The Life of a Transgender Reverend in Texas

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Rev. Seth “David” Wynn
Burleson, Texas

Today my 10-year-old had a soccer match, and I had my first doctor’s appointment with a new physician. For me, that’s letting her know I’m transgender and giving her some history. That went well, so that was good.

This has been an interesting week to prepare for tomorrow’s church service because of Senate Bill 6’s hearings, known as Texas’ “Bathroom Bill.” It’s expected the bill will get through the Texas senate, but the House is where we’re not quite sure.

I was born in Fort Worth, Texas. My parents kind of fit the Clint Eastwood stereotype and the Scarlett O’Hara stereotype. In junior high we ended up moving to Cleburne. They thought a small town was better to raise kids. As it turns out, my brother’s gay and I’m transgender, and here we were in Cleburne, Texas. I was a fairly introverted person. I was in survival mode a lot as a kid.

Being in a small town, everybody knows who you are. Our town was segregated, and there were lots of labels. I knew I was different. I didn’t see any people who were female-bodied who felt like a man. My parents were pretty open to me and my brother. He wanted a Barbie dream van. I was a tomboy and so I asked for athletic gear and stuff like that. My mom, of course, thought of me as her daughter. She’s very girly and I wasn’t, obviously. So we had some epic battles. We did negotiate that, though. And I spent a lot of time having an experience of life that was a little outside myself. I was figuring out I’m not a girl, but people think I’m a girl. It got more complicated whenever I started dealing with sexuality.

We’re going to have to get our Gandhi on. If we’re going with the Jesus model, we’re all sacred, we’re all loved.

I didn’t really have language for what I felt, being born in 1965. I was attracted to women. And I felt like a man, and I thought nobody else feels that way. I went to college. I started teaching at a school and had a partner. I found some other lesbians to talk to and was like, “Oh that’s what this is.”

Then I went to church and that was a life-changing experience. When I was really young, we went to church only a little bit. I found MCC in Austin when I was older. I was amazed by it and intrigued. You had all these churches that had branched off. I didn’t realize there was a church that taught the theology of inclusion. I decided I wanted to be a part of that. I wanted to study religion — that’s where the root of all of this is, the hatred. I decided to go to seminary in 1996.

I started school at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary. It was pretty amazing. When I started, we had a professor who sat down with us and said, “You’ve come to us with some very structured ideas of religion and what the Bible says. Our role in seminary is going to be to break all that down, create a bit of a mess and give you the tools to put it all back together again in a way that’s sound for you.” Later, I started working at the Cathedral of Hope. I had all these connections and colleagues who were transgender, but I couldn’t go there. I wasn’t willing to rock the boat quite that much. It was a couple of years later when I was fasting for Lent that I realized, This is who I am — I’m a man.

My coming out was layered. I didn’t know if my parents could go through one more coming out. I didn’t know whether to come out to my church in transition or go away and transition and then go find another church. I could barely get it out with my partner. Up north, there would have been more images, more language. But I was created this way. If everybody could have this journey, it’s amazing the things you learn. I was 38 when I started transitioning.

Agape MCC, my congregation, was a larger congregation when I got there. In one week we had a couple who left because we were not traditional enough. Another couple left because we were too traditional in our liturgy and theology. Folks have different needs and different wants. My push has been to be open to all different faith expressions. It’s about being as inclusive as Jesus was teaching us to be.

It may just be hope at this point, but it seems to me there are more people who are more supportive. Sure, on SB6, they’re pushing it through. But even though Texas has been conservative, there’s been an overwhelming positive response to the transgender community. I believe Texas is bigger than this and smarter than this and more compassionate than some of what we’re hearing.

We’re just not going back. We’re going to have to get our Gandhi on. If we’re going with the Jesus model, we’re all sacred, we’re all loved. My family is multigenerational Texan. When I came out, they were very accepting, because I’m their family and I will always be their family.

Reported by Libby Coleman

Video by Nat Roe

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