a person has applied for membership in our church. i use the word "person" because i don't know how to refer to him/her; this applicant for membership dresses as a woman for church functions but dresses as a man in professional life. biologically a man, my friend prefers to dress in female attire as often as possible. i don't know whether he/she is a cross-dresser or transgender, so i should probably say my "acquaintance," rather than my "friend." i have known him/her and worshiped with him for a number of years, but only recently did i come to know this acquaintance in her female incarnation. when dressed as a man, he prefers to be called by his male birth-name; when in women's attire, she prefers a female cognate for the male name.
we've been hearing a lot about transgender issues lately, what with prominent pieces on transgender children and their parents on the network evening news, bruce jenner's recent interview, and several offensively ridiculous bills that have been introduced by conservative state legislators in several states regarding bathroom access for transgender persons. for those in my generation, it's a difficult issue to deal with. it's one we'd rather were swept under the rug so that transgender folks could continue to suffer without calling their problems to our attention, but we can't do that, as this situation in our church demonstrates.
i can't imagine the pain of a biologically male or female child being forced to grow up in accordance with the dictates of anatomy when the child's very being is undeniably in conflict with biological reality. i applaud brave parents who allow their children to develop naturally without insisting on conformity to anatomy. i applaud brave children (and adults) who become what their psyche demands. that empathy for these parents and children doesn't make it any easier for me and many others to understand the body discomfort that transgender humans feel or their desire as adults to become the sexual beings that their brains are most comfortable with.
back to my friend/acquaintance: i pray that those who've been elected to make decisions regarding church membership will read these words from the front of our weekly bulletin before reaching a decision: ￼"to all who are weary and need rest–to all who are friendless and want friendship–to all who pray and to all who do not, but should–to all who sin and need a savior–this church opens wide its door and in the name of christ says, 'welcome.' " i pray that we won't turn our backs on one who comes to us from a troubled past, struggling with issues that few of us can understand.
may we not rush to judge that which we do not understand. when we say "welcome," may we mean just that. may compassion take precedence over too-easy prejudice. shalom.