This post is part of a series. Click here to read the introduction.
Like I said in my coming out series, when at the end of 2011, we had realized that transition was going to happen, and that our beliefs were not really fitting in the church we were serving anymore, we knew we needed to move on.
This wasn’t easy. We had moved everything we owned 1000 miles and over an international border to take the call to this church, with the intention of staying for some time. We’d had 2 more children for a total of 4. We loved the people we were serving, our kids had friends and we had a home in the parsonage. We had our favorite haunts, walking to the park near our house, attempting sledding with a bunch of babies, walking down to the 7-11 for slushies, going to the kid programs at the library, regular trips to the zoo with a picnic lunch, driving out to the provincial park to have a fire and roast marshmallows (or in the winter just to stare at the incredible hoarfrost) or driving an hour north to hang out by the lake and get fish and chips. It was a good place to live.
We had grown a lot here, discovered much here, experienced peace in the midst of the storm here.
We wanted to be fair and honorable as we could, and leave without drama or fuss. We knew some people would be upset we were leaving only 3 years into our call, and yet, it was time for us to move on, even though we wouldn’t be able to give a full explanation of why that was without causing the drama and fuss we were trying to avoid.
We had no idea where to start or what to focus on, the next place to move would have always been the next church call, location, job and living arrangements practically decided for us. Now we were starting from a different corner. We tried to think of places to live, read about crime stats, tried to figure out what a rental would run us and what areas we would have good access to transgender health care. We talked numbers, trying to guess how much money we would need to have available in order to get a moving truck, rent an apartment, and live while we looked for jobs. Winter was coming in, the baby was starting to sit up all by himself. We had lots of scary questions, but all winter to figure out the answers, or so we thought.
We settled in to have a nice Christmas with the kids.
Unbeknownst to us, a parishioner had seen Haley at the Mall, and was disturbed that she was wearing eyeliner and dangle earrings (a look she hadn’t sported from the pulpit) the parishioner complained to the church leaders, and there were meetings and discussions going on. Haley was confronted by the leaders early in January, who demanded to know if she was a gay man, and if she was selling her body, and speculated about whether or not I knew about Haley’s off beat style choices. In some ways it was laughable, in other ways it was scary. Haley assured them that she was not sleeping around, that I was fully aware of her style choices and I had even given her the butterfly necklace she was wearing as an anniversary gift. Talks continued, and they quickly made it clear that the ideas and plans we’d been working on in the abstract were going to be reality, and fast.
We had been considering several areas, now we settled on the one within closest driving distance. I started checking out rentals in earnest online. We knew we were downsizing considerably from the large parsonage, so we began to get rid of the furniture and other things we knew we weren’t taking with us. A few weeks later it was announced in church that we were leaving, and we started packing. We picked out 5 possible places to rent in our new location, and spent a weekend driving the 8 hours out to see them and then driving back up in time to conduct the Sunday service. We were lucky enough to find a place on that trip, and lucky the landlord was willing to give us a shot even though we were both unemployed, thanks to a good credit score and having the ability to pay several months’ rent up front.
We finished packing and left for good on a cold day in the first week of March.
Heading out into the unknown.
Haley was driving the truck and I was driving the van with the kids, and about half way to our destination, smoke started billowing out from under the hood of the truck. We pulled off the highway and parked in a hotel parking lot. Since it was already mid-afternoon, we decided to just get a room for the night and let the kids get out of the car; soon they were happily jumping on the beds while we called the truck company and tried to figure out what to do. They couldn’t get anyone to repair the truck on a Sunday, but they offered to tow it for us, that sounded kind of nuts, but we needed to get into town by Sunday evening, so we said we’d give it a shot.
The next morning, “James” showed up with a tow truck much smaller than our moving truck and proceeded to begin hooking everything up to tow. He was average height, some tattoos and some beard stubble, probably late 20’s. We stood around shivering in the snow while he hooked up wires and chains, and tested and tweaked and tested and tweaked again. Haley whispered to me that she was nervous about riding in the truck with “James” because she was on her second day presenting as female full-time, and nervous about how well she passed. I had no problem with riding in the truck, so Haley took over the van full of kids and I climbed into the tow truck next to “James” and we began the slow trek to our new home.
“James” was an interesting person. Grew up really poor, was living on friend’s couches and on his own by the time he was a teenager, got in to trouble a bit here and there, and towing had been his new start. He talked about his dream of owning his own towing business someday, and how he and his wife and kids had recently been able to move to a better neighborhood. He talked about his wife’s extended hospital stay and how much it had taught him about being a dad. And he asked what my story was, so I told him. I told him how we were moving and Haley my wife was newly transitioned and we were starting over. How we had 4 kids, and that I used to be very Christian but was doubting everything now. I talked about the drama and confusion over our exit from our ministry position.
“James” was a highschool educated, blue-collar, Christian, moderate conservative guy, In other words, a fairly typical american. And despite my being fairly untypical, he was interested, understanding, and completely judgment free. He made it clear that he saw me and my wife as equals, and our family as a family much like any other. He drove us all the way to our new home, parked the truck and wished us the best giving us his card with his number if we ever needed a tow again.
After all the pain from leaving the church so abruptly,“James” was one of the first people to show me that spark of hope for humanity again. Maybe the great unknown wasn’t going to be so scary after all.