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I’m No Expert, But I Don’t Think That’s How You Do An Exorcism

Growing up in an isolated apostolic sect, you get a front row seat to some pretty bizarre and fascinating scenes. There was always lots of dancing as the pastor’s wife pounded away on the old piano and his daughter danced around with the tambourine, lots of pulling people to the front to have the pastor hit them upside the head whether they wanted it or not and lots of falling down. So much falling down. Maybe that’s why I still to this day can’t see someone fall without laughing, the more flailing the better. I was born into a society of people who cheered one another on as they flailed and screamed and rolled around on the floor in their ankle length skirts and perfect cinnamon bun hair.

As a side note, it was at church that I first noticed the plight of the rhythmically challenged middle-aged white man.

Some nights when we’d arrive to church there was a different energy the air. People got super excited when we had a visitor because it was pretty rare. This may be hard to believe, but people were hardly pounding down the doors eager to be told that they were bound for eternal damnation. That sometimes doesn’t sit so well with folks that just wanted to show up, sing some hymns, learn a little about Jesus and go home to tuck the kids into bed. I never understood why, we were just trying to help, and no kid was ever scarred by hearing in great detail what happens to flesh when it burns, right?

Anyway, those nights were extra special. On those nights we’d learn all about demon possession again. You could almost feel the electricity in the air as Brother Danny would scream for an hour and a half about Jesus casting demons into pigs, all the while breaking every two minutes to wipe the torrential sweat from his face and the dripping spit from the microphone.

As he’d begin to close, Sister Kathy, his wife, would begin to pound as softly on the piano as she could manage. She tried her best though, and we all enjoyed it. He’d begin the standard pleas to come to the altar, to repent your sins. You know, it’d been an entire 6 hours since we’d done so at Sunday school.

I was never sure how it happened, but somehow that night’s guest always ended up being dragged forward, completely of his own free will. The prayer would start innocently enough. He’d be anointed with oil, Brother Danny would ask the church to pray and BAM! Our guest was splayed out on the floor, held in place by four of the church’s strongest men, one on each arm and leg. Now here’s the fun part. We’d get to sing and pray and cheer our friends on as they beat the young man with bibles until he was literally vomiting and seizing and threatening to kill us all. He didn’t mean it though, that was the demon talking.

Eventually he’d stop fighting and repent and we’d all cheer and celebrate and dance and fall down again.

By this point he’d have vomited out all of the demon, so he’d rest for a bit before a bunch of the guys would help him out to one of their trucks. I always thought it was super nice of those guys to make sure he got some safe after such a stressful ordeal, but I never understood why it took so many guys to escort him home or why they were so excited to do it.

None of those guys ever visited a second time, though. Pretty ungrateful, if you ask me.

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An Open Letter To Those Christians and Pastors That See Me As Unworthy

Far too often in life, we see people drift away from the church and we simply don’t hear from them again, but rarely as churches do we gather to discuss where they’ve gone. . It’s an ongoing problem, one that seems to be growing. You see, I’m one of those people, and I’m finding more and more refugees out here on the battlefield where we’ve been sent to die.

Several times last year, I attempted to find a home church. Time after time, in varying manners of harshness, the answer was no. Sometimes I was told that I shouldn’t visit at all, once I was told that the church would never be ready for someone like me, and once I was told that even though I was welcome to attend, I simply couldn’t consider myself one of them by joining. Separate, but encouraged to support the church anyway. (Why would God have me support a church that refuses to support my family?)

So here we are. I float between churches hoping that one day, a church family will stick and I can take a break from trying to find a refuge in Christ where my friends and family would be welcome without judgement.

Here’s where things start to get a bit sticky. I’ve left your churches, and stepped right into water over my head. I’m out here floundering, gasping for air, begging for a lifeline like so many others beside me, a lifeline that you refuse to throw. Our screams are deafening. We’ve lost so many. Some have passed of natural causes, never having felt the loving embrace of God again. Some have taken their own lives. I can’t blame them, I’ve considered it myself at times. Watching people die the spiritual death that we witness out here is one of the most painful things I’ve ever had to cope with in my life, and I’ve seen much.

We see you though. We see you watching us silently from your fortresses, synagogues and sanctuaries. We watch as you worship and then embrace one another warmly, encouraging each other to embrace Gods grace, the same grace that was supposed to save me from this death. You love telling one another that you’re good Christian people, even if you are slightly broken.

We watch you as you ignore our pleas. We don’t blame you. Those chairs look comfy. We wish we had one. Let us know when you’re ready for us to come back in. Until then, we’ll be out here doing our best to rescue as many of your rejects as possible.

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Was I born just to be a sin?

Recently, someone that I didn’t know, hadn’t met before and haven’t met since, spent several hours persistently asking me if being transgender is a sin.

For a little context, let me preface this a bit by saying that I had shared a quote on my super awesome Instagram page, @TransitionalChristian (Sorry about the shameless plug, but not really. Visit the page, give me a like. I enjoy those.)

Anyway, this particular quote was “I almost always find my strength during my most vulnerable moments.”

So, armed with that knowledge, it’s perfectly logical that this persons obsession with my genitals was immediately triggered and they simply weren’t going to move on until they got their answer. Long story short, I sent him off with a lecture and a block, but no answer. It was none of their business simply because they had made it their concern and I can only handle the same boring talking points buzzing in my ear for so long.

Interestingly though, this person triggered some fairly deep reflection. I’m no stranger to that, but this is a pretty icky gray area that I try to avoid. Over and over tonight I was asked if being transgender was a sin. I never did offer an answer, because if I’m to be fully honest, I simply don’t know. I don’t think so. I certainly hope not. But I do not know. I know that I love God and God loves me in all of my brokenness.

So here we are. I’m transgender. There’s really not much that I can do about that other than neglecting my suggested medical regimen, returning to living a complete lie 24/7 (I was really quite good at that) and pretend to feel like I was living a wholesome life until I finally ended up driving off a bridge out of sheer misery and self hatred.

Or….and this is a big or….I could live the life that I firmly believe that I was created for. I can embrace this amazing person that I’ve grown into with Gods help, delivered from my alcoholism and cocaine dependency, into a place where I’m able to help, support, encourage and uplift others in Gods name while doing my best to show Christ’s love in everything that I do.

I feel pretty certain that I’ll stick to the second scenario. It makes me joyful and it makes it possible to be a person that dedicates their life to service. If after all of that, God decides that my gender is the one thing that will keep me out of heaven, I will die knowing that I had done all that I could do.

If that worries you, my prayer is that you’ll search your heart. Find the thing that’s holding you back from offering unconditional love. The process of finding the source may suck, but I promise you that it’s worth the work. It’s so much happier on this side.

We’ll walk through it together, if you’d like.

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God was never my thing, until suddenly They were.

The very last thing that I ever wanted was to be a Christian. Don’t get me wrong, I grew up in a very particular sect of Apostolic Pentecostal folks that were quite tightly knit. You could say that we were like family, and for the most part we literally were just that. We didn’t take kindly to outsiders. For most of my childhood I was on the pew every Sunday morning, Sunday night and Wednesday night homework be damned. I hated every single second of it, and by default developed a great hatred and anger toward God.

So I escaped. I became pretty much the exact opposite of what I’d learned to accept as Christianity. I couldn’t buy my first pack of cigarettes and sneak into my first nightclub fast enough. It really didn’t take me long to figure out that an 18-year-old with a decade of sexual experience under their belt was quite a desirable commodity. Let’s say that I didn’t lack for company or a warm bed very often. Let me tell you, being homeless at 18 is a lot easier when you’ve abandoned all morals in exchange for the illusion of safety.

I tend to tell friends that my 20s were a pretty awful time. Truth be told though, my 20s weren’t awful for me, I was having a blast. It was a pretty awful time to be around me.

The point of this story? I was pretty awful. I certainly wouldn’t enjoy the company of the person that I was.

But something has changed.

Although I’d read the Bible many times as a child under duress, I approached the story of Jesus as a philosophical study instead of a religion and I was positively inspired. Almost immediately I began the process of intentionally letting go of my anger and hatred. Instead of the fire and brimstone that had taken up residence in my head, I found a story of love and redemption. Instead of fearing and shunning the outcasts of his time, he actually sat with them. He listened to them. He loved them and called them His. Jesus loves the characters in the Bible that were most like me. Jesus loves without exception.

Growing up transgender in the Bible Belt in an apostolic cult during the 1980s AIDS crisis, I was taught that GOD hated me and that I was beyond redemption. I spent a long time believing that. I still do believe it in the darkest corners of my mind If I’m to be honest, but I’m trying. The story of Jesus tells me that God loves me and I try to believe that. I really do.

I pray that it’s enough.