Transgender Acceptance Simplified: The Air and the Light

In the movie Fried Green Tomatoes, there is a scene where Evelyn Couch (Kathy Bates) is asking her husband, Ed, if Ms. Threadgoode (Jessica Tandy) can move in with them. She explains how Ms. Threadgoode has changed her life and Ed is all like, "It's not going to happen." Evelyn persists and Ed finally asks her, "What has changed?"

She says, "The air and the light." Then the movie goes on without stopping to recognize that Evelyn Couch just said the most amazing thing. What has changed? The air and the light. The air. Every breath I take. The light. Everything I see.

You ask me what has changed since I stopped pretending to be a man and began living as the woman of my soul? The air and the light.

To begin with, there is air now, and there is light. There never was before. Light was non-existent. Every breath contained thoughts of suicide. I could not imagine the day when I could live as my woman self. I could not continue trying to live as the man I never was.

I tried. For 48 years, I tried. I did everything I could think of to learn how to be this man I thought I had to be. I spent a lifetime trying to get my soul to match my body. In the falsehood of that existence, I was unable to participate in life.

I was in conflict with God. Every message I received from society told me that God despised me. I became separated from God. Any hope for me to survive was dwindling quickly.

Then one day, I was invited to a little church. The woman who invited me to the church told me that there were transgender people who went to the church. I did not believe her. I did not believe that there were any transgender people in church.

She told me that there was a transgender support group that met at the church. I had to go see that. I went to the church as Steven, for I was still living as a man. I met another transgender woman, who was living as a woman, and I began to believe that I could maybe live as a woman too.

The following week, I went back to the church and the pastor delivered a sermon on II Corinthians 5:17 (NIV) - "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, they are a new creature. Old things are passed away. Behold, all things are become new."

I was certain that the pastor was preaching at me; telling me that it was okay with God for me to embrace myself as a woman.

Two weeks later, I went to the same church, Metropolitan Community Church of Topeka, as Stephanie. The day before, the woman who invited me to the church took me to a thrift store and bought me a dress, and a purse, and a pair of shoes. And just the right earrings.

I stuffed them behind the seat of my pickup truck because I was living in a men's halfway house at the time. I couldn't exactly get dressed at the halfway house and drive to the church. So I drove to the church, and sat out in the parking lot, trying to decide if this was the right thing to do.

I was afraid. I knew I would be met with love. I had already seen that. For whatever reason, it still seemed too difficult. But I also knew that this was my chance. That if I didn't take it, I was resigning myself to live in misery for the rest of my life.

I attended church as Stephanie that day. I sat down in the pew and looked up at the cross. I felt truth and self in the eyes of the Lord for the very first time. They passed around the attendance book, and I signed my name, Stephanie Mott, for the very first time.

I can't remember the sermon from that day. I was being me, in front of God and everybody, and it was beautiful. I do remember the communion. After serving communion, the pastor, who is a member of MCC of Topeka, put her arms on my shoulders and said, "God, bless your daughter for the faith she has shown in You." And Stephanie was born.

I have never looked back. This is perhaps the most important thing to know. When I stopped pretending to be male, and started embracing myself as female, light began to shine into my world. I went from being suicidal and depressed to being joyful and alive. What greater evidence could be produced as to the truth of my journey?

In the almost eight years since that day, I have fallen in love with God, and I treasure the opportunities that have been given to me to share God's love in the world -- unconditionally.

It is hard for me to understand why anyone would think that it is wrong for me to have embraced Stephanie. You ask me what has changed since I stopped pretending to be a man and began living as the woman of my soul? Every breath I take. Everything I see. The air and the light.