Thursday, May 24, 2007


“The Rev. David Wynn is off Saturday and Monday, so he will spend the day with his wife Wren and their son Seth, who has eight teeth, one for every month of his life to date, and is just learning how to risk all of them in thrilling freefall flights from the sofa."He's an adventurer," says Wynn. "He'll do anything to get where he wants to go."The same can be said of Seth's father, who spent his own boyhood in a girl's body, a situation at least as confusing to Wynn back then as it is to others now.There are times with Seth, at Bray Park or Sam's Club or anywhere Bradenton dads go, when the furthest thing from David Wynn's mind is the years of therapy, hormones, surgery and the slow, painful confrontation with self that brought him to here.At work, though, as associate pastor of Trinity Metropolitan Community Church in Sarasota, his "journey," as he calls it, is almost always in his thoughts. Ministering to transgendered men and women and those who love them constitutes his special mission, he says. "My calling."It is not his sole focus. Much of Wynn's job involves providing backup to pastor Mona West at Sunday's two services for MCC's congregation of 320, mostly gay men and lesbians, and a handful of transgendered men and women.He organizes the readings for each week -- one each from the Gospel, the Hebrew bible, the Psalms and St. Paul's letters -- and schedules the 75 ushers, lectors, deacons and choristers who, he says, "make Sundays happen around here."Wynn also supervises educational programs and outreach for the church, one of 300 MCC congregations around the world, and plays a senior role in programs such as Trinity's campaign to raise the $3 million needed to build the striking church complex Carl Abbot has designed for them.But it is Wynn who fields calls from people inquiring about transgender issues, as they have with more and more frequency lately, following last week's Newsweek cover story -- "The Mystery of Gender" -- and the various incidents around the country that prompted it, including the back-to-back coming out of a transgender sports writer for the Los Angeles Times and the city manager of a Florida town.The "Susan Stanton factor," the firing of Steve Stanton in Largo and Susan Stanton's current candidacy for the job of city manager in Sarasota, has caused Pastor Wynn to identify himself as transgendered in a more public fashion than he had planned when he came here from his native Texas a year ago."There comes a point where you really want to move out of the place where everybody knew you as ... ," he says, a wave of his hand filling in for the female name he was given at birth.He had been a public high school teacher in several Texas cities, attended college there, and then Perkins Theological Seminary at Southern Methodist University, all as a woman. He had been involved in a 10-year relationship with a woman whose child he helped parent, and the couple became widely known as David's pastoral assignments changed.In Sarasota, he hoped, "Who I was" would have no relevance beyond Trinity's 20-acre campus.But that, as he says, "just wasn't in the cards."'I shut down completely'"Like most transgendered people," says Wynn, "I knew very early, five or so, that there was a difference between how the world saw me and how I saw myself."I knew I was a boy, but nobody else seemed to get it, and somehow I knew even at that age that this was just wrong. So I did what you do, I shut down completely, closed off that knowledge and gradually it just went away."He will not reveal the female name with which he was born, and he will not talk about his surgeries, but Wynn is otherwise candid about both of his lives."My father tends to be this Clint Eastwood man's-man type and my mother is Scarlett O'Hara, very girly, with very strong ideas about how Southern womanhood is supposed to behave. I was always a tomboy, so there was a lot of turmoil there."I was trying to figure all this out in Texas, in the the 1980s, when there weren't any Dateline/20-20 specials going on, no 'Will and Grace' or 'Ellen.'"So I thought, well, I am royally screwed. How do I manage to pull out of this mess that I'm in some chance at any kind of happiness?"Then I thought, well, 'OK, I can do the lesbian thing.' I didn't feel like a lesbian -- I was a boy who was attracted to girls -- but it was as close to a normal life as I was going to have."What strikes most people about David Wynn today is how "normal" he appears.From encroaching male-pattern baldness -- "hormones," he says -- to the tin of Skoal on his desk ("a nasty habit," recently resumed) to the collection of miniature cars and trucks that pop up here and there on his office bookshelves, the Rev. Wynn is very much David.His unequivocal maleness has taken even some of his parishioners a while to get used to."I think some people here were expecting that I would be a gay man, and I'm not, never have been. I'm married to a woman; we have a child. That puts me outside the experience of many people" among his congregation."Gay and lesbian people wrestle with the transgender thing the same as everybody else does, which is: 'It's just odd. I think it's strange and I don't get it and it makes me uncomfortable.'"Even resentful. To some within the gay community, "We muddy the waters," says Wynn. "I mean, 'Here we are trying to fit in and be ordinary and these people are making us extraordinary.' I can understand that."Within any religious community, he says, "you are always going to have people ready to ask you, 'Well God created you in that body and God doesn't make mistakes and how could you be changing his work? It's not natural.'"And so, Wynn says, this has become his work: Explaining the world as it looks to someone who has lived on both sides of the gender divide."I believe that God created me to experience the world in just the way I have, in a transgender body, female first and now male."In sharing what I know from my experience, I'm doing what I am supposed to do."Pursuit of destinyAltar clothes and clergy robes at Trinity MCC will change to red from their Easter white this Sunday, marking the start of Pentecost, which Christian tradition identifies as the start of an organized Christ-based religion.On Pentecost, according to the New Testament, the Holy Ghost descended upon the Apostles and sent them out into the world to preach the word of God, giving them divine fluency in all languages so they would be understood by everyone with whom they spoke.It is "spirit," David Wynn says, that guides humans to pursue their individual destinies.He refers often to the impact of "spirit" on his own life, for spirit, he believes, is what got him through the difficult time of his transition from female to male five years ago."I was in a long-term relationship with a woman and all of a sudden it stopped being satisfying to me. It felt wrong. Everything felt wrong."I never thought I was crazy. But it's a situation that can make you crazy, feeling, as I did, that you are this freak of nature."Deeply depressed, David's female-bodied predecessor entered therapy for the first time, and for the first time as an adult "put words to that thing I had known as a child."Gradually, "I came to understand that for me to exist soulfully, to be fully present in my life, to live in the way that I felt like I was here to live, then this is what I had to do."Suddenly, and to his shock, he says, he was a teenager again at 37.With the combination of natural exhilaration and artificial hormones -- "Wow," Wynn says, "you never know how powerful those things are until you take them" -- transgendered men and women typically go through a kind of second adolescence."The pendulum kind of has to take a big swing the other way at first," says Wynn, who says he went through a period of "hyper-masculinity" that gradually abated.Nearly five years later now, he has settled comfortably into his new life.As difficult as the transgender journey is for those who undertake it, he says, it may be the rest of society that has the bigger adjustment to make."Don't forget, I'm the person I always knew I was. It's the form you take to move through the world that changes."On Wednesday, Wynn will moderate the first of a series of workshops at the church on "Creating a Life that Matters," and one of the subjects for discussion is how to "recognize your essence, and embrace what it is that drives you, your passion."It is a subject, he says, "that I know a little bit about."

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