Two conversations have come up at work lately that have made me reflect on my journey of acceptance.
One referred to an article posted on NPR here. The article discusses puberty suppression for transgender teens, which is now offered through medicaid in Oregon. One of my co-workers made a noise of disgust after reading the article and, when asked what was wrong, mentioned the content of the article. The conversation drifted on to some other topic, but the tone of her voice stuck with me.
The other conversation referenced Bruce Jenner, who has recently come out as transgender. (I haven’t watched the interview, but you can see it on ABC news). One of my coworkers commented that it’d be convenient to come out as transgender after menopause, when you don’t have to deal with all the messiness that comes with being a woman…
The ignorance and disgust that saturated both of the conversations disturbed me.
I had an opportunity to work with transgender women (male-to-female) one summer. I volunteered for the experience partially because I knew it would make me a little uncomfortable… and I hoped I would understand more about what it means to be transgender. I walked away from it having met some fascinating, sweet people – some who were going through a hard time dealing with negative reactions of family and friends, some who had been out and were able to express sympathy or advice to others in the group.
Before I could get to the point where I could branch out and accept transgender people as… being just people who have a different experience than I do (imagine that!), I had to learn to accept my own humanity. The human experience has been something I have struggled with for a long time due to evangelical Christian teachings. I grew up learning that I was inherently bad, sinful by nature, and that I had to struggle with my “flesh” and the desires it had. I didn’t know how to view my body, and I didn’t understand what exactly was my “soul,” so what part of me could I trust? And if I couldn’t trust and understand myself, how did I view other humans? All broken, all confused?
Honestly, I think I struggled more with self-acceptance than with acceptance of others and I’ve always held myself to a high standard. I had a conflict between the commandments to “love others” but also hearing that breaking the Christian-ideal mold (being LGBT, especially) was shameful. How could I love someone and be disgusted by them at the same time? Thankfully, I chose the “love” route. Now that I am an atheist, I don’t have to try to combine love for people with disgust for “sin.” I can just love and accept others with different lifestyles if I judge them to not be hurting anyone. I don’t have the cognitive dissonance anymore of: “But he seems to be a nice, fulfilled person who’s just moving through life like most other human beings.” “BUT IT’S SINFUL!!” “But I don’t see how what he’s doing is… wrong, or hurting anyone?” “BUT IT’S DISGUSTING TO GOD!” “…well it’s not really disgusting to me, and why are you so obsessed with other people’s sex lives?” “BECAUSE SIN.” “Right…”
I’m so glad that my love and acceptance of others isn’t limited by evangelical Christian teachings anymore. I’m so glad I’m finally free from sin! Sin no longer has power over me… because I don’t believe in it anymore!