For many Christians Advent is a time of preparation. It is the time of the year when we are preparing to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. It is also a time where we are expected to prepare ourselves for the return of Jesus. The preparation that we are called to do is internal. We’re supposed to look at ourselves and ask ourselves if we are the best person we can be. Are we living up to the image of God within ourselves. Then we are supposed to wait. We don’t know when, where or even if Jesus will return in the foreseeable future. From the perspective of someone who has transitioned later in life I see a lesson that can be learned from the idea of Advent.
Prior to having my moment of realization of what was wrong with me I was like the one in the wilderness. I wasn’t even really ready to begin the process of preparing myself or living in the image of God within me. It was only after I had the epiphany or conversion moment that I was able to even begin to prepare myself, to begin to be who I am, to live in the image of God within me. During the process of transition there was a combination of preparing myself and also waiting. Preparing myself has meant doing a lot of personal work to figure out who I would be as a woman. Then, after starting to live fully as myself, what aspects of my identity as a male would remain the same, what would be adapted, and what would need to be discarded. This was, and continues to be a lot of ongoing work. So, where does the waiting come in to the story?
The waiting has always been there. Prior to my realizing that I needed to transition I would put off even looking at my gender identity. I waited, not out of longing, or a desire for something new, but for my life to get better, for me to be able to be a good man. After my realization there was a new waiting. Waiting for an appointment with a therapist, waiting for the therapist to give the green light to start hormones. For all of those transitioning physicaly and desiring gender corrective surgery there is a further wait after starting to live one’s true identity. In Ontario in order to get provincial funding for the surgery one has to go through the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto where there is a wait time of over 18 months for an initial assessment appointment. There is a lot of waiting.
So, what does one do while waiting? Prepare of course. In my own case I have spent a lot of time working on who I am. Examining who I was prior to transition and working on getting rid of the negatives, the coping mechanisms and habits that were formed in order to survive. Coming to terms with decades of depression. Discerning what my next steps in life will look like.
While many of our narratives may be similar, how we live out our lives and our transitions is very different. Using the template provided by Advent can be a helpful way to help one in transition. Advent reminds us that we are in between the incarnation of Jesus and his return. We have guideposts provided by Scriptures and the various Christian traditions that have developed over the centuries, but it is up to each of us to find the way that works for us. In a religious context it may not be Christianity, it may be Judaism, Buddhism or one of the other faiths in our world. One may be agnostic or atheist. Regardless of beliefs, there are people who are gifted at helping us on our journeys.
It’s similar to transition. We are flooded with comments and stories that tell us how to transition. We’re told it’s a simple, straight line. Do these things, take these steps, have surgery, and you’re done. The reality is that transition is not a straight forward series of steps. We each work out what it means for ourselves, and for what it means for ourselves. We work through our own stuff. Others are there to support us and help us through the journey if we are able and willing to accept the help. In so doing we prepare ourselves to live our lives to the fullest.