My Personal Connection to Pride Month, Some Recent LGBTQ+ Reads, and Integrating My Faith and LGBTQ+ Issues

June 26, 2018 Let's Discuss 32

Be forewarned, this post is going to be more personal than book-related (though I have some books at the end if you scroll down!).

A lot of you have been around my blog since the beginning and you’ve gotten to know me a bit over these past five and a half years, so you know things have been going on in my personal life. Things I haven’t addressed directly, but I’ve alluded to over the past few years. Sometimes deciding how much to share of our personal lives on our blog can be a tricky issue. But I decided this week to dive in and just address things head-on since it was starting to feel a little disingenuous not to. Especially since I’ve talked about my kids on the blog for years, and those of you who are astute may have noticed that I’ve gone from talking about my son Jaden—to referring to my “oldest”—to mentioning my daughter Jade.

About a year and a half ago, my oldest came to me and told me that she’s transgender. She was born in a male body, but looking back on her life, she’d always felt female. That was news to me, and a bit of a shock, but I’d like to think I handled that initial conversation well. I told her I loved her, no matter what and we would figure things out together. But, I’m not going to lie, that process wasn’t always easy.

Here’s where sharing on a public forum gets hard. Because I know there are people who will judge our actions on all sides of the issue. Some people will say that it should have been a no-brainer—our kid says she’s a girl, so she’s a girl. Done. In theory, that sounds fine, but in practice it felt a whole lot more complicated than that.

  • First off, we had already been seeing a counselor for some really challenging anger issues and conflict with our daughter (who we thought of as our son at the time), and that counselor wasn’t sure what to make of Jade’s gender issues.
  • Secondly, some members of my family had a lot harder time processing the idea of Jade being transgender than others—and that made for some very tense days around here. Everyone processes gender issues differently and in their own time, something that we all had to learn firsthand. It’s not always easy.
  • Making life-altering decisions with a young teenager is complicated. As a parent, you want to make sure that you’re setting your kid on a path that’s going to give them the very best life possible. You want to trust them, but you also have to acknowledge that hormones and brain development and all that are at play. I think any parent can relate to the fact that figuring out how to best help your kids navigate life is tricky at best—in this situation, it felt even more difficult.

And then there’s the flip side of the coin. The people who will judge us in the other direction. If you’ve been around my blog for long, you know that I’m a Christian and my faith is important to me. I’d say about 90% of my (offline) life has revolved around my church, where we’re very active, and our conservative Christian homeschool group. I have to give my friends credit—most of them responded more lovingly and less judgmentally than I would have expected—but there’s still this general opinion that we’ve let “The World” dictate our actions instead of following God.

  • A quick scan of my blog will tell you that I have disagreed with the “traditional” Christian viewpoint on LGBT issues for quite some time. I review a lot of LGBT-related books. I’ve questioned the church’s stance for years, and I’ve done my own digging when I didn’t agree with the message that my church seemed to be sending—which is that we love all people but that being LGBT (or at least acting on it) is a sin. I didn’t come to these conclusions out of nowhere.
  • I’ve come to the personal conclusion that just because most Christians around me agree with something doesn’t mean it’s right. I’d like to think that if I had lived in the South during Civil War times or during the civil rights movement I wouldn’t have let the general Christian population’s opinions about race issues sway me. People during those times could show you Bible quotes to back up their beliefs, but that doesn’t mean that they were interpreting them the way that God intended. I see this as a very similar issue.
  • I won’t lie—I’ve had moments of doubt. I’ve wondered if I could be letting “The World” guide my thoughts and actions. But when I step back, I see a pattern: God has been working in my life for a long time, preparing my heart for this revelation about my daughter. He might even be leading me to do something more about LGBT issues in the church—though I’ve yet to figure out what that is (and it feels a little overwhelming!). I’ve never been an activist type person, but I can’t discount my own personal encounters with God to please other Christians.

Since Jade has transitioned to female (which happened in December), she’s blossomed in a lot of ways. Many of you might remember that I’d mentioned that she was really struggling with anger issues for a good two years before we ever knew anything about her being transgender (and before she really realized it for herself). All of those have gone away. Parenting my daughter is actually a whole lot easier than parenting my son was. It’s one of the things that assures me we’re doing the right thing. I should mention that I have Jade’s permission to write about her here.

I thank you for this supportive community because you really have helped me in times where things have been tough. This blog has been a refuge for me. (I don’t know how many times I’ve complained to you guys over the past few years that parenting is hardbut you’ve taken it all in stride.)

Now, onto the books, because this is a book blog. 

Here are some books that have helped me on this journey. Some of them are Christian-related because I felt that I needed to further educate myself so that I could explain my position better to other Christians.

  • The Transgender Teen: A Handbook for Parents and Professionals Supporting Transgender and Non-Binary Teens – This book was the first one that I picked up when we found out that Jade was transgender. It gives a lot of information on gender, including terms, history, and emotions and struggles that parents might experience when their child comes out as transgender.
  • Changing Our Mind: Definitive 3rd Edition of the Landmark Call for Inclusion of LGBTQ Christians with Response to Critics – This book was very helpful for me, and it solidified a lot of my beliefs about how the traditional church might be misinterpreting God’s word. It also made me feel a little less alone in my beliefs.
  • Bible, Gender, Sexuality: Reframing the Church’s Debate on Same-Sex Relationships – I’m actually still reading this one (I’ve put it aside for a while because I have so many review books to read!). It’s a little denser than Changing Our Mind, and the author disagrees with some of the finer points of that book, but it’s again been a great way for me to solidify my beliefs. Most of my research had been done via the internet in the past, and I was glad to be able to read some books on the subject.
  • (Not a book, but a great reference, so I’m mentioning it anyway) – Denver Community Church did an LGBT Learning Group when they decided to become LGBT affirming, and they have videos on their website. I thought that they were very helpful in framing the debate. One thing that I really respected about their discussion was their focus on “unity over uniformity.” Meaning that even though their staff and elders didn’t all completely agree on all of the Biblical aspects of the LGBT issue, they moved forward on the principle that Jesus is inclusive and would value love over law.

Other recent reads of note:

  • The Names They Gave Us by Emery Lord – I read this book at the perfect time last year, and it impacted me in a huge way. This book features a Christian protagonist with a completely open mind about a transgender character. Faith is so often ignored in YA books today, especially when it comes to LGBT issues (or it’s portrayed very negatively). This book was a breath of fresh air.
  • Being Jazz: My Life as a (Transgender) Teen – I got this audiobook from the SYNC summer listening program and listened to it on my way to Utah. While Jazz’s situation is a lot different than ours (Jazz knew she was transgender from a young age), I love the idea of a book that helps people understand some things that might go through the mind of a trans teen. Most importantly, I think the book illustrates that trans teens are just teens—Jazz sounds a lot like any other kid her age, with a lot of the same doubts and fears.
  • Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out – Disclaimer: I’ve read a few reviews from people who have issues with the way gender is defined and portrayed in this book. I can see their points (my Jade still loves video games and math and has no interest in fashion and very little interest in makeup—she’s not a girly girl, which makes understanding her gender dysphoria a little harder for people who think of gender in very binary ways). Still, I think the book does a good job of portraying portraits of a few transgender individuals and acknowledging that the journey is very different for everyone.

So, this has been a long post. I feel like I could write a whole lot more on this topic, but obviously I have to stop somewhere. I thank you again for being my support when things have been tough. We hear a lot of noise about how the online community can be toxic, but in my experience, the book blogging community is fantastically supportive. If that weren’t the case, I wouldn’t feel like I could share my personal journey with you guys here. Thank you for that.

Do you have any recommendations on LGBTQ+ books that have impacted you? I want to know!

32 Responses to “My Personal Connection to Pride Month, Some Recent LGBTQ+ Reads, and Integrating My Faith and LGBTQ+ Issues”

  1. Sam @ Sharing Inspired Kreations

    Wow! Thanks for sharing (and thank your daughter too). I can’t imagine how difficult that must have been for everyone involved…especially with your faith. It sounds like you handled it well and that everything is as it should be now. I have a friend who just (about a month ago) transitioned from a male to a female. It’s not an easy thing to do, but I’m surprised and delighted with how many people are supportive these days. People are getting better and better at being open-minded and accepting people for who they are. Congrats to your daughter on finding and embracing who she is – it sounds like she’s much happier (as is my friend).

  2. shooting

    Aw, congrats to your daughter! I’m sure it was tough for her to come to terms with being transgender and coming out. Do you have a local GLSEN? That might be a great way for her to meet other people that identify as LGBT+. I’m glad you felt comfortable enough to share both of your stories on the blog! I do find the book blog community to be a mostly amazing, accepting place. I think it’s great that MOST people in your life have accepted your daughter. I would have worried about those that were religious too, because you get a lot of negative feedback from people who think the bible doesn’t agree with LGBT+ people. I grew up Catholic, though I don’t consider myself one anymore – however, I am spiritual and I believe in an god that loves everyone.

    As for the books – I really liked I Am Jazz! I also really like George by Alex Gino; yes, it’s an MG novel, BUT I think it would be something teens would like too. I mean, I read it at twenty-something and really loved it.

    If you need anything at all, please let me know! 🙂

    -Lauren
    http://www.shootingstarsmag.net

    • Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

      Yes, our personal environment made coming out a bit more complicated, and one important issue for me was that I didn’t want my daughter to lose her faith because people couldn’t accept her for who she is. I won’t say that everyone has embraced her identity as a girl, but they have tried their best to be accepting, which we’re counting as a win at this point. More and more Christians are examining their beliefs on LGBT issues, so I do think we’re moving in a positive direction.

  3. Cee Arr

    Even *if* you argue that being gay is not allowed in the Bible (which, y’know, that’s a crock of sh**e, unless we’re all planning on covering our women’s hair, not trimming our beards, and only wearing one type of cloth at a time) then there’s *still* nothing there about being transgender. Argh!

    Sorry. Had to rant.

    Ok, *takes a deep breath* I think your attitude is generally good. I get that you’ve had to adjust, but honestly, I doubt any kid would consistently make false claims to being transgender, or otherwise LGBTQ+. It’s too terrifying to come out, you wouldn’t put yourself through it (trust me.)

    Always approach it from the angle of helping your daughter decide what *she* wants, and you should be fine. 🙂

    Just, do me a favour, and NEVER take the attitude of ‘oh, *I’m* not judging you, *I* love you, but you’re still going to hell unless you repent like murderers and rapists.’ I don’t think you would, but I have legit. had this with a blogger I thought was my friend.

    I don’t think a loving God would condemn people to hell for consenting acts of love between adults?! Not any kind of God that *deserves* to be followed anyway! Hopefully I haven’t completely offended you, but there we have it! All the love to you & your family <3 🙂

    • Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

      Nope, I get it. Unfortunately, this is the most positive response we can expect from most Christians based on thousands of years of interpretation of the Bible to say that homosexuality is a sin. The books that I talk about in this post refute that (pretty convincingly, I might add)—and I’m hoping that things are changing. Right now, if we look back at slavery or civil rights issues here in the US, almost all Christians look back at that time with repugnance (even though, at the time, many Christians held backward views due to a misinterpretation of the Bible). I honestly believe that will be the case with LGBT issues at some point in the future—I just wish that future would come sooner.

      I have a bit more grace than you do for people who hold these views because I know the messages they’re getting from the church and I know personally how hard it is to hold to an opinion that’s contrary to that. There’s this sense of “How can I possibly know better than the leaders of the church?” And most people don’t question it much because there are a few verses that people can pull out to “show” that they’re right. People really need to examine the cultural and contextual implications of the verses before they can understand why they might be misinterpretations. And that takes digging—something I did in the past, but a lot of people don’t even know to do. At any rate, I hope that you can give a little grace to people who might think they’re showing you love, even if they’re going about it in a wrong way. I think that seeing things from another perspective might really help them and might help us bring about a future where people embrace love in all its forms.

      • Cee Arr

        I wrote another essay-length reply, but the browser crashed and I lost it!

        Here’s the short version:

        – I parted civilly with this person, but no, I don’t have patience with someone who insists I’m going to hell. I tried, but she didn’t want to listen, and it’s not my job to lecture her on her religion. She understood why I was unable to continue the friendship, so at least that’s a start.

        – I actually showed a Christian friend the conversation (in confidence) and she assured me that I was polite throughout (and also said she would’ve been a lot harder on this person!)

        – Christians who support LGBTQ+ people are awesome! They also need to be visible and vocal when they can. Sadly, a lot of us have developed a distrust of many Christians and Churches due to past experiences; a lot of the time our **safety** is on the line, so we’ve unfortunately learnt to be a little standoffish.

        Thanks for being awesome and an awesome example of how you can be Christian and an Ally to LGBTQ+ folks! 😀 <3

        • Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

          This is one of the things that got me really questioning the church’s stance in the first place. There are so many people who are driven away from the church because of the way they’ve been treated in the name of Christianity, and that makes me truly sad. Especially when I don’t think a lot of people have truly investigated the issue—they just know what they’re told and they assume that’s all there is to it. I’ve always believed that I could do good with this blog by being vocal about both my Christianity and my support of LGBT books (and people!). The more people who can see that those two things don’t have to be antithetical, the better.

  4. Aj @ Read All The Things!

    Wow, thanks for sharing your story. *Hugs.*

    Also, thanks for being an open-minded Christian. I’m not a Christian but almost everyone from my hometown is. My best friend came out as gay when we were in high school, and our Christian friends turned vicious. They stopped speaking to him, and then they stopped speaking to me because I wouldn’t disown him. It got so bad that I was physically assaulted in 11th grade for being a “fag lover.”

    I still follow my former friends on Facebook, and they haven’t gotten any better. A few days ago, one of them posted a rainbow flag with “Let them burn” written on it. That same friend won’t let her kids use public bathrooms because “gays” are allowed in them. I don’t know. I’m confused about why a loving God would want his followers to hurt people.

    I’ll stop before I go on a long, self-centered tangent. Thanks for sharing your story and the book recommendations!

    • Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

      I’m so sorry you had to go through that, but good for you for standing by your friend even when things were very rough. We live in a progressive enough area that those sorts of things don’t happen (much), and even though our church holds the stance that being gay is a sin, they would never treat a member of the congregation badly or allow others to do so. I’ve been very thankful for that!

  5. Lisa @ Reading, Writing, and Random Musings

    Thanks for sharing your journey with us (and thanks to Jade for being willing to share). I admire the way you have taken the time to research, understand, respond all within the context of love and unity (I love the message of unity not uniformity). Although you may not feel like an activist, I do feel that you have a very strong voice (and have already had a strong voice through your blog) and calming presence that will serve this issue well. I look forward to hearing more about your family’s journey (and as a local girl, I might reach out for resources some time if I have a student who is transgender).

  6. S. J. Pajonas

    I want to give you a huge hug for being such an awesome person and mom. I actually did not notice the switch on your blog. I live in this strange land of memory problems where I know you have three kids and one is adopted but I couldn’t tell you names or genders. Lol. I really admire the way you came at this issue both with your personal beliefs and spiritual beliefs. It’s hard to swim against the stream in any community, but it’s good to hear that people have been swimming with you, listening, and understanding. That makes a huge difference. Hugs to you and your whole family!

    • Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

      Oh, I wouldn’t necessarily expect everyone to remember. On the one hand, I’ve referred to my kids on the blog a lot (even including pictures very occasionally), so people would certainly have the possibility of noticing the change. But it’s not like I talk about them every day or anything (this is a book blog not a parenting blog), and we all follow a lot of people. Plus I often don’t talk about them by name or all at once, it’s not surprising that the specifics are hazy. Thanks for your support, though—I really do appreciate it!

  7. Laura

    I think it’s so incredibly brave of you to share your story on here (and brave of your daughter to let you share it)! It’s sounds like you handled the situation amazingly, and I’m so glad to hear that your daughter is much happier now! 🙂

  8. Kristen @ Metaphors and Moonlight

    Thank you for sharing this <3 I'm also glad you mentioned having her permission since it makes me feel very uncomfortable when I see bloggers sharing personal info about their kids and I'm not sure if they did get permission. "People during those times could show you Bible quotes to back up their beliefs, but that doesn’t mean that they were interpreting them the way that God intended." I like how you phrased that. It's far too easy to take things out of context or misinterpret them. It definitely doesn't mean they're always right. I'm glad to hear you're doing your best to support your daughter and that she's been happier since the transition!

    • Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

      Yes, I definitely wanted to get Jade’s permission before I posted anything on the blog. She was totally fine with it (and sort of blasé—like, yeah, Mom whatever. LOL!)

      Faith issues can be so tough because I know that people have their heart in the right place. Even those who have been less accepting are doing it because they sincerely believe that God wouldn’t want them to compromise on his values. And there’s always been a feeling of “Who am I to tell them that they’re wrong?” That’s one reason that I’ve always been clear about my faith on this blog. I figure that the more people can see strong Christians who are supportive of LGBT people, the more they will realize that it’s an option. (Because, honestly, I don’t think a lot of people really realize that there are possible discrepancies in the translation/interpretation of scripture on the matter).

  9. Rachel

    Thank you for being so open and honest on your blog! I was born and raised a Christian but don’t specifically identify with or have a strong relationship with the church now (not the same thing as not having faith though), but there are many people in my life who are still very involved with religion, and I can’t imagine that this journey has been anything other than incredibly challenging. I think even the concept of being transgender is deeply misunderstood and very much seen as being something new by many aspects of society – be it older generations, religious-based groups, and even your average Joe Blogs, so it is amazing that you have been so supportive to your daughter! There are quite a few TV shows and YouTubers you could look into as well who openly talk about their experiences. Though I think I am quite liberal and have always been an LGBTQ+ supporter, I still have questions and feel ignorant, and have found some great online resources to try and educate myself. Wishing you, your family, and Jade all the best for your future xxx

  10. Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight

    NICOLE how did I miss this post!!?!? I get your emails but I didn’t see it somehow until I saw your weekly recap! So NOW I will shower you will all the love because you deserve it.

    First, this is beautifully written. And I have said it before and I will say it again- your daughter is SO lucky to have you, because you know how lucky you are to have her. And I think it’s a pretty awful societal commentary that we have to even acknowledge that, but here we are, and you are just an awesome mom, for this, and a million other reasons. ALL of your kids are incredibly lucky, honestly. And vice versa.

    I also think it’s great that you’ve been able to put so much of your personal perspective coming from a religious community into this- because I think you will be helping SO many other parents (and because of that, their kids) with your insight and honesty. And I think it is SO great that you and Jade can have these conversations, and that she is cool with you sharing your story- I hope she knows how much good she’s doing, too! And I am so, SO happy that she’s doing so much better, that makes my heart happy. ♥♥

    Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight recently posted: ALA Recap + Monthly Minutes at Midnight: June 2018
    • Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

      I’m definitely hoping that my story will help other people who’ve struggled with faith and LGBT issues. I think that a lot of people don’t even understand that there’s any real debate about it. We’re just told unequivocally in church that the Bible says that being gay or transgender is wrong and God knows best so it doesn’t matter if we understand it or not. (Or the issue is just completely avoided and we’re just left to assume all of that.) You have to dig to understand it any differently, and not many people do that without at least some impetus. Things ARE changing … slowly, and I hope they continue in that direction. (Though the current political climate doesn’t help.)

  11. Greg

    Thank you for sharing, and as a Christian I agree that I’m a little out of lockstep with “traditional” church teachings on this-I certainly don’t have all the answers but I think for Christians, love has to come first. what else would? And for a parent coming to terms with something like this where there’s so much to learn, must be tough. Especially with prevailing views out there in the church. It sounds to me like you’ve done a phenomenal job supporting Jade, and best wishes to you and her and your family going forward!

  12. Daniela Ark

    I love this post so much for so many different reasons Nicole! I always love when you share some personal about yourself, because I love to get to know you better. I love how generously you shared with the world something that evidently wasn’t easy for you and your family. BUT this will help so many other people dealing with similar situations! I personally connected with your experience of not fully agreeing with how certain topics are handle in your church. I was raised catholic but totally fell out of it for many reasons. I love your message of love and acceptance the most! I cannot imagine a better way to go about this situation life presented you with! I can relate to that so much as well! We parents would do pretty much ANYTHING for our kids’ happinnes. I’m glad to know that Jade is feeling happier now. 🙂

    • Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

      I am hoping that sharing my experiences will help others in similar situations. I don’t want people to believe that they have to choose between their faith and supporting LGBT people. I still hold strong to my faith—I just disagree with the church’s stance on this issue. And I certainly don’t want my kids to lose their faith because of this either.

  13. Jen

    I’m so happy to hear that since her transition, she has blossomed. That’s absolutely amazing and I’m so happy for her! And I’m so grateful that she has such an amazing mom to stand by her side! I’ll continue to think happy thoughts and keep you all in my prayers.♥

    It’s not the same at all, but my dad has twin sisters…one is gay and the other is a baptist and while we all love each other it definitely makes for some hard words or tough moments when we involve others outside our family at get together or events. I didn’t understand as a child why people would like one aunt yet shun the other just because of who she loved. I personally was raised to believe that you should love someone, regardless of their sex or sexual preference, for their heart and their relationship with you. And I wish more of the world had that view, it would be a much kinder place. ♥

    Jen recently posted: Monthly Wrap-Up – June
  14. Jenna @ Falling Letters

    Thank-you for sharing your personal story, Nicole! I think it’s great that you’re discussing the ways in which this wasn’t such an easy, clear cut process for you and your daughter. Thanks also for the book recommendation – I’ll have to check out the handbook.

    • Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

      I debated about sharing our thoughts and feelings or just stating the facts in a short note, but I think the more people talk about their experiences, the easier it is to understand them (and hopefully some other people won’t feel so alone if they’re going through something similar).

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