How Being Transgender Led Me To (And From) The Church

One of my earliest memories of wanting to be a girl was around 7 or 8 years old. I was raised in the Catholic Church, so First Communion was a no brainer. As part of the classes leading up to it, we received a workbook with a shiny silver cover. And in that workbook somewhere is a young girl kneeling in a gown and praying at the side of her bed. I flipped to that page so many times in the many years I’ve had that book that it’s a wonder it doesn’t open to that page automatically.

I didn’t know why at the time, or for many years to come, but I wanted to be that girl. Something about that gown spoke to me on a deeper level. I used to equate it with the prayer if forgiveness printed next to that girl. I thought what I needed to fit in and feel right was forgiveness and salvation. I didn’t realize that I didn’t really want to be that girl in particular, but any girl.

So I become devout. I surrounded myself with religion and tried to make myself a “better person”. To gain the inner peace I was looking for. I went to churches and youth groups, on mission trips and volunteering. And it worked. Until it didn’t.

I was still unhappy with who I was. My life was collapsing around me in a sea of my own depression, and I still didn’t know why. The boundaries of religion weren’t enough. As I started to pull from the church, some of the people I thought were my friends took their stands. They had nothing to talk about with me anymore.

By then I had started to explore gender a little bit. I was painting my nails an almost-acceptable goth black. On a bet, I painted them pink once, though to be honest I put up no resistance to the idea. I loved it. I started to try on the skirts of a girl I was dating in high school, playing it off as a joke. But I loved that, too. It wasn’t long after that I began dressing and buying my own clothes. I told nobody. At all. It felt wrong to be doing it, but when I had my wig on, and pulled up my thigh highs, I felt so right. And I didn’t know how to feel about that. I was ashamed, and I knew religion and crossdressing couldn’t both have a place in my life. It was an easier choice than it should have been, but I picked the one that honestly made me feel better about myself.

I was delving into Wicca by then, and almost out of high school. I was drawn in by the women in positions of power, and the feminism of the religion. The ritual robes that resembled dresses didnt hurt, either. But it wasn’t for me. It still didn’t fill that hole in my heart. I was searching for something external, but that wasn’t what I needed.

Everything started to make sense. That girl in the gown, the phase where I would ask for Barbie dolls so I could do their hair as a child, my own desire for long hair, the need to play a female persona online, and the feeling of never feeling quite right with who I was, and wanting to alter my body. It took years, but by the end of college I had it figured out. But then I didn’t know what to do with it. I was still ashamed, and at this point not at all religious. I felt like I didn’t belong anywhere.

Like many trans people, religion wasn’t the answer for me. Transition was. It took me another three years or so after college to accept that. I tried so hard to fit in somewhere I never really feel I belonged, and sometimes I wonder what would’ve happened if I realized why I wanted to be that little girl so many years ago.

I don’t mean to say that transgenderism and the church can’t coincide, but for me, it never felt right.

But all I can do is look into the future, and use what I know now to help me fight like a grrrl.

-Natalie

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