This I Believe: Debra DeBroux (2020)

Hello, Everyone. First, I want to thank the Worship Committee for inviting me to present my “This I Believe.” I am honored to have the opportunity to speak to you—my Unitarian-Universalist community…this community that has given me SO much. I hope my words can give back something to you.

And now, This I Believe:

I am a person of faith. Yes, UUs. Faith. My left brain (or is it my right brain?)….One of my brains acknowledges that “faith” is having knowledge about something while having little or no rational evidence to verify it. My beliefs might NOT be rational. But, my feelings are real. It’s faith.

And, just to get it out of the way, I might as well use another word that is difficult for some UUs to hear: God. Feel free to translate that into anything that works equivalently for you. But, please hang in there UUs. You can do this. I have faith in you!

Now, may I tell you a story? Once upon a land, in a time far, far away…

I was raised in a household that unwittingly brainwashed me into feeling self-hatred.  You see, I knew I was transgender by the time I was about 5 or 6 years old. Perhaps more accurately, I felt it, as the word “transgender” did not exist as a word or concept, back then. Society had other words, terrible words, that were reserved for people like me….and I heard them loud and clear.

In my childhood church, I was taught that Jesus came to save me from a vengeful, wrathful God—frankly, a jerk. While everyone was praising Jesus for rescuing them, I felt sorry for God. I thought God was getting a bad rap and God’s feelings might be hurt.  So, during church services, I actually prayed something like this: “Dear God. I think you’re okay. I don’t know why they say you want to hurt me. You made me. I love you. I won’t ignore you. If you need someone to talk to, I’m here. Amen…… Oh, and could you help the Lions beat the Bears this afternoon? Thanks. Amen.”

I think it was when I was in high school that I started to succumb to the brainwashing. I got it in my head that, since I am transgender…AND therefore, an abomination to God (someone else’s words, not mine), God would hate me if I lived my life in my truth…as a woman. At the very best, God could not love me. What could be worse than not being loved, or even being hated, by that which created me? That was the beginning of my Darkness Period.

With my inner light almost extinguished, my behavior became self-destructive. I am fortunate that I dodged the substance-abuse bullet that so many marginalized people are hit by. Still, my self-hatred interfered with my relations with people, with myself, with my soul, and with the Creator. In those Dark Ages of my life, I believed, I thought, I said, and I did things that I am not proud of. I have since learned to forgive myself.

In my early 30s, a good friend introduced me to a Wise Woman who had a different message for me. When I told this Wise Woman that I’m afraid that God will hate me if I live by my truth—live as a woman—she declared loudly and clearly and with exasperation, “God doesn’t hate you. God doesn’t hate anyone. God loves ALL of us.  You are transgender, part of God’s human design. God doesn’t hate you.” Wow! I can still hear her words clearly in my mind’s ear. THAT short exchange was a huge life-changer. THAT message completely changed me. Thus, began my Recovery Period.

Soon after that, that same friend introduced me to Unitarian-Universalism. Among the MANY messages that resonated with me, the one that grabbed my attention greatest was the First Unitarian-Universalist Principle: We affirm and promote the inherent worth and dignity of every person… “Wait, what? EVERY person? Hey! That includes me!!…. even though I carry this big, terrible secret about myself. That includes me!!” To this day, the First Principle speaks directly to one of my faiths: that the Creator loves ALL of its creation….the animals, plants, rocks, water…me…

By the way, that friend I mentioned?……eventually, we got married….and we’re STILL super-glued to this day.

How have my experiences affected my relationship to the Creator?

Sometimes I believe that the universe is a result of billions of years of processes controlled by nothing more than the laws of physics. When I die, all that I am—my carbons—will return to being more randomized, less ordered…just like the vast majority of the other carbon atoms that are out there in the universe. That’s it. Rational.

More often, though, I have faith, based on an internal feeling, that the creator of the universe is somehow a sentient, loving being. More often than not, I believe that the Creator loves EVERYthing it created… and loves it equally. Right down to the sub-atomic particles and energies…. and all of the things made by sub-atomic particles and energies. My human understanding asks, “Why would a loving Creator create something it does not love?” This includes me….and you.

Now, fellow congregants and friends, hang on to your hats—I have faith that the Creator’s love includes even the Adolph Hitlers of the world. I know. I know. That’s not easy to swallow, especially if you have been victimized by such people. But I have faith.  If I have faith that God loves me, a person with a light side and dark side; If I affirm the UU First Principle, how can I believe that God doesn’t love the Hitlers, too? Afterall, given the circumstances, aren’t we all capable of becoming an Adolph Hitler or a Mother Teresa? Don’t we all choose how and when to express our light and our darkness?. Whew….

How does this affect my day-to-day life?

When I find myself in the company of someone similar to me, it is easy for me to remember that they are loved by God. Should I not treat someone who is loved by God with love, too? But, what about those difficult people? You know the kind. Go ahead.  Think of one.

Lately, in these highly charged times, when I see a political yard-sign that promotes a purveyor of toxic rhetoric, I quickly judge that owner of the yard-sign negatively. I am not proud of the fact that IF I chose to, I could quickly go down the road to hatred. But, by choice, that is not where I want to go. What helps bring me back to moving toward my aspirational self? Answer: my faith that God loves difficult people, too. Should I not treat them with love….or at the very least, not treat them with hate? Again, should I not love and take care of ALL of God’s creation…animals, plants, rocks, water… self……Adolph? Hey, what’s good enough for God, is good enough for me.

I have faith that the Golden Rule is the best way for people to live together. Jesus, the Buddha, Mohammed, the Zoroastrians (who? the Zoroastrians?!) they and many more have implored people to live by the Golden Rule—a chosen life-way. Treating people with kindness, compassion, fairness, and accountability ripple out beyond the person who receives that treatment. I believe it echoes back to me, too. I have faith that what goes around comes around.

When I began my gender transition, I sought you out—you, the White Bear UU congregation—hoping to find a safety net. Gender transition….Kids, don’t try this alone.  Listen to your Aunt Debra. I know of which I speak. At WBUUC, I found MUCH more than a safety net! You have helped me to discover spiritual parts of my soul that I either forgot I had or I never knew existed. This is the beginning of my Blossoming Period.

More than ever before, I am listening to the Great Teachers. The message from the man, Jesus, tells me that we need to take care of each other (love) and treat each other as we would want to be treated. I know little about Islam, but, so far, Mohammed teaches me that demanding justice (that is, fairness) is an act of loving others, an act of treating others as we want to be treated. The Hindus challenge my understanding of what I am made of. Am I a small piece of the Creator that has bubbled to the surface to live in the here and now? If so, am I to treat all others—each, small pieces of the Creator—with love and caring? Speaking of the here and now…I have “discovered” the Buddhist aspiration of living in the moment. Regardless of whether I am nothing more than the results of laws of physics OR I am somehow related to That Which Created me, mindful living is opening me up to the world I live in.

Fellow congregants and friends, for much of my life, I believed that my being transgender was the cause of my undoing. Now, I believe that my being transgender is a gift from The Great Whatever. Perhaps it’s even my special sauce; my superpower.

This I Believe.

Thank you for giving me a piece of your time.