Transgender Visibility and the Church

Today happens to be International Transgender Visibility Day of Visibility.

As yet, I’ve heard nothing today from anyone from a faith background. No bishops making statements either positive or negative, no-one threatening to leave a denomination over it, no statements at all really.

It seems to me that it is worth me going on record to say that St Mary’s is a church which has transgender people connected to it.

I suspect that wouldn’t particularly surprise anyone. Most people will shrug and say “oh, that’s just St Mary’s for you”

However, I think it is worth my while saying that each of the three church communities that I’ve been part of since ordination has had transgender people as members of their communities. I’ve also met trans men and trans women in both of my times working in university chaplaincy. This has made me conclude that being transgender is a more common thing than I used to presume and it really is surprising that the church has nothing much to say about it.

Members of the body of Christ are transgender.

I’ve had to learn a lot as I’ve listened to people with that experience tell me about their lives.

One of the things that I’ve learned is that some of the very common narratives that I have become used to hearing from lesbian and gay people of faith don’t really map onto transgender experience very well.

Many many times, I’ve heard stories from gay and lesbian people of alienation and frustration within church communities which I’ve met by saying, “Well, I don’t think God makes mistakes – God made you attracted to the people you are attracted to and God doesn’t make mistakes”.

However, that doesn’t really work for people who are on a trans journey. Not quite anyway. I’ve changed what I say a bit and now I think that I’d be more likely to say is that the essential truth is that God loves us as we really, truly are.

Transgender people and those who are close to them are welcome at St Mary’s. I’d like to think that people already know that but I guess that with the silence I hear from the wider church it is worth saying out loud. The fact that I’ve known people with this experience in very different religious communities to the one I now lead gives me some hope.

So – God bless all transgender people on this day of transgender visibility.

God blesses the whole church through them.

Comments

  1. Rev. M. Rodrigues says

    Dear Kelvin: Thanks you so much for these thoughtful comments. As a trans priest in the Anglican Diocese of Toronto, I am encountering more and more trans people in my ministry. The statistics for Ontario as collected by TRANSpulse, a not-for-profit research organization, indicate that some 1:200 Ontario adults experience some form of gender dysphoria. If you would like to email me, i can send you a paper on this issue in our context.
    Blessings, M.

  2. We had an interesting story in the HuffPost Queer Voices page yesterday. The state legislature in South Carolina has passed a bill that was immediately signed into law the same day by the governor with immediate effect that requires folks to use the public bathroom for the gender specified on their birth certificate.

    A female to male transgender person has had cards printed up that he hands to women who are startled by him using the women’s bathrooms. The cards explain that whereas he would be more comfortable using the men’s bathroom, he is following state law which requires him to use the women’s bathroom. He wants them to know first hand what ridiculous laws such as this affect both his comfort and safety, as well as theirs.

    • Meg Rosenfeld says

      That person is very brave, and I hope his/her actions have the desired effect.

    • I got the Carolinas mixed up. The US state that recently passed the law was North Carolina, not South Carolina.

      The state is also getting a lot of pushback from business and industry; Disney, Apple, Intel, Google, etc.

  3. Dear Kelvin, thanks very much for this post and for welcome of trans people in the various ministries you’ve been involved with over the years. Yes, trans people are all across our church, to varying degrees of visibility. I’m an openly trans man and I’ve served at BU as the Episcopal chaplain since 2011. There are a number of other trans clergy and lay leaders in TEC as well. TransEpiscopal founded in 2005 to create spaces throughout the church where trans people can be who we are, both binary and non-binary identified. We’ve worked in coalition with the other organizations of The Consultation over three triennia to advocate for the passage of trans- affirming legislation at our General Convention, and you can find a list of what the wider church has done here, legislatively speaking: http://blog.transepiscopal.com/2015/06/trans-legislation-at-general-convention.html?m=1

    That by no means plumbs the depths of all that has happened and is happening in our church re: trans folks, but just know that there actually has been a huge amount of effort — and visibility– thus far. Thanks again for your post, and peace

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