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/