From the moment I could put it all together as a child, I knew I had been placed in the wrong gender. Simply put, I knew I was a boy. Not a tomboy, but a boy, a male. It’s something I have struggled with for decades.

One summer my cousins, three boys who were all around my age, came from Chicago. We went to the Los Angeles River to get pollywogs. We all took our shirts off and scooped up as many tadpoles as we could. When we went back to their place, their mother promptly changed me into dry clothes, my cousins’ clothes. I felt complete. There I was in all the same clothing as my male cousins, down to their underwear. I finally felt as though I was where I needed to be.

This did not last long. My mother admonished me for wearing these clothes, and this was the start of a lifelong battle with her. She told me if I did not change who I was, she would will herself to death. So I was left with either being who I truly was meant to be or being the one who killed my mother. Throughout my life I kept this secret within me—struggling to know who I really was meant to be, yet unable to allow myself that reality. I lived in a world that was subjected to my own internalized hatred.

How do I move forward and keep my worth intact? This question makes me consider one of the Unity principles—living the truth. All of us within the transgender community are wanting just that, to live our truth. This truth is to be accepted by our families, our communities, our government, and by our higher power. So many of us have been injured by organized religion, yet we turn to it—wanting to connect to the Divine, God, Source, the Universe—within our internalized battles for love and acceptance.

Personally, I find solace in Genesis 32:22-31, otherwise known as “Jacob Wrestles with an Angel,” the perfect metaphor for my life. Jacob, like me, wrestles with an inner dialogue of struggling with identity, self-doubt, and walls that have been put up to keep others away from the truth. Can I be a spiritual being and still be transgender? Will the Divine still be with me, or is it a trade-off? Jacob’s injury reflects the injury within me—the existential crisis of truly releasing and letting go, letting down all the walls and barriers that allow me to be spiritual, to be whole, to be who I was meant to be.

Even Jacob released his dead name and embraced being called Israel.

This Journey Continues

When I started attending Unity San Francisco, Rev. Ken Daigle was offering a class called Metamorphosis. I was eager to start this journey. At the end of the class, we were asked to create a vision board and state our divine reason for being here. It was there in front of 20 people I hardly knew that I made this declaration: I am here to create wonder, provide imagination, illuminate, be tenderhearted, be a humanitarian, be an advocate, have abundance, and be a proud trans man. This was the first time, in front of a group of relative strangers, that I spoke the truth. I wrestled with my own angel to bring these words to life.

And although living in the Emerald City of Queer, I knew even within the Unity San Francisco community I would have to educate, be patient, and have an open heart for those who had never met a transgender person. This journey continues.

As it turns out, I can be spiritual and transgender. I have my own blessing. Every day when I move through the world—as myself and as a member of Unity—as I pray and tithe and give back to my community, I am blessed. And with that, I am profoundly grateful for Unity, whose doors remain open to all who are seeking.

This article appeared in Unity Magazine®.

About the Author

Shaun Kelly attends Unity San Francisco, where he serves in several leadership roles and runs the TransMasc Spirituality online group. He says Unity teachings have empowered his life’s mission as an agent of kindness. Kelly, who holds a degree in nonprofit management, also owns Life in Bloom Gardening, a landscape design company.
Shaun Kelly


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