Hi, I’m Gina Grahame, I’m from Detroit, Michigan. I came out as transsexual in 1992. I was 29 at the time. I always tell people that transitioning was my last resort, it was not my first choice. I spent a year examining, “Could I possibly just be gay?” y’know, and as I told my therapist, “If you can make me gay, I can deal with that.”
She’s like “Do you know anyone who’s gay?” and I’m like “No,” and she’s like, “Time you do.”
So I met some gay men, and it took about 5 minutes to realize I’m not a gay man. And when I met women who were transsexual, I was like, “That’s it. I am female.”
It was very early in my transition, my parents asked me to go speak to the minister. This is at the church where they still went, it was also the church I had grown up in. So this is someone I’d known since I was 14. I agreed I wanted to prove to them that I was firm enough in my beliefs that they could be challenged. And secondly, I thought if I could get this man to be an ally, I can get him on my side, he could be a tremendous help to my parents to help them understand. This is Southern Fundamentalist Religion called the Church of Christ. We always say The Church of Christ is a lot like Southern Baptist, just not as liberal. I knew I was in for an uphill battle. I went to the library to start studying up. I bought the Oxford companion to the Bible, and I read through that, and I highlighted what I wanted to know, and I took my King James Bible, and got all my notes together, and went to go see the minister.
When I went in, his first comment was, “You know what you’re doing is wrong in the eyes of God.”
And I said, “Actually, I think what I’m doing is perfectly fine in the eyes of God.” And I said, “Let me ask you a question.” I said, “Is the Bible the absolute truth word of God, or is it a story of metaphors?”
And he said, “No, it is the absolute true word of God.”
And I said, “So then, the garden of Eden would be the high point of God’s creation. That was His initial untouched creation.“
He said, “Yes,” and I said, “Then where’s the minister? There’s no minister or church in the garden of Eden.”
And he started to get quiet. And he goes to Leviticus, and he quotes, “A man should not lie with another man.”
And I said, “Okay, then what about shellfish, and pork, and tattoos, and wearing clothes of different fabrics. I don’t see any of these being taught or preached against.”
So then he goes to Deuteronomy, where a man shall not dress as a woman, or a woman dress as a man. So I said, “Okay, yes. Now, could that be a sense of controlling women?” And he began to get a little flustered at some of this back and forth.
So I said, “When we die and go to heaven, what do we look like? Do we have the body that we had when we were dying and old?”
He says, “I think you’re oversimplifying it here. It’s just your soul that goes to Heaven. There’s no body.”
And I said, “Right, exactly. I’m not changing my soul, so what’s the problem?”
He says, “Well you’re changing God’s plan for you. God made for you to be a man.”
And I said, “Ah. What about Brother Johnson, who had a heart transplant recently? God meant for him to die at age 45. But rather than get up and preach against that, you were praising God for allowing a surgeon to have the skills to give him more life. That flies directly in your argument of playing God.”
And he says, “I think you’re still — you’re just trying to find an argument around what you know is wrong.”
I said, “Not at all. We’re supposed to be New Testament Christians, so Leviticus, Deuteronomy, all this stuff is irrelevant. Jesus fulfilled that. So show me the New Testament, tell me why I’m wrong.”
And he says, “I can’t tell you why it’s wrong, I just know that it is.”
And I said, “Well that’s your personal opinion, and you’re entitled to that. But your job is to preach what’s in the book, so if you can’t show me in the book where this is wrong, then you can’t get up in that pulpit and preach that it is.”
And I was wrong, because two weeks later, he did exactly that. He got up, and he gave a lesson on a Sunday, preaching against evils of this, as my parents and my sister and my aunt sat in the audience and listened. It was illuminating, because I felt he wanted me to be repentant when I came in, a sense of asking for forgiveness and all of this. And actually, I was more defiant.
You can back up anything you want to believe in the Bible. You can find a verse to do that. If you choose to believe in slavery, you can find a verse to back it up. If you believe in misogyny, you can find a verse to back it up. If you choose to believe that God is all about revenge and fire and brimstone and damnation, and all this, it’s there. As is that God is all about love and forgiveness. Religion is too often used as this hammer against the LGBTQ community. And I want people to know that that’s not what the book actually says. It just breaks my heart to see so many people in the community have all this internalized shame because of what they feel the Bible is saying, and it’s just not true.
Within a year or two, that minister left, a new minister came in. Complete opposite. He was completely on board with my being transsexual, with my transition, and helped my parents through it. His first words to me were, “Hey, girl! Come on in here.”
And I was like, wow, okay. And we talked. Same way that I talked to him with the first minister. And he said, “Y’know, there are just some things best left to God, and it’s not our job to judge.” And he told my parents, “This is not a sin. Welcome your daughter, this is not a sin.”
That right there was all I ever wanted.