Let me remind you that I was raised Roman Catholic and attended Catholic school until I was in the eighth grade. I come from a very religious background with a strong faith and have struggled with the laws of the church well before my wife came out to me as transgender. I do not agree with the interpretation of scripture that my wife and I are damned to hell simply because we love each other. So I went with apprehension in my pocket, not knowing what to expect, with my wife and youngest daughter by my side. I must admit that I sometimes miss the weekly spiritual gatherings of my childhood. It was my time to sit, reflect, talk to God about the week I was leaving behind, and ask him for any help I might need in the week ahead.
“SINCE MY WIFE’S TRANSITION, THIS IS THE FIRST PLACE WHERE I HAVE FELT TOTALLY WELCOMED.”
I opened the door and went in first. We were greeted in the hallway by Deacon Ramona. I extended my hand to greet her, she took my hand then said, “we like to hug here instead.” We were given a tour of the facility and were introduced to many in the congregation who also preferred hugs over handshakes. After meeting everyone we were guided into the sanctuary where they celebrate their weekly gathering. Since my wife’s transition, this is the first place where I have felt totally welcomed. Where we weren’t starred at for holding hands or sitting to close. What an odd feeling. I was sitting there in a room full of strangers utterly feeling like part of the family.
The theme for this Sunday’s celebration was “15 and Counting”. The beginning of a weeklong celebration of their 15th anniversary; which is something to be proud of as a private church that is not funded by a bigger church. The service was upbeat and uplifting, not at all what I am used to, but refreshing nonetheless. The singing was plenty, and everyone danced in front of their seats. We joined in, as the joyousness was contagious. There was every shade of skin to ever walk the earth and families of all kinds. It was so wonderful to see, especially in today’s political climate.
“SHE SAID HOW WONDERFUL IT WAS TO SEE AND HOW IT MADE HER THINK ABOUT HOW SOME PEOPLE SHOW NO LOVE AT ALL TO THEIR CHILDREN.”
There was a lesbian couple in front of us with their teenage son. On the car ride home, my daughter told me that she noticed the love shared between this family. She took note of their body language. How at times one of the moms would reach for the son’s hand to hold, or how the son would lean his head on the shoulder of the other mom from time to time. She said how wonderful it was to see and how it made her think about how some people show no love at all to their children. She imagined the struggle that same sex couples must go through to start their own families and felt sad for them. A valuable lesson learned that I could never teach her with words alone.
The motto written on the weekly bulletin says it all: “Faith is a journey, not a guilt trip.” I was totally engulfed in love and acceptance and I didn’t even notice the service was two hours long. Especially long they said because they were celebrating their anniversary. For those two hours, my guard was down. I wasn’t looking over my shoulder for creepy people or dirty looks. I didn’t feel a judgmental gaze or hear an off the cuff ignorant comment. My wife was not misgendered, and I was not looked down upon. I felt totally safe and at home among these people I had just met. Whether you believe in a higher power or not, it was an inspirational way to start the week.