Crossing the divide
Stephenie Robinson has experienced both painful rejection and longed-for inclusion by churches in her transgender journey. So, how can churches be more welcoming?
We like to belong to clubs. But as Eugene Petersen observes in his introduction to Luke’s Gospel in The Message version of the Bible: ‘The terrible price we pay for keeping all those other people out so that we can savour the sweetness of being insiders is a reduction of reality, a shrinkage of life.’ He notes that religion has a history of doing just that, but reading the Gospel we outsiders ‘now find the doors wide open, found and welcomed by God in Jesus’. How well this describes our human need to belong!
I know what it is like to be outside and not allowed to be part of things. I know what is like to be ill when the only cure will set you apart from the rest of society. I know what it is like to be so marginalised and maligned by a church that even the friends you thought you had quickly depart. I know what it is like to be spat at on the street and threatened with violence and to share my personal journey with church leaders only to have them seize on that information as an excuse to refuse membership to their church.
I know what it is to be different because of an illness whose only cure is oestrogen therapy. My skin used to break out in sunlight and I suffered seriously itchy hives over my body when I took a bath. For years doctors searched for ways to help me, and finally the cure involved my feminising over two years. The decision to leave family and change gender was the hardest thing I ever faced. …
This is an extract from the September 2016 edition of Reform.