21 July 2013

Coming Out With God

When people ask how I came to be the person I am, I tell them that the process of my gender transition was as much a spiritual as a physical or emotional experience.  

Sometimes I'm still surprised at just how many people understand what I mean.  Perhaps I shouldn't be:  After all, a spiritual journey--whether or not it's what you intended--involves learning your true essence. For some of us, that means--among other things--that we really aren't the genders to which we were assigned at birth.

Now, some would argue that someone who follows his or her spiritual calling won't want to "alter" what God made.  For a long time, I thought the same way while, ironically, denying that I believed in God or anything beyond the physical realm.  

What that meant was, among other things, that I had not freed myself from conflating belief and spirituality with the trappings (and traps) of organized religions as I'd known them.  It also meant that I was not accepting the fact that circumstances are not destiny.  After all, we have the means to change at least some of our circumstances.  One could say that God (or whatever one believes in) gave us the means as well as circumstances.

So it is with gender idenity.  Now we have the medical science and practice to help our bodies more thoroughly express what we know in our minds and spirits, just as we have the means to treat diseases or enhance life in other ways.  Using them, I believe, has to involve spiritual engagement, which can only bring us closer to that which is infinite.

So it has been for the Rev. Cameron Partridge.  He was assigned to a female identity at birth and, after graduating Bryn Mawr--where he came out as a lesbian--and, as he says, a religious person.  As I understand what he says, they were inseparable.  

Now he is the Episcopal chaplain at Boston University and the husband of a woman he married when he was still living as a woman.  What his journey underscores, I believe, is that gender identity is, like our "callings", not something that can always be readily categorized by the people in our lives, and society as a whole.  What made it unclear for so many of us--especially people of my generation--is that we felt, and sometimes acquiesced, to the desire to fit into the gender binary we learned while growing up. And the notions we learned about God and spirituality were expressions of those notions.

I'd bet that Rev. Partridge is an excellent teacher.  Some of the people who posted comments after the article I linked could use a lesson or two from her, and others--as well as the God some of them claim to worship.

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