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For pretty much as far back as I can remember caring about whether I was a boy or a girl, I wanted to be a girl – I KNEW I was a girl. Things were a little different back then (we’re talking the 60’s folks – that’s last century for you millennials), the term transgender didn’t exist, I probably wasn’t aware of the term transsexual until at least high school and possibly college. All I knew is that I was different, and it was something I could NEVER tell anyone.
My upbringing – conservative Christian. We belonged to a BIG Baptist church in southern California – today it would be considered a mega-church. My dad was self-employed and my mom was what you would expect in the 60’s and 70’s, a stay-at-home mom. When we got home from school, she was there. I’d be surprised if I even had a key to the house before high-school.
I tried to act like a normal kid, I did the normal “boy stuff” like play in Little League because that’s what boys my age did. I loved music and learned to play the trumpet in the fourth grade – and that’s what carried me through Jr. High and High School. I dated a little but not much – it’s hard when inside you want to BE one of the girls. After graduating college I got married – maybe THIS will “fix” me. Well, it didn’t. After several years of marriage and no babies and nothing wrong with my spouse’s fertility, we found out that I was sterile (go figure!) When she was then wanting to go artificial insemination and I realized that I just wasn’t cut out to be a “father”, I told her what I had never told anyone in my life – that I wanted to be a woman, that that’s who I was inside. Well needless to say she didn’t understand that and within a year we were divorced.
But being a Christian I thought that there was something “wrong” with me feeling like I’m a woman inside and I had friends praying for me. I accepted a job promotion and moved to northern California where I found a new church and continued to be tortured by the disconnect between who I knew I was and who my body said I was supposed to be. The harder I prayed, the harder I tried to be free of my “affliction” the worse I got. Finally I thought my only choice was to kill myself and I picked out a huge oak tree in the Sierra Nevada foothills that a winding road had to go around. I figured if I drove my car fast enough into that tree, that that would be, well, that. I can’t tell you how many times I drove past that tree over the next couple of months thinking about doing it. But I knew that there must be something really wrong when I’m honestly seeking God and I want to kill myself – so in desperation I called a good friend of mine in southern California. She simply asked if I had ever talked to anyone (like a specialist) who knew anything about this? That question saved my life. As a Christian, I never dreamed I could consider talking to someone about this to learn about it. It took a couple of months and a drive halfway cross-country before I discovered there’s an expert ninety minutes away from me in San Francisco. And on my way home from my very first appointment with her, God spoke to me and simply said “it’s okay”. And with His voice came amazing peace, and I never looked back after that. With LOTS of conversations with my therapist, talking to friends, talking to God and plenty of planning – a year later I was living full-time as Laurie and thirteen months later I had my surgery, but it was at the cost of losing my family. They refused to see me once I transitioned. Frankly I wasn’t too surprised by their reaction, but I had hoped for more.
Part of my planning in going full-time was a job change. I left the restaurant business that I had been in for 16 years and got a real estate license. That’s how I met my adopted grandpa. Grandpa was selling his home and I got the listing, while he was selling some of his furniture I met a young couple that told me about a small little church that I ended up attending. Grandpa moved to Florida once the house sold but after a year he hated it there and was very lonely. We had stayed in touch and I told him he should consider moving back where he had lots of friends, and if he didn’t want to buy a home I told him I had an extra room. Though he was in his late eighties he was totally capable of taking care of himself – he was just lonely. So he did just that, moved back and stayed with me. After a few years though his health suddenly declined and as the small church I had been attending closed I stayed home to take care of him (I was also working from home for a tech company at this point) and I didn’t try to look for a new church at the time.
In early January of 2,000 he passed away. That was a difficult time because he was my only family, suddenly I was alone, no church, no one to take care of, I really felt I didn’t have much purpose in this world so in February I started to look for a new church. I found a church about 15 minutes from home that looked really amazing. Very alive, contemporary worship – so I went and paid a visit. I loved it. The Pastor’s message was great and the people seemed genuinely friendly. He invited new visitors to his home that evening to get better acquainted. There were maybe 10 people there – I shared my story about grandpa and how he had passed away a month ago. I went to their 4-week new member’s class each Sunday shortly after that. During that time I met new people and got better acquainted with the Pastor, his wife and others. Several weeks later a letter came in the mail that turns out changed the direction of my life.
The letter was from the church, and it asked me to be a part of the “leadership training”. When I learned that it wasn’t a mass mailing but that they pray over who gets invited, I made an appointment to meet with the Pastor. If I was going to participate in it I didn’t want my being transgender to be an issue down the road should it be later found out – so I bit the bullet and told him. I shared my story with him, and at the end he said he would hope to see me on a path that would see me “whole” again (as in changing back) but I said that wasn’t going to be heading that direction. In spite of our seeing different futures, I was welcomed to be a part of the leadership training. I also later was the primary sound person and involved in the women’s ministry. I made many friends and was even invited to the staff play day at Six Flags in August. They had become my family and a few of them even knew my history.
Then one day I get a call from the church – the Pastor would like to meet with me Saturday morning. I always enjoyed talking to Pastor so didn’t think much of it.
So I go in to meet with the Pastor, he reminded me of our first conversation. He said he and the elders at the church felt that it wasn’t God’s will for me to live as a woman and that I should change back. I was pretty much in shock and so a lot of that conversation is now a blur. He told me that “it was decided” that it was “inappropriate” that I use the women’s restroom, and also “inappropriate” that I spend time with my friend from church (a woman) because she was married (meaning they considered me a man hanging out with a married woman.) You’d think I would walk away at that point but I just loved this church so much that I took the key for the staff restroom they gave me and stuck around.
After about a month when I guess it was apparent that I wasn’t going to change, another meeting – this time with the Pastor and also the men’s Pastor at the church. I was told I could no longer serve on the sound team, and that I could no longer be a member of the church as “Laurie”. Now, they wouldn’t stop me from walking in the door Sunday mornings, but it would be as close as they could come to excommunication. But what pushed me over the edge is when they offered to PAY to send me to some place (I think it was in Idaho but I’m not sure) that “helped” people like me, I freaked out. I couldn’t fathom that they would think of such a thing – I just cried and ran out of the Pastor’s office. I never went back to that church again. I was done – crying, hurt and done!
What happened there launched me into a full-on depression. I had to take a medical leave at work. I went several months and just didn’t go to ANY church. I was devastated – the church I loved with people I loved had welcomed me and then after making me feel welcomed and accepted suddenly rejected me and I didn’t know how to reconcile that with my relationship with the family of Christ. I never stopped believing in God, in Jesus and what He did for me on the cross – but I didn’t know how to make all that I believe and trust fall into sync with my now TOTAL lack of trust with His church. Rejection from my parents and brothers was no big surprise to me, that’s why it took me 30 years to tell anyone at all. But this is my church that thought enough about me and KNEW enough about me to become part of their leadership training – but apparently I was NOT welcome after all. I just wanted to crawl into a hole and hide from the world. What does a day in the life of a depressed Laurie look like? Well, eventually you crawl out of bed because you’re TIRED of being in bed. Then you have something for breakfast (regardless of the time) because you’re hungry. Then you lay down on your sofa and watch movies all day – waiting for the day to end so you can finally go back to bed, go to sleep and wake up the next day only to do it all over again.
At this time I was in the hands of my “secular” Dr.’s. My therapist from the beginning was of course appalled at what happened to me and this will come as no surprise that I had many, many sessions with her following this. After about three months on medical leave of absence I was ready to go back into the work environment. I was ALSO ready to try going back to church, but had to figure out where to try. So I found a church online that looked like a place I would enjoy, but I couldn’t make myself go there, the THOUGHT of actually GOING to church would just shut me down. I had a new psychiatrist in Sacramento who was now handling my hormones (and now anti-depressants), and it was SHE who gave me the following advice… just DRIVE to the church the day before. PULL into the parking lot and drive around for a minute or two, then drive home. That advice got me back into church. Having a background in music and sound production I quickly was helping out with the sound team and shortly was in charge of the sound team. This is where I met my spiritual mom. She was an associate Pastor there, and eventually I shared my history with her. It was very hard for me to tell her because she was a Pastor and I was pretty gun shy when it came to that – but I had a lot of pain and fear from my experience at that last church and somehow felt that I could talk to her. In total love she just accepted me for who I am. She didn’t know anybody other than “Laurie” and she knew me well enough to know that I was in fact who she thought I was. She saw me completely as a daughter of God whom she embraced and my history didn’t change that one bit. But after a couple of years I was getting nervous developing friendships with others there and I left that church to go to a different one and start over with new friends. Well, that lasted about a year until 2004, a very good friend (and former boss) of mine had moved to Austin, TX and I went to visit her there. I LOVED Austin, and since the cost of living was cheaper, I carefully crafted this question to my boss “is there any reason why I CAN’T do my job from Austin?” He couldn’t think of one (as I knew) so I put my home up for sale and it sold in ONE DAY! Looking back – I think I just wanted out of town completely to start over in a new town.
Once I was settled in I went to a church close to home. I really liked it – good music, great teaching. I met a couple of people there after the service and really liked them. As I pulled out into the middle lane before moving into traffic – I had a massive panic attack. I started crying, I just wanted to roll up into a ball and I didn’t know why – and yes, I was still sitting what in California is called the “suicide lane” (those middle lanes that either direction of traffic can pull into to make their respective left turns – which is tricky if two people from opposite directions want to make left turns at the same place at the same time.) That panic attack was more than just a panic attack – it threw me back into a depression that I didn’t understand. So here I go, calling my therapist. I told her all that happened and she introduced me to the term PTSD. She immediately saw that it was related to my experience at the church that rejected me. What happened to me at that church traumatized me to a point I’ve never been before, and somehow getting snapped back into that place by a church that I actually LIKED just didn’t make sense, but it led to what I now refer to as “my time in the wilderness”
Eleven years in “the wilderness”. Doesn’t sound so bad when you consider the Israelites spent FORTY years trying to find home wandering in the desert. That being said, eleven years is still a long time to feel isolated and alone. I had high hopes of finding a home church that I could love, where I could serve and develop good relationships and friendships with others there. I began to feel like it might not be possible, that though I loved the Lord with all my heart I just may have to accept the fact that I would never find a church I could love, feel at home and feel free to be myself. Finally I just shut down trying.
By the spring of 2015 I was really feeling without hope for the church and had reached a new low. I send an email pretty much in desperation to my spiritual mom in Sacramento telling her I was pretty much done. She sent back an awesome email with a prayer for me. So six months after being at that low point and getting the email and prayer from my spiritual mom, her prayer was completely answered and God gives me the emotional strength to find a new church home – so I went to work and started to look online. I found a couple of churches that looked promising, so I prepared to check out the one closest to home first. I followed the same advice I was given following the disaster in Sacramento, I just drove to the church and pulled into the parking lot the day before. No one was there – no threat right? My hands were sweating on the steering wheel and my heart was pounding as I pulled into the parking lot, fortunately I survived driving around an empty parking lot and I headed back to the comfort of home.
I’m scared to death the next day, but I do it. I go. And I loved it. It’s been 11 years since I was ready to settle into a new church – I wasn’t going to go through a repeat of what had happened back in 2000. I needed to be sure the Pastor of this church understood what I had gone through so it wouldn’t happen again. If this church was going to have a problem with me, I needed to know up front. Unable to have a discussion about it because it was too difficult to talk about, I wrote him a letter and handed it to him the following week after church. A few weeks later we met in his office. He did say “this is a new one for me.” I told him (more than once) that I didn’t want to be an issue or concern at the church or for him. About the third time I started to say it he interrupted me saying “stop, the church is fine, the church is solid. I just want to be sure you don’t get hurt again.” With that I cried and knew I had a new home. I knew there probably were people there who wouldn’t handle my being transgender very well, so I agreed to check with Pastor before telling anyone my back story.
As the months pass I make a couple of very good friends but haven’t told them about my history because Pastor knew they were VERY conservative and he feared it might not go well for me if I told them – he was legitimately concerned about my well-being more so than what someone else would think.
In the spring I’m beginning to feel a tug. I feel the Lord pressing upon me the need to reach out to Christians who are transgender. People like me who love the Lord and desperately want to be welcomed into a church family, develop friendships and be authentic. I’m scared to death at the prospect and yet I’m feeling very strongly something needs to be done, by someone! I send an email to the women’s pastor at my church and my spiritual mom and this was the subject line… “Am I Called or Crazy?” I really was just about going out of my mind with the thought that God wanted me to do something outwardly and not in secret about Christians who were transgender and to help show the Church that loving their transgender brothers and sisters is always the right thing to do. If the church is just sitting there and doing nothing then I must do something, right now! I can’t just let this go! I don’t care what anyone says. (This is what we would call spinning out of control.) Fortunately, God had put women with reasonable minds full of wisdom into my life and they came back to me with what amounted to one important word…. breathe! I just went into every possible scenario all at once, all the good, all the bad and unloaded it on them. If they had been with me and were in the same room I’m pretty sure they would have thrown a net over me and told me to calm down (they may have needed to sedate me). Thank God He had given me just enough (and I mean JUST enough) wisdom to know that I needed insight from others, they were able to get my feet planted securely back on the ground. This was a critical moment for me because I could have just said “no thanks”, turned my back on their counsel and just wreaked havoc within my own church, accomplishing nothing good and probably become bitter for life. Fortunately I did take a breath.
Weeks pass by and God keeps giving me hints that He’s calling me and finally one Monday evening I’m at home feeling His calling so strongly that I being to pray out loud to God, crying, asking Him, pleading with Him that there MUST be someone else who could do it. I’ve spent my whole life keeping my being transgender pretty much to myself except for a few good friends. You can’t minister to people in secret, to do what God was asking meant I would be way more public than I ever wanted to be. And in my pleading to God he spoke, for the second time in my life. I begged Him that there has to be someone else to do what He wanted done, and what he said to me “No, there isn’t – but you’ll do.” Really? I’ll do? I went from crying to laughing in a split second. God had found my funny bone. And just like that, just as when He first spoke to me years earlier, I never doubted and never looked back. It took a couple of week and the framework for this website goes up, I added some content when it was ready (and when I was as well) I pressed the “Publish” button and went live – my picture and everything for the world to see with the words “I Am a Christian & I Am Transgender”.
In the months that follow I tell my two best friends at church and surprise, they’re totally fine. A few others at church now know my story and slowly, hearts and minds are being changed.
You just never know where the tides of your life will take you. Our Lord DOES know – as hard as it may be in a given moment – you have to trust that HE knows what HE is doing. It’s a lesson I have to remind myself of on a daily basis. But above all else, remember this – God is good, and He LOVES you!
Oh and P.S. I am HERE but I am nowhere close to having ARRIVED. That’s for what’s awaiting when I get to see Him face-to-face. I’m still a mess, working out life and working out my salvation as in Philippians 2:12 (a good study if you’ve never done it.)