Pastor Curtis Knapp, New Hope Baptist Church in Seneca, Kansas, preached quite a sermon on the last Sunday in May. It was just a few days before I returned to Kansas from Bangkok, Thailand after having my gender affirmation surgery. I listened to the entire one-hour sermon during which the pastor called for the government to execute gays, and I knew the time had come for me to go to Seneca with a different message. A message of hope.
Kansas Statewide Transgender Education Project (K-STEP) board member Chris Cook followed up on my request to find an opening in the Seneca library schedule when I could go do a presentation about my journey into faith as a transsexual woman. In short order, we had a presentation scheduled from noon-2:00 pm on Saturday, July 7th.
I am back home now, and reflecting on the events of the day and the way everything played out. It was truly a remarkable day, one I will remember forever. The hand of God continues to guide my journey and I am quite excited to see what happens next.
While I was still in Thailand, I put together a press release and sent it out to the Seneca Courier-Tribune and the Topeka Capital Journal. Hindsight might have had me wait until I got back to the United States, but I am not generally good at standing still.
Journalists from both papers tried to contact me via email, however, by then I was on my return trip. During a short layover in the Tokyo airport, I called the reporter from the Seneca paper.
She wanted to know if it was coincidence that I was coming to Seneca just now, or was it related to the sermon by Pastor Knapp. When I wrote the press release about the presentation, I didn’t mention the pastor or the sermon; only that I was going to share my journey of faith.
I confided that I had planned to present in Seneca, but the sermon had hastened my presentation. Presenting about transgenderism in small Kansas towns is something of a hobby of mine. Being transgender is not something people talk about much in Kansas. When they do, much of the time it is about the horrible things we supposedly do in bathrooms.
The reporter for the Seneca weekly paper published an article about my upcoming presentation. It was next to another article about local fallout from the pastor’s sermon. I was pleased, as the article contained the thoughts I wanted to be shared, “I have nothing against the pastor and he has a right to believe and say whatever. But my message is a different one than in the sermon. It is a message of hope.”
So, I traveled the 90 minutes to Seneca and did my presentation. Three people were in attendance. Sometimes, when I do these presentations, there are only a few people. Other times, there are more. I have come to understand that the people who are supposed to be there, will be there. And I have come to understand that amazing things can come from these presentations, no matter how small the audience.
Those in attendance simply wanted to learn about a subject that people don’t often talk about in Kansas. It turns out that one of them knew my older brother, Dan, when he was alive. It might be that this was the one thing that was supposed to come from today’s visit. In a way, it was a little like talking to Dan about the person I have become. I think Dan would be very pleased that I was happy. These are the things I take from my trip to Seneca - people wanting to learn and remembering a brother who never wanted anything for me than for me to be happy.
I talked a lot about God and love and faith. The things that were denied to me when I believed that I couldn’t be me and have a relationship with God. And the things that have been gifted to me in the few short years since everything changed, and I began to embrace the woman God created.
My small audience listened intently. Then we visited, more like old friends than like people who had just met. Handshakes from the two men and a hug from the lady, and my time in Seneca was over for today. I walked out of the library to the rainbow colored signs of the protestors from Westboro Baptist Church. I took it as something of a badge of honor. Although I live in Topeka, the home of WBC, and they have protested events and places where I participated, this was the first time that they have protested me.
I spoke quite a lot in the presentation about how Jesus tells us to love our enemies, and to pray for those who persecute us. I spoke about how I have come to understand why I need to do my best to do those things. If there are any people in the world who need love and prayers more than Fred Phelps and his followers, then I don’t know who they would be.
People like Curtis Knapp have no idea of the harm they bring to God’s LGBT children. I drove to Seneca to present a different message. I will undoubtedly end up back in the Seneca area again before too long. There are many small towns in Kansas. I will go to as many as I can and present my different message. It is a message of hope.
By Stephanie Mott
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