Trigger warning: This blog answers a question around 'why queer people can't just accept the way God has made them'. There are mentions of being closeted, being forced to present a certain way, as well as someone's dead name and pronouns.
Genesis 1:27 So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.
Glory found herself, fifteen years old, at an unknown crossroads. She was a sort of tom-boy, regularly clothed in her dad's old tee-shirts and skinny jeans covered in stains and marker. Homeschooled, Glory didn't have many experiences outside of her small church and even smaller family. She went to her younger sister's homeschool group regularly but she was more of a babysitter than a student. Her fancy church clothes were sweatshirts, jeans, sneakers and occasionally a baseball cap; even in the summer. One day she was talking with her mom in the kitchen and Glory made a joke about how easy life must be as a boy. She had seen the ease that the boys in her life had with making friends, not having to babysit and getting to wear jeans all the time. It was an off-handed comment, meant to be read as a joke and nothing more. But Glory's mom saw the way she dressed. She saw Glory's distaste for femininity, and that suddenly scared her when it hadn't before. A few moments after Glory had left the kitchen, her mom sought her out in her room. Her mom seemed out of breath, red-faced, almost angry looking, but mostly afraid. She bluntly asked if Glory wanted to be a boy. And without waiting for an answer, as if she was afraid of what it could be, she continued to talk, faster and faster. It seemed like she couldn't get the words out quick enough to save her daughter. She reminded Glory that God had made her in his image and that God didn't make mistakes. Glory couldn't want to be a boy, no, she had to promise that she didn't want to be a boy. Anything else was unacceptable.
Proverbs 11:17 Those who are kind benefit themselves, but the cruel bring ruin on themselves.
Glory promised that day, through tears she didn't understand at the time, that she never wanted to be a boy, that her comment was just a joke. That seemed to appease her mother, but a week later Glory found herself with an entirely new wardrobe, not a ratty tee-shirt in sight. It was instead filled with floral prints, dresses, nice jeans, women's cut tee-shirts, and a harsh clarity for Glory; those crossroads she had found herself at were asking her to either become a woman or forever be something her mother couldn't bear seeing.
Torah Commandment (considered Jewish Mitzvot)
יא לֹא, תִּגְנֹבוּ; וְלֹא-תְכַחֲשׁוּ וְלֹא-תְשַׁקְּרוּ, אִישׁ בַּעֲמִיתוֹ.
Leviticus 19:11 Ye shall not steal; neither shall ye deal falsely, nor lie one to another.
Glory would eventually grow up to fill those clothes, then attend bible college and graduate, marry her college sweetheart, and teach English as a second language while her husband was an elementary school teacher. She even had kids of her own. At least that was my plan anyway.
Proverbs 16:9 The mind of man plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps.
I had the boyfriend, the degree path, the dream, but I also had something that wouldn't go away. A memory of being fifteen and forced into something I never wanted. Sometimes I think that if my mother had just treated my comment that day in the kitchen with more love and curiosity than fear I might have been comfortable growing up to be a woman, or some form of a woman. If she had never brough to my attention that I could have a diverse gender identity, I might have never questioned the rules put before me. But my joke, that promise, and her tears, showed me there was more to identity than I was taught. She was right, I did feel uncomfortable being a woman, I chafed at my church's definition of sexuality and gender identity. In more recent years, I had someone use the analogy of a tooth-ache to explain it. Sure, you can live your whole life with a constant dull ache in your mouth, you could probably even take pain meds and get through it just fine. But the best course of action is to get that tooth removed. In that moment my mom brought me pain killers for a tooth-ache I never knew I had. And eventually I would want that tooth out.
Galatians 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
It would take me almost five years to even remember that conversation and my promise. And seven to do anything about it. I had more pressing matters to deal with in my formative years, at least that's what I thought. When I was fourteen I was dedicated to protecting queer people from those in my church who said they were going to hell, but I couldn't tell you why back then. Or why, when I was sixteen, I cried when my gay friend was told he was going to burn in hell. Or why I continued to believe, until I was twenty, in a theology that agreed with hell when I clearly didn’t. Looking back now, at my exhausted, emotional, and terrified self, I can see the closet around me. How I could hide my identity so well that not even I knew I was queer until I was nineteen, I will never know.
The Jewish value sh’mirat ha-guf calls on Jewish people to care for their body and soul in the best way they can so as to honor the image of G-d they are made in. This has in recent years been applied to Jewish people who are transgender caring for their bodies through transition.
Eventually though, my gendered tooth-ache got too strong and I had to decide how I was going to deal with it. I had the privilege of exploring my gender identity with other queer people who gave me the resources and support I needed to finally pull out my troubled tooth. My mother's greatest fear came true, and no matter how loud I am about it today, she still cannot hear me. Every day with her I am fifteen, showing all the signs that I am not comfortable being the woman she wants me to be, and she just keeps throwing flowy clothes and God at me; hoping it will fix something.
Isaiah 45:18 For thus says the Lord, who created the heavens (He is the God who formed the earth and made it, He established it and did not create it a waste place, but formed it to be inhabited),
“I am the Lord, and there is none else."
God did create our bodies that can become ill and get tooth aches. But God also says nothing against us going to the doctor and getting help. This earth is meant to be inhabited by the diverse, messy, confusing humans God made in their image. So why would God care if I bound my chest to appear more masculine if it helped me feel more comfortable in the body they gave me autonomy over? I refuse to believe that God meant for us to see the high levels of suicidal ideation in queer communities and damn them to hell forever. I believe that God sees those hurting in our communities and weeps for them. Fights for them. And calls their followers to do the same. God did not create me to adhere to some rigid unimaginative version of myself for the comfort of others. They created me to be a gender explorer, a unique lover, and a space maker for others to do the same. That is how God made me. And each instance of me showing my true self brings them greater joy than any painful sacrifice ever could.
Ephesians 5:29 for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church