Tonight this young Christian tells his parents that he’s transgender

cloudchangeMatt is a young transgender man (meaning he was born female, but self-identifies and prefers to live as a male) who’s been commenting on my blog for the past eighteen months. His comments are invariably intelligent, thoughtful, and encouraging of others.

Engagingly forthcoming about what it’s like for him to be in his early twenties, transgender, and a Christian, Matt’s been nothing but a blessing to this blog.

When he first started commenting here, Matt did so under a female name—being, I’ve assumed, his birth name.

Almost a year ago today, Matt, then still posting under his female name, wrote in one of his comments:

I thought I would leave the organized church. I thought I could be strong in the knowledge that being queer was okay with God and that’s all that was necessary, but the human hate and the silence, it gets to me.

Just as I thought about leaving, I went straight to my church home after work and prayed in the dark and quiet sanctuary, just me and God. I was soothed. I came to your blog, John, and was reassured. There is still a place for me, in God’s heart and His church. Thank you.

One month later he wrote:

I resent the people who stare, ask intrusive questions and judge when I’m out holding my partner’s hand.

I resent the lack of laws protecting my job and my life if I were to be outed to the wrong people.

I resent having to hide how much I love this person and my life, from the church of all places.

I resent that I cannot marry my partner.

I resent needing so much strength just to live my life.

A month after that, he began posting under the name of Matt, the name he’s used since. Soon after impementing his new name he wrote as part of a comment:

I stay away from my church, though it is painful to, because it’s just one more place to be heavily closeted at. I go by myself sometimes during the week, when the sanctuary is dark and quiet and it’s just me and God. Although my job is in a secular field, I am completely closeted there as well. I spend a good 3/4 of my life pretending.

The day before yesterday I published a post about the role my book UNFAIR played in a church declaring itself reconciling and affirming. To that post Matt left the following comment:

Hey John,

In the (sort of) same vein of your post, I wanted to share something I have going on this Thursday [being today]. I have made a date with my mom and stepdad to treat them to dinner, and at this dinner, I will come out to them as transgender, as Female-to-Male. I will explain to them what’s been happening in my life for the past year, explain my plans to transition, what that entails, what that means for me and them, and allow them space to ask questions. A trusted friend of mine will be calling me the morning of to get me in the right spirit and mindset, and encourage me.

I have heard and seen story after story of painful coming-outs from my trans siblings. I want to acknowledge that gender transition is an intense experience, with a lot to talk about, a lot to think about, and a lot of feelings to feel. But I want the overall theme (for every person) to be about joy, love, and new possibilities. I am tired of hearing the hurt, and pain, and rejection. So I want to start with me. I have no control over what others will say, but I want to create a transition story that will give others true hope that they, too, will still have those most important to them during and after their journey.

Right now, I feel like the actors must feel backstage before a play. I have that same feeling of stage fright, like I have been preparing intensely for this moment, and things will be permanently altered the moment I step out and say what I need to. I am having fear, and mistaking fear for not wanting this. But I realize that it’s just plain fear, fear of change, knowing the enormity of it all. So if you need someone to pray for, or just would like to, I would really appreciate that.

I also just want to acknowledge everyone here, for encouraging me and loving me this entire time. It really means more than I can put into words.

Please say a prayer today, or send some loving thoughts to, our brave and tender young friend Matt. Pray that his parents respond to his sharing with nothing but love and support. If anyone deserves to be treated well, it’s this good and honorable young man.

[Update: Matt tells how it went here.]

About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here), and executive editor of the Unfundamentalist Christians group blog.  (In total John's two blogs receive some 250,000 views per month.) John is also co-founder of The NALT Christians Project, which was written about by TIME,  The Washington Post, and others. His website is JohnShore.com. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. Don't forget to sign up for his mucho-awesome newsletter. If you shop at Amazon, help support John by entering the site through this link right here--Amazon will then send John 3-4% of the cost of anything you buy before exiting the site again.

 

  • Evelyn

    Prayers have been sent up for this entire family.

  • http://www.connie2016.com Connie

    My prayers are out there in the ‘Verse for this young man. What he’s about to do is not without risk, but there is no greater reward than the freedom to be yourself.

    This post comes at a particularly interesting intersection of my life as a mother, as my teenage son’s girlfriend spent last night explaining to me how she felt like a boy trapped in a girl’s body for her entire life. And as of last night, we will honor her request to be addressed as male as much as we are able. And we will call him Levi. :-)

    But what really touched me was overhearing my son ask him if he’d prefer that my son address him by his name of choice. He said only if he was comfortable with that, and my son told Levi that he was more interested in what made him happy, because he loved him regardless.

    We aren’t Christians, but this is definitely an example of Love is Love is Love. :-)

  • Diana A.

    My thoughts and prayers are with you, Matt.

  • Courtney

    Sending loving thoughts to Matt.

  • Susan in NY

    I’ll be thinking of you, Matt.

  • Penny Visalli

    Prayers.

  • Anne Kinney

    I’m praying for the whole family.

  • Carol Lee Doeden

    Praying!!!

  • Kim Janes

    Good luck, Matt. May you find love and peace tonight.

  • Jennifer Sandberg

    As a Mom I’m praying for Matt and his parents, that his transition will be love-filled and that God will bless his parents with insight.

  • Linda Wolffe

    MiLady has been there and done that, and got incredibly lucky (her parents were wonderful and supportive). We both wish him the best of luck.

  • http://www.enesvy.com Nicole

    I do pray that this evening goes surprisingly well for Matt. I can’t imagine being in this kind of situation and I think he is so brave. I pray that he and his family are surrounded by the Holy Spirit and God’s love during this time tonight. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

    *hugs Matt*

  • Lymis

    Prayers for all of them, not only that there be peace and grace this evening, but that no matter how it goes, that in time it only deepens.

  • http://www.nightwares.com/ Warren

    Is it overly cynical of me to ‘pray’ that Matt (and his family) gets as far away from abusive religions as it is possible to do while still remaining on this planet?

  • Elizabeth

    Congratulations, Matt.

    When one of my best friends came out as trans to me, we hadn’t seen each other in twenty years. I’ll never know why he picked me from our circle of high school friends to tell first. I didn’t respond for a day. Not because I was confused or judgmental —because I wanted to treat his gender with the dignity it deserved. I’d read about gender transitions, sure, but I didn’t want to treat him like just anyone. I wanted to support his change, his struggle. He wasn’t a textbook case study. I wanted to support him.

    What I came up with is, “Forgive me, I don’t mean to be insensitive, but what’s the big deal? You look like a man, you act like a man, you say you’re a man, you’re a man. It’s… mundane.” He laughed, and I found a new friend in my old high school classmate.

    In the years since, I’ve heard a lot of his stories. Getting kicked out of his home at sixteen for being a lesbian. Insisting when he took his long-time girlfriend and her son, whom he’s raised from childhood and considers his own, that they be treated as his family. And a few months ago, finally telling his mother he was male.

    It didn’t go well. By then, I’d heard enough to say, truthfully, I was almost as disappointed as he was. We thought she’d grown more. Instead, she said, “I hoped you’d never say it out loud” and “It made Chaz Bono fat” and a bunch of other uneducated, hurtful things. She posted a series of photos on Facebook as a golden-ringleted little girl.

    I was disappointed in many of our mutual friends from way back when, too. People I know to be smart, well-meaning, and liberal who said it meant he disrespected women, or “but she was such a beautiful lesbian!” or (the latest) “it’s so 90s, so passé.” People who accepted it at first and got mean and uncomfortable weeks later. People who asked horribly intrusive questions. People who used the male pronoun to his face and then reverted to the female with others.

    I guess most people don’t find it mundane.

    Me, I just texted him after I met one of them for coffee, “I ‘he’d’ you up and down. She looked a little startled, but she didn’t question it.” To which he said, “If she wants me to explain, I will.” I said, “If you want. She went to Sarah Lawrence. She’s had her introduction to queer studies.”

    And he said, “No. I’m so tired of explaining.”

    Then, a few weeks ago, his mom posted a different series of photos to his Facebook page. They were of a male model who looked an awful lot like my friend. My heart leapt. I said to myself, “Yes. She’s finding her way. She’s coming around.”

    So my prayers are with you, Matt. I pray that your family welcomes your transition without fuss. If they have questions, I pray they ask them with the tact and respect you deserve. But, if they don’t, remember it may be only the first of many conversations. I pray that, with love and time, they too will embrace your true gender.

    Again, congratulations! A big day, one you’ve prepared for a long time. All the best to you and yours.

  • http://www.wideopenground.com Lana

    Praying for you. I have felt so much rejection from the church, and I’m not transgender. I can only imagine.

  • Matt

    Uh…Wow. Wow. Wow.

    Thank you so much, John. And everyone. I did not expect this at all. I don’t have enough words in English or French to convey my profound joy at your support.

    I had an excellent phone call with a good friend of mine this morning. She’s not trans, but very supportive. We practiced what I would say. She re-affirmed that this is exactly what I want. So now instead of fear, I just feel excited and ready.

    I promise to come back and let you all know how things go. Thank you again, from the bottom of my heart.

    • Matt

      An extra thank-you, John, for not saying my birth name. I knew you knew it was me the entire time; I assumed you could see my IP address and e-mail. It’s an exceptionally freeing thing, when someone doesn’t know what your name was before.

    • Jill

      We’re all here with you, Matt. And proud of you. Feel our support with you and know you are held in our hearts. And we’ll be here with you tomorrow, and the next day, and the next.

    • Christine McQueen

      Matt, I have a Facebook friend who is not only ftm trans*, but is also a counselor and has a website where he discusses the issues. His name is Jack Ori if you want to look him up. I’m sure he will have some advice for you, no matter how your lunch turns out.

  • Kathy in KC

    Matt, I don’t know where you live, but I live in Kansas City, Kansas and my church which is a United Methodist church would definitely welcome you and your partner. I am just coming out as bi in my 50′s and it’s an awkward journey since everyone I’m comfortable around has been out (or has had out kids) for years or decades — and I feel safe in my church. But more about you: I hope your meeting goes well, though I’m sure there will be emotional moments. You have friends and support here on this blog including me.

  • Shelley Griffin Van Camp

    Praying.

  • Shelley Kesselman

    Prayers ascending.

  • Cynthia Haug-West

    Prayers happening.

  • Joy Morene Sending

    Prayers and positive thoughts.

  • p.

    Praying for you! And I’m glad to live in a relatively small community out East, where, off the top of my head, 2 churches (yes, Christian churches) would welcome you with open arms — you wouldn’t be the first transgendered member among them — and 3 or 4 more have already had the conversation, and agree in principle that this is no barrier.

    Praying for you and your family and praying that once they realize you’ll still leave your socks on the floor when you come home on Christmas break, it really won’t matter.

    And here’s some unsolicited advice for any 20 year old making any sort of announcement to the parental units: don’t hold them to their first response. I’ve seen people come around — when I hadn’t believed it was possible. Don’t stand for abuse, but just don’t put too much weight on that first conversation.

  • Martha J

    Dear Matt, holding you and your family in the love you all deserve. May it enoble you; may it give your parents gentle hearts.

  • Michelle P.

    My prayers for Matt and his family, that God’s love touches everyone’s heart with gentleness, acceptance and peace, that this journey that this family will be undertaking will be blessed and shows the beauty of the love of God.

  • http://ftmcoachjack.com Jack Ori

    Matt, congratulations on having the courage to take this step. I know G-d is with you and whatever happens, you will be okay.

    I think coming out to ourselves is the hardest part…we’ve lived with the secret for so long we are convinced nobody else can accept it. It isn’t easy, none of this is easy. But the good news is that e very time you come out, you strengthen yourself a little bit.

    I first came out to my parents about a year ago, and at first they ignored my transition, then questioned it, then eventually accepted it. So if things don’t go as you hope, don’t despair. Over time it can still get better.

  • http://earthbound-spirit.blogspot.com Earthbound Spirit

    Matt,

    I’m holding you in my heart and in the Light, as you take this brave step. I’m sure that the God Who We Know as Love is always with you. Blessings to you. You are not alone.

  • Brandon Hassler

    Aawesome good stuff praying this brings them closer!

  • Thereasa Ramsey

    I pray for peace and love and understanding for him tonight. I pray will have the most beautiful life with his partner and family and God will strengthen him with the knowledge that he is greatly loved and perfect and he was created to be who he is.

  • lisa

    Matt,

    You are a beautiful blossom… becoming. May your heart be heard and your words fall on loving ears. Mine and many other’s prayers are with you right this minute.

    <3

  • http://thaliasmusingsnovels.com/ Amethyst

    Prayers and best wishes!

  • Ross

    Dude, Just do what comes natural. Nothing is easy but freaking out about it doesn’t help. Be the person you like best when you look in the mirror. You ROCK!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HoSOuYNNXjU

    I love you brother!

  • Rosie

    Matt, you’re awesome., remember that! Praying for you buddy <3

  • mk edwards

    Blessings to you precious child of God!!! I wish you courage and peace on your journey to uncover the person you were always meant to be. I pray that you are surrounded with understanding and support. I will also pray that you will have the grace to step aside from those that are not able to provide you with that. THE BLESSED GIFT OF GENUINE ACCEPTANCE toward our fellow souls is a gift from God. Good luck, best wishes, let us know how it goes. With love from… a mother. <3

  • http://kingmaalbert@hotmail.com Al

    Hi Matt.As a gay guy who only came out in the last year, I’m both happy and proud for you. As tough as it might be for you right now (there may be more than a few bumps in the road for the next little while), things will smooth over and you’ll start to have a new feeling of peace and wholeness that maybe you’ve never had before.

    And even if things stay tough for awhile, you’ll know that the demons you have to deal with are real ones and not the ghosts you created out of fear. Peace be with you.

  • Brenda

    Matt — we’re holding you close in our hearts this evening. Bless you for living in truth!

    Should the unhappy day ever happen that you need another family, please know that ours is available with wide open arms.

  • Glo

    Matt, that’s exactly how an actor feels – and then you step out onstage and in just a very few minutes, it’s rolling and playing out however it plays out. Just give it up to God and know that no matter how they respond, you have done the right thing for you. The truth will set you free.

    Blessings and prayers.

  • Tim N

    Thinking and praying. I can’t pretend to understand, so I won’t. I can hope your parents will understand better than I can, but this is one of those things that has to be lived.

  • Sara

    Hello Matt,

    You’re doing a brave thing. God loves you. You matter. It is right that you should be your genuine self. It is right that you should be happy. God bless you. You’re in my prayers tonight.

  • Mariah

    Matt, you are wonderful and I hope your parents see that. Good luck and know that you are so loved…

  • Diana Wells Miller

    Thoughts and prayers for Matt and his family! What a brave step, and I hope he lets us know how everything goes.

  • Damien James Southam

    Stand firm, stay strong, be you

  • Annie Hughes

    God’s love for you is infinite. Lean on that love.

  • Martha Thompson

    You have to be true to yourself; I hope it’s a civil meeting, at least… Bless you…

  • Amy Stewart-Cooper

    Matt, good luck and God bless. You’re in our hearts and prayers

  • http://thethreews.wordpress.com Ken Leonard

    Matt, I’m praying for you and your family. I know that this is all a big deal, and I hope that you are met with the love and acceptance that you deserve.

    This is nothing that should affect the love of your family. I pray that they see that.

    You are a blessing to this community, and I’m glad that you’re here.

    Peace and love.

  • Sara Harnetty

    It’s great that Matt has been able to keep his faith and relationship with God. There is just something about LGBT people, who, despite the stigma and heartache, can still keep the faith and keep in contact and love with God. Keep the faith mate. That’s all I can say.

  • Angela Romanski-Riccio

    I can’t imagine the parent who rejects their child because of something like this. I realize it happens all the time, but as a parent I could not do that to my children.

  • Matt

    Thank you again for all of your kind words. You were with me tonight.

    Well, I have (literally) just returned from our dinner. It went…well. My mother was very sad. She said she needed space to “mourn her daughter.” I said, “I’m right here.” She said: “I’m clear that you are. I know I’m getting another son. But I am losing my only daughter. [Birth name] will be gone, no matter how much I like Matt.”

    That hurt, but only because I could feel some of her grief, and hated causing pain to my mother. I dislike being mourned for while I’m alive, but it’s natural and she’s entitled to it.

    My stepfather expressed concern that I was doing this “just to be different.” I disabused him of that notion. He knows me and loves me. I told him that we would just have to take the test of time.

    I did my best to explain why this wasn’t “normal lesbian feelings,” why my bodily discomfort is not quite the same as other people’s. They were concerned that I felt this way because of my partner (who is trans Male-to-Female and postop). I explained that I have always felt like this in some way, but have never had the words for it until I met her.

    I made it clear several times that nothing major (hormones, surgery) would be happening anytime soon. I want to go to nursing school, I want to keep my job, I want to have a child. This means being legally female for years yet. But I asked for their partnership with me along the journey.

    They made it clear they would be with me, and still loved me.

    I answered their other questions. And I told them that because they are family, they can ask anything more they can think of as time goes on.

    Out of respect for my mother’s sadness, I did not ask them to start calling me Matt or use male pronouns. They used my birth name and female pronouns as we left dinner and went home. But things were cheerful, and we talked about movies and Mom told a funny story from work.

    Still, my muscles are tied in knots. From my sheer volume of writing here, it may not seem like it, but I am a naturally private person. I am feeling like I want to turn back, because I am feeling exposed. I am feeling afraid, and sad, and a little bit of my own grief. I know that sleep (and a check-in with my partner) will help, but however much I itched to leave it earlier, the closet is looking quite good now.

    I will be alright. Thank you all again for your responses. Reading them will help me get some rest tonight.

    • Barbara Rice

      Matt, I’m happy it went well for you! I had pictured horrible things happening… you probably did too.

      You’ve done some heavy lifting today. Now your parents will have to do some heavy lifting of their own, and some of the stages they go through may bounce back hard at you. They may be deeply hurt, deeply angry, bitter, rejecting as they work their way through this. It probably won’t be seamless. There well may be some very uncomfortable times, tears, harsh words.

      Still: you are on your way. We are here for you, and for your parents.

      • Matt

        Truth be told, they are the two I was least concerned about. Their continued love (and support) was not surprising; I was 90% sure of that, as was people I spoke to who knew them. The rest of my family is a much bigger question mark.

        But I won’t worry about that tonight.

        • Jill

          I listen to a lot of peaceful music on my way to work before the day takes me out of my heart and into my head. On the drive, listening to this, my thoughts drifted to you.

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zdRSRTqOyi4

          Full disclosure: it’s Enya, so it’s pretty froofy, and yet it reminded me of your journey that you’ve been so kind to freely share, especially the first 3 verses. I hope you don’t mind.

          • Matt

            Thank you, Jill. It’s really soothing. It made me cry, truthfully.

            My parents are being very civil and things appear normal, but the atmosphere in the house is…heavy. I can sense that my mother has a mental timer of sorts going, when [birth name] “will be gone.” I think she thinks Matt is an interloper, not one and the same person.

            My partner, who has been through the whole process, says that things really could not have gone better. But that there is no possible way for the conversation, or what happens afterward, to be easy. She says everything my family and I are feeling is completely normal. I will be with her today, to get out of the house and the heavy feeling.

            I don’t mean to be so down when everyone has been so supportive. I’m sorry.

          • http://www.enesvy.com Nicole

            Good heavens, don’t apologize. This sounds to me like something that will take time for things to work themselves out. I can understand the heavy atmosphere…it’s kind of like a bomb has been dropped and now you’re dealing with your parents’ mental fallout. Clean up and normality will take time to complete. Please don’t take that anaology to mean that you did something harmful; honesty and openness can be a big shock.

            God, you’re so brave! You inspire me.

            As you said, your mom’s honesty is fair, especially if she always wanted a girl…people are like that. But that doesn’t mean she doesn’t love you. And the more she’s around Matt and realizes the person hasn’t changed, the soul hasn’t changed, then I imagine things will become brighter.

        • http://www.jamesjolson.com Jim Olson

          Matt;

          It sounds as if it went as well as you could have hoped, and I admire your grace and bravery in doing so. My mother took two years to stop crying, and had the same sort of grieving response, though, when I came out as gay to them. The “Jim” they thought they knew, their hopes and dreams for who I would become disappeared. Thankfully, they now see that I am much happier than I’ve been, and I’ve now been with my husband for almost 10 years. (Honestly, I think my mother likes him better than she likes me some days…they’re text buddies.) We have to keep telling ourselves that honesty and clarity is the best of all possible options, and that it does get better eventually. Just be settled and happy, and thats really all that most parents ever want for us. You are loved, and surrounded by people who care about you and know your story and are praying for you.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      Matt: Good job, buddy. I, and we, are proud of you.

      • Elizabeth

        Woohoo! That’s natural, that they need time to mourn the child they remember and time to learn the man you’ve become. The rest of your family will follow their lead. Mr. Shore doesn’t need a chorus, but *big thumbs up*

      • spinning2heads

        Yes, this!

        It takes a lot of guts to come out. And I’m very very glad it went well.

    • Lymis

      Matt, that’s wonderful! Well done, and good for you!

    • Davian

      “I am feeling like I want to turn back, because I am feeling exposed. I am feeling afraid, and sad, and a little bit of my own grief. ”

      I went through the exact same thing when I came out to my parents as a trans guy. They responded in a similar way as yours – supportive, but with that element of grieving that I also felt. Things were also pretty weird for a while, because it was like the whole family dynamic shifted and people were being extra cautious around me and nice in a way I wasn’t used to, particularly from my brother. But that eventually passed and things got back to (a better) normal. So all I can say is – it gets better. Hang in there, and congrats on this first step.

    • Michelle P.

      I am so pleased for you, Matt. I can only imagine that the first steps are the hardest, and as the journey continues, you’ll all learn to walk more comfortably together. My prayers for you and yours will continue. So many people here have such good, wise things to say. I hope that you find them helpful, and that you’ll keep us updated, as much as you are comfortable sharing, about how things are going, how you feel, and if there is anything this community can do to be of assistance, if needed or desired.

      Blessings to you!

  • jasbro

    God be with you ’til we meet again.

  • Jenna

    God’s blessings on you.

  • Eric

    Matt, I cannot imagine many braver acts than being who you are, in a world that struggles so much to trust and embrace the fruits of God’s creative love. Blessings, peace, and much joy to you. Thank you for teaching so many of us about true courage.

  • Brenda in La

    Matt, I haven’t commented here in forever, but when I read what you were doing tonight, I was holding my breath for you (as well as sending prayers). I am both proud of you and relieved for you. Bravo to you for your honesty and to your parents who didn’t freak. Parents can be unpredictable – I know this as the mom of two grown daughters – but yours came through! Ahhhhh. Whew!

  • Susan in NY

    Great job Matt, and Matt’s family!! I am so proud of you, Matt. I hope you felt the love and prayers that were being sent your way as you told your parents. We were all there for you, but you did the hard work. Congratulations!

    Susan in NY

  • de la Nae

    Brother Matt,

    Good job. It is hard work…but you are no stranger to hard work.

    Keeping you in my prayers,

    A sister

  • alex

    well done


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