This post is the fourth installment in the Spotlight series, where I’ll be publishing original content by or interviews with other TGNC folx as well as some allies. The purpose of this series is to incorporate perspectives other than my own, with the intent of heightening awareness of our community’s incredible diversity. I’m looking for writers and creators of all sorts — I’m happy to share photo essays, music, poetry, etc. as long as they are centered around some aspect of trans existence. If you’d like to feature a post on Trans and Caffeinated, please connect with me via the form at the bottom of this page.
This week, we hear from Petal, a non-binary person who loves God. For many queer folx, it proves challenging to reconcile a religious identity with an LGBTQ+ one, because we are so frequently taught that organized religion is inherently anti-queer. Petal shows us that it is possible to find balance in this dichotomy; to feel affirmed by one’s religion, and at the same time, confident and assured in one’s non-binary identity. Without further ado, here is Petal.
TW: Throughout this piece, Petal uses a few bible verses that are often weaponized against the LGBTQ+ community, but explains them in a way that is intended to be affirming.
If you’d like to further discuss this topic with them, they’re happy to chat over on their Instagram.
BLOOMING WHERE I’M PLANTED: ON LOVING GOD AND BEING NON-BINARY
My name is Petal and I am a gender non-conforming/non-binary, pansexual human, and I love Jesus. Yeah, I know, that string of words doesn’t naturally roll off the tongue. But, today, I want to talk about some things that make others (Christians and non-Christians alike) a little uncomfortable. I want to share something that’s written on my heart, however corny that sounds (I was raised on sarcasm and puns. There’s more where that came from, trust me).
I’d like to give some background on myself. I’m 26, my pronouns are they/them, and I just moved to Chicago in the fall. I’ve always questioned my gender. But I’ve also always been highly girly. I was a “girly girl” as a kid. My name is a dang flower, for pete’s sake. And honestly, I love my name – it is truly beautiful, and I love the story of how I got it. But around 19/20, I felt “different.” I struggled with the image of “just being a girl.” I really started to feel like there was more to me than just one [binary gender] or the other.
I didn’t feel like I was born in the wrong body, just that everything was a little tilted. This led me to do research, and I googled everything. One of my very closest friends had just come out as transgender to me, and I talked with them FOR HOURS. I’d cry on the phone, because I didn’t know what category I fit into. I felt identity-less. Up was down, down was up.
Everything I knew and stood for, that I had been taught up to that point (whether by life, the Church, or even God) felt altered. Have you ever walked past something every day and saw it and it never changed? Then one day, it moved like 3 inches and it rocked your whole world? That’s what I mean when I say I felt off; tilted.
I grew up in a little Lutheran church.
My Grandma was in the choir, and my Grandpa is still an Elder in the church. I’ve gone to countless Vacation Bible Schools, Bible Camps, and I even went to a Lutheran College for a bit. I’ve grown up around God’s love. That’s all I’ve known. I know I heard them say that being gay was a sin, and that God doesn’t make mistakes creating life. If He made you a girl, you were a girl.
But as I have gotten older, I’ve realized that God knows your heart of hearts. Yes, all life is a gift from God, but He doesn’t live in my shoes, He doesn’t pay my rent, or even cook my meals. God may have given me the gift of life, but He also gave me the power to choose.
For a Long Time, I Felt Like I Was Sinning
When I hit that crossroads of not knowing where my identity fell, I did what I did every time I struggled; I prayed. I prayed for days. The Church likes to use the phrases, “hate the sin, not the sinner” and “a sin is a sin is a sin.” This means, first and foremost, don’t hate the person doing the ‘sinning’ – hate the act they’re partaking in. Secondly, no sin is greater than another, someone who murders another has no more sin than someone who breaks the sabbath or as someone who shoplifted. But, I still felt like I had ‘sinned’.
For context, I was raised to believe that once you ask forgiveness for whatever sin you’ve done, it’s wiped. You are as pure as the fresh snow once again. As I prayed, I tried to figure out why; why I didn’t feel right in my body anymore, why God let me feel this way.
It took me a long time to come to the notion that it is okay to feel both so in love with God, but not comfortable in one binary gender or the other. In Philippians 1:20, it says, “I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death” Even in the bible, it’s never said that you have to identify with the gender you were assigned; just that you “use” your body for the Lord, that you be the hands and feet of Christ.
I took that and I ran with it. I took everything that I have been taught from the church and everything that I had learned from the internet and friends. And it truly boils down to this: God is love. The Bible uses the word love 310 times. God created humans because he wanted someone to share His love with. It truly doesn’t matter the wrapping you come in, just that you’re there. I’m gonna throw 3 verses at you super fast, but they are some that sit very heavy on my heart as a non-binary Christian. Personally, these three verses truly incapsulate God’s love for us and how He wants to use it.
- “Above all. Love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” 1 Peter 4:8
- “Do everything in love.” 1 Corinthians 16:14
- “and now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:13.
Being a Christian makes me no better than anyone else on the street. To me, being a Christian is not about that. It’s not about pointing out someone else’s sin over my own. In Matthew 7:3-5, Jesus asks, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye and then you see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”
Here’s where it’s all going to come together. Remember at the beginning when I said “a sin is a sin is a sin”? The verse I just said (the one from Matthew) also reminds us that none of us are really without sin. Everyone sins. Let me say that again: EVERYONE SINS. Also, no sin is greater than the other.
Being Queer Is Not a Sin
But here’s the best part: being queer isn’t a sin. Let me repeat – BEING QUEER ISN’T A SIN. I know I know, I’ve done two sets of shouty capitals back to back. But it’s something I want to resonate with you. God is love, God created love for everyone, and there shouldn’t be brackets around who you can love or how you can best love the body you’ve been given. Everyone should be able to express their true selves however they see fit.
Truly, all God wants is for you to love yourself, and for you to be comfortable with yourself and your body. As it is, it’s absolutely valid to be queer, or athiest, or uncomfy with everything religion. The best part: God’s love is free, but you can be queer with or without it.
I believe in God, I am LOVED by Him, now matter what body I was born with. If I die tomorrow, and God wasn’t real, did I really lose anything believing in Him? But if He is real, and I do believe in Him, I gain everything. Why should I follow the Church blindly when I know God loves me no matter the packaging? Because He sees my heart. He knows what’s written on it. He wrote it there for me. He knows my intentions are pure. That I want to spread His word of love, not hate.
I’ve come to accept it. That because of God’s love, I can be both. And I know someone reading this has been burned, or hurt by the church. I would like to pray for you, but only if you’re comfortable with it. (I truly love prayer) If you’d like to talk to me personally I’m @Coffeepot.lilies on Instagram. I don’t have all the answers – But I know a God who loves me, no matter how queer I am.
If you feel so inclined, I have left a prayer I’ll be saying over the next few weeks for everyone.
But, you can skip it if it doesn’t sit well with you.
Dear heavenly Father,
I pray to You today for the human reading this.
That in this instance they feel Your love and the never ending love You have for them
I ask for a continued hedge of protection over them and their heart.
I pray for steadfast grace be poured onto them
In Your name I pray,
5 thoughts on “Spotlight on Petal: On Loving God and Being Non-Binary”
Thanks for sharing your story. You are loved and accepted by God. Our Creator made humans. Humans made categories. Rejoice in your beautiful self today!
I absolutely adore the statement that He created humans and humans made categories
The Talmud speaks of six genders, though in antiquity notions were based on one’s physiology, not gender identification. Besides men and women, there were the saris (what we usually see translated as “eunuchs”, men who developed “feminine” traits), the ay’lonit (women who develop “masculine” traits”), androgynes, and tumtums (basically couldn’t tell if male or female without, eh, closer inspection). Christians really have taken Jewish literature out of its cultural and historic contexts and misshaped it to their own personal values. And just like any other ancient concept, of course our understanding changes, if not evolves, and many liberal, reform, and reconstructionist rabbis have come to conclude that these six ancient groupings can also cover gender identity.
There’s even a place for atheists with God, as an old Chabad tale goes. An atheist goes to visit his friend. While others have said well wishes, prayers, the like, the atheist friend visits his friend, makes sure he is well, and asks what is needed, and does those things. While the others did as was per God’s commandments, maybe with the hope of a good afterlife, the atheist performed his kindness because he wanted to, not because someone else told him it was the right thing to do.
I tell all my religious friends, we are all born differently, because we all have a tale and a lesson to teach. Those born attracted to the same sex teach that love is about hearts, not parts. Those born identifying with the opposite sex or another gender show that there’s far more nuance to nature than the usual male/female binary (with 6+ sexual phenotypes and over 130+ noted forms of intersexuality in human biology alone), and that we need to stop overloading, pigeon-holing just because of how someone is born. Asexuals and aromantics are born not just to help keep population control, but to show that there’s more to relationships than just romance and sex (frankly, I value my friendships more than anyone I ever dated).
Within my own transition, I just masculinized my name as opposed to picking a new one, to show everyone that their former daughter/sister/mom, who’s now their son/brother/(one of two) dad(s), is still the same @$$40|3 skeptic with a heart for the down and out, just living his life as his own now. I tell my “gender critics” that, you know what, I am far better able to serve the big kahuna upstairs now, as a man, than I ever did or could as a woman. If my transition is really that big of a “transgression”, that’s between me and him/her/them, not me and that person. And I also state: you have your right to your religious beliefs, right up until they infringe on not just my rights but my ability to serve out my DUTIES and RESPONSIBILITIES as an American citizen. And that latter part usually shuts them up, anything that emphasizes patriotism usually does.
i’m seventeen years old, just came out nonbinary to mom but i was completely shot down. she continued to tell me that i was sinning and that this was all part of the devils work. I even had to go back to identifying as a girl because she had constantly made me feel like I was doing something wrong. She said if I pray more that I will go back to just wanting to be a girl. I wanna read this article to her today and try one more time to gain her support. Reading this made me have hope and now I don’t feel as alone as I once did. Thank You.
Hi there! thanks so much for sharing your story. Have things progressed at all with your mom? I’d be happy to chat with you and/or provide additional resources if needed