On a recent Sunday in April, the Reverend Kit Robison delivered a sermon about the commandment to love God and love your neighbor as yourself. For a long time, Robison told parishioners, she struggled with the end of that command: to love herself.
At the end of the service, Robison called her wife, Christa, up to the pulpit. Then, she announced to the attendees of Grace Lutheran Church in Miami Springs that she is a transgender woman.
“What you see in front of you does not match my self-understanding,” she said. “In my self-understanding, I am a woman.”
For four years, Robison had been grappling with her identity and debating how – or whether – to share the news. Now that she’d told her wife and three daughters, it was time to tell the church. She’d strategically decided to make the announcement after Easter, so as not to risk disturbing Holy Week.
That morning, Christa stood close to Kit and wiped a tear from her eye as her wife made the announcement. The church was silent except for the sound of the reverend’s deep breaths into the microphone between each deliberate sentence. In the weeks since, a few members of Grace Lutheran have left the church, but otherwise, Robison says the response has been overwhelmingly positive.
“We opened the church up for questions after service, and the majority of the questions were about my wife and whether we will stay married, which we will,” she says. “Some people weren’t thrilled, but the majority were incredibly supportive.”
Robison is now Florida’s first transgender Lutheran pastor, according to Pedro M. Suarez, head of the Florida district of Lutheran churches. Robison confided in Suarez last November when she finally came to the decision that she needed to fully transition. Although she had no idea how her boss would react, she trusted Suarez based on the good relationship they had developed. Despite how churches in other parts of the country may feel, the Florida-Bahamas Synod has welcomed the news of Robison’s transition.
“I wasn’t expecting this news from Kit when she called me at the time, but she has the total support of the Synod with such a delicate and hard decision,” Suarez says.
The Florida-Bahamas Synod falls under the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA), a collection of churches across the U.S. and Caribbean. While the ELCA generally supports the LGBTQ community, Lutheran churches that fall outside the ELCA, such as those in the Missouri Synod, do not.
Although Florida’s Lutheran governing body officially supports LGBTQ individuals serving in clergy positions, a handful of members at Grace Lutheran have not been comfortable with Robison’s transition. William Perdomo and his family, who were parishioners for decades, have left the church since the reverend’s announcement.
“We had been members of Grace Lutheran Church for over 25 years. My family and I love our Grace family, and we wish them all of God’s Blessings,” Perdomo told New Times in a Facebook message.
While some Christians believe being transgender goes against God’s word and biblical principles, Robison dismisses those notions and says her change is fully in accordance with God’s will.
“God does not make mistakes, and he didn’t make a mistake with me. God made me a transgender woman,” she says. “I now have the gift of knowing the experience of both my male and female church members, and I can minister better to both.”
Robison’s announcement comes 13 years into her tenure as a pastor, three of which have been at Grace Lutheran. But she says the change has been a long time coming.
“When I was in the first and second grade, I was bullied because I couldn’t follow social norms,” she says. “Kids can be cruel about enforcing gender norms … so a second-grade boy who wants to play with Barbies is first shunned, then bullied, and finally beaten.”
Robison says her family and school had to tell her to act tougher and stop playing with dolls so she could survive grade school and be left alone. The masculine persona she assumed kicked into overdrive when she moved to Japan in the ninth grade after her dad got an overseas job with Kodak.
“In a culture all about conforming and wearing uniforms, I had to learn to fit in, so I adopted a persona the world loved,” she says.
She learned to present as a “preppy white man” while in Japan, although it was just a costume she put on to protect herself. She also adopted a form of “anesthesia” she came to rely on for many years – alcohol.
It was only eight and a half years ago – long after her marriage in 1993 and her ordination as a Lutheran pastor in 2006 – that Robison was able to get sober. Her addiction, she says, had a lot to do with avoiding the questions she was struggling with about her identity. After she quit drinking, the questions came back.
This summer marks four years since Robison’s questions about her gender resurfaced. At first, she considered living with her dysphoria, but over the course of those years, she came to the conclusion she needed to make a change. When Robison first told Christa she thought she might be transgender, she was sure that after almost 26 years of marriage, Christa would want to divorce her. Luckily, she did not.
“Thank God she didn’t,” Robison says.
Christa Robison, who is bisexual, told New Times via email that she’s always been attracted to Kit’s gentleness and femininity.
“There are a few other characteristics that society would deem ‘feminine’ that Kit possessed, but it was these characteristics that attracted me to him (at the time). Being bisexual probably helped in the draw to someone with so many feminine characteristics,” Christa wrote.
The couple’s daughters have all been supportive of Robison’s transition, although they haven’t yet decided whether to call her Mom or something else.
“My daughter said to me, ‘I don’t promise not to chuckle the first time I see you in a dress, but I do promise that I will respect you and honor your decision,'” Robison says.
While Robison hopes to continue serving as the pastor of Grace Lutheran, ultimately that decision will be left to church members. Starting in June, there will be a series of town hall meetings for churchgoers to ask questions and deliberate. If they decide they do not want Robison as their pastor, she says she will leave and find another church home.
“I assume that God will provide wherever I go,” Robison says. “With or without a congregation, I am a pastor.”
Source: Miami News Time