June 2019 - Randi Johnson

What is the injustice here?

This year’s Pride event seems more significant than those of the past few to me.  It’s been a tough year for the LGBTQ+ community and I have really felt the “target on my back”.  “Pride” is an opportunity to stand proud and be seen for the daughter of Christ I am in the midst of these turbulent times …….

I am a charismatic, born again, transgender, Methodist woman running a Federal climate change research program in the Trump administration. Life is good, but it’s been a turbulent year for me and the LGBTQ+ community for a number of reasons:

The government is working to take away our basic human rights by:

1) Reversing the federal policy that provides transgender people equal access to healthcare under the Affordable Care Act.

2) Allowing healthcare providers to choose not to perform procedures if they violate the provider’s conscience or religion, which would include not treating me and other LGBTQ+ patients.

3) Taking transgender medical services away from our military; the Federal civilian work force (which includes me) seems to be the next target based on HHS policies and statements.

4) Reversing the federal policy that protected transgender people’s equal access to homeless shelters and housing assistance.

5) Instituting a ban that effectively prevents transgender troops from serving in the Military.

6) The Federal government is now proposing to redefine human rights based on “natural law”.

7) The Virginia legislature once again failed to pass basic human rights protections for the LGBTQ+ community.

My denomination, the United Methodist Church, made it perfectly clear that it considers me a second-class member when it emphasized this point earlier this year its special General Conference to deal with the LGBTQ+ issue.  Fortunately, my local congregation (Restoration Reston) fully affirms me and allows be to be in leadership roles (I love my church family!).

Add to this that the Administration is moving my research organization out of the DC area for no apparent reason other than to disrupt research (did I mention I run a climate change research program?) and you can see why life has been turbulent lately.

What is your role or experience?

This month the LGBTQ+ (queer) community makes the simple statement, we are here, we are people of value, we (and everyone) deserve equal rights (btw, we aren’t asking for special rights, just equal rights).  We, like all people, want to be a functioning and valued part of society.  Diversity brings strength, let’s embrace it.

Despite the current political environment, I’m spoiled rotten and blessed to the core.  I have the support of my neighborhood (I have a great “pack” of ladies I hang with), my church, and my workplace. I have a daughter that loves and supports me and is about to have my first grandchild ❤️.  My job is secure and I can retire at any time.  My relationship with our loving God is strong and secure.  Since my transition in 2017, I have been able to be my true self and I challenge the prejudices in the world around me.  God is good. Life is good.

The morning after the 2016 election God and I had a conversation.  I was still presenting male, a privileged straight white male, and I realized I was about to give up the privileges that come with being a straight white male.  The Federal government was about to switch from an Administration that accepted me to an anti-queer Administration.  I was scared.  God started out: “fear not”, me: “easier said than done”, God: “where have you been putting your trust?”, me: “executive orders”, God: “How’s that working for you?”…..  I realized I had put my trust in people and not in God; it was clear I needed to look to my loving Maker and not the government.  However, I responded: “but I feel like a second- or third-class citizen now”.  God: “Now you understand how much of the world feels”.   While it didn’t feel like a good thing, I now know that this is actually a blessing.  I now know (as the apostle Paul kind of says in Philippians 4) what it is to be privileged and what it is to be second-class. Being transgender, and having presented both male (for 60 years) and female (only 2.5 years), I also have insights into both male and female perspectives.  Very few people have all these perspectives; I’m spoiled.  Life is good because I understand the blessings that are mine.  I also have the privilege of being “out” without the fear (valid fear) that many of my LGBTQ+ sisters and brothers have.  While I am not a “militant”, I am visible.  I am in lay leadership in my local church, I serve on the board of Equality USDA, I accept opportunities to speak when asked, and I can do it without fear. I am spoiled and blessed.

How has creativity or art brought reconciliation for you or this injustice?

Art and symbolism allow me to make statements without being blatantly in your face.  A Trans Pride flag during Pride week allows me to make a statement in my neighborhood in a nonthreatening way.  A 500queerscientists sticker on my work notepad allows me to be out and proud and yet non-threatening at work.  The 1Church4All bumper sticker on my car tells the world I’m a Christian and we are called to love everyone.

What is one practical way you want people to get involved? 

What do I want from people?  I do NOT want them to “understand” me; I want them to accept and respect me for the human I am (and the LGBTQ+ community for the people they are).  To understand me you would need to be transgender, and I don’t wish that upon anyone. People also need to stand up for the oppressed and not be silent.  That means telling your law makers you don’t approve of taking away people’s rights, pointing out prejudice when you see it in everyday life, and showing love and respect to all.  I want people to be informed by science and facts, not by myths, false stereotypes, prejudice, hatred and fear.

I’m a member of three “clubs” I don’t want my friends to be part of.  I’ve lost a wife to cancer, lost a child to heroin, and I’m transgender.  All three have helped formed me into the woman of God I am today, but I wish these on no one. I wish I hadn’t experienced any of these, but I’m also thankful for what I have learned through the process.  I wish there was an easier way to learn, but we are who we are because of the struggles we have endured.  I am thankful that I have let these life “events” make me better, and not bitter.  God is faithful, even when life falls apart.  God will continue to be faithful as I and my community continue to fight for the human rights we are all entitled to.

For more insights on being a transwoman, see:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lrYx7HaUlMY&feature=share&fbclid=IwAR0P-eRe5g7rinZ1Tew-ySOFQX-xPsy3gd-MTyM1Mdky3o60zkyyjNoBneQ

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This is such a special post. Not only is Randi a friend, powerful woman in government and strong faithful Christian, she is actual family. I have learned so much simply by knowing her and chatting at family gatherings.

One of my favorite experiences was going on an evening prayer walk and listening to her dedication, trust and wisdom. During that time (and every other time, honestly) Randi reminded me how important we all are. All of us matter.

You don’t have to wait until society forces your family members into a vulnerable space. There are so many folks already in those spaces. Get to know them. Become their allies. Use your voice on their behalf. Engage politically. Fight for HUMAN RIGHTS. Fight for Love.

I am learning Love is never passive.

Thanks for partnering with me during your busiest time of year, Pride Month. Love you!