A Listening Heart for Our Transgender Neighbors

Every person has a story. No, I am not launching my campaign for "Master of the Obvious"! I am reminding myself of Jesus' call that we really see people who come into our lives. I also am reflecting on a new idea: that His way of seeing requires listening.

Our preacher last Sunday, Rev. Alison Dunn-Almaguer, put one more piece of the puzzle in place for me. In the context of King Solomon's story, she taught us that a better translation of the word rendered as "wisdom" is "a listening heart." She wonderfully showed us that wisdom isn't a matter of having all the right answers; but wisdom comes from listening-to God, to others, and to ourselves. (You can access her sermon here.)

Therefore, to my brilliant observation that "every person has a story," I would like to add this corollary: seeing every person the way that Jesus sees them requires us to turn a listening heart to their story.

Transgender persons, and our treatment of transgender persons, have been in the media with increasing frequency. Issues of bathroom use, protections against discrimination, and military service are in local and national news. As our pastor, Steve Hyde, reminds us: beyond headlines about "issues" are real people with real lives and real stories. Once we listen to these stories, it becomes much harder to treat someone as an "other." As we listen and connect to our common humanity, we no longer see a category of a person, but we begin to see the actual person, who is a beloved child of God. This "Way of Seeing," based on engaging our listening hearts, was central to Jesus' ministry in Galilee.

So I invite you not to debate, but to listen. Listen to this story of Kimberly Reed, told on the Moth Story Hour, about her journey home to grieve the loss of her father and attend his funeral. It is a story with which many of us can connect in some way; but her particular story has an unexpected complexity.

You can watch the video on YouTube here.

Or you can listen the old-fashioned way, on this radio podcast.

Engage with your listening heart, and then re-read some of the news stories about "issues" that transgender persons are dealing with, in trying to live as their most authentic selves. Once you have heard Kimberly's story, you may bring reborn eyes and ears to the swirling news, as well as a greater compassion for the real people and real lives that are there, beyond the headlines.

Cathy Baskin