Belgrade Lakes, ME
Good morning from Maine, where I woke up in my own bed with my own dogs this morning, after almost two solid months on the road with Caitlyn Jenner and a band of other trans women. We have travelled the country this fall having conversations with a wide range of trans people and their parents and children and their allies. I hope that when I Am Cait, season two, airs in spring viewers will see and hear a lot of interesting conversations that reflect the full diversity of our great community.
Our last stop on the long journey was Houston, where, among other things, we hoped to meet with the pastors whose intolerant, cruel exhortations to their congregations helped the HERO bill go down to defeat in November. Getting my friend Caitlyn to understand the way social conservatives have used lies about trans people to further their agenda has been one of my goals since I first met her, and this struck me as progress. I do believe her eyes are opening.
We visited pastor Ed Young’s church on Friday, Ed Young being the minister of a megachurch that took the lead on promoting anti-trans hysteria as a means of defeating HERO.
We went there without cameras, without microphones. We did not go there for a photo op. We went there in hopes we could have an off-the-record conversation with the pastor, so that we could tell him to his face the damage that he has caused. This struck me as good work to do.
I can tell you that going into that church was one of the scariest moments of my life. You cannot imagine what it is like to be surrounded by people who have denied your humanity, who have worked to take away your dignity. It is even stranger, and scarier, to have this feeling in a church.
My mother told me to love your enemies, though. So I sat in a pew with my heart pounding, trying to find the love I would need in order to have a conversation with one of our bitterest foes.
My own faith is a private matter that I generally do not speak about in public. But I can say that I believe with all my heart that love is what can change the world.
You can say I’m a dreamer. But I’m not the only one.
At the end of the evening, Pastor Young approached us. We all stood up. And Caitlyn Jenner looked him in the eye and told him how much his actions and his words had harmed our people. I was proud of her— given her conservative beliefs, it struck me as a sign of great progress, a first step into activism, gentle though it may have been. The pastor seemed to me to have never spoken face to face with transgender people before, and he clearly did not understand our lives, given some of the things he said to us.
But we were calm and polite and dignified. We told him about our lives, and he paused to listen. He really did seem to consider our humanity. I thought that moment was breathtaking.
He asked us if we’d participate in a prayer. As a Christian, when people ask me to pray, I am glad to do so. We bowed our heads. My prayer was pretty simple. Please god, open this man’s heart. Please open the hearts of all of those who would do us harm.
The season of Advent asks us to light one red candle each Sunday: one for Hope, one for Joy, one for Love, one for Peace, and on Christmas Day to light a pink one. It was in the spirit of all four of these that I accompanied Caitlyn Jenner to this church to do just as my mother commanded— to love my enemies.
I am hoping that we lit a candle.