Six years ago, Teagan Widmer sat her parents, Pastor Kris and Debbie Widmer, down and came out to them as transgender by reading a 10-page letter.
Like many people who decide to come out to their loved ones, Teagan didn't expect the process to be an easy one, especially since her parents are devout members of the Seventh-Day Adventist church, which recently put out a statement saying that "the desire to change or live as a person of another gender may result in biblically inappropriate lifestyle choices."
As Teagan suspected, her parents initially had a difficult time accepting that the person they had known as Timothy for over 20 years actually identified as a woman. But as time passed, Pastor Kris and Debbie found that the most trying part of embracing their daughter's true identity wasn't loving her; it was learning how they could reconcile both loving their child for who she is while keeping their faith.
In an interview with Teen Vogue, the Widmers opened up about their own journey of empathy and understanding.
"Initially, I went through a phase of praying for a miracle (which I believe in), but when the miracle I wanted didn’t come, I started questioning my own heart," Debbie told Teen Vogue. "I spent two years studying only the Gospels, looking for an answer in the life of Jesus. When I quit asking for God to change our 'son' and started to ask God to change me (in whatever way He chose to), then I got my miracle. God began working in my heart and opened up a spigot of love."
The couple also participated in a recent video series Outspoken, produced/directed by Daneen Aker, which explores life from the perspective of LGBTQ people and their families within the Seventh-Day Adventist church.
In their nearly 25-minute video, Pastor Kris and Debbie discuss the importance of educating the church in love and compassion, noting the high suicide rates in the trans community.
Of course, these numbers shouldn't come as a surprise. Currently, in the United States, nine trans women have been killed in 2017, equalling one-third of the amount of trans women killed in all of 2016, most of them women of colour.
For now, the Widmers will continue to fight for acceptance in their own household and in their church.
"We would like the church to continue to grow and change in this regard and to become the community of Christ where love is more important than law and people are more important than policy," Pastor Kris said in the moving video.
Amen to that.
Watch the full video below: