“I hate going to a church where they congratulate themselves for being heroic members of Reconciling Ministries while hurting me again and again. I’m their token gay kid for their bragging rights. Nothing more. I don’t have person-hood. Reconcile that!” Token’s voice shook with anger as we spoke. Token is a transgender teenager in a Reconciling Ministries Methodist Church.
On July 4th I wrote an article that expressed how 3 queer teens felt about Pride flags outside UMC churches. There were actually 4 teens sitting at the table. The 4th teen wanted to participate, but did not want to be quoted, identified, or even recognized as being present. I respected it. This silent young person wants to reply to some of the comments made in the Progressive Methodist Facebook group. For the purpose of this article, this minor has chosen the alias Token.
Token is extremely upset about this. Unlike Token’s church, I am not going to censor what Token had to say. Token does not need to be corrected, Token needs to be heard.
Token Responds to the Comments
Me: So Token, what brought you to speak out.
Token: The comments in that Progressive Facebook group. When I read the blog I loved that you never quoted me but still recognized my presence in spirit. When I read the supportive comments in your blog, I started to regret that I didn’t let you have me be a part of it. But when I heard the removed post in that Facebook group were public again, I decided to read it. I was glad I was not part of it. I was hurt. Then I got mad. I’m hurt mad!
Me: What comments stood out to you?
Token: A bunch. But I want to start with the person that wanted to know what race we were. I thought you made it clear we were all anonymous. He never made it clear why it mattered and it shouldn’t matter. Does being a person of color make what we had to say different? But if he really wants to know, fine.
I’m a Mexican trans man who lives in Chicago. I can’t take T because my dad, who left us, won’t allow it. I have to wait until I’m 18. So I don’t fit in with my race, I don’t fit in with my family and I don’t fit in with my church unless they need to brag about how great they are. My mom does her best, but she doesn’t know how to stick up to the church. My dad and his family call me a freak and they call my mom a chonga.
Token: In this case it’s an insult. They’re calling her a loud mouth slut. Not what it means, but it’s how some Mexicans use it.
Me: Anything else you want to say to that person?
Token: No. Let’s talk about being Progressive Methodist and acceptance of everyone being a lie.
Me: I don’t remember anyone saying that.
Token: No. But more than one grown up said they welcome everyone, but you aren’t Methodist. Someone even asked why you were there. Other people said they wanted to find out what queer teen Methodists think. It’s all bull****!
Token: Think about it. These people say all are welcome, hang a Pride flag outside and they patronize and diminish an invited guest to their website? An invited guest who’s not only a great dad of a trans teen but has helped my mom more times than I can count.
Me: Thank you.
Token: They need to know what you won’t say. The school wasn’t respecting my rights. My mom’s a single mom working her a** off just to make ends meet. You went with her to the principle and the school board. You brought in the lawyers. I want that in the blog. You aren’t rich. But you helped her help me. My church hasn’t done sh** for my family but they have a f***ing flag outside and are Reconciling.
This past week they talked about some pay freeze or something with the money in the denomination and we all need to give more because the pastor needs to take care of her family. Her family goes to Disney-world and DC and Cancun. Every year they go somewhere like twice a year. We pay for a lot of her housing. Nice place. We’re on public f****ing aid and mom works two jobs. You’re there. Where’s my flag bearing Reconciling church? Where are they when people tell us to go back to Mexico? Where are they when Trump supporters are in our church. F*** communion!
Me: What’s about communion?
Token: I didn’t know how to say it before. Not everyone in our church was for being Reconciling. But that’s not required. Learning terminology, privilege, and our needs isn’t required. They just have to have a majority vote of good intentions or something. When I stopped taking communion our youth pastor talked to me and shamed me into doing it. The bible’s his weapon of choice. Guilt too. You said somewhere that if 10 people are at a table and a Nazi sits at that table, then there’s 11 Nazis. That’s our communion table. I’m sorry mister Green, I’m everywhere and not on topic.
Me: Token, this is your show. You have the mic. Anything else you want to say about being a trans Mexican Methodist?
Token: Yeah. After the youth pastor did that, I told mom I didn’t want to go to church anymore. She said okay. After a few weeks my mom got called by the a pastor. She told my mom that she really needed me and my mom there. We were needed because it wouldn’t look good that they’re Reconciling. I wasn’t there so I don’t know for sure.
My mom is amazing. She’s just spent her life being a servant. Be a good wife, be good Methodist, room 315 needs more towels, table six is upset about pickles on their sandwich. To get tips she has to put up with MAGA jerks and pervs that touch her a** and want her sent back! Everything she does, she does for everyone else, including me. She doesn’t have any her. There’s no her. It’s not her fault. Her entire life is obedience. That stupid book of discipline supports that.
So either our pastor or youth pastor was bragging about going to some kinda thing in the city for Reconciling. M (first transgender Deacon ordained in the UMC) and some other big named were there. While getting M’s pronouns wrong every time, they bragged about how their youth has 2 queer kids to that group. Me and another person who isn’t here to speak for themselves. We totally made eye contact and rolled out eyes.
The youth pastor and adults have no idea how to talk to us and when we push back. We’re told that they’re trying and we should be grateful and all that sh**. But they never stop doing the things they are doing. Yet they bask in glory at Pride with a banner. They spend a few minutes some Sundays talking about gay support stuff. Like how kids refused confirmation in another church are leading the generation of Methodists. That protest was done with permission from their church. That’s not rebellion, that’s Kabuki theater for a press release and viral meme.
Me: What else do they do that hurts?
Token: They misgender. They don’t check adults that deadname me or talk about what a pretty little girl I was like they miss me and I’m right here. They want me to take part in something where if I ever got married, it wouldn’t be recognized by the UMC. Just them. That is not real. That is like the domestic partnerships instead of marriage. No. You don’t get to half-a** full support and call it full support or inclusion. No cookie for you! When people bring up Trump or the February Summit and obedience as if we are not in the room, no one checks them either. But they do tell me to respect my elders. They force me to take communion. They want me to understand the other side.
I’m suicidal sometimes. You want me to sit in a room and have an unequal conversation with someone who thinks I’m a mistake? You validate their position more than mine? One of the pastor’s kids gets a hangnail, there’s a special offering so they can treat the hangnail. There are surprise offerings before their next great vacation. State cut LINK (Illinois EBT) and we are given a list of food banks we already go to. But there is also the stuff they don’t do that hurts.
Me: What don’t they do.
Token: They don’t stand up for us at the school district. Without you and Lambda Legal helping mom I’d be screwed at school. So would a lot of other trans kids. They celebrate diversity but don’t do anything in the neighborhood to help the Mexicans and the black families except nice little prayers. They call it oppression if the Pride sign gets vandalized and worry so much about the attack. This becomes a badge of honor for them. It’s a vinyl banner. Live my life! They don’t invite us to the conversation. We aren’t valuable enough to be listened to, but I am “our precious transgender young person”! That is all I am. None of the adults know my favorite music or color or pain or art. They just know I’m trans.
Me: Do you think this is just your church? Maybe they are….
Token: Don’t even go there. Don’t excuse it as one bad apple. I hear that all the time. No. Online I talk to other kids in Methodist churches. Most have been able to stop going. Some keep going for reasons like me. Others are caught in a trap and don’t know how to stand up. I’ve learned to be silent to a point. Sometimes my voice reflects on my mom. She’s not strong like me. But she’s really strong in other ways. Don’t forget to write that. She might read this.
Me: Token, your mom is an amazing woman. I admire her very much.
Token: Good! I don’t want anyone to think she’s weak. She’s not. It’s not her fault. She’s learning how to be independent. But it’s hard, ya know? White victims of DV with loads of cash find it hard to break cycles. I guess standing up to an abusive husband and a sh***y school is easier than standing up to a church and a** grabbing customers.
Me: Anything else you want to say?
Token: Yeah. I love you. I wish more allies would listen to you. And that better make it in the column. No one knows what you do when you’re not writing. You invest time you don’t have, money you can’t afford, and you hold up what we want, not what makes allies comfortable. You should be in charge of Equality Illinois or something.
Me: Thank you. I love you too.
Token: You better use two o’s when you write that!
I am no longer a member of the Progressive Methodist Facebook group. If anyone reading this is, feel free to share it. I know Token’s language is rough. I gave him full freedom to express. Additionally, I also know how easily adults dismiss minors. Mister Rogers tried to tell us that is a critical mistake. We need to hear their fears, their hurts and their perspectives no matter how young or old they are.
Please think about what Token is saying before you are readily dismissive of Token’s broken heart.
Finally, Token had full editorial discretion as to what made the final draft of this article. I do not self congratulate myself, but Token would not let compliments go unwritten. So I will take a moment to say something. Token is a remarkable young man and is so very brave and self aware. He’s going to grow into an even more amazing young man than he already is. He has a remarkable mother. If she reads this, I hope she recognizes that we both feel she is an amazing and strong woman doing the best she can is a messed up world. She’s overcome so much and has nothing to be ashamed of and everything to be proud of. I am proud of them both.
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