As I write this, The Rev Lawrence Tanner Richardson’s I Know What Heaven Looks Like: A Modern Day Coming of Age Story (2018) is on sale at Amazon for $0.99 through Labor Day (2019).
In his dedication, Richardson writes, “I wrote this book for several reasons and several people, most especially me.” Indeed, trans folk finding our voices is powerful. This book is an origin story for Rev Richardson.
Rev Richardson is the first Black, openly transgender person to serve as a United Church of Christ pastor. He breaks I Know What Heaven Looks Like into three sections, followed by an epilogue:
- I Am No Ordinary Man
- I Am in Transition
- I Am Congruent
Richardson’s story is often painful as he explains how he ended up with his grandmother as a child. After describing early experiences in the church including an altar call, Richardson quotes his grandmother’s words, “The Lord is working on you, baby, and he’s got you. He will never let you go.”
Richardson lets us follow him through various phases of his life as he comes to self-understanding. Like many other transgender people, his story includes not being understood by family members, being subjected to an exorcism, depression, suicidality, and an extended period of time before he found community that would give him language (like “transgender”) and resources to help him become more fully himself. Disclosing his transition because of a reality TV show is perhaps less common.
While church and family life are woven through Richardson’s entire story, it is primarily his personal story. While they are painfully problematic in various ways, Richardson’s family is portrayed with nuance and complexity.
The final chapter, chapter 13, is titled, “What Does the Bible Say?” does give a brief theological treatment around transgender experience. While this book is not framed as a transgender 101, it does include some useful narrative around both trans masculine personal experience and Christian tradition.
More about Lawrence Tanner Richardson: http://www.ltrichardson.com/
Lawrence Tanner Richardson blogs with the Salt Collective.
Compiled by Mx. Chris Paige on September 1, 2019.
Note: This blog is intended to be an on-going work in progress. Please contact us if you have corrections or are able to contribute further context or reflections.