Today’s post is from guest contributor Maxwell Kuzma. Maxwell is a transgender man living on a farm in Ohio who writes about the intersection of queerness and faith. You can follow him on Twitter @maxwellkuzma.
It’s Pride Month of 2020,and the weather is hot and sticky in Mobile, Alabama, where I live. I am still a “baby trans” (someone who is early in their transition), still in the first awkward stages of second puberty, still feeling a sense of disconnect between what I see in the mirror everyday and who I know myself to be. And my faith, while still deeply important to me, is also something I am wrestling with in an awkward stage of transition: with so many negative reactions to my gender transition from other Catholics and Christians, will I be able to hold on to faith?
Because it’s June, 2020, forget about any local Pride events I could go to. Forget the opportunity to gather with other members of the LGBTQ community while living in the South. Not even rainbow capitalism got much of a word in during June of 2020: it was months of Corona brand beer jokes, of everyone desperately trawling the same dating apps but no one really wanting to find someone in a pandemic, of baking bread, of toilet paper shortages, of everything shortages.
I remember thinking about how strange it was to be transforming in real time—day by day, chin hair by chin hair; my voice dropping, decibel by decibel—in private. This solitude was due not to personal choice but, because, well, pandemic! We all felt the sting of that human separation uniquely, my version of that just happened to include a profound experience of embodiment that I wasn’t able to fully celebrate with others in my local LGBTQ community–and definitely not in my local Catholic community.
I was struck with a profound sense of loneliness I had neither felt before nor have since. The loneliness I experienced in high school may have been more “emo,” but I had outlets like youth group, where I managed to bond with others over the idea of being a “band of misfits for God.” Bonding with other Catholics was something that ground to a sudden halt as soon as I decided to transition. If they did choose to engage with me, these Catholics didn’t offer support, but would ask invasive questions (“Okay but if you’re transitioning to this gender, what gender are you attracted to?”), challenge me with vague theology questions (“I’ll just leave you to think on this: what about the resurrection of the body?”), and bring up the notion that I am offended by their prejudice even though I never say a word (“We feel betrayed when you treat us like we’re insensitive bigots”).
Despite all of this, my spiritual life in this pandemic time was profound.
Although I felt completely alone in every possible human way (friends, family, church, neighbors, co-workers… even strangers of course were afraid of each other), I was still seeking God. Just as it took time for me to recognize my own LGBTQ identity, it took time for me to grapple with being a transgender person of faith.
Every weekend, I’d get on my bike, put on my headphones, and ride for miles through the Mobile shipyards and industrial sprawl. I’d ride along the steadfast waters of Mobile Bay, looking out across the vast expanse of muddy blue water reflecting the sky all the way to the ocean. I’d ride ten miles out and ten miles back, all with my own power, my own stamina, my own heartbeat pounding in my ears.
I felt connected to God, and I felt as though I heard the voice of God along with every heartbeat. My body was changing and I was at the helm, finding my way into myself more deeply than ever before, and as a result feeling closer to God than ever before. Every step in my transition felt so natural and resonated so deeply with me. I knew God was with me throughout it. I felt wrapped in the certain knowledge of God’s love, and I trusted that knowledge, trusted that feeling of confidence, and trusted that my transition would be spiritually fruitful.
One weekend when I was riding my bike, rain started pouring down on me as I made my way along the Bay. Big dark rain clouds came rolling across the water, thunder vibrating in the air from far off. Inexplicably, I started crying, tears mixing with the storm as I rode all the way home. Never had my body felt so much like my own, like home, even in the midst of a storm.
It was still Pride Month in June of 2020, even without the rainbow flags and parades. My transition was still beautiful before God even if the Catholics who used to be an integral part of my life were absent. With enough time, I grew into my deeper voice, my patchy beard became fuller, and I found a church community who loved me exactly as I am.
And God was with me through it all.
—Maxwell Kuzma, June 24, 2023