This article first appeared in PQ Monthly, Portland, in March, 2016.
I have been on testosterone for 21 months, and still only have one chest hair. One. It’s faint, and sometimes I need my glasses on to see it, but it’s there. Sigh. My facial hair status bar is still loading at 20%. I can wish for more right now, for the hormonal transition to go faster, but I may as well wish for civility in our national political discourse. Some things we just can’t control.
Most of the time I feel ok about my body. But I also deal with wishing I was manlier. Part of me believes that the more masculine I appear, the more easily I will navigate the world. Even though I am very out about being trans (including writing a column about it), I don’t always want to be out to strangers and worry about being misgendered. I am nearly always called “sir” by waiters and sales people, but then I brace myself for them to wrongly “correct” themselves. I try to butch it up so they know they were correct in identifying me as male.
I often don’t feel masculine enough when I’m contemplating dating. If you missed it, last January I came out as bisexual, which is not infrequent in the trans community. I’ve been told that people read me as a gay male, which is great when the dating audience is a gay man, but discouraging if I’m trying to pursue a straight woman.
You know how we lament (or celebrate, depending on your opinion) that men are socialized to be manly from a young age? I missed out on all of this socialization into the world of being male. I feel like I’m trying to learn a foreign language by only watching television and guessing at the syntax and rules. For example, I am deducing that I need to stop fluttering my hands about or clasping them to my chest when I’m shocked. Or do I?
Our world has so many ways of telling us we are not enough. We are not manly enough, we are not thin enough, smart enough, funny enough, popular enough. Some of this comes from advertising, to be sure. If we buy <insert magic product here>, we will be <insert desirable quality> enough, and then be happy. But our judgment of ourselves and others also comes from our own tendency as humans to tear one another down as we tease, exclude, or bully those who are different from us, often as a way to ease our own insecurities.
To be sure, it frustrates me when we are mean to each other. But what breaks my heart to pieces is when churches or people of faith tell people they are not enough: pure enough, holy enough, cisgender and straight enough. How can I hope to do enough to help heal the wounds inflicted by spiritual leaders on those who are seeking God? The truth is, I can’t.
I have had many conversations over the last few years with people who have been hurt by the church. It doesn’t matter to me if you go to church or if you believe in God. It’s not my job to get you to church, and none of my business. I love you just as much as the person who does go to church or believes. But I do care about your stories. You deserve to be heard. You are worthy of being seen and loved just as you are.
I mentioned last month that the tattoo on my arm references my favorite bible verse, Romans 8:38-39 (NRSV): “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
I’d like to put that another way. “For I am convinced that nothing will make God stop loving you. No matter what anyone has told you, you are enough. Whatever you have done, whoever you love, however you live, you are still beloved.”
I can understand if it doesn’t really make a difference for some people if I say this. Their hurt and rejection by the church is too deep to heal quickly. As a person who lived as a straight, cisgender, white woman in the church for 37 years before coming out, I’m sorry that we haven’t done more as a church to speak love over the rancorous voices of bigotry, discrimination, and shame.
I regularly feel awkward about talking about God and faith, especially in the LGBTQ community. I’ve been told I am too churchy to date. I don’t relish being the uncool guy that always talks about God and goes to church. But I have been the humble recipient of your stories, and I want to be a good caretaker of the anger and hopes you tell me. I am honored that you have shared your lives with me.
You know, I’m going to try to take my own words to heart. I will celebrate my one little chest hair. It is enough. I will try to accept my mannerisms that are read as feminine. I am male enough. I will keep working for justice in the church. I am cool enough.
And you? You are enough. And you are pretty damn awesome.