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June 29, 2015
Similar to our Vocation of Peacemaking series, The Borders I Cross is a series of reflections from BPFNA ~ Bautistas por la Paz members and friends about their peacemaking journeys. This particular series focuses on the many borders crossed for peacemaking, which include physical borders as well as those such as language, culture, race, religion, nationality, generation, class, and sexual orientation. These essays come from people from all walks of life; those who cross borders as students, in their paid professions, in their volunteer time, in their family lives and/or in retirement. We hope you enjoy this new series from the BPFNA!
No one gets a passport to cross this border. And from our very beginnings we're trained to stay on one side or the other. The messages come at us all the time. Boys are to do this, but not that... girls should do that, but not this. Real men don't... you know. In a recent cartoon strip a man with a bag over his shoulder shouts at people around him, "It's not a purse, it's a man bag!" Unwritten in that cartoon is the fearful cry, "Don't see anything in me feminine! Can't you see, I'm a man!"
With the exception of those born inter-sex, all of us are born male or female, a matter of physical sexual identity. But no one is born with a gender. Gender is shaped by society's rules and instructions – a girl is like this, a boy is like that. We cooperate or we resist, but the pressure is always there.
Shortly before his death my father told me he wished I would drop the final "e" in my name. It was too effeminate, he said. Why couldn't I tell him that I liked the ambiguity in my name, that I like the feminine in me? I couldn't, and never did.
It would be still more years before I could own publicly my transgendering self, before I would come out as the cross-dresser I am, the cross-dresser I longed to be for many years. It would be years before I would find healing in a Sunday worship.
Our pastor had extended a Lenten invitation for anyone in the church to speak about the one "burning question" that lived in us. I had known what my question was for a long time: could I be loved after I'd told the truth about my life? My wife and I had struggled together about how public this part of my life could or should be. We were together as I spoke that Lenten morning. I came out. I was fully accepted. I was home.
And I found another home. For the BPFNA ~ Bautistas por la Paz Peace Camp in Atlanta, I packed a lightweight skirt, partly for the humidity we were promised (pants stick to legs, right?), and partly wondering, hoping, imagining an opportunity to appear outwardly as the person I am inwardly. "Hotlanta" lived up to its reputation, and the four others in our church's contingent, including two wonderfully supportive youth, urged me to live openly. So I wore that skirt to lunch on the second day. The person in the cafeteria line behind me asked me why I was wearing a costume. I explained it was just my choice of clothing, and I wore that skirt through the day and several more times. And it happened again at Peace Camp in Spokane (also plenty hot in the summer), where many affirmed my choice of bright red silk and so affirmed me.
More and more I work (and play) toward understanding gender and self, toward seeing where my life fits in the spectra of LGBTQ lives. More and more I am called to live in the light, to live in the face of "isms," to live into a truth that I am made wonderfully.
Yet the struggle goes on. I hear almost daily (don't you?) about how men aren't really men if we're soft, vulnerable, sensitive, tender, anything associated with femininity. But I won't surrender in this struggle. I won't live in fear of being found across the invisible border. The passport is in my heart, where I cherish my final "e."
Brooke Rolston is a BPFNA member and a member of University Baptist Church in Seattle, Washington (a BPFNA Partner Congregation).