In the days of my youth, I knew little of the meanings of terms such as the religious right and the liberal left. I was taught to believe in a loving God, and that, I have begun to understand, is the greatest fortune of my birth. I was raised by parents who believed in a loving God.
The religious right that is the subject of this blog is not the religious right that comes to mind as these words are used to classify a particular brand of faith. The religious right I speak of, is my right to believe in a loving God. It is a right that was stolen from me. It is a right I have claimed once again.
It is not the right to force my religious beliefs on another. Nor is it a requirement for anyone to embrace the spiritual nature of the universe. In truth, it seems strange to me that the Creator of the universe would be so vain as to require that someone must believe before they are worthy of unconditional love. Not to put too fine a point on it, but adding the requirement of believing in God in order to qualify for unconditional love kind of negates the unconditional part.
It is my right to believe in unconditional love. Why is it that we are so eager to put conditions on God’s unconditional love? You have to be straight. You can’t be transgender. You have to be Christian. You have to believe. No! Not! None of these things! You just have to be. All that is required to receive God’s love is to be. And if God loves you as you are, so should I.
During the first 30 years of my adult life, I came to believe in a God with whom I found no favor because I was transgender. “Just don’t be that way.” This is the message of a dark religiousness, as though that idea never occurred to me. There is the reality of the tens of thousands of prayers I sent to God, asking to be fixed. Begging to be made right. Praying to be made whole.
If God created any of us, then God created me too. If God created me as a transgender human being, who is anyone to tell me that God didn’t do that? This is the question of dark religiousness, “Do you think that God made a mistake?” This is my response. “No, I don’t. Do you?”
There is this idea that in order to be religious, you have to be socially conservative. There are various applications of this man-made reality. The religious side and the LGBT side. The religious side and the poor side. The religious side and the immigrant side.
We like to pretend it isn’t so, but these realities also connect to the religious side and the non-white side. The religious side and the disabled side. The religious side and the female side. The religious side and the non-Christian side.
Somehow, we lose sight of the fact that the only people who are benefiting from this “truly religious equals socially conservative” mindset are the people who have a lot of money and power.
In the meantime, LGBT youth continue to be cast from their homes by parents who do so in the name of religion. Nearly half of all transgender teenagers attempt suicide. And then, many people who consider themselves to be religious have the audacity to claim that they are the victims of bullying. That their rights are being trampled.
The result of all this delusion, is that more and more people are turning away from religion. But here is the deal. I don’t want to turn away from religion. I have just as much right to religion as those who see me as a lesser human being.
Here is the other deal. No person gets to tell me that I can’t have religion because I don’t fit into their delusion. Not anymore. Not today. I am claiming my religious right. And there isn’t anything anyone can say that could possibly convince me that God has a problem with that.
Stephanie is a transsexual woman from Topeka, Kansas and a nationally known speaker on transgender issues. In addition, Stephanie is the executive director of Kansas Statewide Transgender Education Project and a commissioner on the City of Topeka Human Relations Commission. She can be reached at email@example.com