I grew up in Garden Grove, California. I spent most of my early life - about 6 years to 23 years old in the same house. I'm the oldest of four. I was raised in a very fundamental Evangelical home. I was homeschooled to be quote on quote "sheltered from the world." So, I didn't grow up having any friends, really, or any connection with people besides my family. I didn't have a birth certificate or social security number. And I didn't technically graduate high school, because I didn't really exist on the books.
My father was very controlling and possessive and mentally ill. The structure of my family was very patriarchal. I never had autonomy over myself or a sense of who I really was or any real choice, ever. Growing up, we didn't regularly go to church, but randomly when I was 18 years old, we started going to a local church after an Easter service. The folks that attended that church reached out to me and my siblings, and at that time, I was really into playing guitar and singing. There was a couple at the church who were really good musicians, and they had a recording studio at their house. They happened to be the youth pastor and his wife. They began to mentor me and give me lessons, and it became very quickly to them really clear that I was in a pretty abusive home.
At the time, my father's mental illness only kind of got worse - to the point where he was more paranoid and controlling - to the point where my siblings and I weren't allowed to speak to my mother without him being present. When he really felt like he was losing all control, he began to say that he was going to purchase a gun and threaten to kill me and my siblings. So, a few families from the church that we had attended encouraged us and helped us get out of that situation by involving the police and getting a restraining order. At that time, I was probably 19. After all of that, I feel like that's when my life really began. I started spending a lot of time trying to escape the identity of this sheltered homeschooled kid and really started working on obtaining all of the legal documents that I needed to exist in society and also figure out who I was, without the controlling environment that I was in.
Fast forward, I get married to my husband Kip. And Almost two years later we have a daughter. We were spending A lot of our time volunteering at our church at the times youth program. It was in a low income area and many of the kids who attended we’re experiencing poverty, or had parents who were immigrants, or abusive family lives, or came from single parent families. In the last 2 or 3 years working there we went through some major deconstruction. Around 2015 I met a girl there named Nikki. She was a kind, creative teen, and she was trans. Everything that I been taught from my religion told me that identifying, or affirming anything a part of the LGBTQ+ community was a sin. But getting to know Nikki and hearing her story I knew in my heart that she was perfect exactly as she was. Her existing in the gender she identified with wasn’t wrong or sinful. She wasn’t some kind of monster. She was a human just like me who wanted the same love, respect, and safety that I wanted too. Looking at how other religious leaders treated LGBTQ+ people and (pardon me as I use some uber churchy language) “the fruits” of their actions were not from God. If God is love, we can’t treat people like this. This isn’t love. It’s just not.
I shared these feeling with other people we were in leadership with us but it didn’t exactly go over well with the rest of the team. We ended up being basically told that we could love and affirm Nikki but we may not affirm her on behalf of the church because the free Methodist conference does not.
The framework that my faith had provided me was no longer working. I couldn’t raise my daughter with these beliefs. And it opened a flood gate of questions in me.