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Mandi's World





"For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. He (She) who believes in him is not condemned; he who does not believe is condemned already because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God."
--John 3:16-18





Throughout much of my life, I have had a love-hate relationship with organized religion.  The love part comes from my mom, my dad, my aunts and my uncles, all of whom were good people who tried their best to follow the example of Jesus to love their neighbor.  My relatives are religious people from the Midwest, Protestant, with a strong work ethic.  They are soft-spoken, generous to a fault, and spend their time doing more for others than for themselves.  My dad had no fewer than five Bibles in the house, all different translations, and he often reread his favorite passages.  My mother constantly taught me moral lessons based on stories she told me about her past.  My aunt spent five years in Africa working as a missionary.  I grew up with the spirit of Christ’s love all around me. 


The hate part comes from my perception of a hate-hate relationship organized religion has had with me.  I tried many different denominations of Christian churches, and always I felt so uncomfortable.  Since childhood I felt more like a girl than a boy.  Growing up was confusing, and I looked for opportunities to find answers.  But there were no answers.  I believed that I was the only person in the world who felt this way.  Other boys never seemed to be conflicted about their gender.  I wanted love from my parents so much that I didn’t dare risk telling them my secret.  All I ever heard in church was that I was an abomination and not welcome.  The spirit of Jesus, which seemed to be everywhere, was mocking me. 


To cope, I went through long periods of denial.  I sought out churches and attended most of the major ones.  I prayed for God to accept me.  I prayed for God to take these feelings of gender confusion away.  Sometimes it seemed to work, though it never lasted.  The cross-dressing always returned.  And I always left church. 


Deep down, the promise of God’s love remained, but for me it was a paradox.  Something had to change.  And after many years of struggle, it did. 


It turns out that the answer was inside me.  Only after I found self-acceptance did I find God’s acceptance.  I have spent two years working very hard on this acceptance, and I finally have come to the light at the end of that long, dark tunnel known as depression.  One sure sign of my recovery is that, suddenly, I crave the company of people.  I spent what seems like a lifetime of running away from the people around me, of feeling too tired, too sick, too uncomfortable, to do the things I used to enjoy.  Now, I can hardly wait to see people and talk to them.  My first step was finding a new church.


It started with a conversation at last year’s Christmas party.  Georgia told me about the United Church of Christ (UCC), which she described as an open church.  I had heard of the UCC, but knew nothing about them.  I looked up the UCC on the web, but I was disappointed when I saw that they had no church in Yuma.  I felt crushed.  But I didn’t give up.  I found another website for the southwest conference of UCC, and according to them, there was a new UCC church forming in Yuma.  I contacted the pastor, who gave me directions to their location. 


On Sunday morning, I awoke and got ready for church.  The old me would have felt suddenly too tired or nervous and stayed in bed.  But I felt an excitement that I never felt before.  I drove downtown to the location the pastor described, and discovered that this new forming church was in a small room at the Yuma Arts Center.  I walked down the hall and found the room.  There were only about ten or twelve people, and I realized immediately I was the youngest person there.  Their eyes brightened when they saw me, and the people asked, “Are you looking for us?”  They welcomed me and everybody talked to me.  I felt comfortable and enjoyed the service, which included opportunity to discuss matters of faith, and I found myself talking openly about myself.  For the first time in my life, I was attending church because I really wanted to, and not because I felt like I should.


As the weeks went by, I recognized that this was indeed a group of people who really were open and accepting.  God did love me after all, and I worshiped with people who support me.  I decided to help this forming church become an established church, and that thought led me to another group of supportive people.


At about the same time I discovered the Yuma UCC, I happened to be searching, on a whim, for a transgender support group in Yuma.  I didn’t find one, but instead, I found a GLBT Rights group.  I flirted with joining that group for awhile, and I contacted the group’s leader, Michael, who is also an advocate appointed by Governor Napolitano to help disabled children.  I found Michael to be highly intelligent and compassionate.  I then decided to get Michael’s group and my church group together somehow, with the idea that members of Michael’s group might find the same joy in the UCC that I did, and the Yuma UCC would, as a result, grow and flourish. 


My pastor took to my idea well, and both he and I attended a meeting of Michael’s group.  Michael in turn listed the UCC on his website, and members of my church are supporting the GLBT cause.  Michael is now one of my new friends, and I am getting to know so many people in the Yuma community.  I even discovered through Michael that there are many cross-dressers in Yuma who know each other, and a support group for Yuma cross-dressers is a possibility in the near future. 


I look on all of this with genuine awe.  I now have built a support network for myself in Yuma which just a few months ago seemed impossible.  Suddenly, I get it.  God has never forsaken me.  He has been there for me all along.  It was me who was in my own way, paralyzed by fear.  Now, I hardly remember what I was so afraid of. 


For some of us, the term “Christian” has become synonymous with “bigot,” often due to groups out there who constantly put us down and attempt to restrict our rights; these groups call themselves Christian, though to me, they don’t know what “Love thy neighbor” really means.  I also know many cross-dressers who see themselves as Christian, and who never lost their faith; this puzzled me at first, until I realized that so much of what I mistakenly took for Christian is really a matter of opinion, and that many people use the Bible to feed their own fears and insecurities.  I now think it’s important to gain the support of a church and not allow ignorant people to hijack my faith.  I can now say with full confidence that I am a Christian who also happens to be a cross-dresser, and I am worthy of God’s love, just like everyone else. 


Whosoever believes in Him is not condemned. 


I believe in Him.




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