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Sunday, October 28, 2012

Where are our Transgender Amish, Mennonite, Brethren, Hutterite Brothers and Sisters?


Recently I have been watching some of the episodes of Breaking Amish. I have an interest in their culture because they have a very similar background to the Old Order Mennonites who live in my area and live much the same as the Amish do. I also went to an undergraduate Church of the Brethren college and some of the students were Mennonites and what was considered "Old Order Brethren" My own faith grew in another denomination rooted in Anabaptism, Southern Baptist. Having grown up in a rural environment, I found all of these denominations interesting and their way of life attractive to me in some respects. I like the simplicity of the way they live, though I am much too spoiled by modern conveniences to want to adopt the lifestyle of the Mennonites and Amish. On a few occasions, I had the privilege to provide therapy to Old Order Mennonites who shared what it is like to live in their culture and I was appreciative of the opportunity to learn more about some of these folks in a way that is inaccessible to other people to get to know them.

In 1995 there was another similar show called Amish in the City. Both of these shows focused on Amish young adults leaving their community and finding out about a world and a life that is totally foreign to them. For some of these individuals, they are seeking to satisfy themselves that they want to live the traditional lives that they grew up in and for some of them, this is the beginning of a new life that is totally foreign to them and means leaving everything  including their families behind. It is not a decision made lightly or without consequence.

Having grown up being mindful of my Anabaptist neighbors, I began to wonder if there were transsexual Amish and Mennonites. I know they must exist; after all, we are not rare people, but uncommon and highly secretive. I can only imagine how lonely and terrifying it must be to know your gender identity is in odds with your body in such a closed society since it was so difficult for me growing up in a more open yet unaccepting mainstream American culture.

From time to time I would think about these folks and wonder what it is like for them, but I have never been able to learn anything about their existence and what they go through in their own quest for an authentic life. Do they live out their lives in quiet desperation, as many of us have? Or do they find some acceptance in their closed community. Somehow I do not think that is possible and that they must leave and be shunned for life if their true identity becomes known in these most conservative faith communities.

In my last effort to learn about the lives of our Anabaptist brothers and sisters, I came across the blog of an Amish gay man, Joseph Stalnaker. I was interested in his website and took the opportunity to contact him and ask if he knew about any transsexual Amish or Menonnites. He did not and hopes that they will reach out to him. He writes about issues related to our spirituality and the struggles of GLBT people who live in these closed religious communities. I found his blog to be really interesting and I would encourage those of you interested in spiritual matters to take a look and read some of his very thoughtful and informative articles. Here is the link to his blog: http://derreggebogefriendschaft.blogspot.com/

6 comments:

  1. I'll pass this along to a friend of mine she is a trans Menonnite

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  2. I too have watched Breaking Amish, you could say I have a vested interest in the series. I was born and raised in an Old Order Mennonite community. I made some discoveries about myself after leaving the community that had nothing, not consciously anyway, to do with my leaving. I have also wondered if there are transgender people among the Amish, Mennonite and other cultures. There is no way that anyone would be accepted for being transgender in the community I grew up in. You would be send off for corrective therapy if you even so much as mentioned that you might be. Also there would be the emotional blame game played against you (What will people think of your parents, siblings etc. .. if you do this). I know, I went through that just for leaving the community.
    So, are there any transgender among these cultures, probably. Can they be open about it in the community, probably not. I only discovered that there was something I could do about how I felt after leaving the community and doing some research on it.

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  3. Last year, sometime, I came across an article from an Amish newspaper, I believe, where there was discussion regarding acceptance of those who are transgender... I wish I could remember who indirectly led me to that article...

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  4. Visit us on twitter @lgbtiamish We are a networking and support group for queer Amish and Ex-Amish. I can't imagine an Amish community who would accept an openly transgendered member. But I'm positive there are many who are closeted. Keep lgbti Amish people in your thoughts, it's a rough life. Www.lgbtamish.com

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  5. I am Amish Mennonite and I am also post transition. I live as a plain woman

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  6. I have left the plain community. It was not easy. It is harder for people that are AFAB to leave then for people who are AMAB. At times I am still surprised I left. My friends from back then are married with children but none of them speak to me anymore. I think when I shaved my head it was the final straw for them. I miss having someone to speak Pennsylvania Dutch with and I sometimes miss my old friends. I don't know others like me out there. I would love to meet others like me.

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