Autymn was just transitioning from male to female when we met her. Rob and I sat in her apartment, as she described the steps of her journey, scariness with job situations, and coming out to people who had known her as Nathan. Oh, and the time some guys nearly beat her up for daring to wear a dress—because they didn’t approve. (So you beat her up??)
I sat across from this kind and lovely person and shuddered to imagine her beaten up… or worse. All she did was have the guts to be herself. I am seriously chilled to the core to think of the horrors that await those who don’t conform. As if she doesn’t have enough on her plate.
She must sort it all out, admit to herself who she is, and then come out to family and beyond. This is not enough, she also has to deal with guys who feel it is their right, their duty, to show her what they think of her. This bullying menace has nothing whatever to do with Autymn. Like men who rape or murder, men beat up trans women for their own sick reasons.
I remembered walking with my trans friend JP in New York, when a bigger man smashed right into him and kept on walking. It was no accident—I’ve walked plenty on bustling New York streets and never once been run into like this. JP said it’s called being “chested,” and it happens to him about once a month. Can you imagine? It’s just men who want to show JP that he is not really a man and he shouldn’t act like it. JP has to put up with this just to be true to who he is.
My thoughts came back to Autymn, and I silently prayed that nothing terrible would happen to her. Rob and I had connected to Autymn’s parents just months before, and we’d emailed quite a bit through those early transitioning time. We’d talked them through situations with church and family. Now that we were in their town for a conference, we were able to meet in person.
As we sat in the parents’ home later that evening, we talked about the difficulties before Autymn came out: depression, pain, fear, never fitting in, being a fish out of water—all those were daily realities for Autymn, and nothing seemed to fix it, nothing made her feel happy or even normal.
Her parents remembered the night Nathan came out as Autymn.
“It was quite a shock, it really rocked our world, yet it suddenly made sense of everything. All I truly remember saying that night was, ‘There is nothing you could ever do or say that would make us not love you.’ I thank God every day for speaking through me that night.”
I understand the shock—hearing that your son is really your daughter is a challenge for any parent, and the knee-jerk response is to say, “No!” To try to push everything back in the box, so the world can be what you thought it was!
Both parents agreed that this was the best thing they could have done for their child, and that her coming out was the answer to all their prayers. Her mother said, “It has released the chains of darkness, depression, cutting, and suicidal ideation that had been enveloping our child for years.”
Her father was in full agreement. “This has been a very difficult journey for our family. It is hard to make changes that don’t feel ‘right’ or ‘normal’ according to societal standards. But what we have come to realize is that we are not living our lives for society, we live our lives for God. Nothing has brought us down on our knees faster and harder than this, and we now know what it means to travel a road of unconditional love, acceptance, grace, and forgiveness. Through it all, God has remained steadfast.”
I looked at the family photos in the living room, photos of the time when Autymn was Nathan, and I thought, Nathan LOOKS out of place! I looked back at Autymn and smiled. Yes, she was still awkwardly unfolding into this new person that was always in her. But she was on the road, she had her spectacular family in support, and she would find her way.
Doesn’t everyone deserve the chance to find their way?
“Autumn’s doing great. Some immediate family members still refuse to see her, and others have been hateful and hurtful to the family. But overall, the church—thank God—has been accepting and loving. In fact, Autymn was invited to play in the contemporary service in our church. She is strong in her faith, attends several religious college groups on campus, and is currently Vice President of the SAFE (Student Alliance for Equality). She still struggles, but she is a changed person as she is now able to live the life as the person she feels herself to be.
“We are forever grateful for the early support we received from you, Rob and Susan, and the way you embraced and loved us. In times of intense struggle and pain, we are called to reach out to others…and that is what you ministry of FreedHearts did for us, and does for so many families all over the world.”
It’s been less than two years! God’s tender mercy to Autymn and all the other people out there, who just so happen to be trans, working their way to their true selves. Each on their own place on their own journey.
Let’s remember and let’s celebrate each and every one, and send the love they so richly deserve.
If you could use some encouragement on your journey – as a parent or as someone who just so happens to be trans – please contact me.
Love, Susan and Rob