Outspoken: Debbie and Kris Widmer Open Up About Trans Daughter

As longtime Seventh-day Adventist pastor Kris Widmer points out in the newest installment of the “Outspoken” video series, there is no pamphlet put out by the church for parents of transgender children.

Kris Widmer is a lifelong, fourth-generation Adventist who has been a pastor for more than three decades. His wife Debbie Widmer is the daughter of an Adventist conference administrator and was baptized into the church early in life. In December 2011 their son Timothy came out as transgender by reading them a ten page letter. That’s when they went into the closet, as they put it. There were no resources available to help them process what they were experiencing, no one they felt they could talk to.

In figurative and literal ways, the Widmers open up in the "Outspoken" video about their experience of transitioning along with Timothy (now Teagan) in a church that officially understands trans people as rejecting a normative, biblical gender binary. As they unpack a box of hand-crafted figurines depicting the story of the prodigal son, the Widmers’ lives and experiences unfold in front of the camera.

SEE ALSO: The Seventh-day Adventist Church and Transgender People

For Debbie, it took months of reading to understand what being transgender entailed and longer still understanding how to relate as a mother and as an Adventist. She said staying in the closet as a parent was an easy thing to do on the one hand, but very unhealthy on the other. “I had to grieve the loss of Timothy before I had the open arms and open heart to bring Teagan in,” she said.

Kris saw in the biblical narrative “story after story after story in the Gospels about Jesus saying ‘You may be different, but I have room in my group for you.’” He said he may never entirely understand transgender experience, “but the answer is before us, is the person—our own flesh and blood. And that person is an awesome person, still.”

The “Outspoken” series of short films produced by Daneen Akers and Stephen Eyer (Watchfire Films) celebrates the experiences and contributions of LGBT+ people and their families. All of the films’ subjects have ties to Adventism, though not all identify as current members.

WATCH: Widmers - Outspoken

Jared Wright is Southern California Correspondent for SpectrumMagazine.org.

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/8009
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A courageous, transparent family.

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As a parent myself, my heart goes out to Kris and Debbie - and Teagan. I believe having a transgender child is a more difficult adjustment than having a gay or lesbian child. They show such courage to be open about their experience, and I hope that their story will touch and melt hearts. Hugs to all of you!

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Spectrum , I would be interested in knowing your position on this issue . I can’t comment beyond that because you seem to remove every comment that does not agrees with this lifestyle . Is this young man still Timothy ? I think that he is .Nothing could change that . If so, we as a people, and as a church don’t have a leg to stand on . We can love and respect our children , but it is clear that gender as God made it is only male and female . Trans is not a third gender or a mixture of the two . Spectrum, Do you support the S.D.A. church accepting SSM ? Your answer to this question would answer everything .

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Rodney, Spectrum is an organization made up of a diverse group of people, with a range of beliefs on a number of topics. So, when you ask what Spectrum “believes,” you are either asking for the opinion of each individual behind Spectrum (and to answer that you should ask each individual personally), or you are asking what Spectrum’s goal is with the stories we publish. To answer the latter, I would suggest you take a look at our “About Us” page where you can read our mission statement. I’ve included the first paragraph here for you:

Our goal is to foster community through conversation. This website is the online companion to Spectrum, a journal established to encourage Seventh-day Adventist participation in the discussion of contemporary issues from a Christian viewpoint, to look without prejudice at all sides of a subject, to evaluate the merits of diverse views, and to foster intellectual and cultural growth.

As for comment deletion, our moderators reserve the right to remove any comment that does not adhere to our commenting policy. Diverse beliefs and opinions are welcome if they can be communicated in a respectful manner; disrespect, animosity, and malice are not tolerated. We appreciate the dialogue that commenters who can adhere to the commenting guidelines bring to the Spectrum community. Thank you for being part of that discussion.

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I am deeply grateful to the Widmer family for sharing. As a church we need to spend far more time listening and far less if any judging. I am so very blessed by your sharing this deeply personal and challenging journey of love and faith. The journey of a family with a transgender person is a journey for all family members not just the trans member, and as Kris said, the SDA church provides no substantive input to help navigate this most challenging space. There are several committed SDA transgender people and mental health professions skilled in this area who have offered and are willing to help the church develop these types of materials, the church leadership is left to chose whether to engage or not.

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I have had the opportunity to hear Kris speak a number of times. It is very evident that she
has a good relationship with God. I am sure that her home training has had a huge influence
in her developing a positive attitude about herself through her growing up and through transitioning.
She has maintained her strong Adventist faith, but more importantly has a healthy, mature
relationship with God.

It is VERY SAD that having a healthy, mature relationship with GOD means NOTHING in the SDA community if a person is “not considered normal”. There is NO ROOM in the Adventist community
for ANY GLBTIO’s who have a healthy, mature relationship with GOD.
I appreciate the FEW SDA pastors and local church leaders who are willing to become rogue SDA communities and become ALL WELCOMING and ALL INCLUSIVE, totally in their church communities.

Yes, that was Teagan I heard speak. I will say the same thing about Teagan.
Thank you for the clarification.

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the proven existence of intersex individuals is evidence that while Adam and Eve may have been clearly male and female…there are many born since then that are not clearly male and female according to genitalia make up or personal affect. This calls into question the outright rejection of intersex, trans and all others in the marginalized sex/gender communities.

Perhaps you mean you’ve heard Teagan speak several times. Kris is not a she. I like the rest of your comment.

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Who can explain it, who can tell you why -wise men never try,

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There is much to be understood about “trans-genderism”. In the beginning God created “male and female”. But it doesn’t take either a science or theology degree to realise that God’s creation has been perverted. Children are born with all manners of abnormalities and infirmities, yet we cherish them unreservedly as children of God. In many cases, such trans-genderism is such an abnormality, embedded in the genetic code of the affected person. We applaud the skills of physicians who are able to repair abnormalities such as conjoined twins, yet some of us deprecate the skills of physicians who are able to mitigate the physical effects of transgenderism. Best wishes to the Widmers.

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Teagan is not a young man and is not known as Timothy anymore; she prefers to be called Teagan, indeed that is her legal name. She also wishes to be identified with the pronoun “she”. I know this because that is what she has stated.

The default assumption is that someone who is a male to female transgender person wishes to be identified in the gender of their choice as female and with appropriate pronouns for a female and with the name they have chosen. The same goes for a female to male transgender person. They generally wish to be identified as male with appropriate male pronouns and their chosen name.

It’s pretty simple, just listen to the transgender person themselves, they will tell you how they identify and just respect their choices.

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I agree with your comments, Friend. Having said that, I’m not transgender but there seems to me, and I’ve heard it expressed by those who are transgender, that the term “transgenderism” as you’ve used it, and as used by the denomination in their recent official statement, comes across as dismissive, derogatory, and unkind. I am not labeling you or your intentions as such because I don’t believe you meant it in that manner. I do believe that as in all things, as far as possible our words and our intentions should coincide.

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Rodney,

  1. “Lifestyle”? No! Being transgender is NOT a lifestyle. I think you need to inform yourself more about this. Please use caution in making hasty conclusions.

  2. “Things” today are not as God made them in many, many respects. That does not mean that what differs is sinful. Please use caution in making such assumptions.

  3. You do not have to read SPECTRUM. If you do and do so honestly, I believe you will see many varied opinions. They allowed your comment to stand although it is not in agreement with most of the other comments so far.

  4. Perhaps it would help our church if fewer people were quick to judge and point out “sin”, but rather sought patiently to comfort and understand those who are “different”. I expect to find in eternity that the love of of God has truly been broader than many understood here on earth.

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I am grateful for the Widmers’ sharing is caring: to better educate SDAs about their life story(s). I would like to add: the church does not have pamphlets for spouses/children of cross dressers, homosexual preference, transgenders, or some combination of the above.

Also, I’d like to paste something a friend on a support group page just posted: "So I posted the following to Ellen Degeneris’ page, but think it was taken down as I can’t see it in my timeline.
Hey Ellen! Love you and your show! A couple days ago you shared a card from a child who wrote something to the effect of thanks dad for creating me before you became gay. Now I realize it’s a funny/cute card, but let me tell you the spouses of those men and women who marry us and hide behind us for years and then come out years into the marriage are not thought about at all. I support the LGBTQ community and always have. I did not know I married a closeted gay man until 17 years into the marriage and lots of therapy to try to “fix” our relationship. Nothing I could have done would fix it for IT did not need fixing, it just needed some honesty from my now ex husband. But through all the support for him and countless others who have married for the sake of hiding, I do not see support for me, the straight spouse whose life has been turned upside down emotionally and financially. Most people don’t understand what a straight spouse goes through. It would be nice to open up a conversation about us for once to acknowledge the pain and hurt involved. Thank you.

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@daneenakers wondering why Teagan wasn’t interviewed in the video and why not talk about Teagan’s life as a self-described “spiritual bootblack” and involvement in the BDSM culture?

Rodney, when you refer to gender do you mean what you see outwardly? If that is what gender is then you may have a point. Unfortunately,genes and chromosomes are not visible to you, nor are the complexities of the human brain. I think it would do you good to study more in depth about what transgender means before your next response.

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This short film is focused on Pastor Kris Widmer and Debbie Widmer as Adventist parents and their process and journey. This film is their story. The perspective of parents of LGBTQ Adventists are rarely heard (not a surprise given how little LGBTQ Adventists are allowed to speak in our publications and platforms). As filmmakers, we are interested in sharing stories from under-heard perspectives, and we definitely felt the Widmers as parents (in Adventist pastoral ministry in particular) of a transgender child had a perspective that needed to be more widely heard. If there’s a time when their daughter wants to share her journey, then I hope you’ll give her perspective a listen. Judging from your comment here, you seem to be jumping to some judgments based on what you’ve gleaned from some social media, and I’d hazard a guess that all of us are far more complex and nuanced people than that. This “Outspoken” short film series will be at least a 10-part series, and several future segments feature transgender Adventists. I encourage you to stay tuned. And if you have not seen the first two films in the series, you can find them at http://www.watchfirefilms.com/outspoken.

Daneen Akers
Co-Producer/Director
"Outspoken"

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Congratulations! Both of you made the right choice. Your allegiance belongs to your child and not to your church. No need to give your child another layer of burden to carry.

Let the SDA church, or better still the current GC president and his EXCOMM, deal and resolve their own neuroses.

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John Adams said in 1770 “Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.”

There is no scientific evidence in any reputable, peer reviewed journal establishing a causal genetic basis for any LGBT, etc lifestyle.

Some writers in this thread write as if it is so. It is not. There is no “gay gene” that has been identified at this point.

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Jeffery, the facts and evidence are no one chooses to be gay or trans. Why would anyone choose something and subject themselves to ridicule and rejection. It is what it is. Walk in the shoes of a lgbt person and you might be a little more understanding. Knowing the gut wrenching difficulty I went through for most of my life hiding that I was gay, and trying various sexual orientation change therapies without success, it has made me far more accepting and sympathetic of Teagen and her family. Their journey has been even more difficult I can only imagine. I applaud their love and candor. @ckey24

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