Letter From A Sister
(originally published 11/5/2017)
Recently, I received a letter from someone who heard me talking about my book on KGO radio with Maureen Langan. I was incredibly moved by this writer's eloquent note (coincidentally, she is also named Maureen), so I asked her if I could share her words here on my blog. With permission, here is Sr. Maureen Hilliard's incredibly moving letter:
October 1, 2017
Having heard several of the last minutes of your interview on KGO radio, I ordered your book. I had recently read a novel (title and author, of course, I have forgotten!) which told the story of a transitioning child MTF, and I was startled at my reaction; I was not feeling 100% accepting of the transgender person. I was disturbed by this personal reaction, as I had casually thought I was totally inclusive and accepting of all gender identity! So, I chose to reflect on and pursue my reaction, and your book seemed to be offered to me.
I knew that my disturbance had been in large part due to the very challenging and difficult journey the family experienced in the novel I had read. It left me wondering: if so much pain and difficulty is part of this journey, is it really meant to be part of the human condition? Even as I write that, of course I realize, that pain and suffering are part of each of our human stories, and it goes to the fact that I can’t really articulate yet what is under my disturbance. Toward the end of your book, Travis writes: “…it doesn’t matter whether they are understood as much as that they are loved.” I read this and I felt that I had been given the line that would see me through to the place I want to be with the transgender community—but somehow am, not there yet. It does not matter at this moment whether I understand completely. What matters is the way I love those who are on this journey. So I am grateful to Travis for that line.
I also realized that Gabe’s abacus had meaning for me, but differently than the way he used it. It reminded me, when I reached that part of the book, of something I had said at the wedding of a lesbian couple for which I had been asked by the couple to preside. In the reflection I offered to those who had gathered—family, friends, LBGTQ community—I said that, “Those of us who have come to this occasion came because we love this couple, no matter where we might be on a continuum of understanding same sex marriage. And on a continuum we are! Some of us are struggling with this couple’s choice to choose each other in marriage, some not so much, but others have doubts and are not completely understanding this choice, while at the same time, some have no struggle whatsoever. And we have as many reasons for where we find ourselves on this continuum as there are individuals present. But where we are on this continuum matters not in the face of the fact that WE ARE HERE, and we are here because we love 'E' and 'M.' In my view life is about growth or we are not living. So, for me and I hope for you, life is about how we grow in our love of each other and that understanding of each other grows with that love. But, love comes first. This is what 'E' and 'M' promise to each other today. To know this as life itself and to embrace it is what makes today a celebration.”
When the reception began I turned around, with a glass of champagne in my hand, to see a whole line of people waiting to talk to me. One after the other thanked me for saying what I had said and many of the lesbian community wished this had been said at their marriage. Then, the father of “E” came forward and put his arms around me with tears thanked me for helping him feel OK about where he was in his acceptance of this marriage and his daughter. I guess I had been listening to what God suggested I say!
So, I go back to my own words and accept that I am growing. I want now to thank you for helping me do that. Your book offered a story and information that I am passing along to others. Last night I had dinner with a very close gay relative. We were barely seated when the waiter approached us and I was taken aback. This young man so reminded me of a combination of the two photos of Amaya in the book. I had intended to talk to my relative about the book at dinner, and this waiter’s resemblance to Amaya seemed to give me a jump start. It felt synchronistic ( i.e., meaningful unrelated events somehow connecting) and part of God’s way of surprising me and being present. So, I launched in, and the dinner conversation became an opportunity for the two of us to re-tell each of our experiences in my relative’s various places of “coming out,” which in some instances, were tragic experiences. Yet, here we were to re-tell the tale, knowing that we love each other and we are still in this process of understanding the journey. And your words had prompted the conversation. Again, thank you.
I hope the next steps of Amaya’s journey offer him life and growth and love. He is a courageous and remarkable young man. I do wonder how and if he will partner, what those episodes will reveal, how humanity will evolve as the diversity of loving and partnering emerges? I am nearly 70, so I may see only a glimpse of that development in my lifetime. I welcome what I will learn from those who are willing to tell us more and more of what they learn. And in the days I have ahead, may I be part of a humanity that finds room, arms wide open, for new understanding. And, may our love never falter. My Catholic sister community has an expression, “May our hearts be as wide as the world.” Well, I say: on we go.
Thank you, again, Janna,
Sr. Maureen Hilliard, SNDdeN
Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur