I’m transgender, and I want to write about what it has been like to tell my story. It’s not always been easy.
When I started to train for ministry, I had been transitioning for quite a while, and I looked very male, so people felt like I probably didn’t need to tell my story. In fact, my tutor initially told me that I probably shouldn’t, and that it would be difficult to get a call to be a minister if I was out about being trans.
I listened for a while. But, eventually, I started to tell my story. And I realised that our stories are important. My story helped people, it even changed a few peoples’ lives, and it definitely changed a lot of people’s minds. I needed to tell my story to be a minister! Rather than stopping me from becoming one, it has enabled me to be a better one!
This might seem like it has nothing to do with the Bible, but that isn’t the case. In Isaiah 56 the prophet writes: ‘do not let the eunuch say, ‘I am just a dry tree.’ For God will give them a name.
Many LGBT people see themselves in the eunuchs of the Bible, and Isaiah, who God is speaking through, frames the importance of how they tell their stories. He is basically saying ‘don’t say you’re worthless, you matter to God’. It’s not just about telling their stories, its about how they tell them. Not apologising for who they are but, instead, showing others that God gives each of us our own unique, name and identity.
The woman who was haemorrhaging in Mark 5 was stepping out in courage, making her story known, in order to access healing. According to the laws of the time she should have been isolated in the red tent, a place for women who were menstruating, because if any man touched her he would be ‘unclean’. But she refuses to be limited by being seen as unclean and instead goes out into the crowd and touches Jesus’s cloak.
And does he say: go away, hide in shame, I don’t want to know about your problems, you’ve made me unclean. No! He asks ‘Who touched my clothes?’. Do you think he needed to ask that? Of course not! He knew who touched his clothes. But, by asking this one simple question, he gives her a chance to tell her story, to explain what it is like to be a woman who is shut away from the public simply because of her biology. That’s a story I can relate to; and I bet lots of people in the crowd that day could too.
So, today I want to ask you to do two things. The first is difficult. Tell your story. Even if it’s a case of writing diaries for someone to find years later, or talking to a close friend or a family member. You never know who your story, your testimony, might touch. Each of us has a story; and every single one of them is important.
The second task is easier: let other people tell you their story. That poor woman was so desperate to be heard. There are so many people in Yorkshire who are so desperate to be heard.
Let’s listen to each-other, even when its uncomfortable or embarrassing. Let’s create spaces in which everyone feels able to share their stories.
Jesus asked ‘Who touched my clothes?’ And the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. May we follow their courageous examples.
If you want to know more about my story, please watch Songs of Praise on Sunday the 29th of March or to contact me, visit www.transgenderchristianhuman.co.uk.
Rev Alex Clare-Young, Chaplain at Peter’s House Student Community