“My step-mother was of the opinion that young women didn’t need an education per se. The job of a young woman was to be barefoot and pregnant,” said Calvin.
This didn’t matter anymore after Calvin changed places in his family tree. From the box marked “young woman” in the family, Calvin is and is becoming a young man.
Or is this an argument that has just begun?
Growing up in one of the states in the southeast, Calvin grew up in a home, in a family, with an older brother and their dad. His mom and stepmother are integral in his life story, not because of what they said and did, but because they were largely missing in action. He attended an ivy-league-wanna-be college in the state in which he grew up — on a full ride scholarship — proving to himself and the world of his intellectual prowess. Today, Calvin is in a doctoral language program at a university in the central part of North Carolina and is interested in pursuing even more education as he pursues the call to be a Minister of the Word and Sacrament. He is, in the best meaning of the words, fantastically nerdy.
While his mother and stepmother do not continue to maintain a significant presence in his life growing up in the South, he nevertheless maintains a connection with his father and older brother. When I asked him how he came out to his dad as a trans young man, Calvin recounted writing him a strongly worded letter, telling his father of the change that was going on in his life as he started the process of transitioning from female to male. Interestingly enough, the letter actually brought father and now-son closer together. Like other people who self-identify as transgender, Calvin is on a courageous journey, learning to live comfortably in his own, changing skin.
Calvin’s story is a reminder of the changing, dynamic, never-ceasing nature stirring among all of us in human families. In each person in our families of origin, there are known forces and unexplained impulses of life happening at all levels in us and our relationships, whether we are conscious or unconscious of them. While we see, hear and feel the tangible parts of our very lives and life with each other, like hunger and thirst, there are other primal energies and yen for transformation that are more under the surface and, thus, subtler, if not totally unconscious, and often elusive at work — or play — within us. This would include something so simple, yet basic, like self-identifying internally as a man or woman, regardless of our outer genitalia composition. Because we live in a society that rarely questions the sense of “fit” with the social norms of what it means to be “male” or “female,” core gender identity remains a mysterious aspect of human nature. Even though questions and thoughts about gender identity are an almost hidden pulse beneath the surface of life, sooner or later a person needs to find symmetry between one’s outer and inner gender…come what may. Having denied and having failed at quieting the attraction I experienced in desiring to be fully with another man in a mutually self-giving relationship, I could relate to parts of Calvin’s life experience in this regard: every once in a while, even though we think we have encountered every change possible within the human family, that nagging question or hesitancy about who we are comes to the fore.
Calvin lives a post-transition life today. He self-identifies as genderqueer and to the rest of the world as a young man. As Calvin prepares to challenge the status quo of a Protestant denomination’s notion of what is normal in terms of who is called to ordained ministry in the coming year, I’m appreciative of Calvin’s presence in my life. Calvin’s gift to me — to us all — is the reminder of the beautiful mystery of life that is always present in the divine ascending helix of transformation that we are all part of, whether we realize it or not. : :
note: “Calvin’s” name is an alias.