Uncontainable Joy. For the last year and half, since I transitioned, I can only describe how I feel as having uncontainable joy. I go about my daily life and am in such amazing awe of the gift that God has given me. But, it wasn’t easy getting to this point. My transgender journey began when I was 6 years old praying to God that He would make me a girl. A pivotal faith moment for me in that journey happened 44 years later, in 2010.
In April 2010, I was driving to Albany NY from Philadelphia for the second straight day to attend the Empire Transgender Conference. I had just come back from Albany the night before to attend my daughter’s high school academic awards banquet. I left the house early and got back on the road to Albany, switching my attire from the suit and tie I wore the night before to a more appropriate skirt and blouse.
While driving to Albany, I was listening to a narrative reading of the book of Luke on CD. The narrator spoke about the amazing miracles that Jesus performed: water into wine, feeding 5000, Lazarus, and Tabitha. I had been juggling my male family duties with my need to be female for several years, and it had become exhausting switching back and forth from male to female and hiding it from everyone. Listening to the CD during my drive, it triggered all my frustrations and I broke down crying and I began yelling at God that if Jesus could perform all these miracles, then why couldn’t He do something simple like let me live my life as a female. And when I say my life, I meant that I wanted to keep my marriage, my friends, my family, my career and my bowling team!
And so for the next 10 minutes driving, I yelled and cried and He spoke in a calm whisper. After a while, I began to finally hear Him. He was saying that He had a purpose and mission for me. He said my mission was to become a woman and to be visible in the community so that it would help His mission to “Love one another as I have loved you”. Of course, I had always wanted to be woman, but now God was saying to me that He wanted me to become a woman – and that it was my calling, my purpose – our mission together. This now became very scary for me because there was the very real possibility that I would lose my entire world as I had known it. I have so many transgender friends have lost everything. Each week in church we hear how the disciples gave up everything to follow Jesus, but it’s a whole different thing when God asks you personally! I realized through tear-filled eyes that I needed to give myself to God and pursue transition in earnest – to fulfill His mission. I became convinced that if I just followed His lead, He would somehow make all this work out.
Over that summer, I started to follow a plan that I had developed during that car ride that day. Simple steps like seeing a therapist, growing my hair out, getting out more in public to build confidence, laser hair removal, electrolysis, Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT), and telling family and friends. Over the next three years, with each step, God walked with me through fear, anxiety, pain, anguish, and joy.
God then said it was time to transition and begin living my life as a woman. My spouse, my pastor and I developed a plan to inform and educate our church family, which we had been part of for 25 years. I also had plans to help my family, friends, work and bowling teams with the transition. God sent many angels to me in the form of advocates and on June 9, 2013, I transitioned at church and was welcomed by the vast majority of the congregation. With just a few minor bumps along the way, I have been wonderfully accepted by my family, friends, coworkers and teammates.
It’s been an amazingly difficult and wonderful journey during which my relationship with God has blossomed and grown. My prayers that had begun so very long ago were answered. My deepest desire has been given to me. God, you are awesome. Thank you for allowing me to experience uncontainable Joy.
Ms. Jennifer Lehman is a transgender woman who after a lifetime of hiding her true feelings executed a successful gender transition in 2013 to begin living her life as her authentic self. Ms. Lehman is a graduate of Gettysburg College where she majored in Physics, was in the marching band, on the bowling team and was chapter president of her fraternity. She has been married for 30 years to her college sweetheart and has a son (26) and a daughter (22). Ms. Lehman is currently employed as an engineering manager developing innovative systems for the department of defense and she bowls competitively in two leagues. Ms. Lehman is very active in her local Lutheran ELCA church where she teaches Sunday school.