by Debbie Johnson
I’m back at my work desk but have clearly not come down from a wonderful time at First Event. I had such a hoot and even met a gal who went to my small high school, exactly ten years behind me and we had recently each been at the same school reunion, my 50th and her 40th. We hit it off very well before we even reached this connection and both marvelled at how fate sets us up. As this wasn’t enough, we are both class agents for alumnae affairs and both totally stealth.
Well, Debbie was anything but stealth Sunday morning after leaving First Event. I went to participate in a Unitarian Universalist church service in Marblehead. (I went there about thirty years ago and knew no one there now.) The UU churches tend to be LGBT friendly, as you probably know. When I went into the sanctuary I was met by a warm and welcoming middle age woman who insisted I sit with her and her friends. We did introductions all around and shared hymnals. I found it wonderful to be welcomed into the sisterhood and was soon approached by a membership woman who wanted me to have all their new member information.
The UU church has a practice of having people come forward to speak of their “joys and concerns”, using a microphone to address the congregation followed by lighting a candle. I had some wild thought about thanking the church for their warmth and openness. Then the children’s time started with a story that included 5″ by 5″ hand cut styrofoam and card stock stars that were thrown into the congregation. When the minister threw one, it sailed through the air and landed dead center in my lap. If ever there was an invitation from heaven to out myself, this was clearly it!
At the appropriate time I did indeed go forward to the microphone and introduced myself and added that I was the “T” portion of their rainbow coalition and I had been participating in a nearby four day workshop for hundreds of transgender folks and included doctors, therapists, and specialists of all sorts including ministers. I thanked them for their warm welcome and offered to take any and all questions anyone might have during coffee hour.
My seat mates welcomed me back with smiles and kind gestures. Then there was a follow-on part of the service where many of the congregants lined up to approach the alter area. And as not one, but three different women passed by, they reached into my pew to take my hand and give it a squeeze as they shared a warm smile.
During coffee hour I had up to five women in a tight circle with me as they asked questions and we shared information. What was so amazing is that for the first time in my life I openly shared the camaraderie, openness and emotional side of myself with GG’s who were not sitting in a bar over drinks, and felt totally included in return.
Finally a guy who teaches sex education with a wonderful UU program called “Our Whole Lives” (OWL) – this is a course I spent three years teaching at another church and in a very stealth mode – came forward to ask about the First Event experience and asked if he could reference it in a church article and use my name on the Internet. I was delighted that he asked and gave me the opportunity to help get our story out and I, of course, said it would be just fine.
Debbie Johnson is twenty-year TCNE member harking back to the telephone-booth interview days. A past TCNE public speaker who is stealth by day and out when possible, she loves to educate the public. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.