you that the church is not God. You are more God than the church is, J—because you are made in God’s image: while the church is an institution. God loves you more than any institution He/She made for you, J. When folks decide they love any institution more than the individual souls inside them—they’re missing the mark. I love the church, J—but I love you more. If I’m forced to choose, I choose you and your heart every day and twice on Sundays. Just as God made you. Just as God made you.
And listen J: not only is your church not God, but your church does NOT officially represent God, either. There is no one church that represents God. If you still want church—you can have one. There are churches all over the place (I know because I serve one and speak at them all over the country) that already have places set for you at their table. You must look out and look around, J. A small worldview is deadly, especially for you. You need to think bigger than your church, bigger than your school, bigger than your town.
But while you’re thinking big, J—you still need to love small. Sweet J—please allow me to say this one thing. As I read your letter, I felt such compassion for your mother. I know she hasn’t responded like you hoped she would. Based on my own experience and what I’ve gathered from mamas all over the world I offer you this: your mama loves you. Fiercely and deeply and truly. Sometimes when you love someone like a mother loves her child—that love can turn into fear. It happens to me all the time. I am so afraid that the world will not be kind to my children. And so, J, I imagine that your mother is not afraid of you, but for you. She is so afraid that this world will not accept you that she may have decided that she has a better chance of changing you than she does of changing the whole world. Soon she will remember that she is your world, and if she accepts you first, then that’s a helluva good start. But I want to tell you something and I hope you don’t feel betrayed by me—I understand your mama’s fear. She just wants you to be okay, honey. Being a mom is so terrifying and lonely. You have a hard call and so does she. So does she.
This is my hunch, J. Your mom’s biggest fear is not that you are different, but that you are not going to be okay. Her fear will subside when she believes that you’re okay. The only way to convince her that you are okay, J, is to ACTUALLY BE OKAY. Listen, here’s the trick and please read this carefully. Whether or not you ever feel like you belong down here LARGELY DEPENDS ON YOU.
“Our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.”
Hear that? Starts with you. Starts with you, J. Do you believe you’re okay? I do.
So I don’t know, honey. Maybe you’ve been chosen to be a hand-raiser, to grow our circle. To help take our ideas about who’s in and who’s out wider and wider. Someday we will get so wide that ALL will be included and we will collectively come to that enlightened state when we all finally see, understand and accept that WE ARE ALL ONE. One day we will finally see that when we reject any person or group of people–we reject a part of our very selves. ALL are one. ALL are in. ALL are God’s beloved children with a place at the table. Then it will be On Earth as it is in heaven. What if you’ve been called to move us forward toward heaven? It really feels to me like maybe you have. Will you lead us with love? Will you see past our fear and calmly and solidly stand your ground? Will you claim your identity as child of God as enough? You are the one who decides. It’s not fair to carry this responsibility but few people called to be great request the job first. Lead us, J. The great ones don’t wait until it’s fair to show up. They show up and make it fair.
Put this poem on your wall, okay? Along with the scripture in the beginning?
God Says Yes to Me
by Kaylin Haught
I asked God if it was okay to be melodramatic
and she said yes
I asked her if it was okay to be short
and she said it sure is
I asked her if I could wear nail polish
or not wear nail polish
and she said honey
she calls me that sometimes
she said you can do just exactly
what you want to
Thanks God I said
And is it even okay if I don’t paragraph
Sweetcakes God said
who knows where she picked that up
what I’m telling you is
Yes Yes Yes
J, God says YES to you. God is FOR you and God made you just as you are and God says yes even when God’s beloved institutions are screaming NOT YET. And so these questions are from me.
God, is it okay that J is confused about his gender and sexuality? YES!
Is it okay if J wears a tie one day and a skirt the next? YES!
Is it okay if while wearing a skirt and nail polish J loudly and proudly and without reservation, declares himself/herself to be a unique, unrepeatable, sparkling child of God? YES!
Is it okay if J forgives his mom before she figures all this out? YES!
Is it okay for J to forgive his church? To say: I am not going to take on your fear—but I forgive you for being afraid. I look forward to the day we can meet on the path again. Yes, Yes, Yes, Yes.
That is how I’m going to pray for you and your mama, J. With so many YESES.
Whisper YES to J and YES to his mama. And please don’t dare change one hair on his head. Change the whole rest of the world instead.
Originally published April 2015
Author of the #1 New York Times Bestseller LOVE WARRIOR — ORDER HERE
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