Saturday, August 30, 2008

Am I TG Enough?

Something that the religious world is quite familiar with is the idea that one must be a committed to a certain philosophy in order to be right with God. These are sometimes called "chosen sects." Anyone who has not understood or applied a particular principle is not consider "saved" according to these sects' belief system. Even if this person has been devout and committed all their life, none of this matters to the "chosen one" if he/she has not accepted a way of thinking partiular to the group.

One example I will give was my time with the International Church of Christ (sometimes called the Boston Movement in the 80's) in my college years at UNC-Chapel Hill. Like many so called fundamentalist groups, they believed they had the key to salvation due to a literal interpretation of the Bible. In Bible studies with potential recruits, church members were trained to dismiss any past Christian experience of the recruit. If one area of non conformance with church doctrine was discovered, that point was hammered to the point of making the person believe he/she was not saved. The church could then push re-baptism (thus nullifying any past salvation experience). Really it was a baptism into the church making the new member compliant to the new teachings.

The fallacy with the above is that at no time do we ever fully understand the level of any commitment even to God. Our growth has been called by some a spiraling path upward. We learn over our lifetimes, but the initial decision never changes. We may recommit ourselves, but that is not the same thing as accepting salvation. Over time, the new member of the ICOC learned that the leaders' commands and teachings were considered gospel as well. To disobey the leaders is to disobey God. Essentially, the leaders were the gatekeepers to God and salvation. They created hoops that were never intended by God. Much has been written how this tactic is commonly used by cults to keep members in line. Needless to say, it has lead to many wrecked lives over the years.

I wonder if at times we have similar gatekeepers in the TG community. They can take many forms from leaders in the community to therapists. We also divide ourselves so much with all the labels... TS, CD, TV, drag queens. We even have gender variant groups who refuse to associate themselves with anything TG. Each group has its own spokespeople who create rules (some seemingly in an arbitary manner) deciding who is in and out.

This can be especially frustrating for newcomers to the community trying to find their place. They walk into a community with the same politics as the real world. I know I was shocked at much of the infighting. I agree we should educate ourselves and others of the issues facing our community (especially workplace and health). That is part of the plan to achieve greater acceptance in this world. However, I had hoped that with all the grief we take from the mainstream, the TG community could pull together in a better way.

Fortunately, this is not true everywhere. I understand that my path is different from everyone else's. What works for me may not work for someone else. We all must choose the path that we believe is intended for us. Support groups play a vital role along those paths. The kind word of encouragement or even a small helpful suggestion may be the turning point for a fellow lost soul. Conversely, a unnecessarily harsh comment could easily drive one of our sisters or brothers back into the closet. We may never know the results of our actions. Do know they have an impact, both positive and negative. Just knowing you are not alone in your journey may be the thing that keeps us going.

One of my favorite Bible passages is in Romans 14, verse 5 (NIV):

One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.

This tells me that it is possible for both parties to be right. In our competitive society, we have been taught that there must be a winner in every situation. When it comes to determining my path, I will win by doing what is right for me. I cannot make that decision for anyone else (nor would I want to). Some will say they can. I doubt it. We can best help each other by removing the obstacles to self realization. Eliminate the pettiness. Be kind to each other. No matter what label you think you can put on another person, they are first and foremost a human being the same as you. Never forget that, and maybe we can move towards making this world truly better for all.

1 comment:

Jessica Britton said...

Well said, sister!