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Many of us have struggled with religious upbringings that made us hate ourselves, just because of who we are.
For anyone who has been hurt like this, but still finds themselves – somehow – wanting to believe, you might find this letter helpful.
I wrote it to my amazing, loving parents after coming out to them recently.
Dear Mum and Dad,
I hope that Dad is feeling a bit better now.
Thanks for all your thoughts, and for your reassurances on where your own faith now sits. I think I had already “got that” which is why I finally felt ready coming out to you both, back on leap day. Two weeks ago. A lifetime ago…
When you started talking about your friend, and how she had suffered from her sexuality crashing against a conservative upbringing, I thought it was the right time to begin the conversation. But I was so nervous anyway!
With you both, and with the few others I’ve trusted so far, I’m amazed by how truly supportive and kind most people are as individuals. When they really want to listen and understand; when they really want to help someone who is clearly in pain, and reaching out in need. I heard this sort of thing quite a lot when listening to (and reading) the coming out stories of other trans people. It gave me hope. I thought it was time to give it a try myself. I’d tried everything else.
And yet, how different is that kind behaviour from the “Borg collective” model that seems to dominate and rob individuals of their humanity the rest of the time!
(Mum probably won’t get that part, so Dad perhaps you can explain.)
You know, my struggles in my gender identity have closely paralleled my own struggles with faith. I do believe that at heart (Sophie’s heart), I’ve always been a liberal sort of Christian, prizing compassion and a love of human beings above any dogmas. Seeing man, and woman, as the image of God, and seeing that loving God and loving your neighbour are both the whole of the law and the very same law.
Of course, it’s very difficult to love my neighbours when they act like the Borg. When they and their rules seem so horrible, so cruel, and so pointlessly unfair to what my heart deeply wants. It’s been especially difficult to love them as myself when they’ve taught me to hate myself. But it’s not impossible, and as Sophie I never stopped trying.
At the same time, the cold male shell that got built around my warm female heart swung wildly from conservative Christian to agnostic, to rabid atheist, to philosophical atheist. The one thing they all had in common was to squash and repress Sophie’s voice in this. Odd that.
But then as the philosophy became more honest and more questioning (and I found myself rather agnostic again), well Sophie found her name … and her voice.
Then after my wife left, I did have that sudden revelation I mentioned to you both three years back. That other strange surprising conversation that had you both in tears, and that felt to me like a different sort of coming out (as a believer once again).
By then, I had been seeing Sophie in the mirror rather a lot, because it felt like my marriage was truly over and there was only one journey left for me to take.
Starting to feel that Sophie had a right to be, and I had a right to be her. That her voice was my voice, and her heart my heart.
That sense of God speaking to me in the agony of the divorce, and saying “I did know all this pain was coming, right from the moment you were born, way back before you and your wife even met. But I let you choose. Was it wrong to let you choose? Was it wrong to let you meet? Was it wrong to let you be born this way at all? Or should I have stopped all that, and created a perfect world instead: one without you, without your wife, without your daughter, without your son?”
And I knew the answer was “no”.
And I finally believed again.
With lots of love,
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