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Post Becoming everything I hated - July 1st 2017, 03:55 PM

This thread has been labeled as triggering, particularly on the subject of self harm, by the original poster or by a Moderator. The contents of this thread might therefore not be suitable for certain sensitive users. Please take this into consideration before continuing to read.

I'm sixteen years old, turning seventeen. I'm a male, straight. I'm transgender. A few months ago, I posted about wanting to be a chaplain or youth worker at a Christian high school. Well, I've started having second thoughts...now I'd really like to be a pastor, a youth pastor specifically.

I don't think any of you know my story, nor would I expect you to. I knew something was 'off' about me from a young age but I could never put my finger on it. I hit puberty at the age of eight() and by nine, it was very apparent that I liked girls...as opposed to boys which that 'girl' was expected to like. While I was not exactly raised a Christian, practically everyone I knew would say they believed in God and to be an atheist was almost unheard of. So, naturally, I assumed this was the norm and I adopted the label as well. You can imagine my horror when it became obvious that I was apparently gay (I didn't know what trans was). I spent so long crying and fearing 'going to hell' as I was told that was what happened to gay people.

By the time I was thirteen, my belief in God was wavering. I was no longer concerned with my sexuality, instead something much worse was consuming me. My gender dysphoria had peaked with my development of female secondary sex characteristics and I was resorting to self-harm in order to deal with these feelings. I couldn't understand why God would put me in this body. By fourteen, I'd not only become a full-blown atheist but I genuinely feared Christianity. The word alone was enough to give me an anxiety attack (not even joking). After the teacher made us watch an anti-transgender video, I ended up skipping every Religion lesson we had…my mom would take me home early, no questions asked. I would cut myself because of the things certain Christians would say about me and believed that for God to create me this way, He must've really hated me.

Of course, I became a Christian again by sixteen. It took three years and let me tell you, when all your friends are claiming to have felt God's presence while you pray and pray with no result, it makes you feel pretty lousy. But I do believe it happened eventually and I am so very grateful for that.

And I want to be a pastor because I want to help others feel what I felt, a youth pastor specifically because I believe that high school is the most tumultuous time in our lives. I'll always have a soft spot for LGBT kids though and I want to be the one to say that God doesn't hate them, that they're not going to hell just for being who they are.

But I didn't share all of this for nothing. The thing is, I'm having a serious moral dilemma over this. I imagine that I won't be able to disclose my LGBT status in most churches but I intend on being wholeheartedly supportive, even if I have to do it in secret. If you were to meet me, years from now, I will have fully transitioned…I will pass as cisgendered (fingers crossed ) and be a straight man. Now, imagine this man telling a gay or bisexual or transgender or whatever teenager that God loves them. You know what I thought when a pastor used to tell me that? I thought that he didn't know me and if he did, he wouldn't have ever said that. He didn't know what it was like. I know how much it hurts. And you wouldn't believe the amount of scars I still have from those dark days, when I believed that no one could really love me.

I guess what I'm trying to say is, I'm afraid of doing more harm than good in pursuing this and I'm having my doubts. I will be going from that scared and powerless teenager to the one with the power over those teenagers, the one who potentially scares them. And I don't want to be scary but trust me, back then even the nicest of church staff scared me. It's so surreal. Should I pursue this, potentially hurting more kids than helping them or find another career?
   
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Re: Becoming everything I hated - July 6th 2017, 12:29 PM

Sorry for the late reply!

Your story is really inspirational. I can't imagine how difficult it was for you to suffer the dysphoria and the stigma surrounding being transgender in a religious community.

If you're a Christian and want to be a youth pastor, and in particular, be someone that you never had when you were younger, I think that's a good enough reason to become a youth pastor. Of course, I do see the dilemma in that some Christian communities may still continue the stigma, but there are other, more accepting communities emerging too. I'm sure you would be more than welcome to join them!

At the same time, I don't believe that you would be doing more harm than good. I don't know much about being a youth pastor, but I would assume that the main role is fostering a trusting relationship with those in your care. While you may have been scared with some of the staff, it doesn't mean that you will be the 'scary' figure either.


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Re: Becoming everything I hated - July 6th 2017, 10:00 PM

Hey there,
Your story inspires me. Thank you for sharing.

What came to mind was becoming part of an LGBT church. I mean, arguably the anti LGBT churches need more supportive staff to intermingle with the hateful messages being given to the youth. At the same time, the LGBTQ church I've been to for a school project seems like a very safe space for LGBT youth, runsways, those who had been rejected by family and friends and other churches. From what I'm seeing is that you're very passionate about this and have personal experience. This moral dilemma you have can be worked through when you meet colleagues who can guide you and mentor you and you are likely to develop your own style and approach to how you deal with this paradox. You can even talk about this paradox with the youth and prompt them to think about this. It happens with other things too. Take schools for example. On one hand, schools can be very scary, I know I have many bad memories associated with school (especially traditional authoritarian classroom models) But school can be a place for real soul searching, growing and even spark social change. It isn't always about the status quo as history shows the teachers and students were often participants in civil rights and other movements. So it is a double edged sword. It can be used to indoctrinate or it can be used to liberate. I think religion can be like that too (in my personal experience)
I think it is okay to love a religion but also criticize certain things. I think re-establishing a relationship with a certain cultural institution can be healing, when someone goes from feeling controlled and oppressed by it to feeling empowered and inspired.

It is a bit abstract and I'm not sure if this resonates with you but these are my thoughts and I believe in your ability to make a decision that's best for you, whether you choose to be a pastor or something else, I wish you best of luck.
   
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