Category Archives: Trans Issues

Lutherans for Full LGBT Participation

On July 8, TransLutherans was announced as a new affinity group in ReconcilingWorks: Lutherans for Full Participation at our assembly in Washington, D.C. Thanks to the board for approving the formation of this group at its 2012 spring meeting in Minneapolis. TransLutherans has been a long time in the making. A word or two about the history of this process is in order.

The board of LC/NA approved a resolution in the fall of 2002 to add transgender and bisexual to our vision and mission statements, and a task force was formed to integrate this work into the RIC program. In 2003 transgender and bisexual identities were to be included in all subsequent mission statements of congregations who were to become RIC. All congregations previously approved as RIC were asked to update their statements as well. Many chose to use the wording “all sexual orientations and gender identities.” Those gathered at the final business session of the 2010 biennial assembly of LC/NA in Minneapolis approved a resolution to

  • increase transgender and bisexual training opportunities for board, staff, and Regional Coordinators,
  • create a national speakers bureau qualified to provide education,
  • commit the Legislative team and trans/bi/queer communities to work together to create resolutions for synod and church wide assemblies.

These resolutions would expand the welcome of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) to specifically include trans*, bi and all people affected by binary gender oppression.

– full report at Huffington Post

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Trans Girl at the Cross: “Being Transgender is not a Choice”

I knew from the time I started writing blogs, I would be entering a stage where there would be some controversy.  The idea of being a Christian transgender person will fly in the face of many on both sides; the church and the Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual and Transgender community. 

 

 

The word Christian can spark heated debate on how the church has treated the LGBT community.  To mention that I am transgender in the church has lit a few fires of disagreement.  When you put the two together, you have napalm.  If not handled correctly and without proper education, the firestorm can rage out of control, damaging all with in its path.  But as a wildfire is known to do, it can burn away the old and make room for new life, so heated, healthy debate is not always a bad thing.

In my inaugural post here on ChicagoNow, one of the individuals that left comments made a few statements I believe I need to take time to discuss.  Before correcting some common misconceptions about being transgender, I want to take a minute to agree with one of his statements.

I agree that many in society today believe that the Bible, the Word of God, is full of bigotry and prejudice.  There have been many church leaders in the news recently that have done nothing but condemn the Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual and Transgender community.   Charles L. Worley of Maiden, N. C. preached a sermon that went viral on YouTube.  He preached that he thought gays should be fenced off from the rest of the population so they would “die off”.  With rhetoric like this, how is any non-believer ever going to think that God, above all things, is a loving God?  How is anyone going to think anything other than God is a God of punishment when he really came to die on the cross and forgive our sins?  I praise people like Andrew Marin and The Marin Foundation for their work in Chicago connecting with the LGBT community and spreading God’s love to those that have felt rejected by the church.  We need more people like that working to build someone up in God, instead of tearing him or her down.

-full post (the first of two) at Trans Girl at the Cross, Chicago Now

 

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Pauli Murray: Episcopal church votes on queer saint / activist for gender and racial equality.

Human rights champion Pauli Murray, an unofficial queer saint, will be voted on this week by the Episcopal Church at its general convention in Indianapolis.

Murray (1910-1985) has been nominated for inclusion in the Episcopal Church’s book of saints, “Holy Women, Holy Men.” If approved, she will be honored every July 1 on the church calendar.

She is a renowned civil rights pioneer, feminist, author, lawyer and the first black woman ordained as an Episcopal priest. Her queer orientation is less well known.

Murray was attracted to women and her longest relationships were with women, so she is justifiably considered a lesbian. But she also described herself as a man trapped in a woman’s body and took hormone treatments in her 20s and 30s, so she might even be called a transgender today.

via Jesus in Love Blog

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U.S. Episcopalians move closer to allowing transgender ministers

The U.S. Episcopal Church’s House of Bishops on Saturday approved a proposal that, if it survives a final vote, would give transgender men and women the right to become ministers in the church.

The House of Bishops voted at the church’s General Convention to include “gender identity and expression” in its “non-discrimination canons,” meaning sexual orientation, including that of people who have undergone sex-change operations, cannot be used to exclude candidates to ministry.

The move comes nine years after the Episcopal Church, an independent U.S.-based church affiliated with the worldwide Anglican Communion, approved its first openly gay bishop, Gene Robinson, sparking an exodus of conservative parishes.

The Anglican Communion is a global grouping of independent national churches, which develop their own rules for ordination and other matters pertaining to membership and conduct.

The Episcopal Church, which has about 2 million members mostly in the United States, now allows gay men and lesbians to join the ordained ministry.

The resolutions on gender would allow transgender individuals access to enter the Episcopal lay or ordained ministries, and extend the overall non-discrimination policy to church members.

The resolutions must now be approved by the church’s House of Deputies.

The church already bars discrimination, for those who wish to join the ministry, on the basis of race, color, ethnic and national origin, sex, marital status, sexual orientation, disabilities and age.

When a similar resolution was considered at the church’s last convention in 2009 the bishops agreed the church would ban “all” discrimination, rather than identify individual groups.

But supporters of the change said it was time to go further.

At this year’s triennial convention, being held in Indianapolis, the church’s leadership is also due to consider approving a liturgy for same-sex weddings.

If approved, the church would establish a standard liturgy to use in same-sex unions for use on a trial basis starting in December, 2012.

Currently when church members ask for a blessing for their same-sex unions, they rely on their bishop for approval of liturgy, whether for a purely religious ceremony or for solemnizing a marriage where such unions are legal.

– Reuters.

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Jemima Wilkinson: Queer preacher reborn in 1776 as “Publick Universal Friend”

Jemima Wilkinson / Publick Universal Friend (Wikimedia Commons)

Jemima Wilkinson (1752-1819) was a queer American preacher who woke from a near-death experience in 1776 believing she was neither male nor female. She changed her name to the “Publick Universal Friend,” fought for gender equality and founded an important religious community. This fascinating person died almost 200 years ago today on July 1, 1819.

Wilkinson is recognized as the first American-born woman to found a religious group, but is also called a “transgender evangelist.” The breakaway Quaker preacher spoke against slavery and gave medical care to both sides in the Revolutionary War.

It’s especially appropriate to consider the Publick Universal Friend now with Independence Day coming up on July 4. In 1776, the same year that America issued the Declaration of Independence, Wilkinson declared her own independence from gender.

– full report at Jesus in Love blog

Wilkinson was 24 when she had a severe fever leading to a near-death experience. Upon waking she confidently announced to her surprised family that Jemima Wilkinson had died and her body was now inhabited by a genderless “Spirit of Life from God” sent to preach to the world. She insisted on being called the Publick Universal Friend or simply “the Friend.” From then on, the Friend refused to respond to her birth name or use gendered pronouns.

The preacher and prophet known as “the Friend” defies categorization. The Friend has been labeled a “spiritual transvestite” and is on lists of “famous asexuals” and “a gender variance Who’s Who.” As a gender nonconformist whose life was devoted to God, the Friend fits the definition of a queer saint. The androgynous Friend was many things to many people.

Jemima Wilkinson was born to a Quaker family in Rhode Island on Nov. 29, 1752. She showed a strong interest in religion while growing up. On Oct. 13, 1776, the Sunday after her rebirth, the Friend’s gave a public sermon for the first time. Quaker officials rejected the Friend as a heretic, but s/he went on to preach throughout Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania.

The Friend blended traditional Christian warnings about sin and redemption with Quaker pacifism, abolitionism, plain dress and peaceful relations with Native American Indians. Women had no legal rights in the United States, but the Friend advocated equality of the sexes. The Friend was a firm believer in sexual abstinence.

People were drawn not only to this progressive message, but also to the Friend’s forceful personality and genderbending appearance. S/he rejected standard women’s attire and hairdos for a unique blend of male and female. The Friend commonly wore a flowing black male clergy gown with female petticoats peeking out at the hem. The Friend’s long hair hung loose to the shoulder. The rest of the Friend’s outfit often included a man’s broad-brimmed hat and women’s colorful scarves.

The first recruits were family members, but the Friend soon attracted a diverse group of followers, including intellectual and economic elites as well as the poor and oppressed. Known as the Universal Friends, they upset some people by proclaiming that the Friend was “the Messiah Returned” or “Christ in Female Form.” The Friend did not make such claims directly.

The Friend founded the Society of Universal Friends in 1783. Members pooled their money and started a utopian communal settlement in the wilderness near Seneca Lake in upstate New York in 1788. As the first settlers in the region, they cleared the land and became the first white people to meet and trade with the Native Americans there. By 1790 the community had grown to a population of 260.

Hostile observers put the Friend on trial for blasphemy in 1800, but the court ruled that American courts could not try blasphemy cases due to the separation of church and state in the U.S. constitution. The Friend was a pioneer in establishing freedom of speech and freedom of religion in American law.

Like other isolated utopian communities based on celibacy, the Society of Universal Friends dwindled. The Friend “left time,” as the Universal Friends put it, on July 1, 1819 at age 61. The organization disintegrated within a few years of the founder’s death.

The Publick Universal Friend continues to fascinate people today. One of the most authoritative biographies of this mysterious person is Pioneer Prophetess: Jemima Wilkinson, the Publick Universal Friend by Herbert A. Wisbey Jr. In recent years the life and work of the Friend has been examined by feminists and LGBTQ scholars, including gay historian Michael Bronski in his new Lambda Literary Award-winning book, A Queer History of the United States.
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Related links:
Chapter on Jemima Wilkinson from “Saints, Sinners and Reformers” by John H. Martin(Crooked Lake Review)

The Assumption of Jemima Wilkinson by Sharon V. Betcher (Journal of Millenial Studies)
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This post is part of the GLBT Saints series by Kittredge Cherry at the Jesus in Love Blog. Saints, martyrs, mystics, prophets, witnesses, heroes, holy people, deities and religious figures of special interest to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) and queer people and our allies are covered on appropriate dates throughout the year.

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The Truth in Transgender: Will the Episcopal Church Amend Its Rules?

Out of the Box documentary challenges the church on transgender inclusion

Why Add the “T” to “LGB”?

As the Episcopal Church prepares for its 77th triennial General Convention in Indianapolis next month, transgender Episcopalians and their allies are preparing to challenge the denomination’s commitment to the full inclusion of all God’s people—without consideration of “race, color, ethnic origin, national origin, sex, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, disabilities or age”—in discernment for lay or ordained ministry in the Church. The italicized language is a proposed addition to the current canons of the Episcopal Church, which were previously amended to include sexual orientation as a characteristic that could not be considered as an impediment to ministry. The new language was proposed at the 2009 General Convention, and was passed by majorities of lay and ordained deputies. However, Episcopal bishops amended the proposed new canonical language to remove reference to gender identity specifically, preferring broader language that would ensure access to all the ministries of the Church by “all baptized persons.” Members of the trans community and their advocates persuaded deputies that the bishops’ revised language obscured the challenges faced by transgender Episcopalians, and the amendment was defeated.

“I think there was a tremendous amount of confusion the first time around,” says Louise Emerson Brooks, a media consultant and communications director for the Episcopal LGBT advocacy group Integrity USA, of the failure of the 2009 resolution. “There was a clear need for education among the bishops and the delegates in general on what it means to be transgender and why it matters that they are not prevented from serving the Church in any ministry, lay or ordained.”

“I have to confess,” continues Brooks,

“that I was one of those people who used to say, ‘Why do we have to put the Twith the LGB?’ I thought it was a different issue. I thought it was confusing. I thought it was polarizing. I thought we should just separate the issues, take on one battle at a time.”

A seminar by the advocacy group Trans Episcopal changed Brooks’ understanding of the issues, and Brooks channeled her own learning experience into Voices of Witness: Out of the Box, a documentary that tells the story of trans women and men now serving in ordained ministry in the Episcopal Church.

-full report at Religion Dispatches

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Telling Trans-Faith Stories

Despite the recent rise of murders motivated by a bias against LGBT people along side increasing anti-gay measures in states such as North Carolina, the growing body of anti-discrimination laws focusing on sexual orientation afford many gay and lesbian individuals the opportunity to live their lives authentically. The same cannot be said for transgender individuals. Few laws that prevent discrimination on the basis of gender identity protect this community and allow them to express who they are in public. Because of this, trying to estimate the exact number of people who self-identify as trans-sexual remains a challenge for researchers, health providers and others working with this community.

At the 11th annual Philadelphia Trans-Health Conference, the largest trans specific health conference in the world, 2,400 participants converged to explore in a safe environment the health and well-being of transgender people, communities and allies. This year there was a strong interest in spiritual health, with over 50 spiritual activities available including interfaith workshops, film screenings, worship services, meditation/yoga and exhibition booths.

T Forward, a new initiative announced as a component of TransFaith Online‘s Interfaith Working Group, will serve as a hub for religious leaders working with transgender people and communities to share stories and to advocate for “secular” legislation. Those religious leaders present T Forward’s launching session reflected on the disconnect between national church policy that affirms those who are gender nonconforming and how local congregations implement–or ignore–these nonbinding resolutions.

-full report at The Revealer.

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