I was a senior in high school. I was washing my hands in the girls' restroom, and beside me stood a freshman. Her hair was long and curly, a little darker than mine. She was dressed just a shade more preppily than me.
I was admiring her skirt when she spoke to one of her friends, and I started.
Her voice was very deep, not like what I associated with a girl's voice at all.
I'd heard that we had a transgender student, but I hadn't met her. She looked at me, and her eyes got a little wide, and she said, "Hi, I'm Alyssa." (Name changed)
I'd love to say that we were instant friends, and I accepted her whole-heartedly. I certainly wasn't a bitch, and I didn't preach fire and brimstone at her, but...
I prayed for her. I prayed really hard. You see, my conservative Christian upbringing told me that these people were confused. They were pushing back against what God had planned for their lives. They were in a state of rebellion. The worst that I'd heard was that they were a perversion of the natural order, a symptom of a world that had been decaying ever since the Fall of Man.
So I prayed. We'd pass in the halls, and she didn't seem to be much different from me. I'm sure she felt the same pressures to conform to feminine norms, the same pressure to try to fit in and make friends. To think that she then topped it off with the pressure of having to deal with people like me, every single day? It breaks my heart, looking back on it. It's one of the few situations that I truly wish I had handled differently.
Meeting Alyssa, and attending school with her that year...I would also love to say that just putting a face to this scary term my preachers talked about and seeing her struggle through the same day-to-day high school mess that I did was enough to convince me to question. That, like meeting my first Catholic, knowing she wasn't that different from me changed my mind.
No, what makes this situation another brick in my wall of nonbelief was that prayer didn't work.
There were many times during my faith that I prayed and didn't see results, but this was the first time that I kind of had a, "What the fuck, God?" moment about it. I had even enlisted the help of my youth group and the pastoral staff at my church to pray for this girl, and nothing changed. She was still (I know you are shocked by this!) a girl!
Most of the times that I had prayed and not received the answer I wanted, I could write it off. God was telling me to wait, or sometimes he said no. But why would God want to wait about this? Why would he say no to this? I couldn't puzzle it out.
It still took many years--nearly ten--after that day in the bathroom, after my senior year--for me to leave my childhood faith behind, but I can see this moment crystallized as one of the many cracks that shattered my personal religious delusion.
And for that, I wish I could tell Alyssa thanks. And also that I'm sorry.