Report of the Meeting on March 19th 2019
Reacting To Gender Transition
John Tooms and his son Al were introduced by Hobbs Bashir, who paid tribute to his police colleague John’s friendship and invaluable support at a difficult time in Hobbs’ life. John described his early life in a Baptist church in Market Harborough, and his subsequent career in Dumfries and eventually Wolverhampton, as still a loyal Baptist. In his own family there are a number of LGBT people, and from the age of 12 Alice, the elder of his two daughters found herself being attracted to other girls and women. At 17 Al was baptised in the local Baptist church and used to occasion to announce in her testimony that she was gay and moreover intended to begin gender transition to being male. During the next few years Alice became Alec, though handily known throughout as ‘Al’. University, studying English Literature and Religion and Ethics, was a great place to be accepted for who s/he was and to begin to find the words he needed to explain to himself and others what was happening.
Christian friends, however, were not uniformly supportive. At their home church John and Al’s Baptist minister accepted Al’s gay orientation, but Christian friends from whom John and his wife expected understanding and support were loudly hostile. Church meetings on the subject became very uncomfortable and comments on the lines of ‘love the sinner, hate the sin’ increasingly unacceptable. After a time they left that church and began to look for inclusive Christian communities. Al found acceptance in the on-line Diverse Church organised by Sally Hitchen for 18 – 30 year olds, now added to with a parents’ section. John praised people like Steve Chalke and Vicky Beeching for having the courage to come out publicly with support for gay people despite the negative reactions of their church tradition.
We had a rich time of question and discussion. Al was asked if, being now male, he was still gay, and he said No, but he found that in his work as a social worker his personal history was a gift not a handicap. John quoted the words of Martin Luther King, from a different controversy: ‘You won’t remember the words of your enemy, but you will remember the silence of your friends.’ Happily Al and his family have found great support, not least from Al’s young sister Rebecca. No-one, they emphasized, would choose to go through the long hassle of being gay or undergoing gender transition lightly. It is a long and costly business which demands understanding and love before any judgement is made.