a new voice || #gcnconf day 3

The Journey
By Mary Oliver
One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice–
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.

You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.

But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do–
determined to save
the only life you could save.

The speaker from one of the workshops I attended yesterday began by sharing this poem with us. The workshop was entitled “Male to Female: a Megapastor’s Experience,” and through it Paula Williams spoke on the reality of living as a trans person in the church, the various avenues trans people choose to live their lives, and confronting some of the insidious misinformation being presented about trans individuals, even so recently as a in a Wall Street Journal article just last week, all within the context of her journey from becoming one of the most “successful” people in the evangelical Christian world to losing all of it: the teaching pastor positions at multiple mega churches, the lead role in a major church planting organization, editorship of a popular Christian publication, all because she made the step to being honest with herself and those around her about who she really was.

I realize that many people still find themselves uncomfortable with conversations surrounding trans who don’t understand really what that means, or are struggling with how to approahc the concept of gender identity through the lens of faith. Honestly, some days I still find myself in that position too, which is a big part of the reason why I chose this workshop to attend. I know I still lack a great deal of understanding when it comes to trans lives and issues, a problem I want to remedy, as I know that with understanding comes compassion; with compassion, solidarity; and with solidarity, advocacy.  

If there is any group that is most in need of advocacy right now, it is likely the trans community. This is a group of individuals whom, unfortunately, often find themselves maligned by not only Christians and the larger society, but often by gays and lesbians as well. One of the things Paula talked about that was the most difficult for me was the suicide rates for trans people. According to recent studies the completion rate for suicide rapt tempts among individuals with gender dysphoria (the mental and emotional distressed caused by ones physical gender not matching with their internal gender) is 33%. One in three. 

Some will point to this statistic to claim that transgender people are simply mentally ill and need to be cured, even  bringing in the statistics that show the suicide rate for those who have transitioned (moved to making their external gender match their internal gender) is only slightly lower than those who have not. The important thing to note here is that the reasoning for these suicide attempts is completely different from those who have not transitioned. The impetus for these attempts is not internally generated distress,but caused by external factors, namely the exceedingly negative and harmful social interactions these individuals face on a daily basis. 

The internal distress has been fixed: internal and external identities now match. What this means is that we are literally killing these individuals with the false narratives we spin about them and their identities. 

Trans people are dying and it is our fault.

It’s the churches fault.

It’s society’s fault.

It’s your fault.

It’s my fault.

This must stop.

Broderick Greer hit on this during his keynote on Thursday, and Misty Irons echoed the message in her keynote Friday morning: whether our messages are making scars on the lives and hearts of lesbians, gays, bisexuals, trans people, people of color, people with disabilities, people who don’t believe what we believe, or any other group, the answer is the same,

Stop.

Like Misty Irons said in her keynote, we need to stop letting our attempts to determine and proscribe every minutiae of Scriptural truth keep us from following God’s greatest commandment to love.

Like my favorite quote from Billy Graham states:

“It is the Holy Spirit’s job to convict, God’s job to judge and my job to love.”

We in the Church have lost sight of this truth far too often, I pray we can reclaim it.


The 2016 Gay Christian Network Conference continues to be inspiring and life changing, through the relationships, workshops, worship, and even the incredibly intimate and cathartic concert with Mary Lambert last night. If you are interested in checking out more of what is going on at #gcnconf, all the main sessions are being broadcast live and posted on the conference website. If you have more questions specifically about the experiences and lives of trans people, today’s (Saturday) keynote speaker was Allyson Robinson, a mational trans leader, or you could check out Paula William’s blog at www.paulastonewilliams.com. And of course, we at the Cinnamon Waffles Bible Podcast are continuing to post daily updates!

In His unending love.

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