This month something momentous occurred. After 32 years of struggle and suppression, I came out of the darkness and stepped into the light, and introduced my true self to the world. My journey was cataloged in a brief video I made, compressing my story into just under 9 minutes. Usually November is reserved for NaNoWriMo cheering, and I will continue to cheer from the sidelines. But here on the DreamAnvil I would like to go a little more in depth into my own journey. Each week we will look at one chapter in the video, and talk about the story behind the story.
There is a painting of a tree that hangs on the wall behind my therapist. The tree’s branches are wide and strong, but no leaves grow on them. On one side of the tree is the sun, the other the moon, as if the tree is permanently rooted between light and dark. Among the tree’s roots, a field of tulips blossom, stretching to the horizon, but the tree above is barren and lifeless.
Such was my life for much of the past two years. I had come through the darkness, but I was stuck halfway between light and dark. Unable to see a way through. Trying to decide between what others told me was “right” and what my heart had been telling me all along. My journey has been one that has taken me down a very different path than where I thought I would end up in life. I have talked at length about much of that journey, and these extended blog posts have hardly done that story any justice. One of the most enduring threads woven throughout my journey has been my faith. Having been raised in the Church, my faith is part of the fabric of who I am. My faith is what gave me hope when I was a child. It was what held me tight through the longest and darkest of nights in my adult years. It was the safe harbor I needed as the storms raged all around me. It was my life raft when the darkness threatened to swallow me whole. My faith has always been one of the most important and vital aspects of who I am. So, it was with great caution that I entered 2016 strongly considering transitioning, and why it was a year of prayer and discernment.
My entire life I had been taught that a gay person couldn’t be a Christian; that I couldn’t be trans and still be a Christian. Much to my regret and shame, I even passed that message to others around me. I was wrong, and to those I hurt I am so, so, sorry. This teaching is one that produces only bad fruit. Because of it, I found myself waging a war with my very self. My core identities conflicted with one another at almost all times. I spoke in Chapter 2 about the night I finished Justin Lee’s book Torn, sitting there on my bed and sobbing into my hands, as I thought of the impending loss of my friends and family. God was calling me to an impossible task it seemed. I felt like Jonah, running away from what God was calling me towards. “No,” I assured myself. “God must be wrong. I am broken. I need to be fixed. He needs to fix me.” I told myself. Yet, I was called into the great unknown and I followed as best as I could. Every step of my journey was bathed in prayer, before, during and after. I was certain when I first started out, that this whole adventure was a mistake. I never expected to find life in a place I had been told was only full of barren tree .
What I found as I ventured further and further towards understanding myself was powerful. The experiences I had were simply unexplainable. I was finding healing; not just in my body and mind, but in my very soul. That healing didn’t come in the form I had expected it as a child, nor in the form I demanded it to be as an adult. It came slowly, quietly, deliberately as I embraced my own womanhood. The closer I stepped towards living full time as Korah, the brighter that healing became. Even as my world completely fell apart around me, I found peace and strength I cannot fully explain. I found that the dysphoria that had choked so much of my life was slowly releasing its grip. I wanted to run. I wanted to fully embrace this new life. Instead, I did my research, I took my time, walked with those who were having a hard time understanding what was happening to me. When I finally stepped out of the darkness in November of this year, it was with the full assurance that I was both a transgender woman and that I was still a Christian.
To those of you who have heard the message that you can’t be LGBT and Christian, take heart and know that this is simply not true. Some of the most serious and vibrant Christians that I know of are from the communities that make up the LGBT spectrum. I am sorry this message has been forced upon you. You do not need to hide who you are from God. In fact, it is quite impossible. After all, he knew me before I was formed in the womb. He knew my name before I did. He made me just as I am, a blessed child made in the image of her creator.
When I look back at my journals from 2016 sometimes I have to stop, I weep at the challenges I faced along my path and how lost I felt. Back then, standing where I am standing now seemed impossible. I am amazed and so grateful to have come so far. This struggle to learn who I really am, to open my mind about who God is and who He made me to be; were some of the hardest moments of my life. This decision cost me my church family and many of my dearest friends. For the rest of my life, I face an uphill battle to be recognized and accepted, simply as I am and not as who I used to be. Still, I pressed on. “Just get through today Korah,” I wrote in my journal, “tomorrow will be better.” Tomorrow is here, and I am at last free! My heart is whole and full. My eyes have been opened. Once, I was like that tree in my councilors office. Barren. Dead. Stuck between light and dark. Today, my faith is stronger than ever, no longer defined by four walls and a steeple, I have found a new church family. I am finally comfortable in my own skin and have friends who love and cherish me simply as I am. For the first time, I am able to relax and just be present in the moment. I am embracing the part of myself that I had denied for too long. I smile more. I laugh more. I sing louder. Sometimes I will pass a mirror and smile; “Yes,” I remind myself, “That woman in the mirror is really you.” I look down at my shadow and I want to skip, I can hardly believe it is really me. Once again I have joy, excitement, and hope. For the first time, I feel as if I am not just going through the motions of living a life, but that I am finally fully alive.
I talk about my journey as if it is complete, but this is just one of many summits. As I look ahead towards the horizon, I have nothing but hope and expectation. What tomorrow will bring I cannot guess, but I no longer fear it. I will be here, Lord willing, and I will finally face the future as a whole person.
This Thanksgiving I walked through the front door of my family home not knowing what to expect. As I unshouldered my bags in a room all too familiar to me, something new caught my eye. A small, silver and glittered, jewelry box caught my eye. It sat in the middle of my pillow, waiting patiently for her owner to come and discover what treasure was hidden inside. As I opened the box my eyes grew wide at the sight of a beautiful, jeweled pendant. At its center stood a tree, its branches wide and strong and its leaves in full bloom. The green stones that formed the leaves glittered as they caught the light around them and sent it back out into the world. I can imagine no better picture of my life going forward. Where once I was dead, now I am alive. My name is Korah Alexander, and I am a daughter of God. It is so good to finally be here.