Ugh: Aftermath of an Exorcism(ish)

PART 1

It was supposed to be an early morning. A day of trying to be productive. But the crushing wave of depression would keep me bedridden for the better part of the day. I had awoken from sleep with an emotion I could not put into words:

And I began to wonder if the events of the night before weren’t responsible for my nameless emotion—this feeling of having been spiritually violated.

I had gone to a monthly gathering of young pastors, most of us in our 30s.

During our free worship/prayer time I heard the Spirit say to me for the first time, “I made you, Sophia.” God made me trans and has plans for me. Then all through the prayer time the Spirit kept saying, “Do not be afraid.” Pertaining to my fears of losing friends and family when I come out; my fears of how to come out at work when I’m once again gainfully employed. And all the other processes of transitioning and facing life as a trans woman. “Do not be afraid.” God made me trans and God has a plan for me. God will be with me through the process of coming out and transitioning.

Afterwards, we took time praying for one another. We partnered up with the person closest to us. Steve (not his real name) went first. He started out praying for me quietly then became more passionate and started praying louder. I was afraid the other people near us might hear. Remember—I am not out to anyone in my life (excluding those who already know me as Sophia from conferences).

Steve prayed that God would re-wire me; that the confusion in my mind would leave by the power of Jesus; that any darkness would leave (his momentary hesitation to find the right words seemed to me, his fishing for a euphemism for “demon”). He prayed that I would reclaim my authority as a son of God.

I felt nothing leave me. But I was alarmed. As if I had somehow been outed by God.

Which makes no sense. Yet, I was left scratching my head asking, Which voice was God’s? The one allaying my fears and confirming that I was created as a trans woman? Or the one that echoed non-affirming theology that attributes being trans or gay or queer to something demonic?

After being in a state of panic, when things settled down in myself, I reached out to a dear friend who had the open ears and heart to hear me out. And together we worked out over the phone, a plausible theory as to what the hell may have happened that night (thank you, friend!)

For starters, it was Steve who was “praying for me” through the lens of his non-affirming theology. Second, it was improbable that the Spirit would betray my secret by giving a “word of knowledge” to him like that.

We arrived at the conclusion, that instead, Steve was probably picking up on some of the subtle cues of my gender expression and drawing them up to guess at the state of my eternal soul.

I knew his impromptu exorcism was an insult to the painful five-year journey that it took me to accept myself, the steady voice of the Spirit constant in my heart.

And yet, because it was a prayer, it had sway over me to cause anxiety and most of all, alarm. I remember sitting there with my eyes closed and my palms up in a gesture of openness to the Spirit, thinking, “Okay, God, this makes no sense whatsoever, but thy will be done. This goes against the entire trajectory of our incredible journey of discovery thus far, God… but, okay?”

And perhaps, my friend said to me over the phone, the Spirit telling you, “I made you, Sophia,” and, “Do not be afraid,” was God’s way of protecting you from what was to happen in that prayer.

Therein lies the abuse. Steve had guessed at something about me and turned it into his personal crusade to exorcise out of me the demons of his imagining. A genuine prayer should build up, not tear down. Instead, this prayer was only making me question the very voice of the Spirit who had guided me thus far.

That night I went home and finally picked up Austen Hartke’s book about what it means to be a Christian who is transgender.

(CONTINUE TO PART 2) Continue reading →

(Locker Room) Herding Behavior

Gender Dysphoria Canyon Park | There are canyons. Untraversed and therefore unknown. These canyons only emerge, however, as one experiences it. And in its knowing one looks up to find oneself suddenly walled in, the sky a mocking blue. Such is the landscape of living with untreated gender incongruence. Such is the scourge of gender dysphoria. And today was one of those discoveries, about myself.

Into the Maw of the Men’s Locker Room | The last time I had to enter a locker room was in high school. When my gender identity was long-buried since childhood, its every evidence erased (or so it would seem). And decades before gender incongruence would emerge and submerge me at the age of 30.

So earlier today, on this second day of job training, I find Continue reading →

Searching for Sophia as the Clock Strikes Twelve

On the convention premise there were whiteboards where anyone could write down anything to create community at the conference (for example, “Asian lunch!”) On our way out of Starbucks, Adrienne said she had responded to someone who needed a haircut, can anybody help? So off we went to make new friends, even as we bid Sydney good night.

Erin and Meghan greeted us and welcomed us in to their room for this zany haircut session. Being welcomed in to that space, I felt affirmed in my identity, safe, and loved. Yet, knowing this would be my last night here, I couldn’t fully be present in the sweetness of this moment. I didn’t want it to end. The feeling of meeting new friends. This moment of reverie.

In the hotel lobby, Adrienne and I made our final goodbyes. “The clock had struck twelve.” And I didn’t want to go. Because I knew I would miss my friend. I didn’t want to go because I didn’t want to shoulder the burden again of living in a constant state of ambush. As if one wrong move could betray me to the world before I was ready. The handshake would have to be stronger. My smile wider. Voice deeper, but just enough. Just enough to convince you I’m your everyday cishet man who’s signaling, “Good to meet’cha! I’ll be your friend, but you better not tread on me.”

I called a Lyft and Adrienne saw me off. She grew smaller out the car window as my Lyft vehicle sped away, me prisoner with it. And here, I would face an ambush of another kind. A baptism by fire, as it were. As if the Universe was saying, “Had fun at the little hair cut session with those other girls, did we? But, I’ve got one more souvenir of an experience for you. Before you go.”

Continue reading →

Clearly Opaque

I must’ve asked her—if she could paint my nails, too. I was little. Maybe 2nd or 3rd grade. Mom acquiesced. But she chose to paint my nails not with the kind of pretty color that she was wearing, but with a clear coat. I was disappointed. You couldn’t tell.

Are my nails really painted? It was my way of expressing discontent. It was my round about way of asking for colored nail polish. As a child I never used to ask for things directly. Curled in on myself I was often scolded by my family for this round about way of asking for things by not asking for things.

I might’ve been too young to know how transgressive my asking mom to paint my nails was. Choosing the clear was perhaps my mom’s way of Continue reading →

Searching for Sophia at Starbucks

On the first night of the conference the leaders of GCN announced a new name for the organization to better reflect the evolving diversity of the LGBTQ Christian community. Q Christian Fellowship was born with a fresh, new and exciting logo.

If the Reformation Project conference last October felt like a coming home, QCF felt to me like the family had left home and was on a trip somewhere. It’s much more active and dizzying with sensory overload.

So by the end of the second day, I was exhausted and tired. As grateful as I was to have been at the Trans Retreat that day, I was missing my friends. The fact that I wasn’t able to share a meal with them, made me sad. Walking out of the main convention area toward the exit, I sat alone at a bench facing the exit. A wave of sadness overwhelmed me. I knew that my anti-depressant was wearing off. But there, in the dark hours of the night, inside the foyer of the Denver Convention Center, I felt especially alone. After a few minutes of should-I-or-shouldn’t-I… I sent off a message to Adrienne to see if she wanted to have coffee. Maybe I could catch them all at the end of dinner. I could meet them where they were. Continue reading →

Searching for Sophia in Dysphoria

Denver would be my third time being about in the world en femme. The process came together easier, if not quicker. It still took me two hours for my unpracticed hands.

I first met up with Marisa by the registration booths at the Denver Convention Center. (I met her at The Reformation Project and had kept in touch over Twitter.) It was a happy reunion. I was so grateful that unlike at TRP, I was not a stranger alone in the world. Ceri Anne was there, too. I was happy to see her. She had led us all strangers at TRP to lunch and dinner for her Pizza Quests, where we got to sample all the great pizza places in Chicago, which is how and where I made friends in the Fall of 2017.

Adrienne and her two girls joined us later due to a flight delay. As the first worship session was closing they found us at our table.

Afterwards we found ourselves at Yardhouse, a restaurant and brewery. A sweet little reunion. I was happy to be there. Happy to be reunited with my friends. The only friends in the world (as of this writing) who know me for who I am.

Adrienne had said that one of her daughters is an expert at painting nails and would be happy to do mine. Goodie! I thought. How fun that would be. Adrienne’s daughter (I won’t name them here, being they’re both minors) had brought with her two color choices. A pastel blue and classic red. Which one would I like? “You choose for me,” I said. She chose red. I smiled. I had never tried on such a bold color. But, I was glad for it. I was proud to be wearing it throughout my time in Denver.

I rode the elevator up to my room, aware of my freshly painted nails.

Continue reading →

Searching for Sophia Down the Colorado Highway

The blue Super Shuttle van cruised down the Colorado highway with ease. I was thankful to be the only passenger. I was anxious to get to my hotel as soon as possible. The sooner I can get checked in, the sooner I can explore the City of Denver en femme. The last time I did this was the first time I did this. I was in Chicago for The Reformation Project Conference. You could say, this time, it was the Gay Christian Network Conference that brought me to another metropolis in which I had never been.

In truth, it was not the conference at all, though I was fascinated to see what it would be like to visit a conference whose recorded live stream of Vicky Beeching was my first exposure to a world that I never knew existed.

I wouldn’t have booked my passage to Denver had it not been for my friend’s enthusiastic encouragement to make the trip. Austen Hartke was hosting the first ever Trans Retreat at GCN Conference. Adrienne insisted I should be there for it.

So at 11:55 PM, five minutes before the online ticket sales for the conference were to close, I clicked on Buy Tickets.


This is the first in a series of five about my trip to the Q Christian Fellowship Conference in January 2018

The World As I Remember It* (One of the Girls, Part Two)

The Inn of Chicago. I step out of my hotel room. Heart pounding. I feel like a spy who’s afraid of being found out. I step into the elevator. Thank God it’s empty. But floors below me, I’m joined by other patrons of the hotel. It’s a tiny space, like a closet. I’m afraid to make eye contact with anyone. But, the women don’t stand apart, trying to find a safe distance. What I sense is an air of ease, instead of the dis-ease I normally feel from other women in elevators when I’m in boy mode.

I step out into the freezing cold. I’m thankful for my parka. The faux fur protects my neck from the cold winds. I wait nervously for my first Lyft ride. Thankfully, the driver is a woman. And she’s none the wiser that I’m trans.

I arrive at the church as the first plenary for The Reformation Project conference is well under way. I find an empty pew in the back. Friendless. Scared. Feeling isolated, I choose to isolate myself by sitting alone.

This is day one of the conference. Day one of being out as myself. I hope for better on day two. With breakout sessions, I hope I’ll make friends. With that timid hope in my heart I decide to walk back to my hotel.

I stop at Walgreens to get deodorant. I gravitate toward the Secret brand. First time buying a woman’s deodorant. Yay. I get in line, hoping I won’t have to speak. I haven’t spoken to anyone yet. I’m not sure of my voice. Hitting the right pitch on the voice feminization app came easily enough. But it’s untested if I can actually sustain a conversation let alone sentences.

My cashier is a guy in his late twenties, maybe early thirties. My plan is to pay for the item and get the hell outta there. But the man strikes up a conversation. Shit.

Continue reading →

Rosé (One of the Girls)

Us girls accompanied her to her hotel where she dropped off some stuff before heading to the last party on the last night of the conference. She brought a bottle of rosé from her room to the rooftop bar.

This was the third day that I’d been out in the world as myself—en femme. Reflecting upon those five airy days of delight being in Chicago for the 2017 Reformation Project conference, is difficult. Because I am home now. And I am caged. The lock and key are the burden of secrecy and Continue reading →

Y345: Memories of Makeup

I found my color.

Saturday I went to Sephora (for the first time in my life). It was dizzying. The number of brands and product. Nervous as hell, I wandered the entire store. There were plenty customers sitting in front of the many make up vanity mirrors with lights, set up throughout the store. There were lines. I came here for one simple thing: find my foundation color.

A quick question. In. Out.

I found an employee arranging something on the wall, not engaged with a customer. I approached her and asked if she could help me with my quest. She told me that she’d be happy to, but she’s the fragrance expert (that’s when I realized what she was doing—restocking fragrance sticks) so she cannot help me. She radioed for someone to assist me. I could look around the store and they’ll find me.

Once more I braved deeper into the store, this time better able to check out the products. As I wandered around a woman with the body radio approached me. “Did you need any help, dear?” (She didn’t call me “sir.” My anxiety began to dissipate at the way she welcomed me and addressed me in an inclusive way.) I told her I hoped that she was the one they flagged down to help me. She said she was. But to my consternation she steered me toward one of those makeup stations where most of the customers were congregating.

I wanted this experience to be as simple, quick, and private as possible. She introduced me to a man, whom she said was exactly the expert who could help me.

Victor was a middle-aged gay man of Latin descent. When I told him I simply needed to know what color foundation I should be using, he immediately began with a question that caught me off guard: Continue reading →