Becoming who I really am
19 January 2022
Coming out transgender gives Spencer an authentic life
Words: Spencer Viney
Life began for me in the regional Victorian town of Ballarat. My parents are Salvation Army officers (pastors), so we moved several times as I was growing up. We left Ballarat when I was around five and I spent most of my childhood – eight years – in Alice Springs. The climate, and the culture, was very different to Victoria and I felt very out of place in many ways.
At around age six or seven, I started feeling that something wasn’t right with being seen as female. At school, whenever the girls and boys were split up, I wondered why I wasn’t with the boys. It was the same at church.
I was ashamed about the conflict between my brain and my body. I didn’t understand it or have the words to explain it. It wasn’t really talked about then and there weren’t the resources available that we have today. I just tried to block it out as much as I could, which really impacted my life.
I finished year 7 in Alice Springs before we moved to Darwin and I went to high school. I kind of had an inkling by then of what was going on, but I didn’t want to accept that at all. It was scary and unknown. I just tried not to ever think about it and to live as a female.
This was not good for my mental health, but I was horrendously bullied anyway, which was another reason not to try to deal with my feelings. I didn’t want to explore that for myself and add to what was already happening.
I was also very good at hiding it from my family, my church and my youth group.
In 2015 we were back in Victoria and I started going to a house church in Bendigo led by a couple who were part of the Salvos. More than half of this group belonged to the LGBTIQA+ community. It was an eye-opening experience and made a huge difference in my life. It was a church for me where I knew people were loved by God the way they were. It was an important step for me to be accepted as I am, to learn about God and to be a part of the conversation around moving forward as a LGBTIQA+ community.
In 2016 I was out of school and into my first year of university studying 3D animation. There was no more bullying and I felt like my brain could finally explore what all my feelings were about. It felt safe to do this. I came out to my house church and they supported me through this.
The university also had free counselling, which I took up. It worked out so smoothly. I told the counsellor that I thought I was transgender and didn’t know what to do next. The counsellor organised an appointment for me with a GP (General Practitioner) who specialised in that area. I felt understood and, for the first time, that there were words to explain what was going on for me.
Coming out is terrifying and scary for most people, especially in the church community, because of not knowing how people will react. I started with my sister, as I knew she would be supportive. She helped me come out to my parents. I knew deep down they would be okay.
They were surprised but supportive. It was a bit of a shock for them at first, which was to be expected as I’d never talked about it before with them. My extended family was also accepting.
I wasn’t sure if I would be accepted by the church community, but they were very supportive. Sadly, this is not the case for everyone. I already had my house church too, as a good support system.
Once I had come out, I had a sense of freedom that I hadn’t experienced before. I was so relieved. I could finally be who I am, and I started recognising myself more.
I have always worn male clothing. I swapped universities and changed my study to information technology. I began using my male name there, as well as male pronouns. It was becoming normal to ask people what pronouns they used. I also began medically transitioning. Once this process started, I felt like I was actually living, not just being alive.
Most of the Salvos community supported me. I heard that some people were concerned about what I was doing, but I think that was lack of education about transgender people. At the Bendigo Salvos where I go, everyone is very accepting.
Both the church and society are getting there with gender diversity education, but more is needed. The most important thing is to have the voices of trans people at the front of the conversation.
Education can include just listening to someone’s story, being willing to accept that people are different and learning the history of trans and gender diverse people. Just because I’m different doesn’t mean God didn’t create me this way.
Without education, terrible damage can be done. I had a few incidences with people from other churches telling me that what I was doing was an abomination and I needed Jesus to cure me. That was very hurtful and traumatising. I am saved by God already. I stopped going to mainstream churches for a while because I didn’t want to put myself in those situations.
Sadly, not everyone will understand. God created me this way for a reason, and that’s okay. There are many people who are accepting and are trying to make a difference, which is good, but we still have a long way to go.
And we must keep going. The suicide rate alone in the trans community is horrendous.
For trans and gender diverse people struggling, I would suggest finding a really good support system, whether in a church or not, and with people who understand and accept you the way you are. And also, to believe that you are actually okay the way you are. You’re created a certain way and are trying to live an authentic life.
And to the Church – we need to do better. It’s education, it’s not being afraid to actually stand up for those who can’t speak for themselves. Sometimes doing that puts you on the outside, but isn’t that what Jesus did as well? He was always with the outcasts.
One of the things I want to do now is use my creative and outreach skills together to tell the story of God. I’ve always been interested in video games and animated films. That was an outlet for me when I was growing up, and I knew I wanted to end up in the creative industry in some way.
God loves and accepts us all, and I want to tell people about Him, and about that love.
If you need to talk with someone about any issues raised in this article, support is available. You can call Lifeline on 13 11 14.
Story courtesy of Salvos Magazine. This story will appear in print in the 5 February 2022 edition of Salvos Magazine (salvosmagazine.org.au).