The Church Home I Wasn’t Looking For

As you probably know if you follow this blog with any regularity, I recently published aMMC nonfiction book titled, Who Am I If You’re Not You?  (What? You want to know more about it? Glad you asked. Here’s the website, and here’s an earlier blog post.) The book has been a great way to meet people, including at PrideFest in Richmond, VA, back in September. Two women each bought a copy of my book and said they’d like to introduce me to their pastor, each swearing he’d love it.

I smiled, thanked them, and thought, “Sure, he will.”

See, I grew up going to church. Voluntarily. My family wasn’t active in any church, but my best friend’s was, and since we were damn near inseparable, I went with her. It was a Southern Baptist church and I attended it for years–active in the choir, president of the youth group. I was immersed. And that was my framework of church for a long time.

It was a nice church, with nice people. When I got older, I attended various other churches for short periods of time, never really finding one that I felt was quite right for me. And after awhile I stopped looking. I came to the conclusion that the Bible, and all it stood for, didn’t necessarily contain everything I believed. My beliefs became more spiritual and less religion-based.

But there as another reason I stopped attending. I didn’t care for churches where there was so much ceremony – now it’s time to kneel, now it’s time to stand, now it’s time to find this hymn or that passage. I was self-conscious, afraid of making a mistake and looking foolish.

Now, back to the present. These two women I met through a book sale did, in fact, introduce me to their pastor and we arranged for me to attend two Wednesday night gatherings. From the moment I walked up to the front door that first Wednesday night, I knew this was no ordinary church. There was a homeless man sitting outside. And as I walked inside, there was another homeless man at the coffee pot, happily prattling away to himself. No one was shooing them away, or casting sideways glances. These two men were welcome here.

No less than three people came to greet me and offer hugs. These were strangers to me, but they acted like we were old friends. And I felt like we were! I experienced many surprising things that evening, like the pastor inviting everyone up for the prayer circle before we began — and inviting the homeless to join us in the circle! — and the most open, honest and candid conversation about LGBT issues I’ve ever had. We talked about it IN CHURCH. I was astonished (in a very, very good way).

See, church to me was where you put on your nice clothes and acted proper, said the right things and sang nice songs. God forbid you talked about homosexuality, sex, gender transition, or anything of the sort.

This church was a totally different story. People of all walks were welcome here, and FREE TO BE WHO THEY ARE. It was the most liberating, refreshing experience I’ve had in a very long time. Honestly, I marveled during the whole event, thinking, “This is what church is SUPPOSED to be. This is what Jesus must’ve had in mind.” It felt like home — the kind of home when you can be among family and friends and feel comfortable to burp if you need to (not that I heard anyone do so – but I bet if they’d needed to, they’d have felt like they could without judgement.) The kind of place where you could wear your jeans with holes (does that make them holy?) and no one would look askance. A place where you could just BE … and be accepted for it.

And that’s what church should be, right? A “sanctuary” without judgement? Where you can gather without fear of saying the wrong thing, or worry about what others think? Where the homeless are welcomed inside the walls AND the prayer circle?

In case you’re wondering, the church was the Metropolitan Community Church in Richmond, Virginia. If you’re near the area, I highly recommend you check it out. Truly, you’ll feel welcome. Tell Pastor Kenny – one of the nicest people I’ve ever met – I sent ya. And then let me know if you have the same reaction.

What’s your church experience like? Do you have a place like MMC? I’d love to hear your story!

And in case you’re interested, their website has some really interesting reading about homosexuality and the church. Here’s the link if you wanna see for yourself.

 

 

Gold before the Olympics begin

Feathered Quill logoThere is no way to say this without sounding like I’m bragging, so I’m just gonna say it:

I won a gold medal!

Well, okay, *I* didn’t win a gold medal, but the book I wrote did. That may be splitting hairs. I’m gonna go ahead and claim it!

I found out that “Who Am I If You’re Not You?” won first place for memoirs in the 2018 Feathered Quill Book Awards! I couldn’t be more proud, and not just because I can now call it an award-winning book, but because it’s resonating with readers. Here’s what the Feathered Quill judges had to say:

“This is a well-written memoir on a topic that people don’t see much of on the library/store/online book shelves. A must-read and valuable addition to LGBTQ collections. This book scored a perfect 100 from the cover to the content. Excellent job!”

That line – “a valuable addition to LGBTQ collections” – probably means the most to me. To feel that this story can make a difference for someone, that it merits space on their shelves, speaks volumes. It reinforces the belief I felt from the get-go: that this true story of one couple’s journey to love beyond gender was both unique and unusual. The more I researched, the more I realized just how special this real-life couple is, and I couldn’t wait to share their story with the world.

If you haven’t checked it out yet, it’s available on the book’s website and at Amazon. And as of this month, it’s also at the Barnes & Noble store in Charlottesville, Virginia, where I’ll be doing a book signing this Saturday, 2/10, from noon until 2pm. If you’re in the area, please come by and celebrate with me!

LynnThorne-Cover-fqawardAnd this is a perfect chance for me to thank the uber-talented Liz Weaver of Paprika Creative for her fantastic cover. She’s the bomb! I mean, just LOOK at this cover she designed. Seriously, look at it, and then go to her site and see what other outstanding design work she’s done.

Thank you, Liz!

 

This is me.

I’m not a stranger to the dark

Hide away, they say

’cause we don’t want your broken parts.

I’ve learned to be ashamed of all my scars

Run away, they say

no one’ll love you as you are.

But I won’t let them break me down to dust

I know that there’s a place for us

for we are glorious.

When the sharpest words wanna cut me down

I’m gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out.

I am brave, I am bruised,

I am who I’m meant to be.

This is me.

Look out ’cause here I come

And I’m marching on to the beat I drum.

I’m not scared to be seen.

I make no apologies.

This is me.

Another round of bullets hits my skin

Well, fire away ’cause today

I won’t let the shame sink in.

We are bursting through the barricades

And reaching for the sun.

transloveWe are warriors.

That’s what we’ve become.

Won’t let them break me down to dust.

I know that there’s a place for us.

For we are glorious.

 

When the sharpest words wanna break me down

I’m gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out.

This

is

me.

From The Greatest Showman. Lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul

 

Words have power. Banned words have consequences.

bannedI have tried for the past 24 hours — and failed — to put my swirling thoughts into words for a blog post. I’m trying again now because my mind can’t rest until I get this out there.

It’s the 21st century. What kind of country are we living in where top public health experts can be banned from using words in official documents?

More specifically, what kind of country are we living in where words that define HUMAN BEINGS can be banned?

Beginning with “fetus,” the very definition of life. This new list of banned words would have us do away with this term as though it were dirty or dangerous. If anyone cared, they’d realize it was science-based. Oh, wait…

And moving on to include “diversity,” “vulnerable,” and the one that hit me hardest: “transgender.”

So we should no longer use the word “transgender.” We should pretend as though it doesn’t exist. As though it has no worth, value, or meaning.

It was bad enough when government websites removed information relating to the LGBT community when someone (I’m banning his name) took office. Now the very term is banned?

What does this mean? Are those who are trans suddenly invisible? You ban the word and, POOF!, they cease to exist?

Reading the list of banned words for the first time, I started off appalled, then shocked. Today, I am beyond outraged. My emotions regarding this “list” are all over the place. I’m sickened, saddened, and heartbroken that in the greatest country in the world — supposedly based on the principle of free speech — we have a list of words that are verboten. That the list includes words that describe very real, very human, people I know and care about is beyond my comprehension.

The vice president of Planned Parenthood called the list “reckless” and “unimaginably dangerous.”

You must be able to acknowledge the humanity of transgender people in order to address their health care needs. You cannot erase health inequities of people of color simply by forbidding the use of the words “vulnerable” or “diversity.” — Dana Singiser

I’m still sorting this all out (as you can tell), but in the meantime, I want to leave you with something I read on Facebook that was beautifully written. I don’t know the author, Elena Sands, but I hope she won’t mind me including it here. It was so apt.

The evidence- and science-based facts are that you are wrong. Free speech is our entitlement and diversity is our strength. You will not oppress my transgender family without consequences. You are so desperate to save a fetus against a woman’s wishes, yet fail miserably to help needy children once they’re born. The only vulnerable thing here is your propaganda. You cannot silence us.

We are worthy. Every one of us. Our diversity makes us stronger, and that includes the transgender community, those who are LGBT, and those who are marginalized in any way.

We are all vulnerable right now. God help us.

#iAMPROUD of you!

Today’s guest post comes from Charlotte Summers, who is behind a global movement to be proud of gender and sexuality. While writing blog posts for thatswhatlynnsaid, more than once I’ve been disheartened by the treatment of the LGBTQ+ community. From bullying to suicide, homelessness to violence, and helplessness to hopelessness, I have wished I could do more than just shed some light on the pain this group endures.

Screen Shot 2017-12-04 at 3.58.52 PMThen I heard about Charlotte’s efforts with #iAMPROUD, and I asked her to let me share this project with you in hopes of giving it more visibility and giving a stronger voice to those who identify as LGBT.

You can learn more about #iAMPROUD through Charlotte’s words below. And in case I haven’t told you lately, #iAMPROUD to be an ally!

______________________________________________________________________

Understanding your sexuality or gender is a long and scary journey.

How will my family perceive me?  Will all of my friends turn against me? What will everyone say about me?

Many valid questions whizz around your head & it all gets too much. When you finally come out, you could get mixed reactions. You see, some get it easy, others don’t. But that’s part of life.

Many of us for years are ashamed of our sexuality/gender as the stigma attached is too much to handle. But this needs to stop, we need to be proud of who we are. No matter sexuality, gender, race, religion and so on. We should all stand proud.

We want to showcase how amazing LGBTQ+ individuals are & we are going to share the worldwide.

The #iAMPROUD project highlights how amazing we all are. From discrimination, hate crimes and daily judgement we still stand proud as ever.

For the younger generations and those struggling with their gender,  they will see us unashamed and owning our sexuality/gender.

And this is what they need. With increasing percentages of young children being bullied at school for their sexuality, they need us to stand up for them and say ‘ We are LGBTQ+ and proud.’

To help us achieve this, there are two ways you can join the movement. 

1. Take a picture of yourself with the hashtag ‘iAMPROUD’ with your sexuality, gender or identity.

Then follow the simple rules below:

  1. Tag us on Instagram at @iamproudd
  2. Use the hashtag #iAMPROUD

(For example: ‘Bisexual & Proud’ with #iAMPROUD below)

That’s it! You will be featured on our gallery as well as on Instagram!

2. Email us your coming out story.  Share your story to the world & show us all how proud you are to identify within the LGBTQ+ community. Our email is Uniteuk1@gmail.com

I hope you join us on our journey in being proud of who we are.

Learn more at https://prouduk.wordpress.com/2017/11/28/get-involved/

 

A woman without the history … but with all the knowledge she needs

I love to feature guest bloggers and today I’m featuring my new friend Donna Price. She posted the below on Facebook and I asked her if I could share it here with you. I found her insights fascinating and I hope you will too.

Btw, Donna was recently honored by Out magazine as one of their Top 100 for 2017! She’s an open and proud transwoman, and I’m grateful to call her my friend. Enjoy her musings…


Fiscal year, calendar year,

Mammograms,

Black Friday…

I received a notice in the mail that it was time to schedule my annual mammogram. I checked online to ensure that my insurance would pay for an annual screening. I called the clinic, and was surprised that they could fit me in the next week.

I arrived at 7:00am this morning for my annual screening mammogram. Anticipating it would be a quiet – day after Thanksgiving – morning that was true for the greater building, but not for the Mammography/Breast clinic as there were a number of us women present.

One woman was coming out of a night of food poisoning from, she believes, a turkey her hostess had let thaw and sit out too long before cooking, another exhausted before seeing mental health patients herself the rest of the day. I asked if she had done any work at The Women’s Initiative and she replied she had done her internship there.

Though having one’s breasts squished and squeezed is not a pleasant feeling there is a decidedly positive aspect as a transgender woman, for needing a mammogram.

Arriving at a women’s clinic, is such a reinforcing feeling for a transgender woman. Filling out the forms, however, is a reminder of how different the woman I am from those born with female bodies: no date of first and last menstrual period, no number of pregnancies, no number of live births, no date of hysterectomy, no record of when I experienced typical female gynecological medical issues…

Called back for my screening the nurse had some questions for me. I started to explain that I am a post-op transgender woman…to which she replied she did not care about any of that, but it had been less than 365 days since my last mammogram, so my insurance would not cover it. Calendar year scheduling on a fiscal year insurance plan…no worries, I replied, I’ll be back in a couple of weeks…

So I left to go to Lowe’s for some Black Friday tool shopping. I had given almost all my tools away to the kids a few years ago and needed to replace some. The salesman seemed surprised by my knowledge of single and double bevel compound mitre saws and immediately warmed up to my requests for assistance

A final stop at Belks for a new evening gown and my shopping is complete for the day…not being a typical woman has both advantages and disadvantages…you just have to roll with life…

Transgender Day of Remembrance

It’s a sad day in the transgender community. November 20 is recognized as Transgender Day of Remembrance to honor those who were murdered for being trans. Today is set aside to make sure they’re not forgotten and that they live on, recognized and remembered for their bravery in living their authentic lives.TDOR

There’s a website dedicated to those who’ve died due to anti-trans violence. I encourage you to visit, to read, and to educate yourselves about those who’ve been killed over the past year. And while you’re reading, you might be interested in other resources, like the background GLAAD provides to help journalists understand why TDOR is needed.

I hate that this day is even necessary, and yet I love that we have a way to honor those who died for being themselves. To those who’ve died due to trans violence, I honor your courage and your legacy.

On this Transgender Day of Awareness, I ask that you do something that’s authentically you, no matter how you identify. There’s only one of each of us in this world – we should celebrate that which makes us unique everyday, but today, especially.

What will you do to honor yourself today?

Transgender Awareness Week


Transgender_Pride_flag

Happy Trans Awareness Week! This is a time to raise the visibility of transgender and gender non-conforming people and the issues these groups face.

It’s a big week in the community, and it ends on Friday with Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR), in observance of those who’ve lost their lives to violence and hatred against them. To learn more about it, visit the TDOR website.

It’s also an important week for me personally as I launch my book tomorrow! Who Am I If You’re Not You? is centered around a same-sex couple facing a gender transition, and their journey to weather the change and all it entails. I’ll be holding a launch party and am excited to get this book officially out into the public!

Whether you’re a member of the trans community or an ally, please do something this week to acknowledge those who are transgender and gender non-conforming. Check out GLSEN’s website, or GLAAD also has a list of ways to support and mark the occasion.

Happy Trans Awareness Week!

What does a #trans person look like?

If you’ve got a few minutes (like 8, to be precise), please watch this video. Go ahead and do it now … I’ll wait.

<Hums Jeopardy theme perfectly several times in different keys for variety.>

Welcome back! What’d ya think? Since you watched it, you already know that it introduces you to two teens who are transgender and shares their story.

I loved it for several reasons:

  • for the education it gives
  • for the bravery they show in living their authentic lives
  • for the support their loved ones showed

But mostly I love this video because it puts faces on trans people. It shows you that they’re just regular people who want nothing more than for their gender to match what they have already felt in their heart their entire lives.

Several times, the people in this video reiterate: I’m just a human being.

I’m just a human being.

They are. They’re not “scary monsters,” or freaks, or someone trying to use the wrong restroom for nefarious purposes. They’re not confused, or going through a phase, or seeking attention. They’re not anything other than human beings worthy of love, like all of us. Worthy of acceptance, like all of us. Worthy, period.

Please, please watch this video if you don’t understand the trans community, and even if you do. I promise, you’ll get something out of it. If nothing else, it’ll remind you you’re human.

 

 

OrionWisdom and me

I’m so excited! As my book, Who Am I If You’re Not You? draws closer to launch, there’s all kinds of exciting things happening. Some of it has been planned for awhile, like my upcoming booksigning events at AFK Books in Virginia Beach, VA and at The Abbey in West Hollywood, CA. I’ve also been planning the Nov. 14 launch party at Over The Moon Books and Artisan Gallery in Crozet, VA for a couple of months.

But today I got a wonderful surprise when my book was reviewed/featured in this wonderful newsletter, OrionWisdom. Check it out and subscribe, if you’ve a mind to. Elisabeth Fitzhugh pens this digital newsletter full of thoughts to help you consider your personal spiritual perspective. I was delighted to be included in this month’s issue, and I continue to be humbled by those who believe in and support this book right alongside me. Thanks Elisabeth!

As I gear up for the launch, I’m looking for other ways to publicize this book. Who do you know who might be able to help its message reach those who need to hear it? Can you help me spread the word by sending out an email, or putting something on social media for me? Or maybe you’d consider sharing this blog with someone who’d be interested. I strongly believe someone, somewhere out there, needs to read this book and I want to make sure I’ve done everything I can to get it to them–but I also know I can’t do it alone. Thanks for helping me give this book wings to fly.

Here’s to our journey together. Cheers!