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       As a child, I lived in a very religious environment, specifically a Southern Baptist area in Texas. I went to church and Sunday school every week with my grandparents, and was probably about six or seven when I said the Salvation Prayer, though I was never baptized. Time passed, and I still attended church up until my military family was stationed in Mississippi. I was constantly teased, even before we moved, but Mississippi was like Texas on steroids. Often, the attacks were based on the fact that I didn’t date (I wanted to focus on school) and that, because of that, I must be a lesbian, despite my constant assurances to myself and others that I was a straight, normal girl, if a tomboy. I was still a Christian, but we stopped attending church, and as the years passed I became more of a Deist with Christian leanings.

       Cut to my Freshman year of high school: we’d moved back to Texas (a different town) a year before, and I was debating gay rights with a girl in my class. She was fervently against, and I was fervently for; always had been. I got angry and stated that I was sure that God had given up on humanity. The next day, she gave me a fancy, leather-bound Bible and invited me to her Baptist church. I went, and the lesson that night was on fearing God. I sat, respectfully listening to these other teenagers speaking about fearing a God that I had been taught was all loving. It made me vastly uncomfortable, and that night, I looked at my Bible. I saw violence, genocide, rape, slavery, and all sorts of other gruesome things, and decided that if there were a loving God, it wasn’t the God of the Bible, especially with the hatred I saw His followers practicing. Then, I became a firm agnostic, then an atheist. I felt happier after leaving religion, and was eventually able to come to terms with the fact that I am bisexual as well as transgender, although only coming out to my parents as the former, at least at the time of this writing. However, recently, I have felt drawn back to the church, and found a small one that is Open and Affirming. I attended for the first time a week ago tomorrow, and that particular evening they were focusing on music. I was brought to tears several times, and realized that God did exist, and that He was not at all like those I had seen spreading hate in His name. It is for this reason that the Bible given to me all those years ago now sports a rainbow sticker.

       I left church that evening and received a call from my parents on my way home regarding a new addition to the family: a dog named Sonny Boy. When I got home, I met a perfectly normal mutt: happy, sweet, smiling, and with oodles of slobbery kisses to give out. There was only one thing different about him: he was missing his left hind leg. Three weeks before we adopted him, he was hit by a car, and his leg was so damaged that it would have caused him more pain if it had been repaired. However, he is in every sense a normal dog: he begs for food, loves tummy rubs, and can keep up perfectly well with our German Shepherd pup. What stuck me most, however, was his name. I have always enjoyed Sonny and Cher, and I instantly thought of their son Chaz, also a transman. I don’t think that this is a coincidence. I believe that God brought Sonny Boy into my life to teach me that though we are all different, He loves all of His children, no matter their race, religion, sexual orientation, or gender identity. It is for this that I thank God and thank Sonny Boy for letting me know that, to use a phrase from this group, yes, Jesus loves me.