Up until my late teens, I went to church on at least a once per week basis. I was the kind of kid who initially went to services with their mother as a family outing, attending Sunday School, then main services, then helping out as tech support running the church projector. I went to evening services, I asked questions about theology, I attended study groups, and I watched people get baptised as adults with a sort of reverence for their level of believe in their faith.
I found a church where I was free to ask about how the pastor reconciled his faith with scientific evidence, and if it was okay to look at the bible as more emotional template than literal account of events. A place Where I could ask questions about faith and be met with discussion rather than being shut down.
What ultimately made me leave the Christian faith was how the church as an institution seemed to view the LGBT community. My first experience seeing LGBT issues approached in a church was when a couple of my gay male friends attended a service together, and held hands as they walked in. They were teenagers, and both has been long lapsed in their faith, but were interested in seeing what my church was like.
I watched a member of the church congregation tell them that, while they were welcome to worship at our church, she would be praying for the lord to forgive them and hoped they would be praying for the same. Understandably, they did not stick around. They were told their existence was a sin they needed to be forgiven for, and they walked away from an attempt to reengage with christianity.
As a trans women, in the years that followed, puberty began to set in, and I began to develop secondary sex characteristics consistent with a testosterone based puberty. This was the tipping point for me, and what motivated me to start making steps to transition to female. At this point, I still considered myself a christian.
I had a lot of questions I wanted to ask the church. How could I reconcile the knowledge that in a world with an omniscient creator, I would be designed to be uncomfortable in my own skin. I wasn’t sure how to reconcile my feelings about transition without having to, as a result, believe an infallible god could make mistakes or make me imperfectly. If god has a plan for everyone, how would I avoid resenting god for putting me through dysphoria. These were sincere questions I had, but that I never asked.
I kept thinking back to my friends who came to church and promptly left. I thought about someone trying to pray for forgiveness on my behalf, like I had done something wrong. I thought about being accepted only on the proviso that I pray routinely for my own forgiveness, and consistently live in a state of guilt for something I could not control.
And I think that was the biggest thing that scared me about coming out to the church, the guilt I would have to live with forever.
What the churches I attended at the time portrayed to me was a belief that sexuality or gender were things which could be changed just through devotion to the lord and personal desire, something I can honestly tell you from first hand experience is nonsense.
When I first came out to myself as trans, and acknowledged how I felt, I prayed to god for hours to make the feelings go away. I prayed for respite from dysphoria, I prayed for comfort with my own body, and I prayed for answers on what possible benefit there could be to putting me through this. I prayed for my feelings to go away, as they and their consequences terrified me. I was terrified of a life of ostracization, attacks and loneliness. I was scared my life would be ruined and I prayed and prayed and prayed for hours, day after day, for it to go away.
It did not.
No amount of prayer was going to pray the trans out of me, and the thought that something I could not change even with god’s help being a sin I would need to eternally ask forgiveness for made me realise that the religion was not for me.
My experiences with members of that church years post transition have taught me I made the right judgement call. I’ve met people since who learned of my btransition and told me they would pray for my forgiveness.
I did for a short time attending an explicitly LGBT focused local church, shortly after coming out, but it didn’t last long. My primary issue was that I couldn’t shake the sense I was in some kind of quarantine. I was shut away, and I was only allowed to worship with the other church undesirables.
I didn’t want to be part of a religeon where an inate part of myself was a guilt laden sin. After leaving the church, I realised in hindsight how much of my faith was habit and situation of birth. I knew I would never believe in another religeon after christianity,and that christianity was going to have a heck of a time trying to win me back.
I still sometimes pray in my darkest moments, out of despiration rather than sincere belief. I no longer believe, but I wish I could. I miss the comfort that faith brought with it, but the costs were just too high.
If you’re a christian reading this, my only request of you is to please read the bible in a modern context, recognise the contradictions within interpretations of it, and accept LGBT christians without them feeling like they’re inherently sinning. Religious faith offers many a respite from a harsh world, and making the church that same kind of harsh place needlessly just pushes lifelong believers away from faith.
The bible never actually mentions transgender people at all, contrary to many assertions to the contrary. Most modern clothing a christian might wear are formed of two types of interwoven fabric. The bible supports owning human slaves, and murder as a punishment for goodness knows how many benign things. The bible is a book written by humans, and was a product of the time in which it was written.
Please understand how many liberties you likely already take with 1:1 following of biblical texts, recognise that being LGBT isn’t an active choice, and that regardless of what the bible says pushing away an individual who wants to believe in the same religion as you is countering your own goals. If you want to push people like me away from the faith due to our LGBT status, but not okay with the idea of owning human slaves, then your reading of the bible selectively reinforces existing beliefs at best.