All of us that are LGBT Christians have had a difficult journey in life. We have suffered from persecution and judgment because we are different. That persecution and judgment, whether it be from family, friends, coworkers or strangers, has beaten us down to the point that we frequently question our worth as a person and our worth to our God and Jesus, our Savior.

Many of us probably can even say that we were told by the organized church that we were living in sin and that God did not love us. On top of that, we were probably told that the only way we could be saved was to repent of our sin and change our lifestyle.

Well, I want to reaffirm to you that whoever told you that was wrong. My prayer is that after you read this article that God’s Holy Spirit will affirm its love for you and you will be filled with joy knowing you were fearfully and wonderfully made by your Creator and that God loves you just the way you are.

Let me share a little of my life journey to illustrate what I mean.

Up until four years ago there is no way you could have convinced me that I was fearfully and wonderfully made, for I was living a lie that I had lived for over 50 years. I was unhappy in my own skin. All the time growing up from age eight, I felt I was a woman trapped in a male body. I longed to be a woman in my thoughts and dreams. When I looked in the mirror, I cried and died a little each day. What I saw in the mirror, i.e. my body, did not match who I felt I was inside.

I struggled with what I had been taught growing up in church that we shouldn’t mess with nature. God doesn’t make mistakes (have you heard that before?) and if we mess with it, we are committing a great sin. My faith told me I could never be a woman, but my mind kept telling me otherwise. I had mixed prayers — one night I would pray that God would take the feelings away and the next night I would pray that I could wake up a girl. All my life I struggled and did all I could to be what the ‘church’ said I had to be — a male.

I married twice and had two sons. Each time I married and had kids, I kept hoping that each action would “make a man out of me.” But it never did. I even resorted to alcohol to drown my sorrows. That didn’t work either.

I so desperately wanted the torment to end. I felt the call to ministry and served three churches over 10 years in the United Methodist Church, but they found out about my gender dysphoria and told me that God’s love for me was on shaky ground because I was living in sin and I was sick.

You, like me, had probably been raised to believe that the “church” was God’s hand in the world, spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ to the lost. And that hand was blessed by the Holy Spirit to correctly interpret the Holy Scriptures. Therefore, if they say we are sick and that God’s love for us is on shaky ground, then there must be some truth to what they were saying. Like you, I was devastated when the church condemned me and bullied me into resigning. I couldn’t handle the devastation and planned suicide, believing I had lost all that I wanted to live for — my family, my friends, my church and God’s love. But God stopped me from committing suicide. The Holy Spirit came to me in a dream and stopped me. It told me to talk to a therapist, which I did, and she opened my eyes that God loves everyone. She said I was just being myself and what God had created me to be. For the first time in my life I was free. When I embraced who I was, I felt blessed.

All of us who are LGBT individuals need to embrace who we are and know that God loves us. God didn’t make a mistake when you were created. God doesn’t make mistakes. The church is wrong in condemning LGBT people. Let’s look at some Scriptures closely and really see what God says regarding being an LGBT person.

Galatians 3:26-29 says, “For in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.” The Apostle Paul says there is no longer male and female. That means that the traditional “gender boxes,” the binary system of genders as society and the “church” classes people, doesn’t work for God. That includes the traditional binary pairing for commitment relationships. God sees the heart. In God’s eyes, we are all one if we believe in Jesus.

In Psalm 103:17-18, we read, “But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear him and his righteousness with their children’s children with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts.” As children of God and heirs to the promises of Abraham which we read in Galatians 3, we are clearly told in this Scripture that the Lord’s love is for those who fear him and obey God’s precepts for their children through all generations. It does not have any qualifiers such as you have to be heterosexual to receive these promises. It does not say you have to be Hebrew or Caucasian to receive these promises. It just says you have to fear God and keep God’s precepts. For those of us who claim to be Christian, that makes sense because that is who we are. We love God and Jesus and desire to serve them.

John 1:12-13 says: “Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God — children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” That clearly tells me that we are all children of God, born in God’s image and I should have nothing to be ashamed of. As a trans woman, I now know that I don’t have anything to be ashamed of. But that was not always the case. All who are LGBT individuals know that you have nothing to be ashamed of. You and I were fearfully and wonderfully made by a wonderful, loving Creator of us all.

Know that God has loved you from the beginning. In Jeremiah 1:5 God tells Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you.” That means that God knew you and I were going to be LGBT when we were in our mother’s womb. That means that our Creator has set us apart to be witnesses of God’s love for all mankind by living a life of love and not of hate. We have all been chosen and called for this special ministry to the world. Now it is up to us to fulfill that calling and stand up proudly to be who we are.

For me personally, I now fully understand why I lived when my mother lost 11 fetuses by miscarriage because of Rh factor problems. God and Jesus knew I was going to be transgender when I was still in my Mom’s womb. But the church couldn’t see that. The “church” couldn’t see beyond their golden halls. Now I know that God has been preparing me, my whole life, for this very time to speak of God and Jesus’ love for all humankind. God has been preparing you, your whole life, for this very time to witness the same message of love. Their love has always been there and will always be there. We should not let anyone tell us otherwise, regardless of what label they put on us.

I am learning every day that the only way I can successfully be what God has called me to be is to love myself. I had never loved myself until I embraced being transgender and becoming my true self. Now, I can say that I have never been happier in my life. You also need to love yourself. We all need to truly understand and embrace what the writer of John 3:16 meant when he wrote “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” He meant that God’s love is for everyone, not the selected few the “church” deems worthy. We are among the whosoever, should hold our heads high, knowing we have been selected by our Creator to bring God and Jesus’ message of love to the world.

— Rev. Dawn Flynn is pastor of New Life Metropolitan Community Church, Charlotte, N.C.