Lipstick and Transgender Love

My time at the Sephora checkout counter today was brief. The young transgender woman told me that the NARS “Yu” lipstick was her mother’s favorite choice, and that I reminded her of her mother. It felt like a split second, but in that moment there was a deep yearning for connection from her. I was hoping that it was because of kindness and warmth she sensed from me. I do not know if she is lucky enough to have supportive friends and family. Maybe she has an estranged relationship with her mother, and my few seconds of approving dialogue was something she could hold onto for hope of reconciliation.

I pray so.

She then proceeded to tell me that the sharpener that I had selected was not a great choice for the NARS line and recommended I get their product. She left to find me one and proudly shared that it would ultimately save me money. I was taken back by how helpful and kind she was being to me. I couldn’t help but think about all the people that must give judgmental stares and stave off what is uncomfortable conversation for them. In those few minutes, I so admired her for the courage she has to show up and serve a population that has told her that she is disgusting, sick, confused and deserves no rights.

As she spoke, I got the sense that she may have been hurting and welcomed the kindness from a stranger. (Similarly, I have had those own moments in my life when I desperately needed a sign or word of encouragement to be reminded that I am loved, so it was easily recognizable.) I wanted to invite her to our church, Wedgewood, where we have several celebrated transgender members, but hesitated. I wasn’t sure if I trusted my intuition, and I was quickly reminded of how the faith communities have treated the LGBT community and thought it might cause more hurt from painful memories than the intended help I was trying to give…AND I didn’t want to be one of those crazy church ladies.

However, when I got home this afternoon, I couldn’t stop thinking about the encounter. I wanted to run back into Sephora to find her, embrace her and tell her that she is loved and has worth. I kept thinking about how we are driven by so much fear of the unknown and other, and these are actual people with flesh and blood that hurt, bleed and cry just like myself. It’s so much easier to theorize and hypothesize when we aren’t forced to reckon with the idea of a whole person.

Is it our own fear of God’s rejection that tells us to label everyone else with a Scarlet Letter? Maybe that will give us a façade of safety and certainty. Yep…

So there it goes, “Burn that witch, crucify that heretic, blame the Mexicans, ban the Muslims, keep the Transgenders from using the bathrooms…” All the while God is continuing to accept and bless those that we reject.

In my tradition, we see Jesus accepting and welcoming all of those that society labeled as unworthy — children, women, poor, weak, disabled, and all other minorities. Wasn’t it God that gave us the model of love and mercy for all? It seems like we are more worried about people being an abomination to God than God himself.

I have quietly worshipped with some of these folks for nearly the last year and have been astonished by their grace, humility and courage. On days where I feel racked with fear and guilt over expressing my authentic self and truth, I am at loss for words for the formidable strength displayed by these dear ones for the persecution and discrimination they receive on a daily basis.

As I continue to get educated on the trials and challenges transgender face, my desire for compassion and love to be extended to that community increases.

Each month at Wedgewood, we have a featured Sinner and Saint. This month featured John Newton, the author of Amazing Grace. It is such a familiar song, yet the inspiration of it is not shared very often. John was originally a slave trader and wrote that song after his faith conversion and awareness of how inhumanely slaves were being treated. He eventually left the trading industry and became a minister. This story is beautiful because it reveals hearts can open, opinions can change and there is room for grace to reveal new truths.

My original plans of a light evening of watching, “My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2” with my husband and mom-n-law (bless you, Justin) have been trumped by this deeply unsettled burden I have felt for the transgender community over the last several weeks, specifically in light of the fear and hatred in North Carolina. I have wanted to remain part of the silent masses to pretend it’s not my battle to fight. Then, I find myself standing face to face with a beautiful young transgender commending my lipstick choice, and I am undone. It is in that moment of shared humanity, I cannot be silent anymore.

So North Carolina, let’s let our story end with, “I once was blind, but now I see.”

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