Sometimes I think people have a really odd view of what it's like to be transgender. The reality, I hate to break it to you, is a lot more boring than that - we have jobs, and families, commitments, rent to make and bills to pay. In fact, you could probably swap my life out with that of a childless, white, 32-year-old and realise that, by and large, our existences are startlingly similar. Except for one thing - how the world talks about us.
Your beliefs, whether religious or secular, are a choice. You choose to behave in a particular manner, and it's fundamental to establish that these beliefs are shaped by free will. In fact, that's one of the central tenets of the church - that God loved his children so much he gave them free will. This includes the freedom to believe and worship or not. This is different to "believing trans people when they say they're trans".
So it's with absolute joy this morning that I realised the church's take on trans issues is so mellow and common sense. His Grace, Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, has said that Christianity should not be used to make children feel guilty about who they are. That CofE Schools should allow kids to be kids. As a Christian, and member of the CofE, it's a welcome surprise to see that the church is willing to go out on a limb to defend at-risk members of society. It feels, well, Christian.
You could be forgiven for thinking - given the way the press has covered trans issues this year - that it's all abusing and sacrificing children, attempting to storm women's shelters, and waiting inside toilets and changing rooms to jump out at unsuspecting non-transgender folk. When you first start the process of being Out, it's heartbreaking. After all, none of us are experts in this any more than I'm an expert about having blue eyes or being right-handed, it's just something that exists in me. I was 28 when I had the confidence to talk about these kinds of things, after growing up in the shadow of Section 28, where LGBT issues were ignored. How can you be something you've never heard of? How can you deal with your difference if you have nobody to talk to?
These rules aren't anything new, so don't fall prey to the doomsday mongers among us. The people who seem most actively against the Church's take on this appear to have no idea about the role of the church in this country. Religion has never been apolitical, and these guidelines issued to schools are in line with both the Equality Act (2010) and general church thinking. In July 2017, the Synod voted to welcome transgender people as congregants in CofE churches. The message that went out today is a reinforcement of a message that went out in 2014.
Make no mistake, the outcry has to do with the press coverage of something that has been going on for a while, proving further that this has nothing to do with Christianity, the Church of England, or the Archbishop of Canterbury. One day, I think the press will look back and hang their heads for the lies they've told, and personally, I can't wait for that day.
CJ Atkinson will be speaking at part of WOW Bradford on Saturday November 18th.