Special Edition featuring Guest writer: Rebecca Hatch Wortham – a mother we should listen to.
“The post I wrote on Facebook about my transgender foster daughter was shared so many times yesterday it ultimately got picked up by Kissing Fish, a favorite page on FB run by an open and affirming United Methodist pastor & author, Roger Wolsey. My post on the Kissing Fish fan page (for Roger’s book) was liked 1.9 thousand times and shared 418 times (as of March 27).
…I truly am an introvert who is much better equipped as a keyboard warrior than spoken word warrior, so I don’t know about the whole live interview format or if I will accept.
But I do find it ironic that my foster daughter seemingly found a “voice” via these Facebook shares, and she feels empowered today. She knows she belongs. She knows she is loved. And she knows she is not alone. Thankful.” – Rebecca
I had an experience this past weekend wherein someone asked me if my foster daughter is a boy. I answered no. This person then asked, “Well, was he born a boy and still has boy parts?” Once again, I responded that my foster daughter is a girl. The person then asked why I would lie about something that isn’t true, especially when everyone else can tell.
I paused to practice mindfulness. I’ve kinda sucked at the pause thing in recent months and I’ve become easily angered and reactive when offended. Maybe it was my med change and subsequent withdrawal. Or maybe it was because I’m tired of not being offered the same grace in becoming angry as everyone else on the planet seems to receive just because I’m the “nice girl who never gets upset.” Who knows. Thankfully, for whatever reason when listening to this individual this past weekend, I was able to reach deep enough into spirit self to practice the pause.
Breathe in grace. Breathe out anger. Breathe in grace. Breathe out hurt. Smell the flower. Blow out the candle. Smell the flower. Blow out the candle. See the face of God in this person who was able to trigger you. Recognize God in all beings. Breathe in grace. Breathe out anger.
I responded to this person that my foster daughter is a transgender female. That Courtney was “assigned male at birth,” but emotionally, spiritually, and psychologically an 18 year old female. I explained that my daughter may very well have been born with both male and female parts, as happens more often than most people realize. And doctors may very well have chosen her gender for her, as happens more often than most people realize. I explained that my foster daughter knew her identity as early as age 10 but also knew she was different than most males by age 3 or 4. She used to dress in stereotypical girls clothing and choose stereotypical girls toys at the store.
I explained that my transgender foster daughter was never allowed to live as the female she is until she was placed with us. And that DHR actually had problems in this Bible-Belt strangled, evangelical state where conservative Christians tout “loving on” people and “welcoming all” while shunning the marginalized who don’t look, act, pray, or pay tithes like them. You know–the brown folk, the gay folks, the Hispanic folks, the poor folks, the liberal folks, the Muslim folks, the homeless folks, the transgender folks. DHR has problems placing transgender (and other already marginalized) youth with foster parents in this God-fearing state.
I explained how heart-wrenching it was for me to receive a call about a transgender foster daughter who couldn’t find placement–and how I was asked about taking in a SECOND transgender teen less than 2 weeks after foster classes started–just because so many holier than thous won’t.
I told how ironic it is for so many pro-lifers to arm themselves with Bibles and stand across sin-stained lines in the sand, throwing Old Testament verses like bullets, and echoing the clashing cymbals of the Pharisees. I told how ironic it is for these salt of the earth saints to hurl insults at young unwed mothers or women who were raped (some by their pastors and bishops and deacons and elders) while refusing to clothe and shelter and take in the hundreds of thousands of foster and adoptive left by the forced unwanted pregnancies. I told how I’m often invited to church-sponsored celebrations for addicts, or how I attended a Southern Baptist “block shower” for all of the teenage pregnant mothers in our community. I told of my experiences sitting in church pews watching adulterous, envious, glutinous, zealous church leaders ask for grace and forgiveness and watching them be welcomed into a fold of “love the sinner, hate the sin” congregants who are all too happy to forgive and forget when it’s one of their own.
My friend–yes, my FRIEND–just stood there, completely in shock, while listening to me puke gay pride as long as I could without dying.
But I managed to get in another few thoughts:
“If you’re going to judge my transgender daughter, then you’re also judging my gay son. If you’re going to judge my gay children, then you’re also judging me. If you’re going to judge me, and not allow me and my rage the same grace you seem to give everyone else, I feel sorry for you. I feel sorry for the minds and hearts so completely closed and bound by ignorance they aren’t even open enough for Jesus Christ to spit, let alone step, inside. I feel sorry for the souls of those who believe God and Heaven are so far away they need to be “saved” in order to be with Christ but are too programmed to realize Jesus is standing right in front of them–dressed like the transgender teen who now lives in my heart and home who desperately needs friends and welcoming and acceptance, too. She needs “saving,” too, in the form of friends and a job and an education and food and shelter and clothing. Got any money to spare for HER saving? Wanna volunteer as a respite worker to take her in for an overnight stay when she–or we–need a break? What about a wig? Wanna take her to the wig store and buy her another $75 wig so she can feel better about herself since her last placement made her chop off her hair and ‘be a boy?'”
I haven’t heard from my friend. I probably won’t–just like I’ve not heard from the myriads of relatives..pastors…Christians…doctors…teachers…neighbors..leaders and “friends” after my son came out or after I’ve allowed rainbow kids in my home and broken bread with them–you know, kinda how Christ did and still does.
This morning I am sad for my transgender daughter. I am sad for my gay son. I am sad for the 11-year-old transgender boy who DHR wanted to place in our home but didn’t because two LGBTQ individuals was probably enough for one family.
I am angry. I am hurting. But NONE of my pain comes near that of the pain felt by thousands of LGBTQ individuals throughout our state, country, and world who are treated like 2nd class citizens because they are different than the average Sunday morning church goer.
Its interesting to me that the Christians who are so hell-bent on saving the world are the ones pushing most of the world away from Christianity! It’s interesting to me that it was a Christian pastor who first agreed to take my transgender daughter, but apparently by the grace of God decided against it at the last minute–literally, being “too sick” to show up for a scheduled facility visit and then backing out on his/her promise to take Courtney in, without sending a letter, mailing a card, or following up in any other way. Maybe the Christian pastor was too ashamed of what the Christian church-goers would think if he/she was accompanied by a transgender teen at church.
I’m no longer ashamed. More and more, Christianity is something I don’t want to be associated with. At least not the type of Christianity that preaches love for all but denies love for all. My teenage foster daughter is ever as created in the image of God as the holiest of holy saint! I wish those who judge her would scoot their self-righteous asses over on their sin-stained pews and make room for GOD!!!!!
And yes. I’m judging. I’m human. I ask your forgiveness. I am angry. I am ALLOWED TO BE ANGRY!!!! I also ask for you to help hold my hands up for battle. I cannot do this alone! God created us in community! Please commune with my transgender teen! Come visit her! Invite her out! Introduce YOUR teens to her! Come over for dinner! She’ll teach you to love like Christ, I know. She’s teaching me every day.
Thank you. LoveOneAnother.”
-Rebecca Hatch Wortham
Rebecca Wortham is a progressive wife, mom, foster mom, and orchestra conductor who loves teaching, writing, advocating, other-thinking, feeling, and loving. Her heart, home, and classroom are open to ALL, and her mind and village are diverse. She and her family enjoy forest bathing and attend ChurchOnTheMountain. We like to hike. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org if people want to contact her and her family.
“Cowardice asks the question: is it safe?
Expediency asks the question: is it politic?
Vanity asks the question: is it popular?
But conscience asks the question: is it right?
And there comes a time when we must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular – but one must take it because it’s right.”
— Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
XX –Roger * Rev. Roger Wolsey is a United Methodist pastor and author of Kissing Fish: christianity for people who don’t like christianity Roger’s other blogs on Patheos