A Transgendered's Search for a Church Home


by: LariAnn Garner

Like many transgendered persons, I knew something was different about me at an early age. My feelings and my attitudes were more feminine than masculine, and I was more at ease doing things like horticulture and artwork than playing football or other "boys" activities.

My biggest challenge, however, was my deep search for spiritual meaning in my life. Raised as a Catholic, I did not feel a spiritual connection with that religion, so I began to explore other churches. Through my explorations, I learned of a variety of denominations, was born again, and found that I had an affinity for full Gospel, or Spirit-filled churches.

So, by the time I entered college, I knew I would be looking for a church of that type to be my church home. At the same time, deep within me, I knew I wanted to express my femininity, but within myself, I had judged that something must be sinful about my desire. So to avoid too much self-condemnation, I did not give it much attention. Meanwhile, I learned about the Holy Spirit, and began to speak in tongues.

After college, I spent a year in the field with a biblical research organization (The Way International, which I have not been involved with for many years now), and then moved to south Florida, where I met my wife-to-be, Delia. She was, at that time, also involved with The Way, and together we learned and grew to the point where we both were not only speaking in tongues, but interpreting and bringing forth the word of prophecy.

I shared with her my desire to dress in women's clothing shortly after we were married, and she did not see it as a problem. I did not feel comfortable with talking much about it because I still thought to myself that it was something sinful within me and who wants to talk much about their sins, anyway! A part of me felt that there was nothing wrong about it, though, because it did not draw me away from God at all.

Years went by and, to cut to the chase, I felt the need to come out much more than I ever had. I had surfed the Internet and learned enough to know that I was not so unusual. There were many like me out there, and some were also Christians. Delia and I began to explore my femininity, and the process tested the substance of our faith and our love.

With great gratitude, I can say we made it through those very difficult times. In the midst of this process, however, was when we decided we wanted to begin attending church again. We had not attended church on a regular basis for the whole time we had been married (which, at that time, was about 19 years), and since we now had a child, we wanted to bring him up in a church atmosphere.

The challenge became to find a church that would accept my being transgendered. My brother had recently informed me about a denomination which had a program called ONA (Open and Affirming), in which churches would declare their acceptance of GLBT people into the life and leadership of the church. This denomination is the United Churches of Christ (UCC). We found a church of that denomination locally, although they were not listed as ONA on the Internet. Nonetheless, we decided to give it a shot, and we showed up there in March of 1999; I was completely en femme for this first visit.

The initial reception seemed good; the Pastor, Steven Hudder, was very understanding and welcoming of us. Most of the congregation also seemed to deal well with our presence. When we found that the organist was gay, we felt there wouldn't be any problems at all, but our thoughts were a bit hasty.

One lady in the church decided to write a hateful letter to the Church Council, full of allegations and innuendo which was without basis in fact. This individual did not know anything about us, yet they ventured to pass judgment on us, our family relationship, our morals, motives, and almost everything else about us.

This caused a bit of an uproar behind the scenes, but no one dared to confront us openly in church or in fellowship activities. I joined the choir (still am a choir member to this day) and every Sunday, we showed up, and I was en femme.

The final resolution was, basically, that if anyone had a problem accepting transgendered people, and us in particular, then perhaps they ought to find another church home. That lady who wrote that letter eventually decided to move on, and we had no further overt difficulties. Delia was asked to serve on the preschool board, and I was asked to serve as church Treasurer; both of us accepted the positions. With much dialogue and sharing between us and church leadership, we were able to show them that we were just like them and that being transgendered did not make us any less loved by God than anyone else.

One thing we worked hard for, and eventually got, was two workshops held at the church for the congregation. The workshops were done by Dr. Marilyn Volker, who is a nationally recognized sexologist and a tremendous example of God's love in manifestation. She did one workshop about transgendered people and the second on GLB people. The attendance at both workshops was exceptional, and the issue was basically put to bed with these educational opportunities.

Although no church is perfect, and there are always "glitches" to contend with, we feel that our present church home is full of loving, caring, truly accepting people who are walking the walk, not just talking the talk. We urge anyone who is GLBT and in the Miami, Florida area to come to our church and experience the acceptance there. You are welcome to contact us and let us know when you might come by so we can be sure to look for you.

Copyright © 2001 by the author
All Rights Reserved


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Also In This Issue:

Transgender Pride

A Pearl Without Price






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