Visible Witness from the Intersection

a journey through the love of Christ reflecting the spectrum of gender and sexuality.

Stepping forward as a Transgendered Person February 25, 2010

Filed under: Daily Devotional Pages — visiblewitness @ 2:23 pm
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Over the last few weeks I have been coming out to the Saint Peter’s congregation as a trans-gendered person.  When I use the term trans-gendered I mean it in the broadest sense as one whose internal gender identification does not match the physical body they were born with.  I will be doing another entry describing in more detail the many types of people who are trans-gendered but let me just say that there is a wide spectrum within that group.

Why am I doing this now you might ask?  I have been giving prayerful consideration to this for a long time.  It’s not easy for me to tell you something so central about myself that I’ve been hiding, especially those of you I have known for so long.  Fear, guilt and shame (that nasty trio) are the forces that I have been up against.  I have thought about taking this step many times but pulled back because I didn’t feel ready.  However, during the last few months I began to feel The Spirit pushing me to just “be myself” in a more public way and leave the rest to God.  Of course, I was not immediately ready to take such a bold step but somehow I began to take little steps.  I spoke with the pastors and when Mandy sent out an invitation to join a group of people from Saint Peters like myself, I felt I was ready to take the step.

What began to push me forward was the feeling that I wanted to relate to everyone in a more honest way.  The other powerful force was my desire to help others like me.  The way to start doing that is to let others know that they already know a trans-gendered person and to tell people what that is like.  I am just one of thousands of people whose inner gender does not match their body – and I am talking about people with female bodies also.  I have many sisters and brothers who ask only that they be accepted for who they are and given the same rights that anyone else has.  We are all children of God and all of us have both male and female in us.  For most people the inner feeling of gender matches their body.  But there are many, many people who wake up every day feeling frustration, anger and a host of other feelings because their body does not reflect what they feel inside.

I step forward now to do something to help in whatever way I can to further understanding and change public policy as it affects people like me and others in the LGBTIQ community.  The Spirit has indeed been pushing me in this direction for some time.  Over the next weeks and months I will be reaching out to you in love as one newly un-encumbered, sharing my journey with you, sure in the promises of God.

-Ro Baker


The Closet: The Emblem of Shame February 24, 2010

Filed under: Daily Devotional Pages — visiblewitness @ 11:02 am
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The closet is the emblem of shame. That is where we hide our scandalous skeletons and where sexual minorities have kept themselves in order to survive. But when a servant of God publicly embraces a refugee from the closet, the act can ripple through time and space.

More than 30 years ago, the pastor at our family’s church in Minneapolis convened a meeting of the congregation to propose hiring a gay pastor who had been dismissed from a rural parish after coming out. My parents were at that meeting and told me that there had been unanimous approval. That act of acceptance emboldened me to come out to my family and friends.

When I moved to New York in 1980, I found that the closet had not yet been publicly pried open, even at Saint Peters. People were quietly tolerant but, while wedding anniversaries were noted in the bulletin, committed relationships of gay and lesbian members were ignored.

When I met my first partner, Bill, in 1984, I wanted the world to know about our commitment to each other. I talked to the assistant pastor at Saint Peters about holding a commitment ceremony at the church followed by a reception at our apartment. After initially accepting the idea, she backed off, saying the ceremony could not be reconciled with church policy. And my cousin, then a member of the church, told me that she would be happy to come to the party but would not attend the commitment ceremony. In the end, we had a beautiful ceremony, reading our vows and poetry around a table at our apartment with a few friends and my brother, who brought greetings from my parents, but not anyone from Saint Peters and not my cousin.

When Bill was six years old, his parents had marital problems and he was been sent off to live with his great aunt and uncle in rural Florida for two years. Then, just when he was feeling secure with them, he was sent back to his parents, who eventually divorced. His lifelong fear of abandonment led him to conceal his sexuality and our commitment from his family.

When Bill was diagnosed with HIV two years after our commitment, his fear of rejection drove him to forbid me to tell anyone, either at Saint Peters or in my family. When we visited my parents in Minnesota, I had to hide his medications and experimental supplements, preparing them only when everyone else was in bed.

Throughout the period of secrecy, I had full confidence that my family would embrace Bill if I could only get him past his fears. Finally, a year before he died, he relented and we invited my parents to visit for Christmas. Their conversations rekindled an interest in faith that had been extinguished when the church had decided that our commitment was not worthy of acknowledgment.

Eventually, he asked my father to baptize him the following Thanksgiving, when my parents planned another trip to New York. That last year he came out to his father and his uncle, who were still alive. The Friday before Thanksgiving, it became clear that he would not live until my parents arrived. That night, after calling his father to tell him to come to New York, I baptized Bill myself. He died at noon on the next day as his father was climbing the stairs to our apartment.

-Eric Stenshoel


February 17, 2010 – Ash Wednesday February 17, 2010

Filed under: Daily Devotional Pages — visiblewitness @ 4:18 pm
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See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation! We are putting no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we have commended ourselves in every way: through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love, truthful speech, and the power of God…

-2 Corinthians 6:2-7

In some ways, I’m lucky. The outside world never afflicted me with any great hardships or calamities during my struggle to come to terms with my sexuality. But one’s foes may be internal, as well as external and, when I was younger, I often found myself divided. Rationally, as a hopefully progressive intellectual, I could accept the idea that homosexuality was a valid orientation. But, emotionally, I had difficulty acknowledging that it was my own orientation. “Why can’t I be ‘normal'”? I wailed internally. It took years of patience to accept myself, and to feel comfortable and proud about that. But I have been blessed not only with patience, but also with the gift of a wonderful loving partner. So, today, at the beginning of Lent, I can – perhaps surprisingly – find comfort in the Ash Wednesday liturgy. Yes, the imposition of ashes reminds me of my mortality. But those ashes on my forehead also affirm my identity and my worth: mortal I may be, yet I am I, a child of God; there is no one else exactly like me, nor will there ever be. And that is a wonder and a reason for praising God.

-Jack Anderson

Almighty and ever-living God, you hate nothing you have made and you forgive the sins of all who are penitent. Create in us new and honest hearts, so that, truly repenting of our sins, we may obtain from you, the God of all mercy, full pardon and forgiveness.