I will discuss the transition of a friend who I first knew as “Seth.” It is important the names are not real to protect her anonymity. So now she is called “Camille.” A friend who transitions presents an interesting situation. When any other member of the LGBTQ community comes out, their friends are learning about something they did not know about the person. When a person announces the decision to transition, it seems to many of their friends and family that they no longer know the person. Consider the fact that I understood Seth began a conversation with me that ended with Camille. Yes, it was indeed the same person from her point of view but not mine. Camille knew me well enough to know that I needed data to understand what she was telling me. I was given some links to scientific articles to read.
Transition In My Thought
I am a good student and read my assigned homework. But more was needed than simple intellectual transformation. How I related to Camille had to change. I considered Seth to be high-strung, obsessive, and quite honestly a little flaky. I made the terrible assumption that this was just another phase. “Are you still a woman,” I asked some months later by text. She replied, “Would you ask that of any other woman you know?” I admitted it was a stupid question and apologized.
Since then, I watched many friends deal with transitions in their families and/or some of their other friends. My confusion was repeated over again. Some folks decided they would not be open-minded. Estrangements occurred and continue. We are challenged to learn our image of a person is not accurate. How we relate to the other person is based on the image we have. We think we relate to other people in Martin Buber’s I-Thou, but really think in terms of I-It. I did not rise to the challenge quickly. Members of the LGBTQ+ community experienced this more than I ever considered before now.
Transfiguration of Jesus
The Sunday before Ash Wednesday is celebrated as Transfiguration Sunday. We remember the time three of Jesus’ disciples learn there is more to him than they thought. Jesus is revealed as the heavenly Son of Man described in Daniel 7. This Human One represents the divine image in a particular way, but is similar to the image of God in humanity. Peter is confronted with this when he proposes shrines to Moses, Elijah, and Jesus. “This is my beloved Son, listen to him.” (Mark 9:7) Jesus explains to them later how the Son of Man must rise from the dead.
It is clear from the gospels the disciples have some idea that Jesus is different from most teachers. But they do not have an accurate image of him until the Transfiguration reveals his heavenly nature. Prior to this revelation Peter considered Jesus to at least be on the level of Moses and Elijah. After the Transfiguration, his thinking changes but not immediately. One could say the process of transition is beginning in his mind. Peter and the others ask, “What does any of this mean?”
Transition and the Nature of God
Historically Christians consider the nature of God to be fixed. “Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8) But we also understand that our understanding of God develops and changes. Early Christians asked how could the one God be Father, Son, and Spirit at the same time? Later, most Christian leaders asked how could the one God not be three persons. How we think about the divine changes with our understanding of the cosmos.
The first Creation in Genesis 1 declares on the sixth day human beings are made in the divine image. “So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God, he created them; male and female he created them.” (1:27) The triple statement regarding creation of the adam (humankind) includes creation in the divine image, that God created all humankind, and that male and female are created by God. Both the male and female are created in the divine image that whose given pronouns are he and his.
One colleague asked the rhetorical question about transgender people. Does God make mistakes? Honestly, there is no good answer to that question. Perfection is only in our minds. Experience demonstrates there is no perfection in this Universe. To ask if a transgender person is trying to correct a divine mistake is ridiculous.
Transition in a World of Wonders
The purpose of learning is to overcome ignorance. To hold onto ignorance is bigotry. My transgender friends and colleagues open to me a new area of considering how being human reflects the divine image. The world is full of wonders. We learn them only a little at a time. Our knowledge grows. Our hearts change. And we believe grace and love abound.