Thank you for your letter. Thank you for taking the time to write me. And thank you for speaking to your son. He is young and certainly this subject deserves clarification. You spoke about God and you spoke about retribution and you spoke about choices. Here is my attempt at what I know and what I believe to be true.
Here it is, to the best of my ability.
Choice and God are certainly intertwined. I do not believe, without equivocation, that everything happens for a reason. Nor do I believe we are spinning through space randomly, hitching rides on passing history. I believe we are a combination and a chaotic reminder of what we were that crashed head first into who we are becoming. All of us transition from one thing to the other, some of us with great sorrow and some of us with great freedom. But The Divine is always in the equation somewhere. It's a question of degree for me. How much am I willing to notice and how much am I needing to ignore?
God is a question, not an answer.
Through my life, I have ignored plenty. I try not to do that anymore. I try to pay attention. But being born transgender was not of my making. Truly, if I had a choice of life paths, I would have picked something far less complicated. Wouldn't you? I don't know anyone who's life has been one big fabulous theme party. Most of us have a time of it. But for me, the great gifts have always come wrapped in the most tattered wrapping. Change has been difficult for most of us. You see, I know how hard it is navigating through this newness in the world. I remember very well, sitting with my mother when I told her I was transitioning, holding her and feeling swallowed by shame and covered in a blanket of guilt as she wept openly into the palms of her hands.
I had murdered her son. That's what I believed to be true.
And then, later on, when I was in my 20s, I was told by my doctor that I had contracted this new AIDS virus and that my time was limited and that the friends I had already buried were the lucky ones. The worst was yet to come.
And you are right. I assumed it was punishment. I had made a choice and death was the punishment.
But then I kept living. And around me was the thick smell of guts and death and I kept on living. The insides of me eaten up by the shame of this decision I had made to mutilate myself and to destroy what God had designed. And funnily, as members of my Trans Tribe disintegrated one by one, and as I kept breathing and changing and finding my voice, I found a glimmer of light in a vast darkness riddled with history and terror. As others went away, the war they fought became the story I lived. I began to see myself not as a victim, but as a student. That what I was going through was my greatest teacher and that what they died for, my strongest ally.
And so I have come to the conclusion, at 54 years old, that where I am now; married to my wife since 1996, sober from cocaine, heroin, pills and booze, living with AIDS and thriving in a transgender community that is founded in humanity and grace, that my past is my gift. And I believe God had a hand in that.
So you see, contrary to what you may believe to be true about me, I am not an abomination. Praying for my demise won't hurry the process. I am not a freak nor am I a predator. I am in no way attempting recruitment for your seven-year-old son. Children are wonderful humans, and they are more than welcome in our home, as soon as they are old enough to dust.
So you see, I am asking you to be kinder. I am asking you to be gentler when faced with things you do not understand. To go out of your way to find the sameness between you and I. You don't have to like what I am, you only have to honor it. I am asking you to find compassion for others as you would for your own son. You worry for his safety around trans people, I can see that fear is deep and profound. So instill in him an ability to reach out and ask questions, not run into judgment. Isn't that what some do to people who believe in religions different from their own? I am asking you to be kinder. I believe that within the center of the divine lives a prayer for us to be cared for better in Heaven, than was done on earth. We must remind each other that there has always been Heaven on earth; it is simply up to us to guide each other toward it.
You see, we are responsible for each other. I am simply asking you to be kinder than you believe you ever have been or think you can be. What an example for your beautiful son. What an example for your church. For therein lives the heart of God.
I thank you again for your letter. I hope you are able to read at least part of my story to your son, perhaps both he and you, might be less fearful of me. Please know that I am here and I am not going anywhere any time soon. I love this planet and I have always believed in the hope and grace of the spirits that inhabit it, and I am in no hurry to leave it. Besides, I learned decades ago that my staying power isn't really up to me anyway.
Not much of what I am ever really was.