Category Archives: Guest Blog Series

My Christian life with AIS – An Intersex condition

We’ve discussed the issues faced by intersexed individuals before on this blog. A reader—and fellow blogger—shared her story in the comment section of a post entitled “The Intersexion of Christianity and Genitalia”. It was too touching to simply leave in the comment section, so I’m re-blogging it here, with her permission. -Mandy

Why We Suffer in Silence: Guest Post Series

Hello, lovelies.  It’s been quite a while since you’ve heard from me. I’ve been working on a couple of other projects (which I am eager to share with you soon). I’ve also been going through quite a rough time during the past few months. Perhaps I will be able to share more details in the near future. But I am so thankful for those of you who have sent messages to check on me. I deeply miss writing for you, and plan on returning for good in the coming weeks.

I continue to be thankful for people like Josha, who continue fiercely on their spiritual journey despite the conflicts that arise around them. Those of us in the LGBT community sometimes suffer in silence… especially those of us who desperately seek relationship with the Creator. Why? Because we must hide who we truly are. Many of us are told that we do not—and cannot—possibly love God if we are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender.  Josha has been on quite the journey over the past few years, and I’m so thankful she’s open to sharing it with us.

-Mandy

•••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••

by Josha:

458794_72242887“Are you in pain?” Is the question a beautiful, tall, professionally dressed, concerned woman asked me, as if I were at the doctor’s office?

I was sitting in the waiting room, all alone at the car dealership, getting an oil change.

I looked up at this woman who had appeared in the light so suddenly with an unexpected question and my thoughts were, “Is she really talking to me? Where did she come from? Why is she asking me this? What just happened?”

I responded with, “No.”

She looked at me for a few seconds with a concerned face and then asked again. “Are you sure? Someone came to my office and said I should check on you because you looked like you were in pain.”

I tried to recall what was happening before this woman appeared. I was just sitting in the waiting area all alone, contemplating my life’s situation… and then I realized what might have happened. I looked up at her and lied, “Nope, I’m just fine.” I smiled a big, fake smile…her facial expression and pause indicated that she was not convinced with my answer as she said, “Okay” and walked away.

Who was this lady?
And what was my appearance like?
Did my internal angst come out in my physical posture and demeanor?

It was such a bizarre wake up call that I really was hurting. It was as if God was checking in on me and I flat out lied. Suppose this woman was God in the flesh with concern for my pain, this is what I would have shared:

YES! Yes, I’m in pain! I’m 36 years old and I’ve never even experienced a kiss. And I have deep desires to experience that kind of relationship. The problem is that I can only experience this with a woman which is not acceptable among most the people I know. I’m fully aware of my sexuality and feel trapped into keeping it hidden. It is painful. It makes friendships complicated. For the first time in my life I experienced mutual attraction and given an opportunity to kiss and I turned the opportunity down. As I began to get to know this person I was drawn to her more and more as we have so much in common and many of the same values. We find each other intriguing, we motivate each other, challenge each other, and we seem to always enjoy each other’s company.  I was definitely interested in exploring a dating relationship but with prayerful caution. I was holding back so much in the start of this interesting relationship. Extreme caution came from the reality that if I cross that line then I’m not to be in leadership role at church…the reality that some friends and family might be very disappointed in me…the reality that I could get very attached and then this end in brake up. I was being so careful and cautious as things were happening so fast and just when I was about ready to accept the challenges that pursuing a relationship might bring, she decided that a relationship with me is not what is best for her. This is fair, but this stings. And while I’m grateful she wants to remain friends, it is hard as I try to battle my desires and feelings while attempting to be a good friend.  Am I in pain? Yes.

I had good intentions in refusing a physical relationship but now there are moments in which I feel regret not taking the opportunity at that moment to share in a kiss, which is an element of humanity that is so normal and natural.

What kept me from indulging in this kiss? I turned it down multiple times because I was afraid of hurting her, I was afraid of getting hurt, I was afraid of hurting my church family, I was afraid of going down a path that would cause strain in my own family…. but not once was I afraid of hurting God for experiencing something that comes from God. My intensions were pure but I’m left feeling the pain of denying another and myself the experience of touch, of kissing.

Though painful at times, I am okay with how things have turned out. It seems as though we both taught each other something. While I might have taught this person something about boundaries, she has taught me something about the human touch and letting some boundaries go.

It feels like darkness to hinder the LGBTQ population from the joys of the same experiences that people who are heterosexual experience. Most Christians don’t frown upon opposite sex couples when they “make out” before marriage. On the positive side of the pain I’m currently undergoing I’m grateful to see a little bit more of the reality of how hurtful it is for the LGBTQ person to be placed in positions of less than equal standards.

I go to church and see heterosexual couples that have freedom to express their sexuality, sit together, hold hands, and share the experience of worshiping The Creator of love itself. And while people are naturally seeking to match up those who are heterosexual and single, I’m left with instructions to “be single,” “be celibate,” “don’t trust your feelings,” “don’t allow yourself intimate love,” “deny yourself the enjoyment of marriage.” This. Is. Painful.

So how do I cope? How do I continue to worship with this church family?

I’m not at church to be comforted. I don’t attend with the expectation to feel good. I am at this church because I love the people, I believe in the love of God, and I believe that God sent a powerful message of love through Jesus who’s spirit is alive and at work though all our relationships. I hold on to that belief, not depending on my feelings of pain or on my feelings of joy.

I find encouragement from the following thoughts; this is a summary of the book of Zephaniah by Eugene Peterson’s The Message:

“We humans keep looking for a religion that will give us access to God without having to bother with people. We want to go to God for comfort and inspiration when we are fed up with the men and women and children around us. We want God to give us an edge in the dog-eat dog competition of daily life.  This determination to get ourselves a religion that gives us an inside track with God, but leaves us free to deal with people however we like, is age-old. It is the sort of religion that has been promoted and marketed with both zeal and skill throughout human history. Business is always booming.It is also the sort of religion that the biblical prophets are determined to root out. They are dead set against it.Because the root of a solid spiritual life is embedded in a relationship between people and God, it is easy to develop the misunderstanding that my spiritual life is something personal between God and me – a private thing to be nurtured by prayers and singing, spiritual readings that comfort and inspire, and worship with like-minded friends. If we think this way for very long, we will assume that the way we treat the people we don’t like or who don’t like us has nothing to do with God.That’s when the prophet’s step in and interrupt us, insisting, ‘Everything you think, or feel, or do has to do with God. Every person you meet has to do with God.’ We live in a vast world of interconnectedness, and the connections have consequences, either in things or in people – and all the consequences come together in God.”

I show up in my friendship with this new “special friend,” though at times painful, because I love and believe in God. I show up at church where my sexuality is shamed, because I love and believe in God. I find peace in the midst of my hurtful and joyful emotions in relationship with people by knowing that God is present in our “interconnectedness.”

Wait.

I love getting mail from readers. Yesterday, I received something that I related to on multiple levels. Many of us know the pain of waiting: Waiting for clarity, waiting for change, waiting for acceptance, tolerance, and love.

When I received this from Jill Lippard, she didn’t have the intention of sharing it here on the blog. But I thought it was something worth hearing. With her permission, here is Jill’s poetic experience of a life on hold. -Mandy

20130418-180230.jpg

I am tired of waiting.

I waited for seven years before I accepted that it was okay to love the love of my life. Seven years in the closet. Seven years sitting on the fence. Seven years of life on hold.

After wrestling through those years of doubt and indecision, I decided this love was a gift. A gift from God. A gift that I didn’t have to be ashamed of. I didn’t have to hide it. I didn’t have to fear for my salvation because of it. I was exactly who God made me to be.

So I came out. I told the truth about who I was and who I loved. Then I waited.

I waited for loved ones to recover from the shock. I gave them time to adjust to the idea. Time to cope with the perceived loss of who they believed me to be. Time to question. Time to arrive at a place of acceptance and, I hoped, eventually support. I waited.

A few years later, I married the love of my life. And, although I have a piece of paper from a state that recognizes our marriage, it is nothing more than a symbolic gesture in the state where I live.

So I continue to wait.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. (1 Cor 13:4-8, 12-13)

Why are people so afraid of love? What are we waiting for?

I am still confident of this; I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. (Psalms 27:13-14)

Update on Oregon Bakery: Guest Blog Series

In our last post, guest blogger Josha wrote about the bakery in her hometown that refused to sell a wedding cake to a lesbian couple. As a gay Christian, she is dealing closely with this issue… both personally and within her community. She wrote this directly after her experience at church on Sunday morning. Here she shares new developments concerning the situation, and makes a plea to her LGBT brothers and sisters. Feel free to discuss in the comment section! -Mandy

•••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••

2/17/13
I found myself disheartened again, but not by any “anti-gay” comment from the pulpit.

I was disheartened when I read in the bulletin today at church that the bakery owners, who denied the lesbian couple a wedding cake, are being sued. Last week, the prayer request was presented with more of a focus on helping the bakery make a stand against “gay marriage.” And from a Christian standpoint, I found it hard to support the act of denying service as mentioned in last weeks post. However, as a Christian, I DO NOT support the act of suing this bakery.

It frustrates me when people who are “gay” retaliate with cruelty and threats towards those who appear as barriers. This behavior further paints a picture of people who are “gay” as being ill spirited individuals that rebel against God.

Just as many Christians don’t want to be viewed as “haters” in regards to their view on homosexuality, there are people who are homosexual who don’t want to be seen as an abomination or perverted with a rebellious heart.

I’d like to ask for those viewing this website to pray for protection on this family and their bakery. Their actions have brought opportunity for discussion and enlightenment. There is no need for “war.” Fighting back with harmful “weaponry” only puts up more barriers. We who are homosexual should show the very love that we want to be shown. Let’s be peacemakers and play a role in which prepares a path for conversation, healing, and understanding.

-Josha

Can We Have Our Cake and Eat It, Too?: How One Oregon Baker’s Decision Affects the Community

Many of you have heard about the Oregon bakery that recently refused to bake a wedding cake for a lesbian couple. One of our guest bloggers, Josha, lives in the same town as that bakery. She, like the owner of the bakery, is a Christian… but Josha is also gay. How does a situation like this affect a community? How does it affect LGBT people who live within that community? Here’s Josha’s take on it. -Mandy

•••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••

I’d like to share about a moment in which I was disheartened.

lesbian wedding cakeThe background is that there is a local bakery, about a mile from my house and about a mile from the church I attend. Recently, the bakery denied a lesbian couple a wedding cake in support of their stance on what they believe is right vs. wrong.

The church I attend has a wonderful tradition in taking the time at the end of each Sunday morning service to collect prayer requests. The elder of the month reads them and immediately leads the congregation in a prayer for the requests. Today, someone presented a request for this local bakery and called for more support from Christians to help this bakery make a stand against “gay marriage.” The elder stated, “We need to support those who support the Lord’s way.” This is the moment in which my heart sank, while many in the congregation said “Amen.” My heart sank, not because I am “homosexual,” but because I’m a Christian who seeks the Lord. And as a Christian, I do not believe that denying a couple a wedding cake is the “Lord’s way.” Whether you agree with gay marriage or don’t agree with gay marriage, the “Lord’s way” is not to deny a service due to that person’s ethnicity, race, color, gender, or sexual preference. Discriminating, that is “the human’s way.”

As a health care provider, I serve the physical needs of people. I have recognized within 6 years of serving, there are ALL KINDS of people. And some of the people I have served have been “gay.” I did NOT say to them, “As a Christian, I am going to take a stand on what I believe to be the ‘Lord’s way’ and not give you physical therapy.” I serve everyone who comes into my path where I work. In the health care system it is called “unconditional positive regard.” In the Kingdom of God, it is called “God’s unconditional love.”

(And as an acknowledgement to my humanity I have struggled in serving people who are arrogant and self entitled, raging alcoholics, “male dominate” mindset, and racist, to name a few. At these moments I don’t only remind myself of “unconditional positive regard,” but I remind myself of who I am in relationship to God and am called to love with “unconditional love.”)

I realize it is important to stand up for what one believes to be right. My concern in the case of the bakery is that the stance is out of ignorance. I wonder if any of these people who are protesting for support of the bakery’s stance thought about the souls of the couple who wish to celebrate their love? Do they know people who are gay? Do they talk with and learn about the pain that people who are gay endure?

Furthermore, I’d like to know if there is some kind of survey each couple has to fill out at the bakery, prior to ordering a cake. Would this bakery deny a divorced individual who is getting remarried? Would they deny a couple that had sex before marriage? Would they deny someone who is not a “Christian?” If that person were a “Christian” would they deny that person a cake if they were not from a certain religious sect of Christians? What truly is their standard on whether they will provide for a couple or not?

Assuming there is no questionnaire or issue with other religious right/wrong with marriage, my question is, why do they stop their service when the couple is same-sex?

As one who is “homosexual” and as one who is Christian, I would like to say to the baker of this bakery, “I will not hate you. I will not speak in ways that curse your name. I will not threaten your life. In fact, if you were harmed, I would want to help you. But I also want you to know that people who are homosexual have the same desire for pure and genuine love as people who are heterosexual. And it sure does hurt when people put up barriers to celebrate that love.” I’m guessing he does not know this because so many people who are “gay” seem to be retaliating in hateful ways toward him.

While there are going to be “bakers” out there who don’t invite certain people to their bakery, the Lord’s Table is different. At the Lord’s Table, all are welcomed and are served with no conditions. I pray that I can continue to learn how to serve all people, as does the Lord.

And finally, if I were so blessed to have someone in my life that produced a love worth celebrating I would choose “The Lord’s Bakery,” to order my “cake.” Knowing that the Lord, being The Baker, would willingly provide me a “cake” to celebrate such a special love and commitment. And as a Lover, I would appreciate the Lord’s service. And because of the Lord’s service, my Love and I would celebrate our love with a Community of People who would share in the “cake” and in The Love and all would be well within a world filled with greed and hate.

“Are You a Boy or a Girl?”: Addressing Androgyny in the Church

Last week, Josha shared her post “Are You a Man, or Are You a Woman?”: Addressing Androgyny in Society and Culture. This is her follow-up article, that deals with similar issues. Many within the Church do not know what to do with people who are different, especially in the realm of sexuality and expression. We all claim that appearances do not matter. But is that what we are teaching our children? Thanks to people like Josha, I think we can have hope for future generations. -Mandy

•••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••

I enjoy teaching children’s worship at church and my goals are always to teach kids how to love others and that we are drawn to God through Jesus Christ.

Recently, on a Sunday morning, I was teaching a lesson on how God chooses us. The lesson material provided a parable about a rich girl whose father took her to the best toy store in town to buy a new doll. There were all kinds of dolls such as a nurse, ballerina, princess, and so on.  Despite all the beautiful options the girl asked the store manager if there were any other dolls. The manager said, “We have one more doll but you won’t want her. She was returned dirty and torn. In fact, we were thinking of throwing her away.” The rich girl said, “I’d like to see her anyway.” The manager returned with the doll and as the rich girl reached out she smiled and said, “I want this one.” And as she hugged the doll, the girl said, “She needs me!”

A couple of the children understood the story, but for the rest of the kids I continued to teach and explain that God chooses us and loves us even though we are not perfect. And we ought to love others too, even if they seem different or unusual.

I started to tell a story about a friend of mine who was born with one arm but was able to become a nurse.  I wanted to be sure the kids really understood the point that people are different looking on the outside but valuable and important on the inside.  During this story a boy raised his hand and without me calling on him he blurted out, “Are you a boy or a girl?!”

I said politely, “I’m a girl.”

As I attempted to continue the story, he said, “I couldn’t tell if you are a boy or a girl.”

I said, “That’s okay, I’m a girl.”

At that point, it seemed as though the boy just wanted to get laughs from the class and once again blurted out, “You look like a boy with your short hair!”

By the grace of God I kept my composure and with kindness I turned the situation into a teachable moment and said, “Yes, I look different but you can still love me, right?”

The boy did not answer me, but I think I might have given him something to think about. I went on and continued the lesson that God chooses to love us and that we ought to do the same as Christ and love others who are not perfect, people who are different, and those who don’t seem to “fit-in.”

While the experience above was a more difficult situation, there was another one in which a young boy wanted some honest clarification.

It was a small group of children who appeared to be listening intently to the Bible story as we were seated on the floor side by side in a circle. After I asked a question about the Bible story, a young boy raised his hand. He leaned in toward me and quietly asked, “Are you a boy or a girl? I informed him that I am a girl. He said, “Okay, I was just always wondering.” To this day that kid still comes up to me and initiates a hug. I guess it really didn’t matter to him.

Children are curious but not always courteous. They point fingers at people with one leg or with a missing arm; they stare at people in wheelchairs, they compare when someone has a different skin color. They laugh when someone does something that is not socially acceptable. They ask blatant questions when things aren’t “ideal” or “normal.” We teach them how to react. Don’t we? We either shelter them from people who are different or we expose them to the diversity of this world. We can teach them to either point fingers and view differences as a negative thing, or we can allow them to ask question and then provide answers that teach them how to view others who are different.

We are all different to someone else. I think that is partly why Jesus stated, “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you.”

And Jesus states, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” So, lets teach kids the right way to judge.

And what is the right way to judge?
As it says, in reference to Jesus Christ in Isaiah 11:2-4,
“The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—
the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and of power,
the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord—
and he will delight in the fear of the Lord.
He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes,
but with righteousness he will judge the needy,
with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth.”

I believe that if we judge people through the eyes of Christ, we are more likely to make a right judgment.

“Are You a Man, or Are You a Woman”?: Addressing Androgyny in Society and Culture

Everyone’s favorite guest blogger is back! Josha candidly discusses her gender identity, gender expression, and androgyny in what I believe is her most touching post yet. -Mandy

••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••

genderAs a PT assistant in a skilled nursing facility, I had a wonderful experience with an older man as he lay on his deathbed. I easily connected with this man when he initially came to our facility for physical therapy, however his end stage liver disease caused a major decline in his physical and mental abilities and so he was set up with hospice care.

The following is the experience that I had with him during a 3-day span, prior to his discharge from physical therapy.

Thursday: This very tall, ailing, older adult who is an Englishman found out that I was a woman. His face looked as though he was shocked with confusion. I watched the conversation go down from a distance and I figured that by the next day he would have no recollection of this new information.

Friday: The man waved for me to come over to him in the hallway. With time and with difficulty due to great effort to find the right words, he told me, with slurred speech and an English accent, “Somebody said you are a woman. Is this true?” His tone and disbelief looked as though he was disappointed.

I told him that I am and he said, “but you are Joshua!”

I said, “No, I’m Josha.”

He went on with some more disorganized comments and seemed frustrated that all this time he thought I was a guy, and that people were lying to him in telling him that I am a woman.

Saturday: It was early morning as I entered his room and he was still in his hospital gown, lying in bed, barely able to talk. When he figured out who I was he said “Joshua!” with excitement and his face lit up.  And then he went on to ask me, “I have to know, are you a man, or are you a woman? Somebody has said you are a woman.”

With a slight feeling of discomfort, I replied, “Yes, I am a woman.”

He said, “I’m so confused. “

I said, “I see that this is bothering you.”

He said, “No. Yes. Oh, this cruel world!”

I told him to relax, as he was getting so anxious. I checked his vitals, and then notified the nurse of his low blood pressure and his behaviors of anxiousness and increased confusion.

I came back to assure him that the nurse would be coming to check in with him, and he continued on with trying to figure things out.

Before I left for the weekend, I returned to his room to check in.  He seemed to have cleared up and was not as anxious. We joked about his confusion and his behavior from the morning. He was still a little jumbled but was making more since than before and he went on to say, with his adorable English accent,  “Hey, I realize you are not a man and you are not a woman. But you are a wonderful person. Please don’t think I’m a hater.“

I said, “I’m sorry, I did not mean to confuse you.”

He said, “No, you don’t need to apologize. You are such a wonderful person. Please don’t think I’m a hater.”

I assured him that I did not think he was a hater and that I would see him next week.

With a sarcastic tone and a halfway smile, he stated, “I don’t know that I will be around next week.”

I told him that I was glad he was feeling better and that I will look forward to seeing him next week.

This experience with this man of an older generation was amazing to me. I felt like I was watching him reconcile, in the midst of the end of his life, his view on something he doesn’t understand. Grant it, he was in bit of a confused state of mind, but all the more amazing that he came to peace with the fact that I’m different. I don’t look stereotypically female and I don’t look stereotypically male. Androgynous is perhaps a word he could have found useful in his vocabulary.

It reminded me of one of my most favorite quotes of Jesus, “Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment.”

I think that statement is recorded only once, but I wonder how many times Jesus actually had to make that statement.

I wonder if God spoke to this man saying, “Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment.” It is as though the man finally decided it didn’t matter what I looked like, it didn’t matter if I had a male or female label, and all that matter was that I was a wonderful person.  He stopped focusing on trying to figure me out and relaxed with looking into my heart and the soul of who I am.

I also learned something about myself. It really felt good to hear him say, “I know you are not a man, and I know you are not a woman.” I also struggle with both these labels. I honestly cannot refer to myself as male, but to be even more honest, it has and still feels so awkward to refer to myself as a woman. It felt so good to hear someone say that I’m neither male nor female.  This is just an observation that I wonder if more people out there experience as well.

-Josha