January 20, 2006
To: The Students, Faculty and Staff of Columbia Theological Seminary.
Dear friends and colleagues,
The last year has been an amazing journey for me. At times it has been a struggle, but overwhelmingly, it has been a joy to learn about who I really am and to learn to live into that identity. Some of you have been along for the ride since the beginning, some have joined in the middle and others have been on the outside. I imagine some of you have noticed a change in me, maybe a change in the way I dress or the way I behave. I am sorry that I have not been able, in the past, to be open about what I have been going through; but now it has simply become too painful to continue hiding, so I am taking this opportunity to explain what I have gone through in my life.
If I bring anything to preaching, I think it's my love of explaining things. I explain things all the time, even if there is no one around to hear me. It used to be when I was walking to work, or when I was at work, I would imagine that I was explaining something I had just learned to someone who didn't know anything about it. These days I do it when I walk to Starbucks or when I'm just pacing around campus. What's been happening lately, after a summer of introspection in CPE, is that I have been trying to explain myself. So I would like to ask you to imagine with me.
Imagine there is something you want, something you want more than anything else in the world, something you would give anything up for. Imagine you have wanted this thing for as long as you can remember, from when you were just a child. Imagine that more than just wanting that thing, you believe it was something you should have had to begin with. But something went wrong: there was some mistake, some accident, and now not only don't you have this thing, you can never have it. No matter how many times you go to bed praying that you will wake up in the morning with it, no matter how much you wish, or dream or how hard you work, you can never have it. Can you imagine that feeling? Okay – hold that feeling.
Now imagine that society, that the culture, tells you it is wrong for you to want this thing. That just wanting it makes you sick, twisted, perverted. Imagine always needing to hide who you are, what you want. Imagine never being able to talk to anyone about this thing you want more than anything else. And imagine what it would be like to be told you were sick, that you were perverted. Imagine how hard you would try to hide it, or how much you would struggle to change it, but you never can. Now hold on to that feeling.
Now you might think the thing to do is just to not think about it, to get away from it. But imagine that everywhere you go half the people you meet have the thing you want. It was just given to them: they didn't have to ask for it or do anything for it. For them it is the most natural thing in the world, just like it should have been for you. And because it is so natural for them to have, they have no idea how precious what they have is. Can you imagine that? Imagine the frustration of never being able to have what you so desperately want, and always being surrounded by people who have it. Imagine the feelings you might have toward them: envy, frustration, jealousy, awe, wonder, and even a little anger. Now mix all that with the fear you always have that someone will find out about you, find out who you are, what you want. Now hold on to that feeling.
Now imagine you find a way to help lessen some of the pain. You learn that it hurts a lot less if you can pretend you are one of those people. Not only does it hurts less, it even feels good. You try to be as much like them as you can; you imagine you are one of them, you dress like them, try to act like them, try to do what they do. But if the culture says that wanting the thing is bad, pretending that you have it is even worse. If you are caught, not only would you be laughed at, humiliated, and shunned, you could be arrested, beaten, or even killed. You try to stop, but you can't because it is the only thing that helps with the pain. So you hide even more. You pull yourself out of the world, because only when you are alone can you do the things that make you feel like you are really yourself. Can you imagine all that?
If you can imagine all those feelings, then you can understand what it feels like to be transsexual. You can imagine what it feels like to be me.
I know many of you don’t know much about transsexuality, and that you will have questions about what all this means. I will always be happy to answer your questions, and with the cooperation of Imago Dei, I have placed some books about transsexualism and other gender issues on reserve in Library.
There will be more changes in the future, I have chosen a new name, a name which more accurately reflects who I am, and I invite you, as you are comfortable doing so, to call me by that name. Other changes will be occurring that may be difficult or disturbing for some of you, and for that I am sorry; all I can say is that I hope you will understand that I am doing those things not in order to shock or upset you, but because I need to do them in order to be true to myself.
I ask now for your prayers and support in the days and years to come as I continue on this journey that I believe, will lead me to become the person God has created me and called me to be.
I remain, yours in Christ,
Meghan (nee Jim) Foote