A Conversion to Unitarian Universalism

Before you read this, read my earlier critique of A Conversion to Mormonism.

Now I will share a story about becoming a Unitarian Universalist (UU).

https://www.uuworld.org/articles/search-truth-meaning

A search for truth and meaning

I would not be the kind of person I am today if I hadn’t kept searching.

Aneesa Shaikh | 6/1/2019 | Summer 2019

I discovered Unitarian Universalism around age 13, after a long and unsatisfying search for a spiritual community that matched what I felt I needed. I was newly separated from the faith I was born into and had never been more confused about what I believed.

My parents met at Baylor University, my mom a first-generation college student from a very poor Missouri family and my dad a first-generation immigrant who had just arrived in the United States after growing up in India and spending a few years in Nigeria. They were an unlikely match. My mom was raised Southern Baptist and my dad Muslim, further adding to their differences. When they got engaged, my mom converted to Islam so she could marry my dad. She had always been a religious woman and found herself quite liking the community that came with the Muslim faith, and once my sister and I were born, it seemed a given that we would be raised as Muslims. And so we were, and I have many fond memories of Ramadans, Eids, and Jum’ahs from the first thirteen years of my life. I never really had any problems with the principles of the faith or their manifestation in my life and in fact felt very connected to the Five Pillars of Islam and was proud of my faith.

A common feature about converts to Unitarian Universalism is that they come from families that are already interfaith (or at least the parents come from different religious backgrounds) and thus are already open-minded about religion even before they come to a UU church. I was raised a Southern Baptist too, BTW.

But at some point shortly after my maternal grandmother passed away, I started to question whether or not I believed in God, and I knew I needed to look within a bit more. I slowly started to accept that the belief in God was so central to Islam that I didn’t feel I could continue to practice it anymore. I told my father, who was understandably upset to hear his 13-year-old daughter make such a decision. Things were awkward between us for a short while, but at some point he came to me with words I’ll never forget: “Aneesa, I realize that in this situation, I can either be angry that my daughter has made a choice I likely won’t be able to change, or I can be proud that I’ve raised a daughter strong enough to think for herself and make her own choices.” Both my parents ended up supporting me in this journey, and I am eternally grateful for their willingness to let me search freely and responsibly for truth and meaning.

Assuming my theory about “spiritual orientation” is accurate, it is clear that hers was NOT Muslim at all and instead she needed to find a different religion to fit her needs. But if she had lived in a theocratic state like Saudi Arabia or Iran, she might have been given no choice in the matter. Indeed, in some Islamic states, leaving Islam can merit the DEATH penalty!

So began my journey to find something that suited me better. I went with a friend to her synagogue but didn’t quite find what I was looking for. I went to different churches with a few other friends but couldn’t quite get behind that either. I read about Buddhism, the Bahá’í faith, United Methodism, and almost everything in between. But nothing felt right.

The reference to the Baha’i Faith leaped out at me, for obvious reasons. I’d love to contact her and find out in more detail her impressions about it.

One day, while surfing the web in a last-ditch effort to find something I felt connected to, I haphazardly Googled “liberal faith community Bellevue, WA,” and stumbled upon a blog post about Unitarian Universalism. The author was reflecting on their first experience at a Unitarian Universalist congregation, and their description of the community seemed exactly what I’d been looking for. I found a UU church just a few minutes from my home and decided to check it out the next Sunday. One of my parents dropped me off, and I went in by myself. I was greeted immediately by a somewhat confused-looking member of the congregation who was wondering who I was and why I was there all alone. She asked me what I was looking for, and I said, fully expecting to be met with a weird look, “Well, I’m kind of Muslim, kind of atheist, and really confused, so . . . I guess I don’t really know what I’m looking for.” To my complete surprise, she put her arm around me, smiled, led me into the sanctuary, and said, “I think this is just the place for you.”

Can we bury forever the assumption that children below a certain age are incapable of making decisions on their own about things like religion or politics? Chances are that if she had entered a more conservative church, she might have been forced to deal with the police and then Child Protective Services. Only because she went to an UU church where children are clearly expected to think for themselves from the start was this teenage girl treated with the respect she deserved.

It was, indeed, just the place for me. I kept going back every week after that, and eventually roped my sister into joining me. She liked it, too, so we started going together, and at some point my mom joined us. One Sunday, timidly, my dad joined us as well and found himself enjoying it. Within about a year, the whole family was going, and I think it was a really good thing for us. We still keep Islam very close to our hearts, and it will always be a part of our mixed-up, complex family culture. But we are all very different people, and Unitarian Universalism gave us the freedom we all needed to develop our deeper beliefs and figure out what worked for us as individuals. It significantly changed the way I live my life. It made me more mindful and reflective, taught me to think more inclusively about the big picture, and opened doors to otherwise inaccessible opportunities.

I was recently shocked to learn that there were Islamophobes among UUs trying to drive a wedge between UUs and Muslims. I don’t think any of us should be tolerating those stunts after reading this story about people from a Muslim background becoming UUs.

One of these was Thrive, the UUA’s youth and young adults of color multicultural leadership school, which taught me about cross-cultural leadership and opened my eyes to several new aspects of my own identity. I co-led a workshop at the 2014 General Assembly in Providence, Rhode Island; have given several mini-sermons; and have a huge, incredible network of friends, mentors, and teachers within the UU community. I have also been forced to confront the reality that no institution is exempt from institutionalized systems of oppression. It was disillusioning at first to realize that even within something as seemingly perfect as Unitarian Universalism, white supremacy and other oppressive structures are not only present but prevalent. But this understanding has enabled me to more holistically work toward justice and liberation in all aspects of my life.

In a cult like the Baha’i Faith, criticism of the leadership would be forbidden and the critics would be expelled. No one has been expelled from the UUA as a result of controversies over racism or transgender issues that have cropped up recently. Instead, we work out those issues, openly and with an genuine effort to find inclusive solutions. And the leaders themselves openly admit to being wrong occasionally. Censoring dirty laundry is never good because it then never gets washed.

I wear a chalice necklace every day to center me and remind myself of what is important. I think often about how different my life would have been had I not discovered Unitarian Universalism, and I always find myself thinking that I would not be the kind of person I am today if I hadn’t kept searching until I found what felt right. Unitarian Universalism has truly changed my life and continues to do so—it challenges me, frustrates me, teaches me, informs me, calms me, and transforms me in ways I never expected.

I salute this beautiful young lady for her courage, intelligence, and dedication. I hope this story gets shared everywhere!

Aneesa Shaikh

Aneesa Shaikh

 

Biblical Genocide and Pedophilia

Read this sickening passage from the Bible, considered by most Christians and Jews to be the Word of God and a reliable guide to faith and morals. The parts in red are the most disturbing ones of all.

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Numbers+31%3A1-18&version=ESV

Numbers 31:1-18

31 The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Avenge the people of Israel on the Midianites. Afterward you shall be gathered to your people.” So Moses spoke to the people, saying, “Arm men from among you for the war, that they may go against Midian to execute the Lord‘s vengeance on Midian. You shall send a thousand from each of the tribes of Israel to the war.” So there were provided, out of the thousands of Israel, a thousand from each tribe, twelve thousand armed for war. And Moses sent them to the war, a thousand from each tribe, together with Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest, with the vessels of the sanctuary and the trumpets for the alarm in his hand. They warred against Midian, as the Lord commanded Moses, and killed every male. They killed the kings of Midian with the rest of their slain, Evi, Rekem, Zur, Hur, and Reba, the five kings of Midian. And they also killed Balaam the son of Beor with the sword. And the people of Israel took captive the women of Midian and their little ones, and they took as plunder all their cattle, their flocks, and all their goods. 10 All their cities in the places where they lived, and all their encampments, they burned with fire, 11 and took all the spoil and all the plunder, both of man and of beast. 12 Then they brought the captives and the plunder and the spoil to Moses, and to Eleazar the priest, and to the congregation of the people of Israel, at the camp on the plains of Moab by the Jordan at Jericho.

13 Moses and Eleazar the priest and all the chiefs of the congregation went to meet them outside the camp. 14 And Moses was angry with the officers of the army, the commanders of thousands and the commanders of hundreds, who had come from service in the war. 15 Moses said to them, “Have you let all the women live? 16 Behold, these, on Balaam’s advice, caused the people of Israel to act treacherously against the Lord in the incident of Peor, and so the plague came among the congregation of the Lord. 17 Now therefore, kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman who has known man by lying with him. 18 But all the young girls who have not known man by lying with him keep alive for yourselves.

THIS IS WHAT A WAR CRIME LOOKS LIKE!

Also, how can anyone possibly know whether or not a woman has had sex with a man? There is only one sure way to tell: only let live the girls that have not yet reached puberty. But note that those girls were to not be set free, but that the army of Israel was to “keep [them] alive for [them]selves”. In essence, they were to be used as CHILD PROSTITUTES for the soldiers.

I feel SICK!

False Prophets

Take a look at this web page:

http://www.bahaiawareness.com/false_prophets.html

The Holy Prophet of Islam (pbuh) prophesised that “there will arise 30 imposters in my nation and each one of them will pronounce that he is a prophet, but I am the last in the line of the Prophets and no Messenger will follow me.”

(There follows a list of these “false prophets” including….)

  • Bab: Another false claimant to prophethood, and the predecessor of Bahaullah, was Mizra Ali Muhammad, who initially declared himself the “Bab” (Gate) to the Mahdi, and eventually progressed into other claims. He was embraced by the Shaykhis sect of Shi’a , who were then renamed “Babis”. Subsequently, he declared himself to be the Shi’ite’s hidden Mahdi. After declaring himself the Mahdi, he moved on to call himself Nuqtiyiula and declared that the Quran and Muslim Shari’a were now abrogated. Shi’a and Sunni scholars condemned him and Bab faced a series of imprisonment, trials, and indignities before being shot dead by a firing squad in 1850.

  • Bahaullah: The self-proclaimed successor to the Bab, and another liar/false claimant to prophecy was Mizra Hussein Ali Nuri. In 1863 Hussein Ali, a prominent member of the Babi group, declared himself to be the person whom God will make manifest, whom the Bab had foretold. He also took the name Bahaullah (Glory of God) and formed a new religion, the Bahai faith. Bahaullah was banished from Persia and was eventually imprisoned in Akka-Palestine. There he wrote his main work, his Kitab-ul-Aqdas (Most Holy Book), and developed the doctrine of the Bahai faith into a comprehensive teaching.

So as you can see, the situation is clear. There were many false prophets who came after Mohammed(pbuh). There is nothing to show that the Bahai Faith stands out from any other false religion.  

In my Critical Analysis of the Kitab-i-Aqdas, I discredited Baha’u’llah. I did not do so because of my belief in Muhammad.

Question: How can we know that Muhammad himself was not a false prophet too? If your only reason for rejecting a claimant to prophethood is that he came after Muhammad, then why can’t Christians reject Muhammad because he came after Jesus? According to Christian teachings, NO ONE can ever replace Jesus, not even Muhammad! Jesus was the Son of God!

I have long believed that Muhammad was a liar and insulter of Allah precisely because he claimed to be the last Prophet or Messenger, because such a claim means that Allah is silenced forever, thus denying Allah’s sovereignty. And if you deny that, how can you be a credible servant of Allah?

Fifthly, the teachings and revelations cannot have contradictions. For example, saying that God is Truthful and Keeper of promises, but then say that God broke his promise to Noah about the hour of the flood (Kitab-i-Eqan). Isn’t it contradictory? or that Men and Women are equal but yet women cannot serve on the highest council in the Bahai Faith called the Universal House of Justice?

Well, here in this blog entry I have shown a contradiction of Islam. Muhammad was a fraud and Muslims might as well all be atheists.

THERE IS NO GOD AND MUHAMMAD WAS NOT HIS PROPHET!!!!

Who was Joseph Smith?

Joseph Smith…..
……was born on December 23, 1805, in the town of Sharon, Vermont.

…..lived as a teenager in the “burned-over district” of upstate New York.

……was originally known as a treasure seeker and a teller of tall tales among his friends.

……married Emma Hale on January 18, 1827, despite the objections of her father.

……had a total of nine children with his wife, only four of whom lived to adulthood.

……claimed to have been visited by an angel named Moroni who instructed him to found a new Christian church and locate golden plates.

……..allegedly used the golden plates to write the Book of Mormon.

……named his new religious movement the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and its members “Mormons”.

…….founded the Mormon Church on April 6, 1830 with five other men.

……moved to Kirtland, Ohio, then to Jackson County, Missouri and finally to Nauvoo, Illinois to build up his religous community.

……..claimed that God now permitted polygamy in the Mormon church.

………faced bitter opposition from non-Mormons almost everywhere he and the Mormons settled.

……….was arrested for ordering the destruction of a printing press called the Nauvoo Expositor that had published criticism of Mormonism.

……….was killed on June 27, 1844 with his brother Hyrum in a gun battle against a lynch mob at the local jail of Carthage, Illinois.

The Baha’i Leadership is Obsessed with Martyrdom!

As if there were not enough disturbing things about the Baha’i Faith I once followed, now it seems its leadership, the Universal House of Justice (UHJ), has been willing to sacrifice people who believe in it for the sake of publicity!

https://bahai-library.com/uhj_dissimulation_iran_emmigrants

(Below are the excerpts from that web page that specify the problem)

Those who have recanted their faith in order to come out of Iran should not receive the impression that after the passage of a year, by simply writing a letter of regret, they would be automatically admitted into the Bahá’í community. Each case has to be studied separately. The result of this study must be conveyed to the House of Justice, which will reach a decision on the case in question only after consultation with the friends in Iran. One of the reasons why the House of Justice is so particular about these cases is that it does not wish any person to be under the false impression that anyone can use the Faith for his own personal convenience whenever it suits his self-interest. The believers who have denied their faith in order to leave Iran should realize that they have betrayed the many steadfast Bahá’ís who, at the cost of their lives, have steadfastly refused to recant their faith.

It’s almost as if the UHJ wants to have fewer followers, not more.

The Universal House of Justice recently received a letter from the non- Bahá’í husband of a Bahá’í questioning the justice of the removal of administrative rights from Bahá’ís who deny their faith in order to leave Iran by official routes. Since this question has arisen from time to time in discussions with representatives of other organizations who are interested in the plight of Bahá’í refugees, the House of Justice felt that it might be helpful to you to have the following extracts from the reply to this enquirer.

“It was the approved practice for many years for Bahá’ís to leave blank the space for religion on official forms in Iran. This was not a denial of their religion, it was merely a tacit refusal to state it. In recent times, however, the authorities refused to accept forms made out in blank, and would deny passports and exit visas to anyone who entered `Bahá’í’ in the appropriate spaces. In order to get such documents a Bahá’í would either have to enter `Muslim’ (or one of the other recognized religions) on the forms or would have to employ an agent to do it for him. This thus became a conscious act by the Bahá’í to deny his faith, and the National Spiritual Assembly of Iran at that point warned all the believers that such an action was unacceptable.

“.it was permissible in Shi’ih Islam for believers to deny their faith in order to escape persecution. since the time of Bahá’u’lláh such an action has been forbidden for Bahá’ís. We do not defend our Faith by the sword, as was permissible in Islam, but Bahá’ís have always held to the principle that when challenged they should `stand up and be counted’, as the modern expression is, and not purchase their safety by denying that which is most important to them in this world and the next. The principle is well known to the Iranian Bahá’ís and is upheld by the overwhelming majority of them when the penalty is martyrdom.

“Those Bahá’ís who have left Iran by official routes since the governmental regulations changed have made a conscious choice. While the majority of their fellow-believers have preferred to face all manner of difficulties, rather than deny their faith, these people have chosen to make this denial rather than face whatever problems were before them. They have left Iran freely, with the permission of the authorities as Muslims. They have chosen freedom and comparative ease at the cost of giving away their faith, and have got what they wanted. Some, however, once they are free, want to have their membership in the Bahá’í community back again. The attitude of the Bahá’í institutions in refusing to immediately readmit them should not be regarded as a vindictive punishment. These institutions are simply saying: `You have shown the insincerity of your belief by denying it for your personal advantage, we are not going to readmit you to the Bahá’í community until we have some confidence that you are sincerely repentant of such an act. In the meantime you can abide by the choice you yourself have made.’

Sincerity is no virtue if it results in DEATH, after which you can do no more good in the world. Or……is the assumption that Baha’is are imprisoned or killed in Iran for their faith not really true?

Among the hardships the Bahá’ís in Iran have been experiencing during the last few years has been the restriction placed on their travel. Since April 1982 any Iranian who applies for an official exit permit is required to complete a form where one of the questions is about religious affiliation. When Bahá’ís respond to the question truthfully they are not allowed to leave the country. As explained by the Universal House of Justice, “If they write `Bahá’í’, they cannot leave the country and if they write anything other than `Bahá’í’, it is tantamount to recanting their faith.” Some of the Iranian friends have obtained their passports and exit permits through broker, and although they themselves have not filled out the forms necessary for procuring such documents, the broker has completed the form on their behalf, most certainly indicating their religion as Moslem, Christian, etc., and not Bahá’í. Consequently, the Universal House of Justice, at the request made by the National Spiritual Assembly of Iran before it was disbanded, announced to all National Spiritual Assemblies that any Iranian Bahá’ís who left Iran via Tehran airport after 22 June 1983 is assumed to have denied his faith personally or by the intermediary of another in order to obtain the permit and is considered to be without administrative rights.

The Universal House of Justice ruled that the restoration of such rights is not to be considered by the National Spiritual Assemblies until the lapse of one year, and then only contingent on the attitude and degree of repentance of the individuals concerned. In addition, the National Spiritual Assemblies have been delegated the responsibility of ascertaining the procedures adopted by these individuals when leaving Iran and their reasons for doing so.

Therefore, when a person who has been deprived of his administrative rights applies for reinstatement, the Local Spiritual Assemblies have to insure that certain criteria are met before submitting the application to the National Spiritual Assembly for its deliberation and decision.

To facilitate your understanding of these criteria we offer the following guidelines:

1) Attempt to determine the degree of the individual’s contrition and report the process used to reach this judgement, i.e. did your Assembly meet with the individual, did he/she meet with your representative, did you engage the assistance of a translator?

2) Has the individual participated in Bahá’í community life to whatever degree was possible? What is your evaluation of his actions during the period he has been under sanctions? To what extent have they exemplified Bahá’í standards of conduct?

3) What is the individual’s motive in wanting to have their administrative rights restored? (Please bear in mind that a number of individuals were never active in the Faith in Iran but now wish to be considered Bahá’ís for their own personal convenience and self-interest.) Their visa status in the United States must be verified.

4) Ascertain and report the procedures adopted by the individual for obtaining a valid passport and exit visa in order to leave Iran.

5) Determine the reasons why the individual departed from Iran.

6) Explain to the individual that their administrative rights will not be automatically restored after the passage of a year, simply by writing a letter of regret.

7) Each case must be considered separately; the result of this study along with your recommendation must be conveyed to the National Spiritual Assembly.

Wow, seems the UHJ is asking for Baha’is’ freedom to be denied no matter what they do! With leaders like these, who needs enemies?

Why not come right out and ask Baha’is to COMMIT SUICIDE, you ARROGANT BASTARDS?!

And that is why NO ONE should be loyal to the Universal Hore of (In)Justice!

A Critical Mistake in the UU World

The UU World is the official magazine of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA), the religious organization I belong to. About two years ago, a controversy erupted over the embarrassing fact that despite its stated commitment to racial diversity, the UUA was far too white dominated and people of color were being passed over for positions in it that they were indeed qualified for. When this became too obvious to ignore, it forced President Peter Morales to resign.

Now, two years after that blew over, another problem has emerged: the disrespecting of transgender people by the magazine itself!

It started with this article published in it:

https://www.uuworld.org/articles/after-l-g-b

From a mainstream American point of view, it seems like a progressive article about advocating for the rights and dignity of transgender people. But from the point of view of transgender people themselves, it was a complete FAILURE! Reason: the article was written from a strictly cisgender perspective, which is as pointless as writing an article about blacks only from a white person’s point of view, instead of allowing the blacks to speak for themselves.

https://transuu.org/2019/03/06/putting-the-t-first/

Putting the “T” First: Public Statement on This Week’s UU World Article

Nothing We Do Will Be Perfect. The irony of the cover of the print issue of the spring 2019 UU World has not been lost on the membership of TRUUsT and our greater trans* community.

The UU World’s article titled “After L, G, and B” frames the trans experience by centering a white, heterosexual, cisgender woman’s experience. By doing so, it reduces trans people to objects—something that happens far too often in society and in our UU communities. The use of harmful slurs, the conflation of intersex and trans experience, and a repeated focus on surgery, hormones, and pronouns perpetuates stereotypes around trans experiences that devalues the gifts we have to bring to the world and Unitarian Universalism.

The impact of this article will have long-lasting effects. While the UU World has a vital role in communicating issues of importance to Unitarian Universalists around the world, often representing the leading edge and the best in our UU faith, it is that trust and faith in this magazine which makes this article all the more harmful. Well-meaning people who have no other known relationship to or interaction with trans lives will now believe that these words and actions are acceptable. They are not!

Soon after that was published, the UU World editors themselves admitted their mistake.

https://www.uuworld.org/articles/apology-spring-2019

Our story hurt people

Acknowledging that we have fallen short, UU World is committed to sharing in appropriate and respectful ways the inspiring and powerful stories of trans and gender nonbinary people within our faith community.

Christopher L. Walton | 3/6/2019 | Spring 2019
The “Progress Pride Flag” by Daniel Quasar adds new stripes to acknowledge the push for full inclusion by transgender people (with the white, pink, and light blue stripes) and people of color (with brown and black stripes).

Transgender and gender nonbinary leaders in the Unitarian Universalist movement, along with their allies and other UUs, are expressing alarm and sharing their pain at reading an essay in the Spring 2019 issue of UU World, “After L, G, and B” by contributing editor Kimberly French. I am profoundly saddened and deeply sorry to have caused pain to people who matter to me and whose dignity and worth I had thought we were promoting with the piece. As the magazine’s editor, I was wrong to decide to publish this essay and I apologize for the pain it has caused.

In consultation with the steering committee of TRUUsT (Transgender Religious professional UUs Together, an organization of trans leaders), we are keeping the essay on our website rather than taking it down, but are adding a preface that points to and quotes from this apology. My apology will appear in the original essay’s place in the online Table of Contents.

Many have asked why we published this article. My intent was to model, through a personal essay about one family’s experience, ways for the majority of our readers to engage respectfully with trans and nonbinary people; the impact, however, was to hurt and alienate trans and nonbinary people. I can point to three editorial mistakes: I planned an approach to the important topic of trans and gender nonbinary experiences within Unitarian Universalism without enough input from people who identify as nonbinary or trans. We did not model respectful engagement. Additionally, it was hurtful to put a straight, cisgender person’s experience in the foreground, especially as one of the first major articles in the magazine on this topic. We should have developed another kind of story in such a prominent spot that centered trans and nonbinary voices. Finally, when we reached out to Alex Kapitan, a leader in the trans and gender nonbinary community, while researching the story and ze urged us against the approach I had picked, I erred in failing to grasp the important cautions ze offered: a story told from a cisgender perspective would cause harm. I believed, falsely, that we could address the concerns within the framework of the story I had commissioned. It was a mistake to disregard this caution, and I apologize.

Several readers have also pointed to specific language in the article that is painful if not traumatic to encounter in the magazine of the Unitarian Universalist Association. These include a reference to jokes at a high school in the 1970s that involved a homophobic slur, a reference to “so-called corrective surgery,” and alarming statistics about violence against transgender people that one colleague told me felt “grim without hope.” As editors, we did not have enough experience with trans issues to notice the microaggressions throughout the essay that our trans readers are calling to our attention. These specific editorial choices added pain to injury, and for that I apologize.

If you can’t hire an actual transgender person to write about their own experiences, don’t bother with the topic at all. Seriously!

I can say that with conviction because the UU World already had a great article about the transgender experience back in 2017. It didn’t need that bogus article that came out with the current issue!

https://www.uuworld.org/articles/emptying-my-shoe

People are far more comfortable allowing the messy business of a gender transition if it is presented by storytellers as a foregone conclusion from the start.

But reality is nowhere near that neat. I spent the first fifty years of my life with no earthly clue I might be transgender. An observer might have found my teenage preference for female friends unusual, but I did not. Teenage gender norms and those of the liberated era in which I was raised allowed anyone to be friends with anyone else, and I put together a rich social life.

Things changed after graduation. People began pairing off, and social overtures toward single women were generally interpreted as romantic. Finding friendship among females became more challenging. However, I made the best of my opportunities, getting married and raising two children. I was mildly uncomfortable with my role as husband and father, but since I had never really felt like I fit in anywhere, that seemed unsurprising and certainly not an indication of anything unusual about my relationship with gender.

As a married man, I found that developing friendships with women was nearly impossible. I couldn’t come up with any way of approaching women socially without looking like I was interested in an affair. Luckily, my wife and I were great friends, keeping the loneliness of my married years partially at bay. I had family and career to keep me busy, so it was not until age fifty that I turned my focus toward the gaping holes in my social life.

<snip>

My wife supported my explorations until the clues began to suggest I might be transgender. “If you transitioned, I’d probably leave you,” she told me one night, and I did not object. I certainly would have been upset to find myself suddenly married to a man, and I understood why remaining in a marriage with a woman would not be her choice.

So I was cautious. I tested the waters, first presenting as a woman in public and then joining a transgender-friendly women’s reading group. A realization took shape: I was far more comfortable as my female self. Female social interactions seemed “right” in a way that male interactions never had. I began to see my female life as the “real me,” while the prospect of spending the rest of my days as a male looked unbearably dreary. I was conscious of a part of my being that demanded I be true to it by living as a female. I could no more change it through an effort of will than I could my height or eye color.

However, many whom I took into my confidence urged me to save my marriage by remaining in my male life and avoiding disrupting my family. I had survived a half-century as a male, surely I could survive the rest of the way.

After much soul searching, I still couldn’t agree. Imagine you are on a long hike, feet throbbing with discomfort. You soldier on, because everyone on the hike is complaining. But then you all take a break, and you find that your shoe is full of pebbles, while everyone else’s shoes are clear. You realize that, though no one’s feet feel fine, it’s been far worse for you than for others. A simple solution exists—remove your shoe and empty out the pebbles.

What would you say to those who remind you that you’ve hiked this far, surely you could hike just a little farther? That the hike is more than half done, and you’d inconvenience everyone else, who would have to wait for you to untie your shoe and then lace it back up again? What would you do? Would you just finish the hike, knowing that every step will hurt, or would you beg their indulgence while you emptied your shoe?

In the end, I reluctantly and with much trepidation decided that, while I wished I could have remained as I was for the sake of my marriage, it was asking too much of me to insist that I spend the rest of my life pretending I was someone I’m not. I needed to change, and if my wife left me because of it, I couldn’t control that and shouldn’t try.

That decision shattered our marriage. After months of vitriolic wrangling we decided she would buy my half of the house. My daughter, then a junior in high school, remained living with her. I moved into my own place, my wife furious that I’d chosen transition over her. My son was away at college by then, so for the first time since getting married I was living alone.

<snip>

Fast-forward to the present, and nearly every friend I have I met at UUCC. I never miss a chance to hear Getty preach if I can help it, and I look forward all week to the lazy lunches after services, discussing the sermon, current events, and what’s going on in our lives, or just kicking back and enjoying our food. I teach religious education classes every week, have helped lead services, and have participated in reflection groups, fun feasts, game nights, and other events too numerous to name. When I had gender-confirming surgery, I came out as transgender to the entire congregation during the sharing of joys and sorrows. I spoke of my excitement and fear, and I was met by an outpouring of support and a promise from a lay member of the Pastoral Care Committee to call me frequently during my recovery period. 

As I write this, I have just returned from three days at a spiritual center after participating in the annual UUCC women’s retreat. During one of the fascinating workshops there, it occurred to me how amazing it was to bask in the love and support that warmed that all-female space. And how unremarkable it felt that no one had ever questioned whether, as a transgender woman, I belonged there. The subject simply hadn’t come up.

I can’t imagine where I’d be had I not found UUCC. My life would certainly lack much of its richness. The dark, lonely period after my separation now seems a distant memory.

That is what we should have stuck with, and it will always be what we need, now and forever.

UPDATE: I found this comic that spells out the problem with that first UU World Article I linked to, but refused to copy any part of here:Image may contain: text