“Created in God’s Image” (Part 5) – “No More Shame” by the Revd Dr Tina Beardsley
These verses came alive for me in 1989: a momentous year. In May the first breach of the Iron Curtain occurred in Hungary. In November the Wall dividing East and West Berliners for thirty years began to be demolished. That November the protective walls I’d erected around my gender identity were also breached, in answer to prayer, though I didn’t realise that’s what I was praying for!
There were two factors.
I’d been ordained in 1978 into a Church of England with no official policy on gay people, let alone trans people. My theological college principal, bishop and training incumbent, all knew I had a male partner, Rob (from 2007 my husband).
It wasn’t a problem – apparently.
But then, in 1989, General Synod debated sexuality and decided it was. I was also grieving the death of a mentor. And my life slipped out of control.
So, I prayed, more earnestly than I’d ever done before for myself.
A few days later, I woke in the early hours with these words formed in my mind: ‘God loves me, including the fact that I’m gay.’ I believed I had to say them in my sermon the following day, which I did. A few days later, a parishioner praised me for coming out: ‘It’s a great role model to see a gay man in a caring profession.’
Immediately, I said to myself: ‘But I never said I was a man!’
Coming out publicly about the gender I’m attracted to, began a journey of self-acceptance about my gender identity. It was indeed an answer to prayer. Gender variance, like variant sexual orientation, has attracted so much shame and stigma. But from then on, I felt loved by God, in my sexuality and my gender identity, and knew I must no longer feel ashamed.
Gracious God, your love breaks down walls of partition, including those we build within ourselves. When our defences crumble, and we feel exposed, may we trust that your love will reach us, at the core of our being, to banish shame and stigma and make us agents of your kingdom, through Jesus Christ our Lord.