by Barbara Marie Minney
Imagine if you will that you are a solitary traveler, ragged and weather-worn, struggling though a vast monochromatic wasteland looking for a community to become a part of. A place where you feel accepted and appreciated for who you are and not what you believe. That is exactly what it feels like to be a conservative Christian trying to exist in the LGBTQI+ community. Like a World War I soldier caught between the trenches in no man’s land, there is nowhere for me to go.
I am finding that I am not as alone as I thought. There are several Facebook groups for conservative transgender individuals, which are kept private for obvious reasons. There is also the Log Cabin Republicans, which, according to its website, “…is the nation’s largest Republican organization dedicated to representing LGBT conservatives and allies…working to make the Republican Party more inclusive, particularly on LGBT issues.” And, in a recent survey conducted by the dating app Hornet, it was recently reported that as much as 45% of the LGBTQI+ community may be voting Republican in the upcoming election.
However, my purpose in writing this essay is not to discuss politics. It is to tell my story in the hopes of generating healing and conscious listening to one another, and perhaps even making that no man’s land a place where we can find some mutual understanding and respect for those who have different views.
I was born in Parkersburg, West Virginia and grew up in Vienna. When I was 15, we moved to Eastern Ohio, so I have lived on the banks of both sides of the Ohio River. My parents were products of the Great Depression and World War II and were Roosevelt Democrats. My father rose from abject poverty to earn a Ph.D. and become the superintendent of a school district. My mother had a master’s degree and was a teacher all her life.
I became interested in politics and in becoming a lawyer when I read a book about Abraham Lincoln in 3rd grade. It was also around that time that I began some correspondence with my Congressman, Ken Hechler, who was a Democrat as most of West Virginia was at that time. This correspondence continued until we relocated to Ohio. Mr. Hechler was very gracious in his responses to my letters and inquiries. I also remember being lined up with my classmates in front of my elementary school in 1960 as then Vice-President Richard Nixon drove by in his motorcade.
Things began to change when I entered college at Ohio Northern University, a very conservative Methodist college. I majored in political science as a path to law school, and I loved it. I immediately got involved in the student senate and rose to the executive committee position of Treasurer. In my senior year, I ran on a ticket for the position of Vice-President but was not elected. I joined the Young Republicans and attended state and national conventions hearing such speakers as Barry Goldwater, Ronald Reagan, and even Spiro Agnew.
I also became interested in creative writing and wrote poems and short stories for the campus literary magazine and a newspaper column called “On the Right.” However, to be frank, I had no idea what I was doing. I read, or more accurately tried to read, books by William F. Buckley, Jr., but it was like trying to walk through a field of oatmeal. I very quickly got bogged down because his intellect was so far above my own.
Indeed, my column was more libertarian and, in some ways liberal, than conservative. I recall writing a column commending the Symbionese Liberation Army for handing out food to the poor. As you can imagine that did not go over well with those who considered themselves true conservatives. I did become disillusioned by the Watergate Scandal, and in 1976 voted for the Democrat candidate for President for the first and only time in my life. However, I was more influenced by his interview in Playboy than anything that he really stood for.
After college, I entered law school, and upon graduation embarked on my career as an attorney. My first job was as an assistant prosecuting attorney in heavily Republican Muskingum County, and I was told on several occasions that I was being groomed to eventually take over the position of prosecutor. However, I left Zanesville after 2 ½ years to join a law firm in Cuyahoga Falls and later a law firm in Cleveland. For the next 34 years, I represented public school districts across the state of Ohio, wrote three legal books, and spoke at many state and national conferences.
Being a Christian in the LGBTQI+ community presents its own challenges. Again, I have found that I am not alone. I help administer a Facebook Group called “Transgender Christians,” and I have also been interviewed for gay Christian publications. I grew up in the Methodist Church and was required to attend Sunday school and church. I was not always a willing participant, however, and recall often trying to fake still being asleep so I did not have to go. That never worked.
When I got married, my wife and I attended a small Methodist Church two doors down from our apartment. However, because it was so small the guilt of being expected to take part in everything proved to be too much. We left organized religion behind more than 25 years ago but remained spiritual.
I transitioned at the age of 63 after repressing my true gender identity for over 60 years. When I transitioned, I found to my surprise that my faith was stronger, and I felt closer to God than at any other time in my life. Recently, I have dipped my toes back into the water of organized religion. The dilemma, however, is that I certainly would not be welcome in a mainstream evangelical church and the open and affirming churches are all oriented toward progressive politics. I have come to realize that being part of a church community is again important to me.
I am a vast collection of contradictions. As a writer, I spend a lot of time in my head, and there is a lot of conflict and confusion. My thoughts and ideas are constantly evolving. I am constantly seeking. However, I transitioned late in life, and it is unreasonable to expect me to change my core values and views just because I am now a trans women. I would love to open a dialogue with other artists and writers on how we can use our talents to heal and bring people together. There should be room for all of us under the big tent that we call America.
Barbara Marie Minney is a transgender woman, poet, writer, and speaker. She is a retired attorney and originally from West Virginia. Now based in Tallmadge, her first collection of poetry entitled “If There’s No Heaven” was the winner of the 2020 Poetry Is Life Book Award.