Penny's Story

A cute little drummer living her dream.

Archive for The Crossing

My Superstar

   Last night while I was at the tenebrae service I was surprised to get as emotional as I did. As I was listening to the readings and giving my readings I was nearly moved to tears a few times; while I was reading the part of the story when Simon denies Jesus I nearly broke down. One of the reasons I value The Crossing so much is that it has really helped me connect my spiritual life with my reality; I never felt such a visceral connection to the stories in the Bible before coming to The Crossing.

   So, while I was at the service last night, I felt an urge to watch Jesus Christ Superstar. I just finished watching it. Superstar has been one of my favorite musicals since I first saw it live over fifteen years ago. I love the music, but there’s more to it than just the music. I tend to live my life very much in the “gray,” and I love the way all the participants are portrayed with internal conflict and doubts and confusion. Judas, especially, is presented as being very tormented by his actions and decisions. It makes the story so much more relate-able for me.

   I guess the thing that really seems to be hitting me during this holy week is all the personal drama within the story of Jesus’ final days. This time around what’s hitting me isn’t the grand miracles, but the personal dynamics. 

   Simon’s denial of Jesus is hitting a particular nerve for some reason. I guess the whole loyalty thing is really important to me; but of course, everyone has to do what they think is right given a set of circumstances. Painting this picture so vividly lets me relate to Simon’s fear and pain even as he denies his friend. And Judas is even more conflicted, feeling trapped into giving up his friend to save the rest of the group of people.

   I know that there’s as many opinions about what the stories in the Bible ~really~ mean as there are people who can read the Bible, but I don’t even need to talk about that. I don’t need to get into a debate about the specifics, here’s what I know: Jesus is the person I most try to use as my moral compass. The whole “What Would Jesus Do?” thing got very political in some groups, but I often ask myself that question. If I can live up to about a quarter of the standard that Jesus set I would feel really happy.

   I dunno, this feels like a rambling pointless post even by my standards. I guess I just wanted to write down how moved I feel by Jesus and Simon and Judas this week.


   The Crossing held our annual tenebrae service this evening as part of Holy Week. I look forward to the tenebrae service so much each year, even though it is perhaps the most somber service on our calendar. In the tenebrae service we focus on the suffering of Jesus during the time leading up to his crucifixion. I find the service to be helpful in focusing my spirit. I’m often full of joy, and I find the occaisonal focus on suffering to be centering.

   I read two of the readings as part of the service, and during the second, in which Peter denies Jesus three times, I found myself almost crying. I was very moved by the entire service.

   Here’s the introduction from this evening’s worship sheet:

   Tenebrae, the Latin word for “shadows” or “darkness,” is the popular name for the ancient monastic offices of Matins and Lauds appointed for each of the last three days of Holy Week. As churches reclaimed the older “Triduum liturgy” (the Sacred Three Days: Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and the Easter Vigil), Tenebrae fell into disuse. 

   The Tenebrae service in its traditional form combines into one service the strongest elements of all three Tenebrae offices and offers an extended meditation on, and a prelude to, the events in our Lord’s life between the Last Supper and the Resurrection. 

   We have retained the somber and reflective mood, themes of suffering and betrayal, and the most profound image associated with the Tenebrae service: the gradual extinguishing of the seven candles until a lone candle remains. In its light, we are left to meditate on Christ’s death and the apparent victory of darkness and evil in our lives.

   You will notice that, even as the candles are snuffed, other images come into sight: images of the continued betrayal within the human family, images of famine and poverty, slavery and war, desolation in the midst of natural disaster. For Christ is alive in our midst, and if we had eyes to see, we would discover him suffering and begging us to stay, to watch and pray with him, not to abandon him once again.

   Let us stay, watch and pray now with Christ …


God’s Dream

   A few months ago the person offering the reflection at the Crossing posed the question: “What is God’s dream for you?”

   I’ve had that question floating around in my head ever since then. I don’t think I have a definitive answer, or anything, but I have thought about it enough to at least write some of it down. I consider my relationship with the divine as much more intuitive than a direct question and answer line. How can I really know the mind of God? How can I have any real idea what God envisions for me? 

   The best I feel I can do is try to gather signs from the world around me, use the faith that I was raised with, and my own sense of intuition to divine what the divine has in mind as my dream existence. When I examine the last five years of my life, I find too many coincidences; I believe the hand of God was very active in my life. I’ve often said that part of the reason I transitioned was that I finally gave up and stopped fighting against the obvious reality of my life – the fact the I am a woman, born with the wrong parts, became too strong to fight any longer; another way for me to look at that is that I finally gave in and accepted God’s dream for me.

   I struggled with my faith for most of my life. I was raised in a very traditional Lutheran congregation. I went to Catholic high school. I had perfect attendance for twelve years of Sunday School. I became Born Again when I was 18. I dabbled with Buddhism. I searched and searched and searched for something real to connect with; some part of God that felt like it was reaching back for me. But I couldn’t find anything. I learned the moral lessons as best I could, but that sense that I was connected to the divine always seemed like a leap of faith I just could not complete no matter how I tried.

   And then I stopped trying. I’d say I gave up looking for God in my life by the time I was 24 or so. I think being transgendered strongly impacted my spiritual journey; how could it not? I was such a shattered identity at that point in my life; living one existence on the outside, but keeping so much hidden, so much bottled up. I lived with so much self-loathing; I knew I was broken and worthless. If there was a God then God certainly cared very little for me, how could any but the most sadistic of Gods create a person with such a tragic flaw as being born into the wrong body?

   I lived in this state for a long time; stuck thinking that the best I could do was bury every feeling of my true self beneath a “normal” life, stuck thinking that either God didn’t exist or was callously ambivalent toward my situation. As I said in a reflection that I once gave, I was pretty bitter.

   And then I gave up fighting. I gave up trying to be something I wasn’t. I gave up resisting the obvious path that I was being called to follow, no matter how hard that path appeared. And a funny thing happened: I started noticing God in my life. It hadn’t occured to me at the time, but once I stopped fighting everything ~including God~, God was suddenly there for me.

   It was small at first; I was groomed. There was teaching a drum line in a church; there was the Episcopal priest who, when told of my impending gender change said: “If there’s anything we can do support you, just let us know;” there was the friend who gently spoke with me of her spiritual journey and my own; there was drumming in church; there was the night my Gram died, when I ~most definitely~ felt her spirit touch me and leave me some of her strength; there was The Crossing; there was the call to preach; there was the support and celebration of me being myself by the most spiritual and religious people I knew; there was the prayer circle and blessing before I left for Colorado for my SRS. God was patient working her way back into my life; I never would have been ready for a blinding revelation five years ago, but with the last five years that I have lived, it would be impossible for me to not believe that God has been most active in my life.

   And so, even though I know this will be a changing answer and a changing equation, when I think of what God’s dream for me is and will be, I see a continued acceptance of self, I see a call to make the world a better place for transgender people, I feel drawn to raise a family, and of course to continue drumming in such a way that connects me to the divine stronger than anything else. When I think of where I am and where I’ve been, I’d like to think that God is proud of me; proud of the strength I have exhibited in the last five years; proud of the person I have become. Of course, the test now is to continue to make God proud of me, the journey gets no easier just because I hope I have done good.  🙂  The most important part of what I imagine of God’s dream for me to be is that I trust; I have always been obstinate and contrary, I need to trust my senses that I don’t need to fight truth.

   One of my most consistent prayers is that I hope I am living up, in some small way, to God’s dream for me. It’s sort of, by its very nature, an unknowable truth – I must simply strive to fulfill God’s dream for me as best I can. I certainly try to, and I will continue that hope and prayer and effort.


Passing at church again

Last night at church I had another little ego-boo in the whole thing that is “passing.” I pass all the time. Yesterday when I was at the RMV changing the gender-marker on my license I was “ma’amed.” Enough said. And yet I hardly live a stealthy life; I’m pretty open and honest about my history.

The Crossing creates a very interesting picture into that whole drama, because I have outed myself to the community at larger several times, but the community is very dynamic and constantly changes. So I assume everyone at The Crossing knows that I’m transgendered, but it often doesn’t come up, and I’m surprised sometimes when people haven’t known until a specific moment.

I posted on my Facebook status yesterday that I had gotten an “F” on my license. When I got to the church last night, one of the regular members of the community was there early setting up. He’s been coming to The Crossing for quite a while, and while I assumed he knew, it had never come up between the two of us.

So as I walk in he says, “Penny, you got an ‘F’ on your license?” I replied, “Yes.” He continued, “As opposed to what, an ‘M?'” And I said, “Yes, I had an ‘M’ on my license.” He asked, “How did that happen?” To which I had to respond, “I was born a boy.” And he said, “Oh, I didn’t know.”

Cool, yes?

We ended up talking a little about my surgery and such, but then we were talking about the refreshments for the after the service and just normal stuff.

I love The Crossing; I love God; I love my life.




Beautiful Woman

I was talking with a woman at church this evening, and I wanted to share the conversation.

To set the context, during the service this evening I received an email from my surgeon’s assistant letting me know that my file was complete and that she had received all the necessary items from me that I needed to provide pre-surgery (checks, letters of recommendation, medical history, etc…). I was pretty ecstatic after getting this email, I even had to excuse myself from the service for a moment to jump for joy in the hallway (seriously). I guess my joy was expressed in my playing, because this woman came up to me after the service and said that she could hear the happiness in my playing.

I explained to her why I was so elated. I told her that I’m transgendered and that my surgery is February 24th and I finally have all of my ducks in a row.

We talked a little about me and being transgendered and all that stuff, and then this exchange happened:

Her: “Penny, can I ask you a personal question?”
Me: “Sure, being transgendered I’ve gotten used to personal questions.”
Her: “What biological sex were you born?”
Me: “Well, there was some ambiguity, but I was born with a penis and one testicle.”
Her: “But, Penny, you’re such a beautiful woman.”

Okay, so that was one of the coolest things anyone has said to me. I think I’ve got this whole thing pretty well down. I’ve spoken with this woman a few times before, and I’ve always thought she was cool; this conversation only made me like her even more.  😉

Oh, and there is still the little news about my file being complete with my surgeon.



%d bloggers like this: