Matthew 17: 1-9:
Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. Then Peter said to Jesus, ‘Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.’ While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!’ When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, ‘Get up and do not be afraid.’ And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone. As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus ordered them, ‘Tell no one about the vision until after the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.’
This is Jesus’ big “coming out” moment. This is the moment when he reveals to his disciples the truth of who he is; the reality of his core identity. He is letting them in on his most personal truth. He only takes the people he trusts the most with him to the mountain. This isn’t the time to tell everyone his truth, he doesn’t announce it to the crowds, he tells his best friends; the ones he trusts to stand by him no matter what.
In this moment Jesus is filling them in on what’s to come. He’s letting them know that the way he has been living is going to have to change and his friends don’t really get it. They are on board with his dual identity, but they want him to stay there. They want to build a shelter and keep him in one place. They’ve seen this amazing sight; Jesus transforms before them giving them a glimpse of what is to come and instead of really grasping it, they want to keep him (and themselves safe). And can we really blame them? This is the guy they have given up their lives to follow, they have entrusted themselves to his care and now he’s changing the game. It’s no wonder they want to build him a shelter and keep him in one place. It’s safer than the alternative.
The other interesting part of this passage is Jesus’ order to not tell anyone about what they’ve seen until after he has been raised from the dead. I’m sure the request seemed strange to them. They still didn’t really grasp the path they were all on. They didn’t really understand what Jesus was going to do and what was going to happen to him. And while Jesus had a clearer vision of what was to come I’m sure that he wondered if people would think he was crazy if he told them everything. He must have wondered if they would say he was just looking for attention or trying to be something he wasn’t. It would have made sense for him to want to keep this information hidden. What if all of this doesn’t work out? What if I can’t become the person I know I am? Maybe it would be easier if no one knew about this until I am sure that it’s all going to work out like I think it is. And so he asks his friends to stay quiet about it. To not let anyone in on what’s going to happen. Let’s just see how this plays out and then we’ll tell the others.
The parallels to coming out as a trans person are all over this passage. Growing up trans, I always had the sense that something wasn’t quite right. Something in me wasn’t like all of my friends. There was more to my identity than I was able to express to other people. I lived in this duality for years before realizing that I could change it. It took even longer before I had the courage to let other people in to my struggle. I didn’t take my friends up to a mountain, but I did have conversations with them one on one or in small groups to let them know about who I was really was. I was letting them in on my journey, letting them know that some things were going to change. I was hoping they would be willing to walk with me on the path.
I started out with telling just a few of my closest friends and my partner. They supported my identity. They knew I needed to continue on my journey even though at the time none of us really knew what that meant. Even in the midst of the support, though, there were some who wanted to build the shelter and keep me the same. Whether it was out of fear for my safety and health or fear of what would change about the person they loved, the impact was the same. We love you, but we wish you didn’t have to do this. We support you, but we wish you would just stay put. You’ve lived this long in this body, can’t you just stick it out? Can’t you just come to terms with who you are?
But that’s the thing; I was coming to terms with who I was. And the reality is that I needed to transfigure myself. And if the people in my life were going really know me, then they needed to see me transfigured. They needed to come down off of the mountain with me and walk the hard road to Jerusalem.
Once you’ve revealed your truth there is a part of you that wants the people you’ve told to keep it a secret. In those beginning stages as I pursued therapy and hormone treatments I wondered if I would change my mind or if my therapist would be willing to write the letter. I wondered if my blood tests would come back okay or if my doctor would write the prescription. What if it didn’t work out? Then I would have told the world and I would have failed. So I wanted to keep it a secret. I didn’t want to do all of the larger coming out I would have to do, not right away. Let’s just see how it all goes for now, then we’ll worry about telling the world.
Not knowing what comes next Jesus’ closest friends do leave the mountain with him. And they do stay by his side as he journeys into the unknown future. They walk that path together and they are all changed because of it.
copyright 2010 stlk