Recently I, along with members of Hagerstown Hopes and other community members, participated in the Transgender Day of Remembrance. It was a moving experience, all of us bundled against the cold while holding candles to bring light to the violence and injustices that have increasingly affected the transgender community in recent years. Asher Kennedy and I read the names and causes of death of those we lost to violence over the past year, mostly trans women of color. It all seemed so senseless and I began to wonder how, in 2018, we as a country are still struggling to accept that everyone is different and deserving of dignity and respect.
Pastor Deb Fenninger-Coggin, of New Light Metropolitan Community Church, closed the ceremony with a thoughtful and insightful prayer. She began by acknowledging that many of us in the LGBTQ community have been made to feel unwelcome in church, that we don’t belong. She’s right – our community has been called deviants, abominations, and even blamed for natural disasters by religious leaders. This is especially true for our trans and non-binary members who have been told that in becoming their true selves they are rejecting God’s plan for them.
Pastor Deb sees it differently. In her prayer she said that we are all made in God’s image and that our trans, non-binary, and gender-expansive community are showing us new and beautiful aspects of God and God’s love. This sentiment stayed with me and I’ve been thinking about it since the ceremony.
To be clear, I’m not trying to convert you. I myself identify as a recovering Christian. I’ve loved working in music ministry and serving my community, and I’ve also felt unwelcome in some churches. I’m sure there are a few readers who can relate to this experience. When we are told that we are unloved by a deity meant to love everyone, you can’t help but take it personally. Why would I be the person I am if that’s not what an omnipotent Creator wanted me to be?
The holidays can present a real challenge to those of us recovering from spiritual wounds because religion is enmeshed in so many of our holiday customs and traditions. If you don’t believe me, just look at the public outrage over Starbucks’ red holiday cup from a few years ago. So, what’s a queer person with a soul and no place to nourish it do?
My solution has been to embrace my spirituality, which is informed by a religious upbringing but has since transcended into something more unique and personal. A childhood friend and I were discussing this after Thanksgiving and she asked what I, as a gay man, say when others use religion as a weapon against me.
I thought for a moment, then replied that we all have a unique relationship to our spirituality and its source, be it God, a Creator, or something else entirely. For me, that source is love. Love guides us, heals us, and helps us decipher right from wrong. When we decide others are not worthy of our love because of their identity, that decision harms us because we are closing ourselves to love. Love isn’t like money – the more you give, the more you get. So, if we leave the judgment to a higher power and love one another, we tend to be happier people.
Even though I’m a recovering Christian, I’m thankful that many denominations are making efforts to be open and affirming of diversity and our community. If you’re like me, know that there are options for you. The great thing about spirituality is that it’s a broad concept that can exist within or without a religious belief system, meaning that your spirituality is your own, and no one can take it from you.
Happy Holidays, dear reader, and may your Spirit be warm, merry, and bright!
Adam Romanik is the owner of Computer Solutions for Less, an IT consulting business. Adam has over 15 years experience working in the both the IT industry and libraries and has worked as an adjunct instructor at several educational institutions. Adam earned both a Bachelors & Masters degree in Library Science from Clarion University, has earned 24 graduate credits towards a second masters degree in Information Systems and is an MCSE (Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer).
Adam Romanik is also the president and founder of the Keystone State Gay Rodeo Association. He actively competes both on the International Gay Rodeo Association Circuit as well as locally in the mid-atlantic region.