Like the Velveteen Rabbit, I, too, am becoming real; and it’s in no small part thanks to my Unitarian family. This congregation has gone beyond accepting. You have been inclusive, loving and have made the effort to understand what I am going through, and that has made all the difference.
My path to becoming real has been a difficult one, and along the way I have shed many tears; yet day-by-day, as I become closer to “being me,” I am better able to tap into that joy that comes with allowing myself to be myself.
I was born a boy. Physically and genetically, I was considered normal and given my father’s name. As I grew, however, I had a distinct and increasing aversion to boys and an increasing desire to spend my time with the girls. In a lot of ways, I was sheltered. I knew no other boys who felt they had girl’s feelings, and I didn’t dare speak out, because I didn’t want people to think I was crazy. So I tried to redirect my feelings toward being a better boy and man, at least to the public. I went to college, served my country, finished college, married and have two lovely daughters. Meanwhile, I drank, I experimented with drugs, and I sought escape from my feelings. For many, many years, my feelings of wrongness became more intense. When I finally found out I was not alone, I sought help.
After learning to acknowledge my feelings, the first thing I had to fight was my fear of being labeled a freak, and all the anxieties that go with it. I had to accept and love myself, and I had to grow spiritually beyond the boundaries I was given. I had to seek my own connections to the divine. And when I was ready, I needed was a name.
I chose the name Sophia because I like the sound on my lips. Derived from sophos, which is Greek for wisdom, it is also considered the incarnate wisdom of God in Judeo-Christian cosmology. Sophos is even worshiped as the female aspect of the divine. It’s fitting, because that is the aspect of the divine that is closest to me., for when I open myself to the Divine, I feel a spirit that is embracing, compassionate, supportive and distinctly feminine. Jean, the middle name my mother gave me and derived from her own, means “Gift of God.” And it fits so perfectly with Sophie.
Two months ago, 3 years after I committed to start the journey to becoming real, I made it my legal name--Sophia Jean. In a couple of weeks, I will embark on the next step of my transition to “be real” at work, and I am filled with such trepidation. Yet in my mind, in my spirit, it is a path I must take.
All across this country, conservative fundamentalists are fighting hard against human rights, trying to overthrow the important work already accomplished. They say it’s for “religious freedom”, and they’re using the bathroom as a battlefield… Fundamentalists point to cases in Florida and Maine, and prey on people’s fears when they say that gender identity is just an excuse used to stalk young girls. These are half-truths revealed when you know the whole story. The truth is that in both Florida and Maine, neither stalker had any support for having a persistent “gender identity” of female, and one of the victims is herself a young transgender student with the courage to “be real,” who was then forced to start using a segregated facility.
On one of our chalice nights, we envisioned what we want this church to be, and I envision this place as a loving, welcoming congregation, fighting injustice. Thank you for being with me as I become Real.
May the Divine warm your hearts with Her Blessings.