Wednesday, October 23, 2013

letter 110

October 22, 2013

Bishop Mark Webb
Upper New York Conference
United Methodist Church
324 University Avenue 3rd. Floor
Syracuse, NY 13210

Dear Bishop Webb,

I am a transsexual woman who is asking you to please consider the lives of all LGBT folks and those of us in loving and committed relationships as you deliberate on Pastor Steve Heiss's charges. 

While I know the same gender marriage issue is primarily about the gay and lesbian communities, the transgender community endures all of the same prejudices and high suicide rates as do gay folk. We're the "T" in LGBT.  You see, Bishop Webb, since the 1970's and 80's much research has been done and it's now known that transsexuals are born with this medical condition of gender incongruence. Only God knows for sure why this happens. It can only be corrected medically and by a social transition so that the outward gender appearance matches the gender of the inner core being. Transsexual men and women experience the same discrimination issues and biases as gay folks, and sometimes worse due to their visual appearance and how well they "pass". They also go through emotional trauma and upheaval as children and teenagers and they  have the same constant feelings of "what's wrong with me?" as gay children and teens. The isolation is overwhelming and the fear of coming out or being "outed" is a fear of total personal devastation, rejection and constant terror.  Their  suicide rate, like gay kids, is much higher than the national average and other demographic groups.

Why am I telling you all of this? Because your decision will not only effect Pastor Heiss and the gay community, it will also effect the lives of transsexual and transgender people as well. Many transsexual men and women have difficulty getting jobs because we are not yet fully  protected by workplace non-discrimination laws as are  gay folks and other minorities. Consequently, many cannot afford to have their birth certificate legally changed to reflect their true gender and, as such, cannot get married in the Methodist church to a person they love,  according to the Book of Discipline.

Like gay folks, we also need safe and welcoming places to worship.  My loving spouse and best friend of 49 years and I are very fortunate to be members of Tabernacle United Methodist Church in Binghamton. I lived in the closet all my life, under the prejudice, discrimination and fear described above, until seven years ago when the pain became too unbearable and I began my own gender transition. The first person we disclosed to was Pastor  Heiss. He gave us his blessings, acceptance, support, encouragement and was there for us every step of the way as we worked our way through the transition . I came out publicly at a Tabernacle church worship service on August 8, 2010 and underwent the medical procedures to complete my gender transition four months later. We could not have endured the major social and emotional upheaval that accompanies a personal gender transition  had it not been for our family and our wonderful accepting and supportive friends at Tabernacle and Pastor Steve.  I know my story is just one instance,  but it is a story that, without the support of our church, would probably not have been successful. This is why it is so important to have Pastor Steve continue his work and for you all to work on changing this Methodist Book of Discipline  to be consistent with the Methodist Open Hearts, Open minds All are welcome logo.


Carol Chandler

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