The Christmas Conversation

The Christmas Conversation

Katie Leone

Christmas is on it's way, but Kathleen has to bring up an issue to the pastor that might make her and her child no longer welcome at church. There is much at risk including Kathleen's place in the community and her child's happiness. Would hoping for a Christmas miracle be too much or will the church convince Kathleen to deviate from what she thinks is the best path for her child.

Chapter One

Kathleen walked down the hall of the church towards the pastor’s office. It was a meeting that was a long time in the making, but it was one that she was dreading. She listened to the sound of her heels clicking against the highly polished tile floor and imagined a clock ticking down towards zero hour. Church was an important part of her life; she couldn’t deny that, but Jessie was the most important.
Kathleen paused and pretended to look at some of the Christmas decorations that lined the hallway. For a church, First Baptist of Canton didn’t shy away from acknowledging the more secular aspects of the holiday; there were manger scenes and candy canes amid Santa Claus and reindeer. The fact that the church wasn’t so uptight about such things was what attracted Kathleen to this church while she was pregnant with Jessie and her husband Jack was stationed overseas.

Jack never made it back, but Kathleen kept returning to a church that rallied around her during her time of need. The church saw her through her grief, her pregnancy, and her transition back into the workplace when Jessie was old enough to be left at the church daycare.

“Jessie,” Kathleen said in a whisper as she shook her head. Jessie was her son, or was he? Things were getting so convoluted that she was having trouble keeping things straight herself.

Kathleen closed her eyes and took a deep breath as she tried to center herself. The meeting with the pastor was going to be about Jessie and the current issue at hand. Hopefully, she would get some guidance, but Kathleen felt like she would be doing more explaining than anything else. She would love to provide answers or insight into the situation, but to be honest she didn’t quite understand it herself. She was certain which side the pastor would take, and that was a cause of concern.

Kathleen could hear the sound of singing coming from the sanctuary – a lone voice of a child singing Christmas carols to an audience of one. The song was soft and sweet, a slow lullaby that could put even the most troubled spirit to rest. Kathleen smiled as she strained to make out the words to Silent Night. Though the church might abandon her and her child over the current dilemma, she was certain that God would remain by her side.

With a new resolve, Kathleen resumed her walk towards the pastor’s office as the seconds ticked down towards the end.

Kathleen found it strange that a whole year had passed since the issue cropped up. It seemed so innocent at the time. Perhaps it was a simple flight of fancy or a strange idea that got caught in the mind of a seven-year-old, but it was an idea that would flip her world on its head. Maybe the notion was simply a phase that all boys go through; Kathleen wouldn’t know, she had never been a boy.

Kathleen’s son Jessie was your average, run of the mill boy, as far as she was concerned. He was well within the norms when it came to height and weight: not too tall or too short, not too heavy or too thin. He had light, sandy brown hair, big brown eyes, and an abundance of energy that he could call upon whenever the need arose. Nothing stood out or drew attention to the fact that there might be cause for concern that he might be a little different from the other boys.

“Perhaps a few things,” Kathleen mused to herself as she made her way to the pastor’s outer office. She could hear Pastor Earnest on the phone and knew that there would be some delay in their meeting. That was alright with her; it gave her further time to collect her thoughts.

Jessie did have some traits that Kathleen noticed that she attributed to being those quirks that everyone has. Her son always ate in a peculiar way, choosing to eat each individual item on his plate to completion before moving onto the next item. The other thing that stood out was the constant look of quiet contemplation that her son wore. Jessie always looked as if he were trying to figure out the mysteries of the universe instead of being a free spirit like other seven-year-olds. But even accounting for the rare oddities, nothing prepared Kathleen for the bomb Jessie dropped on her a little over a year ago.
Kathleen sighed as she thought back on the moment:

It was just your ordinary, run of the mill day. It was cool, but not cold, which was odd for mid-November. She was on the porch, sitting on a bench seat, watching a group of boys around her son’s age playing a rousing game of touch football.

“Why don’t you go and join your friends?” Kathleen asked. “It looks like they’re having fun.”

Jessie scrunched up his face and shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t know.” It looked like he was thinking about something especially heavy. For a second, it looked like he was going to comply with his mother’s suggestions but then thought better of it.

“You don’t have to if you don’t want to,” Kathleen said easily. “It wasn’t a command or anything.”

Jessie stuck his hands in his pocket and nodded but didn’t say a word. There was something definitely on his mind, but whether or not he would speak his mind was in doubt.

“A penny for your thoughts?” Kathleen knew not to press, that if she wanted to get Jessie to open up she would need to take things slow.
Jessie looked down at his sneakers. Though they were uncharacteristically untied, he did nothing the remedy the situation. “I don’t want you to be mad.”

Kathleen ran through a list of what her son might have done that could get him in trouble. “Is this about you not folding the towel and hanging it up this morning?”

Jessie shook his head no.

“About leaving the milk out this morning when you had cereal?”

Again, Jessie remained silent and simply shook his head.

“Are you planning on running away to Pluto on a space ship that you hid in your closet and didn’t tell me about?”

Kathleen expected a little chuckle or, at least, a smile. She got nothing. “I don’t want you to hate me,” Jessie finally said.

This was more serious than Kathleen had thought. She took hold of Jessie’s hips and pulled him closer. “You listen to me, and you listen good, there is nothing that you can ever say or do that will ever make me hate you. Whatever you did, we can work through it, but it won’t do either of us good if you keep it to yourself.”

“I didn’t do anything,” Jessie said in a whisper.

“Then what is it?”

Jessie took a deep breath and decided to just come out with it. “I’m a girl,” he said in resignation, as if it was something he wasn’t too thrilled about but, after wrestling with it for a long time, knew he couldn’t change.

Kathleen was dumbfounded. Her first inclination was to laugh, but something told her that if she did it would utterly devastate her child. Jessie wasn’t one for making up stories or pulling jokes, especially of this magnitude. There was something in his simple, three-word statement that made Kathleen uneasy about the situation. Jessie didn’t say he thought he was a girl or he wanted to be a girl; he simply stated the fact as he knew it.

Jessie stared at his mother, apparently waiting for some kind of response. He seemed torn between pulling away or saying, ‘just kidding.’ It was too late; there was no taking back what he had said, and they both knew it. “Kind of messed up, right?” he murmured.

“It wasn’t what I was expecting.”

“So you hate me, right?”

Kathleen stared her son directly in the eye. “No, I don’t hate you. I don’t hate you in the least bit. But it’s a very big thing that you just said, something that we are going to need to work through and figure out.”

“I didn’t want to be a girl, really I didn’t, but I couldn’t help it.”

“It’ll be okay. We will figure it out.”

“I just feel like people will be mad, like I let them down or something.”

Kathleen nodded. There was a good possibility that some people would not be pleased, but that was too heavy a burden to place on her son’s small shoulders. “In life, you learn to live out the truth and say to heck with what other people think. We will figure this out together and we’ll move on from there.”

That seemed to satisfy Jessie for the moment. After subsequent conversations, he started therapy, and the psychologist gave the year time frame before moving onto the next stage, and that was fast approaching. Kathleen was still unsure of the direction things were heading. Jessie was so young, so naïve about the world around him; was making such a radical change so young in his best interest?”

“Or is it her best interest?” Kathleen mused. It was all so confusing and outside of her comfort zone. She was used to following the status quo, the so-called norm, the straight and narrow, or whatever other cliché she could think of for being socially acceptable by those she felt were socially acceptable herself. This was certainly not the norm and might get her put out of the church if she didn’t handle things correctly. It was enough to give her a headache.

Chapter Two

“I would love to talk more,” Pastor Earnest said into the phone, “but I have an appointment that is waiting for me and we’ll have to pick this up at a later time.”

The phone call ended, but the salt-and-pepper-haired clergyman needed time to center himself. He knew what the meeting was about; at least there would be no surprise there. The world was trying to rewrite the laws of nature that God put into effect eons ago, and this was just another skirmish in a long line of many. Kathleen and Jessie had been members of his congregation for quite some time, he knew them both well, and Pastor Earnest wondered how they were led astray.

The pastor closed his eyes and bowed his head in prayer. “Lord, give me the words to guide them back on the path you’d have for their lives. Give me tact and compassion, give me patience, let Your love shine through me. Amen.”

Pastor Earnest didn’t feel the peace he normally felt when guiding families through the difficulties of life. This was so different than other issues. This wasn’t Johnny looking at naughty pictures on the internet or Susy telling fibs; this was an arena that he had never been in before, and he hoped he prepared himself for whatever would come.

The pastor slowed his breathing; it was a technique he learned in his college days when he played basketball to keep his emotions in check. It would do no one any good if his emotions got the best of him, and he wanted to be calm and supportive while steering them towards a course of action they might not be in favor of.

“You cannot turn a boy into a girl no matter how you dress him up,” the pastor said solemnly as he shook his head. “Where do these ideas come from?”

Again he settled himself. If he went into the meeting with that attitude, there was a greater possibility of him driving Kathleen away from the proper path. He needed to focus on something pure to get his heart in the right place while addressing the situation.

The voice was faint but clear. One of the girls from church was practicing a carol for the Christmas service. He strained to listen but could make out the words to Silent Night being sung by one of his little angels. It was such a sweet song being sung by a sweet voice that must have been practicing all month long for the big day because the notes rang out beautifully.

“Now that’s a girl,” Pastor Earnest told himself, trying to rid the twang of being condescending from his voice. He was sure Kathleen and Jessie had the best of intentions, and it was his job to see that they weren’t led astray by the ever blurring lines of modern society and pseudo-psychology.

The pastor knew that he couldn’t keep his appointment waiting much longer. He needed to address the situation now and nip it in the bud before any more incidents happened and he lost both mother and child forever. He rose from his brown leather office chair and brushed off imaginary lint from his black suit before making his way to the door.

Kathleen’s eyes rose when she heard the latch of the door. She was nervous. How could she explain the situation to a man she held in high esteem when she didn’t even understand it herself. She wanted to do what was right and what was socially acceptable, but she was unsure if they were both one in the same in this instance.

“Good afternoon,” Pastor Earnest said as he gave a warm greeting. “So good to see you.”

Kathleen stood up from the chair. “I’m glad you could see me. I know how busy you are at this time of the year. So much going on around the holidays, and I’m sure your attention is required elsewhere.” Kathleen wondered where the sudden urge to back out of the conversation came from. Perhaps it was because she already had a good idea of what the pastor was going to say, and she didn’t know if she wanted to hear it. Perhaps that was exactly why she was there. Maybe she needed to hear it and be given a good dose of reality that what she was planning to do would be detrimental not only to her son, but to them both.

“Nonsense,” Pastor Earnest dismissed as he stood off to the side so he could usher his appointment into his office. “I always have time for you and your son. I only wish you’d have come by sooner.”

The first salvo had been fired, the pastor thought to himself. He knew it was important to reinforce the facts, but to do it subtly until the real confrontation arose. His hopes were that he could build a good foundation where the end game would be anticlimactic at best.

Kathleen frowned as she walked past the pastor. Why was she there if she already knew what was going to be said? Maybe she wanted ammunition when she told Jessie that things weren’t going to work out the way that he wanted them to. She so wished that the “I’m a girl” thing was a phase and that after a year he would have forgotten about it. But Jessie brought it up almost weekly until she acquiesced and at least got him into counseling. Counseling might have worked against her; instead of assuring her son that he was, in fact, a boy, the psychologist did his best to convince Kathleen of the contrary, and now she was pressed into making a decision before she was really ready to commit.

Kathleen sat in one of the chairs in front of the pastor’s mahogany desk. They were the only thing comfortable about the whole situation. Kathleen suddenly felt small as the pastor made his way around the desk. Who was she to try to convince him of anything? Pastor Earnest was the one with all the schooling and degrees and experience. All Kathleen had was her mother’s intuition and a love for her child that defied reason. She would do everything in her power to make sure Jessie was happy and healthy, even if that meant questioning her own preconceived notions on life.

Pastor Earnest gently lowered himself into his seat. He leaned slightly forward as he sat, letting his long manicured hands rest folded on the desk. “Quite the situation we have on our hands,” he started out easily. There was no reason to beat around the bush; they both knew why they were here, and there was no need to waste time with idle small talk. This conversation wasn’t going to be a pleasant one, he felt, and there was still a lot to be done in preparation for the Christmas service that was a few days away.

Kathleen nodded. “It certainly is,” she said as she realized that she was actually going through with this conversation and not backing out. “I’m trying to figure out the right thing to do.”

“And I’m here to help you with that,” Pastor Earnest said with an easy smile. “Why don’t you explain the situation and where you’re at?”

“Right now we are trying to decide where to go to next. Jessie has stated her desire to be a girl, and the psychologist thinks that we should explore that avenue to see where it leads.”

Pastor Earnest took a measured breath; his response would need a certain level of tact and compassion or he might force his parishioner to act contrary to the church’s desires because of his callousness. “But Jessie is a boy; he is your son, right?”

“I thought he was, but,” the words just hung in the air, and Kathleen found it difficult to formulate what she wanted to say next.

“You changed his diapers often enough when he was a baby to know.” Pastor Earnest gave a soft, easy chuckle. In cases like this, it was better to stick to the facts and laugh off deviating from what life has presented them.

Kathleen smiled as well. Life was so much easier when Jessie was a baby; there weren’t so many questions that were beyond her. Jessie was her son. He was a boy, and as long as he wore blue, the whole world understood that. Things weren’t so black and white now. “I understand what biology says, but perhaps there is more to being male and female than what’s between our legs.”

Pastor Earnest nodded. “Is that you speaking or the psychologist?”

Kathleen opened her mouth, but she didn’t know how to respond.

“That’s what I thought.” The pastor was pleased with the way the conversation had started. It was clear to him that Kathleen had received some bad guidance, and as soon as he put things in proper perspective, they could handle Jessie’s quirk the correct way.

“Jessie seems quite sure that she’s supposed to be a girl,” Kathleen said.

Pastor Earnest frowned. “That’s the second time you referred to Jessie in the feminine in a very short time. What Jessie desires doesn’t change a thing. The facts are the facts: Jessie is a boy, and God made him that way for a specific reason. Part of me wonders if Jessie wants to be a girl, or perhaps there is a part of you that wishes that you had a daughter instead. I can only imagine how difficult it is for a single mother to raise a boy.”

Was that it, Kathleen wondered? Was she sending out signals to Jessie that she subconsciously wanted a daughter because that would make life easier on them both? It was worth pondering, but she was sure that wasn’t it and had to contain herself from blurting out something she might regret later. “The only thing I want is for Jessie to be happy. I never regretted having a boy, and my plan was to honor my late husband by raising Jessie into a good man that would make Jack proud.”

“And you have been doing a fine job at that,” Pastor Earnest said without drawing into question recent discussions. ”So why deviate from a course that is so plainly laid out for you. God gave you a son, honor that.”

“What if God gave me a transgender daughter instead? Shouldn’t I honor that as well?”

“If God wanted you to have a daughter, wouldn’t he have just given you one from the start instead of going such a roundabout way of getting there? I understand that you are in a tough situation. I understand that you want to do what is right and what will make your son happy. Sometimes those things aren’t always one in the same. Jessie feels like he is a girl, but that doesn’t change a thing. He isn’t a girl, anatomy and chromosomes, and life say otherwise.”

Kathleen nodded. There was no getting around certain aspects of the situation. What the pastor said was true; Jessie had a penis, had a Y-chromosome, and was raised as a boy his entire life. Something told her there was more to being a girl than all that, but she wasn’t able to quite put her finger on what else there was or to articulate it no matter how hard she tried. “She,” Kathleen started and paused. “Jessie seems so sure.”

“That still doesn’t change a thing.” Pastor Earnest took a more relaxed posture. He could tell that Kathleen was struggling with what was going on and that there was still hope that he could get her to teeter back on the side the church would rather she land on. “Your goal is to make Jessie happy, right?” Pastor Earnest asked as he decided to take a different path.

“That’s one of my goals.”

“Do you think he’d be happy if the world treated him as an outcast?”

Kathleen frowned. Was this a warning that if she proceeded to let Jessie walk down the path of being the girl, that she would no longer be welcome in the church? That was something she worried about and feared. “Would you kick us out of church because of it?”

Pastor Earnest shook his head. The answer was an easy one, but not one that would be well received from some of the older and stauncher members of the deacon board. “No,” he said plainly. “No, I would not. We don’t turn away anyone from worship, no matter what choices they made in life. Jesus never turned anybody away, no matter what kind of sinner they were or what the religious zealots said, and at this church, we follow his example. That said, I can’t say that people would respond warmly to you if you decided to go down the road you’re pondering. The little stunt you pulled during our Halloween party created quite the buzz, and I heard concerns from more than a few people about it.”

“It was just a costume. Jessie was dressed as a cat.”

Pastor Earnest grimaced. He always found it amusing when someone tried to pull the wool over his eyes. “Jessie was dressed in a leotard and tights. Yes, you added a tail and ears, but he was still dressed in girls’ clothing, and that created quite the stir. At the time, I dismissed it as Jessie being a quirky seven-year-old, but now I’m beginning to think it was more like someone testing the waters.”

Kathleen remained silent. The costume was a compromise and the best one she could come up with at the time. Jessie originally wanted to go to the costume party as a ballerina, and she had to fight tooth and nail to get him to consider being a cat instead.

“That’s what I thought.”

“I’m just trying to do what’s best.”

“Something tells me that you didn’t stop at simply dressing him up in girls’ clothing either. Something tells me that even though Jessie is a name that could go either way, you gave him an even more feminine name.”

Kathleen knew she had been figured out. “He came up with the name Jessica on his own.”

“I understand. I don’t doubt the dilemma that Jessie finds himself in. I’m not going to deny that people have Gender Identity issues because that would be a lie, and we would both know it. There are many people who are not satisfied with their bodies one way or another. Some people feel like they’re too tall or too short or too fat, or they don’t like the color of their hair. Look at me; I’m thirty five and I already have greying hair. I don’t like it; I’d rather that it stayed brown until I was in my fifties, but it doesn’t change the fact that I’m graying. Sure, I could go out to the pharmacy and buy a bottle of Just For Men hair dye, but that will only cover up truth. I’m sure Jessie doesn’t like his body the way it is for things to get as far as they have, but putting him in girls’ clothing or even going as far as putting him on hormones and having surgery still doesn’t change a thing.”

“So you think it is being deceitful?”

Pastor Earnest wanted to pick his words carefully. “Truth isn’t subjective, no matter how much some people in society want it to be. There is no one truth for me or for you or for Jessie that is any different than a truth for everyone else. I am sure that being transgender and questioning one’s gender is quite the burden, especially for someone so young, but it is a cross that Jessie is going to have to bear. I know it isn’t what you want to hear, but I’m not here to lie to you just to make you or Jessie happy. I’m here to tell you the truth. Jessie is a boy. He might not want to be, but that doesn’t change a thing.”

“He seems so sure about it.”

“He might, but there is more about being a girl than clothing and long hair, which I noticed you let grow out.”

“He does a lot of things that girls do naturally,” Kathleen said in defense of her child.

“He might be able to mimic some of the things that girls do, but it’s a poor imitation at best. There is a natural softness and sweetness that girls have that is hard to duplicate. It is something that God hardwired into the brain and the fabric of our being. Jessie might question that he is a girl, but he would never be able to duplicate that which comes innately to a natural-born female.”

“It seems so cruel to make him behave contrary to the way he feels about himself.”

“I’m not saying it’s easy, but Jesus says ‘If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself.’ There are a lot of things people would rather be doing, but that doesn’t make them right. Just because you feel Jessie acts like a girl doesn’t make him one.”

Kathleen thought about what the pastor said, but was sure she noticed signs that Jessie wasn’t completely off his rocker when saying that he was female. Maybe she was reading into things, but she knew what she saw.

“Do you hear that?” Pastor Earnest asked.

Kathleen quieted herself and could hear the faint singing she had heard while walking through the church corridors. “You mean someone singing ‘Silent Night?’”

“This is the second time she is going through the song.”

Kathleen paused and strained to hear the singing more clearly. It was obvious that the singer was a child, but outside of that she could pick up on no other clues as to whether the vocalist was a boy or a girl. “How do you know it’s a she?”

“There’s one way to find out for sure,” Pastor Earnest said as he rose from his seat. “Let’s go and see and perhaps this will give you more clarity on the situation that no matter how much he may believe it, Jessie is not a girl.”

Kathleen wasn’t so sure, but got up and walked out of the office with the pastor.

“Jessie is a good boy,” Pastor Earnest said as he slowly made his way towards the sanctuary. “But there is a certain sweetness and gentleness that girls are born with. You can hear it in her voice.” Pastor Earnest paused. “Listen.”

“Round yon virgin, mother and child,” the voice sang.

The pastor could feel goose bumps form on his forearm. “There’s no mimicking that kind of femininity, girls are simply born with it. It’s a gift that God gave to them for the whole world to enjoy.”

Kathleen nodded, and the two continued towards the sanctuary.

Pastor Earnest and Kathleen peeked through the window. On the dais, a small long-haired child stood cradling the baby Jesus as she sang him a lullaby.

“See,” the pastor said triumphantly. “This is what being a girl is like; you see how naturally it comes to her. Unfortunately, this is something that Jessie will never be able to aspire to, no matter how much he wanted to or how hard he tried.”

Kathleen looked at the figure more closely. “But that is Jessie,” she said as she figured out it was her child that had been singing all along and was not hanging out in the play area as she had instructed.

Pastor Earnest’s eyes almost popped out of his head as he scrutinized the image that stood cradling the doll. “Why so it is.”

“I suppose that this doesn’t change a thing either.”

Pastor Earnest dropped his head. “It just might change everything.”

“But what about creating a stir?”

“Above all things, being a Christian is about finding the truth, loving the truth, and living the truth. Perhaps my assumptions were wrong, and we need to look at the issues anew, but I have never seen such an epitome of being a little girl as that,” Pastor Wayne nodded towards Jessie. “The important thing is that we do things correctly.”

“And what is correct?”

“We’ll have to find that out for ourselves as we move forward, but I think I solved one dilemma.”

“What dilemma is that?”

“I know who my star soloist is going to be for Christmas service, and I would be honored if Jessica would perform as we introduced her to the church family.”

“I think she would like that very much.”

“She has a lovely voice.”

“I wasn’t talking about the singing. I was talking about the ability for her to be herself.”

“Something tells me you were leaning that way all along.”

Kathleen smiled. “I was open for persuasion, but you would have had to make a mighty strong argument against going forward.”

“It looks like I failed, but that might not be a bad thing in this case.”

The End

This story is available on Amazon at A Christmas Conversation perhaps you would like to add it to your kindle library or leave a review. Thank you.

This is something different and new, but I don't know if it's any good or even wanted. Sometimes these things come to me and I just have to get them down. This is actually a rehash of a Christmas story I wrote last year and never posted. In last years story a talent scout comes across Jessica singing at the Christmas play and doesn't realize she's trans. I think it fell flat so I kept it to myself. This is slightly better but may still fail. I am eager to get feedback.

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