Transition: Authenticity

I’ve been trying to piece together this blog this morning, but much like the last blog it may end up being somewhat of a stream of consciousness blog. So bear with my thoughts and hopefully they are coherent.

As I’ve come out and as I’ve mentally transitioned and as I’ve transitioned to living as the real me this year, some things that I do and ways I act have changed. When I look at it, I see it as me taking off the old mask and act that I had built up over the years. It was something I had to build up so I was not outed. I knew what to do to be seen as a guy.

So, as I’ve embraced authenticity in my transition, I find myself stepping back to make sure that I am not simply building up a new facade based on what society has told me about being a woman. While it is impossible to separate yourself from social pressure, I believe it is important to step back and examine your life often. I don’t want to dress or act a certain way just because thats what I am told, I want to do it because it is who I am and how I feel most comfortable.

I do believe that is what I am doing at this point. I am not transitioning into another facade, rather I am transitioning into authenticity. I am embracing the real me.

It is so nice to finally feel somewhat comfortable in my own skin. It is nice to be perceived by others as the woman I’ve always known internally that I was. There are adjustments that I have to make mentally- getting used to things that cisgender women grew up with- like the male gaze or having fashions that show way more skin then I ever did growing up. But my mind is so much more at peace now that I have transitioned into authenticity.

Anywhoo- thats my reflections for this Monday…hope any of it made sense to you. I’m off to go watch the new Taylor Swift video again.

Mental Transition

So I’ve often talked with friends about how I feel I have noticed a mental transition from male to female. I will likely write a few blogs thinking about “Transition” and what that means, this being the first of them. There is the chance that this may end up being word vomit, but I hope it is not, and feel free to ask clarifying questions or say “wow thats brilliant Em”.

I am going through a transition this year- I finally have truly fully come out and am living my life fully as the real me. At home, at jobs, at church, and at my soon to be seminary. This has been amazing- to finally embrace the real me.

But I feel like over the course of the last few years of coming out that I also made a mental transition. I think that this was a very important step of my transition process, and one that people do not actively discuss as an element of transition.

Much of it has to do with a sense of leaving behind privilege, but also letting my mind embrace what it has always wanted to do instead of hiding behind a mask. Let me dive in a little.

Growing up, I heard from society loud and clear messages of what was expected both of men and women. And while many cisgender people internalize their assigned gender, I internalized both. I hated the fact that I was never going to measure up to being the woman I knew I was, but at the same time was also trying to put on the mask of being one of the guys.

While receiving male socialization was mentally torturing, I feel it is important to acknowledge that it happened, and that in fact it did shape me during my younger years, as much as I did not want that to happen. I could aim for whatever careers I wanted. I could say I want to be a pastor without people saying that women are not supposed to be in ministry. I could have unquestioned authority about topics I talked about just because I was born male. I hated being male, but it was so easy to stay in that privilege. I think that despite my gender identity being female, I grew into a very privileged male mindset in how I looked at the world.

When I hear people say that men have it hard, or that feminism is not needed, I can only laugh, because I had male privilege, and I have now felt the loss of it. It exists.

So as I came out (starting way back in May 2008), and began to be honest about who I was, I still often stayed in the same mindset. I had to control things. I had autonomy. To be fair, I had my male privilege still.

One of the greatest things my wife has done for me is to introduce me to thinking critically about gender and feminism. I was challenged so much. I had hidden my real self, and embraced this mask of male-ness that I had built up as a defense against being outed- but I had all the benefits that came with it. So as I transitioned and came out-I had to put that mask away, even if it meant losing the benefits it came with. And wow that was tough. I had spent so long trying to fit in to the guys club that it was difficult to break the habits I had set up to keep me closeted. But they were an act. They weren’t the real me. I had to get rid of them to find out who the real person was beneath the mask I had built. No need to be so macho. No need to repress emotions. No need to think that the world always had to be in my control.

I can not point to a specific day or even really a time frame, but I can just tell you that at some point my brain made a jump. Suddenly I was letting myself feel. I was not constantly repressing the way I thought, what I wanted to do, or how I wanted to act. I hear other trans women talking about how estrogen made them so much more in touch with their emotions, and while  I do not doubt that- I wonder how much of that is also just a mental transition happening since taking estrogen is also associated with having finally come out of the closet.

Of course thats not saying that embracing myself has all been easy and happy. Now, even more so, I feel the messages that society sends to women coming into my head. Telling me I must be skinny. Must be beautiful. Must be desirable. And heck these thoughts are hard on your average cisgender woman, but they are also torturous when combined with my gender dysphoria. I look at myself and see all the ways I do not measure up

I’ve had a lot of people tell me after coming out to them that they knew something was different about me. I have to think that it is partly due to this mental transition. Even before making my life transition this year, I was not fitting in as “one of the guys” anymore.

So yeah. This seems like a lot of random thoughts. I hope it made some sort of sense. I just wanted to write about it, and about the changes that have happened in my life bringing me to this point.

Thanks for reading

Em

Today is Monday

One of the performers at the conference I went to was Jasiri X. I would highly recommend checking out his music. As a nerdy seminarian white girl, I am not your common listener to rap and hip hop, but I love socially conscious music. It is one of the best ways to critique our society.

I don’t have a lot to say today, but feel I may on Thursday.

Excerpt from my week

This week I finally was able to read my latest Squirrel Girl comic. Enjoyed this little tidbit about pronouns. 
A reminder to all, use female pronouns for me!
That’s all I got for today. Been an interesting week. 
Em 

The Basics of Ministry

So I have been thinking a lot recently about what are the core things I am hoping to achieve as a youth pastor. I have been pondering what ministry looks like- especially for myself as I move forward in seeking a call for ordained ministry.

I came up with 3 specific elements that constitute what I believe makes a healthy ministry/congregation/calling for the Church.

1) Community- People need to feel welcome. People want to feel safe. There should be activities going on so that everyone feels there is a place for them to be involved in the life of the Church. As many have said- Church should not only exist on Sunday. And Church can be fun. Having a Nerf War with high schoolers can build community in a unique way, just as having something like a quilting club could as well.

2) Discipleship- It is also vital that we be educating those attending our Churches or groups. I think the key to good discipleship is not forcing certain answer and doctrines on anyone, but rather guiding individuals on how to have good tools for interpreting the Bible and for being in relationship with God and the community of the Church. Acknowledge that most of us struggle with our faith. The idea that some people are always perfect in their faith is poisonous to good Christian community and towards the long term health of any Christian.  Sometimes we may feel that our discipleship is not making a difference, but we are called to just keep spreading the seed that God gave us and see what God will plant in the hearts of individuals.

3) Outreach- what are we doing in our community? In our country? In our world? Are we inviting our neighbors? Are we sharing in community with those outside of the Church? Are we advocating for change in the world instead of accepting things as they are? Outreach takes many shapes, but is vital, and is an obligation of everyone- not just the leaders.

So those are a few thoughts today. What do you find are elements of good ministry? I’d be curious for feedback and thoughts.

Em

#Privilege

I always thought I was fairly open minded growing up. I would have proudly said that I was not racist. That sort of stuff only happens in the South. I thought I was a good person with regards to racial relations. Luckily, I have had this challenged in my life, but many people still have this mindset: racism is not something they are capable of, it is something everyone else does.

The first time I can say I distinctly remember realizing that I was operating from a place of internalized racism came when I was about 20 years old. My wife’s family lives in what some in the city may call “the not nice part of town”. In other words, its the part of town where the African American community has been segregated into. I was driving down to visit, and realized that I suddenly rolled up my windows, and locked my doors.

And in that moment it hit me- I would not do this if it was a group of white kids walking past me, or if I was in a predominately white part of town. And in that moment I realized that I needed to begin to analyze my own mind, and start to deconstruct this framework that had been embedded in me as your average white American.

It has not been the easiest thing, and it is so important to remember that I always have room to grow. That is why being able to attend the Selma at 50 conference was so wonderful. I kept my mouth shut, and listened to other people’s experiences. My life as a white American is not the norm for the whole world. That was hard to step away from. But I have learned so much and connected with many wonderful people once I was able to step back and realize that there is no norm, and that I needed to listen and learn from other people’s lived experiences.

As I have transitioned as a trans woman, I have watched male privilege disappear, as well as cisgender privilege. I can attest that both of those were very real things. While I have experienced what it is like to be seen as an object, or seen as a “freak”, I also realize that Trans Women of Color are far more likely to be killed for living their truth than I am. I have no clue what it is like to have to worry that police will constantly harass me. I have no clue what it is like to be profiled as a thief when I walk in to a retail store.

Instead, as a white person committed to racial equality, I need to check my privilege, and share the voices of those who have had these experiences. It is not my voice that needs to be heard, but rather the voices of those who have lived these experiences. I cannot say “I am Freddie Grey” or “I can’t breath”- because those are not injustices that I face, but I can say “Black lives matter” and call out racism and privilege that I see in the white community and in my faith, and instead use my voice and faith to empower change and not embrace the status quo.

I hope this all made some good sense- battling a headache today.

-Em