Francie's Place

A Testimony of a Transgender Christian                                   Oprima para español

We often read autobiographies with the temptation to compare our experiences--to justify our pasts when we see others who have walked similar paths.  Perhaps we are tempted to pride ourselves in not sharing others' weaknesses--or to covet advantages that we did not have.  Here is a brief testimony about how God has been my Provider and Protector in my journey to wholeness.

I was born in New York City where I  grew up with my parents and two younger sisters.  Having the same first name as my father, my mother and sisters have always affectionately called me “Francie” (short for my middle name).  My early exposure to religion consisted of attending Catholic Church each Sunday.

My parents dutifully enrolled me in a Catholic grade school.  Here I memorized the Baltimore Catechism, and received the sacraments of confession, First Communion and Confirmation by third grade.  Here I also met an overwhelming pressure to change to conform to others’ prejudices.  My teachers refused to call me “Francie”.  Whenever I was caught playing with my friends on the girls’ half of the school playground, the nuns would ridicule me and send me to the boys’ side where I became prey to bullies.  I was scolded for being too sensitive and for crying “crocodile tears”.

In fifth grade my parents tried to fix this "problem behavior" by placing me in a Catholic all boys’ boarding school.  Here I learned that to survive I would have to play the role and hide my feelings in a secret place. It was a lonely and painful time, having no one I could be honest with.  I had no desire for the company of boys and their rough games, and felt more welcome among yet never fully accepted among the girls.

The teen years were worse—the fear of exposure of my private crossdressing, the fear of being ridiculed, the shame and pain of hiding my feelings, and my exclusion from the company of most girls who were now interested in boys.  I dreaded the coming changes of puberty and decided to stop them with hormones as soon as I could.  I decided to never tell anyone about my secret life and feelings, not even God.  I withdrew socially and stopped worshipping in a church that I felt had become irrelevant.  I immersed myself in school work to stifle the pain of loneliness.

My college years were a time of crisis, questioning and a search for meaning.  Neither human philosophy nor mystical cults provided an answer.  I finally listened to God’s Word with an open heart and the God that I had learned about as a child at last became real to me.  I surrendered my life to God except for my inner secret.  I was too afraid to reveal that to anyone, even God.  I really believed God would despise Francie because of the shame and guilt that others’ cruelty had placed within me.

After graduating college, the Lord opened the doors for me to pursue one of my life’s dreams to study medicine.  Here, I met regularly with a Bible study group where I grew in knowledge and love of God's Word and then started attending church again.  I became active in music and youth ministry through the Campus Crusade.  This was a valuable and life changing time for me, but I believed that I could suppress my feelings and inner identity through prayer and living by “faith” according to what others dictated were God’s expectations for me.  As a medical student, I was able to secretly treat myself with hormones-this crutch eased the discomfort of living the charade and likely spared me from some self destructive behaviors, but I was to spend many lonely years secretly in shame and self-hatred.

This was also my first time living away from home and a time of extreme loneliness.  Seeing no alternative, I tried to play the gender role expected of me and sought companionship with a woman, purging my female wardrobe and stopping the hormones for months or years at a time.  To conceal my complete ignorance on dating, I studied Christian books on the subject.   On two occasions I promised before an ordained minister to play the husband's role dictated by Scripture, although I never revealed the hidden feelings that I mistakenly believed would be “cured” through my efforts.

Through the years this deception brought me to despair, robbed me of hope, joy and dignity and withdrew me ever farther from God and into myself and away from those I cherished. Although I never revealed my inner self in my first marriage, that was destroyed by the stress of my suppressed feelings and my lack of a male soul to play the part. Refusing to see my own fault, I married again after 5 years.  In that relationship, my children and I suffered physical and emotional abuse, breaking up the family and bringing me to desperation and two unsuccessful suicide attempts.

In June, 2002, the Lord opened my eyes to my error and rescued me from my own self denial through the witness of sister in the Lord and colleague Dr. Rebecca Allison and others.  Although I had invited the Lord into my life years before, I learned that even for people like us, God’s love is unconditional.  He wants us to trust Him, to reject the lies that we had believed, and to surrender completely to Him willingly as we are.  Until we finally do this, we cannot be honest with anyone, not even with ourselves.  Now I finally could accept what I had hidden and denied for so long, and as Francie I gave all my life to God.  God freed me from the bondage of a lifetime of lies and loneliness.  I will never again accuse God of making me as a mistake, and I will thankfully partake in the blessings that He bestows upon us.

In the summer of 2003, I sought to return to worship in the church of my youth, but that pastor made it clear to me that I would only be welcome if I again would hide behind the disguise of a man and never share my witness.*  I knew I could never return to that lie, and I was led to attend a worship service at Metropolitan Community Church Sacramento on September 7, 2003.  Here I saw God’s unconditional love in action in the concern and fellowship of our brothers and sisters.  Here I responded to God’s calling to serve Him in Spirit and truth and to reach out and proclaim God’s love to others like us who have felt abandoned and unworthy of that Love.

I stand confirmed in God’s never failing Love, to thankfully proclaim that we all can experience true happiness and bring that joy to our fellow brothers and sisters when we reject the lies of this world and when we fully claim the blessing of who we are as part of God’s beautiful and diverse creation.

Francie Milazzo
Lay Minister of Gender Concerns
MCC Sacramento
May 21, 2006

* Since then it is encouraging to see more each day how the Spirit of God's love, understanding and compassion overcomes the prejudice, ignorance and condemnation that once existed in various congregations (even in the Catholic Church).  Today there are more churches with ministries where we all can pray and worship God in Spirit and Truth without fear.  Let us pray that His love may become manifest in the hearts of all His children.

Romans 8
 1 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,
 2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.

More writings

July 3, 2004 - Encounter with the News Media - How my transition contributed towards public education on transgenderism

October 4, 2003 - Reflecting on the Life of Gwen Araujo - After attending the memorial service marking one year after her tragic death

Does Reparative Therapy Cure Gender Dysphoria? - A comparison of current therapy for gender dysphoria with religious based reparative therapy alternatives

Response to the above article by reparative therapist Jerry Leach

Reparative Therapy of The Transgendered - Sandra Stewart's study on Jerry Leach's reparative therapy program

Gender Variance and Judeo-Christian Theology - An essay on gender variance with scriptural references

Other writings - Some original poems, prose and other thoughts


Links to support resources on gender and Christianity

Rebecca A. Allison, M.D. - Web site of Christian physician with many resources and information.

Rev. Drew Phoenix - testimony of a transgender United Methodist pastor

Rev. Sarah Jones - BBC audio interview with a transgender Anglican priest

Rev. Erin Swenson, Th.M., Ph.D. - Presbyterian minister

TGMCC Discussion Group - This is a discussion list for transgender members of Metropolitan Community Churches.

The Gender Tree

The Grace And Lace Letter - A monthly newsletter for transgender Christians

The Institute for Welcoming Resources

Trans Episcopal - a group of transgender Episcopalians dedicated to enriching our spiritual lives

TransFaith - Transgender Christian resources

Transgender Christians Fellowship Discussion Group

Transgender Religious Leadership Network


Resources for transgender youth

If You Are Concerned About Your Child's Gender Behaviors: A Guide for Parents - from the Children's National Medical Center

TG-Chrysalis - Resources for Transgender Children and Teens, their Parents and Counselors

saveTyouthSaveTyouth - I moderate this community where youth who are transgendered, gender variant, or who question their gender identity may safely explore their spirituality through supervised mentor and peer activities.
 


Recommended readings on gender and spirituality

By the Grace of God"By The Grace of God" by Lee Frances Heller, also the founder of the Grace and Lace Letter. This book also features inspirational writings by Dr. Becky Allison, Terri Main, and Elisabeth Kellogg and is sold as book #941 for $11.95 at the IFGE bookstore. The full text is now available free on-line at http://207.152.67.6/gog/.

Transgender Good News"Transgender Good News" by Pat Conover presents a truly scholarly consideration of Christianity and transgenderism. It is book #251 for $15.00 also at the IFGE bookstore.

Omnigender: a trans-religious approach"Omnigender: a trans-religious approach" by Virginia Mollenkott addresses transgenderism from diverse spiritual perspectives. Book #201 for $18.00 at the IFGE bookstore.

Crossing Over: Liberating the Transgendered Christian(Please note that the above books are available from the IFGE bookstore although they may not be listed in its online catalog).

Trans-gendered: Theology, Ministry, and Communities of Faith"Crossing Over: Liberating the Transgendered Christian" by Vanessa Sheridan. An excellent exposition of transgendered liberation theology.

"Trans-gendered: Theology, Ministry, and Communities of Faith" by Justin Tanis.

"Made in God's Image" by Ann Thompson Cook.

"Transgender Journeys" by Virginia Ramey Mollenkott and Vanessa Sheridan.

"Transgendering Faith: Identity, Sexuality, And Spirituality" by Leanne McCall Tigert and Maren C. Tirabassi (eds.).


Talks on gender and spirituality

An Interfaith Perspective on Transgender Folks: Transgender Nature and Transgender Theologies
Lavender Lunch Archives, February 27, 2003 [27 minutes]
by Gabriel Hermelin, Dorian Key, and Lydia Sausa

Speaking with a Transgender Heart: Reflections on Ministry and Gender Identity
Lavender Lunch Archives, May 9, 2002 [38 minutes]
by Rev. Erin Swenson, Th.M., Ph.D.

Transgender Spirituality
Lavender Lunch Archives, November 15, 2001 [38 minutes]
by Rev. Justin Tanis, author


Rev. Dr. Brian Baker speaks on the Ethiopian Eunuch

The Ethiopian Eunuch - Rev. Dr. Brian Baker of Trinity Cathedral Sacramento speaks about the Biblical account of the Ethiopian Eunuch.

The Ethiopian Eunuch, Sermon on 5/10/09 from Trinity Cathedral on Vimeo.


Transfigurations

Transfigurations - Transgressing Gender in the Bible - A Play by Peterson Toscano.

Transfigurations by Peterson Toscano - A one person play that portrays gender variant persons from Scriptures


Video messages from Rev. Erin Swensen and Rev. Drew Phoenix on the Transgender Day of Remembrance


Transcendence CD Album

Inspirational Music

Transcendence Gospel Choir - The Transcendence Gospel Choir is a music ministry for the transgender community and performs gospel music in worship services, at pride events, and as outreach to the community itself.




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This page was first posted 13 JAN 2003. Last updated 26 SEP 2009. This page is constantly under revision.

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