Archives for the month of: April, 2013

hairstyle-topOn Wednesday mornings, when the sun is just rising and there is the lingering hint of the night’s chill temperatures, I join two women from my church for a devotional study. We review and discuss a week’s worth of daily devotions from My Utmost for His Highest, by Oswald Chambers. The devotional was actually written by his wife, after his death and transcribed from shorthand notes she made during daily discussions with him. When I first began reading Chambers I found the language dry and inaccessible—he had lived a century ago, after all. Often I find him tedious and “over my head.” But when we sit down and begin to talk about what each passage truly means in our lives today, the words spark something in me. I see how each devotional has some bearing on my crazy, often overstressed, days.

This past week, the daily devotionals seemed to revolve around work. Chambers talked much about “Christian workers” and at face value one might assume that he meant, literally, the work we do for Christ. There was a lot of discussion regarding “mission” and how I feel a tremendous amount of friction when I rub up against that word (as a self-proclaimed Christian Pluralist I feel very strongly that there are many ways to one God and barging in on other cultures to convince them of the one “right way” is offensive to my sensibilities. I would so much rather sit and absorb all that other Faith traditions have to teach me about getting to God). I came to think of the passages as being more about work in general: the work that we do for a living and the work that we do to maintain our homes, our families, and our bodies. I am blessed to truly enjoy what I do for a living; my job requires very little faith at all. I am not actively mindful of God’s grace when I am designing a workbook on leadership training or proofreading an Alice Walker novel (except for the oft-unspoken prayer: Thank you, God, for giving me a gift with which I can pay the bills). I am much more aware of God’s presence in the more mundane tasks of daily living: the grocery shopping, the dishwasher loading, the bathroom cleaning. I am not, by nature, a domestic Goddess. On the contrary, I will often leave distasteful chores until I absolutely can’t stand the filth any longer and I am certain that my threshold for dirt is much higher than that of my husband. It is in those moments that I must actively pray “God, help me to be mindful of the warm soapy water, the sparkle of the clean dish, the way the drying rag feels in my hands.”

I also took Christian work to mean “doing the footwork” for Christ’s glory. Not a testimony, mind you, but Christ’s glory in my own life and that of my family (despite the tone of today’s post, I don’t tend to proselytize). When we do the footwork, we must have Faith. And Faith, to me is a big old capitalized action word. It means truly trusting the process and knowing, without a doubt, that God knows what is right for us and will see our way clear to making that happen. Chambers’ entry for April 23rd concludes with: “We have no right to judge where we should be put, or to have preconceived notions as to what God is fitting us for.” I let God lead me and I have Faith that all will be well (not an easy task for this control freak, mind you).

Liam, my husband, entered divinity school on a dare of sorts. While I have never questioned that he has a calling greater than most I have known and truly deserves a place there, it was not his plan. He was cajoled and nearly bullied by friends and loved ones (including yours truly) into applying. Not surprisingly he was accepted as an Honor’s Scholar with a fair amount of financial assistance attached to that award. It did not, however, pay 100% of the tuition or any of our living expenses and obtaining even a part-time job is difficult at best for someone in active and early gender transition. I am self-employed and until last August I made just enough to (barely) cover my half of our expenses and the caretaking of our child. But we decided to have Faith. I did the footwork: I maintained deadlines, did my work on time and without complaint, and sent regular reminders of my availability to both faithful and prospective clients. That Faith was rewarded with twice the workload I had been handling; we got exactly what we needed when we needed it. Liam is finishing his first year with two more to go. This summer he will be at a local hospital from 9-5 every day with many nights on call as he does his Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) training. There is no time for a part-time job with those kinds of hours and a stipend from an education loan (which we choose not to obtain for more than this first year for future financial reasons), does not cover summer expenses. Our Faith was rewarded with enough of a tax return to cover his half of expenses for four months. Exactly what we needed when we needed it.

Today I came home to a message from an agency hiring a full-time graphic designer. They are interested in interviewing me as soon as possible. While I am loathe to give up my flexible schedule, I also know that having a full-time, onsite position would afford me a solid paycheck on a regular basis, prepaid taxes, and sorely needed health insurance. “We have no right to judge where we should be put, or to have preconceived notions as to what God is fitting us for.” I do not know what is in store for me, for us. I will do the footwork needed to express my interest in this position because I feel strongly that I was given the information about its very existence for a reason. I have Faith that whatever comes my way was meant to be. I know that if I do the work, the rest will come. Faith: it’s an action word.

couple_300-300x200This past weekend my husband and I found ourselves with three childless days while our son backpacked in the North Carolina mountains. We planned meals out, caught up on Netflix movies, slept in on Saturday and Sunday, and spent lots (and lots) of alone time. It was truly glorious.

On Friday night, after dropping our child off with his scout troop (no hugs from mom lest he be embarrassed in front of the other guys), we met friends for dinner at a favorite local Asian fusion place. Liam wore a sweater vest over a button-down shirt and jeans. I wore a white blouse, loose over skinny black corduroys, with a huge paisley scarf draped around my shoulders to guard against the early Spring chill. We arrived early and, after determining that our friends were not yet there, stood outside as other patrons arrived in droves.

It seems that Friday night turns this usually quiet restaurant into a real hotspot for the middle-aged heterosexual set. Couple after couple in their 50s and 60s arrived by SUV, Volvo, and Mercedes. As I stood there, I realized that we fit right in. Liam and I, in our late 40s (very late 40s), with our graying (okay, mine’s pewter) hair and our laugh lines and crow’s feet, looked just like everyone else.

The scene reminded me of a similar one that played out a month or so earlier. On our way to a transgender law workshop in South Carolina, we stopped to grab a quick bite to eat at Wendy’s. As we were leaving I said to Liam, “Honey, do you notice that no one ever stares at us anymore? We look just like any average, middle-aged couple.” His response was “Middle-aged??? Wait…AVERAGE???”

And here we were again, sharing a meal with a lovely couple from our church that we hadn’t, until that evening, had a chance to socialize with outside of committee meetings and potlucks in the fellowship hall. A straight couple with three older children, we relied on them for parenting advice, good conversation, and insight into our congregation and into Li’s grad school experience, where the wife held a job working for the dean of students.

Whenever the waitress came by she called Liam and our friend “sir.” His wife and I were always “Ma’am.” Liam referred to me as his wife and they joked about good marriages being based on agreeing with whatever their spouses said. I looked around the room and was, again, struck by the fact that no one gave us a second glance. Liam, after eight months on testosterone, no longer looked out of place, different, “other.” We didn’t register as a lesbian couple anymore and I began to feel guilty. I felt that somehow I had betrayed all of my years in the lesbian community, my activism for LGBTQ rights, and my own coming out at age 19 with Liam (then Lisa and my first female-bodied partner).

Liam and I agreed before his physical transition that we would never live stealth, meaning we would never try to blend into the heterosexual “normative” and we would always be open and honest about his trans status. However, I didn’t see myself jumping up and breaking into a mournful rendition of Chris Williamson’s “Sweet Woman,” or wandering from table to table to be certain that everyone knew of Li’s “transsexual medical history.” I kept my mouth shut and we continued to (ahem) bask in the passing.

It is true that we celebrate every time Li gets “sir’d” instead of “ma’am’d.” Out in public, he is viewed as male 99.9% of the time now and that suits him just fine. I still struggle with being seen as the average, middle-aged wife of this average, middle-aged guy. I liked standing out and bucking the system and making people question their assumptions about what lesbians look like. But…I’m married to a trans guy. I’m not in a lesbian relationship. I’m the average middle-aged wife of a not-so-average middle-aged guy. I understand that this will happen more and more often. This is what Liam wanted: to be seen as a man. I get that and I am thrilled for him. I suppose I will be more comfortable with these roles as time goes on and I imagine that sooner or later it will just be commonplace. In the meantime we will content ourselves with continuing trans and LGBTQ activism and being out and visible in our community and our daily interactions. Do strangers at our local Asian fusion place have to know that my husband started life as a girl? Absolutely not. But for the sake of authenticity, others do.

Middle-aged? Yes. Average? Not on your life.