Worship Reflection Sunday, April 3, 2022 

God’s Transitional Journey

Natalie Tos-Byington

Connie Dietz

The Beginning

Connie:  It is Christmas Day, December 25, 2017.  Like previous Christmas Days we had gathered to celebrate.  Minna and her family, Aaron and his family were all at our home.  We began the day with breakfast followed by opening of gifts, playing of games and generally enjoying our time together.  The day was winding down and we were enjoying a special Christmas dinner. As we talked, laughed and shared stories; Logan (our grandson) asked for our attention.  He said I have something I want to share with all of you.  Our focus turned to him and we listened.  He told us that he had kind of felt different from other boys his whole life.  He said he had been doing some research and talking with his friends as he struggled to find words that best described him.  He said that he finally came to understand that even though he was born with male anatomy he really was meant to be a female.  He said,’ I am transgender. This is where I fit. I want to be identified with female pronouns and I want to be called Auggie.”  He was in 7th grade.

My world stopped!!!  In a split second, pictures of Logan from birth to that day flashed through my brain.  Phil and I had thought for some time that Logan might be gay but transgender…this was a whole different story.  For a few seconds, we all sat in silence as we absorbed what she had just told us.  And then as a family, we, every one of us, stood and embraced Auggie and said, “We love you and we will go on this journey with you.”

Our daughter, Minna, shared that, ‘Auggie wanted to start hormones right away but there was no way that was happening. We explained that she needed to live as a girl for several years before this was an option. We kept telling her we would discuss hormones when she was 16 or 17. We wanted her to be older and more certain about who she was.

Then we faced a problem. Puberty hit harder and faster than any of us expected. When my daughter’s voice started changing her entire world came crashing down. She went from a confident, outgoing child to a depressed, anxiety riddled kid practically overnight. She dropped out of choir, gave up her beloved theatre, and refused to sing and often even speak because her voice did not match who she was inside. She lost her purpose, her passion, her friends, and her sense of self-worth. It was like a switch was flipped and her light just went out.

Natalie:  Our journey was less prepared and more spontaneous, as many of you know Luna to be.  Living in a house with two mothers who had experienced their own journeys, Luna had always been encouraged to be herself, whoever that was.  She had already experienced the assumptions of family in her sexuality when at the young age of eight her favorite color was pink.  While she played outside, it was to explore nature and interact with the plants and animals, versus being the expected rough and tumble kid.  The summer before 6th grade, I was outside on the back patio relaxing between yard duties, when the door from the back of the house opened and I see a head pop out.  “Hey mom, what’s that thing where you think you were born in the wrong body?”

“Transgender” I replied. “Yep, that.  I’m that.”  The door closed and she was on with her day.  I hopped up, opened the screen and main doors with, “Wait, that’s not the end of this conversation.  Come talk to me.” 

For me, this was a time of excitement, however for her, she believed she would always have to live in the reality that she identified differently.  In conversations through therapy, it was an opportunity to open her eyes and remind her that we had been on our own journeys and we were not willing for her to suffer any more than she had to.  The next summer, we went on vacation to the Northeast packed with several My Little Pony shirts, ponytail holders, and all things “female”.

Natalie: In both instances as a parent or grandparent our dreams for our child and grandchild changed.  We grieved the loss of our dreams but realized that one lost dream was replaced by a new dream.

Connie: As we wrapped our arms around new dreams for Ember, we realized that we missed Logan and our memories created with him.  We have hanging on our wall in the basement, many cherished pictures of Logan.  Ember, too, has her memories as Logan but now when she looks at the pictures, she says, “That isn’t me”.

Fear

Connie: We experienced many emotions as we began to explore and participate in Luna’s and Auggie’s lives.  One of these was fear.  Fear of the world they were entering and all of its ugliness.  We had read the research, heard the news stories, witnessed the attacks and discrimination.  More recently we watched as state legislatures passed laws targeting transgender or nonbinary youth.  We began reading the statistics and data. Not to bore you but want to share a few significant statistics.

The Trevor Project, in 2021, conducted a study of 35,000 LGBTQ youth ages 13-24.  45 were youth of color and 38% identified as transgender or nonbinary.

They found:

            32% of LGBTQ cisgender considered suicide and 10% attempted suicide.

This number is stunning, but more frightening is that of the responding transgender or nonbinary youth, 52% considered suicide and 20% attempted suicide.

Additionally: transgender and nonbinary youth who reported having pronouns respected by all of the people they lived with attempted suicide at half the rate of those who did not have their pronouns respected. Pronouns matter.

And: transgender and nonbinary youth who were able to change their name and/or gender marker on legal documents reported lower rates of attempting suicide.

Education (What happens next, available services, definitions)

Natalie:  As a mother and Connie, as a grandmother, we had a lot to learn about the transgender or nonbinary world.  We started with clarifying our understanding of language and words. 

Sex:  The classification of people as male or female.  At birth infants are assigned a sex, usually based on the appearance of their external anatomy.

Gender Identity: One’s internal, deeply held sense of one’s gender.  For transgender people, their own internal gender identity does not match the sex they were assigned at birth.

Gender Expression:  External manifestations of gender, expressed through one’s name, pronouns, clothing, haircut, behavior, voice or body characteristics.

Sexual Orientation:  Describes an individual’s enduring physical, romantic, and/or emotional attraction to another person.  Gender identity and sexual orientation are not the same. Transgender people may be straight, lesbian, gay, or bisexual.

Closure Stories

Natalie: The hardest time in our life was losing Luna’s brother in 2016.  At this point, Luna was out to immediate family and church, however not the extended family, so during his memorial, she dressed in her old clothes, responded to her old name, listened as they identified her as brother, and mourned her brother with them in their comfort, not hers.  As a mother, my broken heart, broke more.  At this point, we knew it was time to support her transition in the eyes of everyone on the journey with her, for her, not for them.  For her to be able to be herself and not have to be concerned about who she was with and what they knew, she needed to share who she was.  While we feared what this could mean for relationships, her happiness and ability to be herself was what mattered most to us.  Today, she continues her journey into adulthood, working with animals, connecting with friends and being her authentic self.

Connie: Our journey with Auggie continues.  Today she is a junior in high school and uses the name, Ember.  She smiles and laughs.  Rather than me telling Ember’s current story, I thought you might want to hear from her.  You are going to watch a documentary video done by Equality Ohio.  Ember and, her mother, Minna, tell her story.

Full to the Brim

Natalie: Our fullness comes from seeing our trans child or grandchild realizing and experiencing their own fullness as they are.