Crossing the T

Life at the intersection of Church and Trans with Rev. Allyson Robinson

Allyson at the Transgender Religious Summit

When I read last year’s news coverage of the first-ever Transgender Religious Summit, I was thrilled to know the event was taking place. I had always assumed that coming out transgender meant the end of my ministry career, and was so encouraged to know that enough transgender religious professionals existed to warrant a conference! So you can imagine how excited I was to receive an invitation to this year’s follow-up event, held last Sunday and Monday at the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, California.

I’ll be blogging some of the topics we covered at the summit over the next few days, but I want to open my coverage of the event by thanking all those who made my attendance there possible and by greeting all the wonderful new friends I made (who I hope will eventually find their way here). It was incredibly inspiring and empowering to be among them, and I left them with great hope for the future–both for all trans people of faith, and for myself as a trans woman called to serve the world on God’s behalf.

After the break is PSR’s press release on the event, as an introduction to my coverage that follows.

Summit ends with pledge to form permanent roundtable on transgender religious issues

BERKELEY, CA — A diverse group of religious leaders, activists, and scholars closed their summit today with a pledge to begin meeting regularly for a first-of-its-kind roundtable on transgender religious issues. The two-day conference, Transgender Religious Summit II–Freeing faith communities from gender conformity, was co-sponsored by the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in Religion and Ministry at Pacific School of Religion (CLGS) and the National Center for Transgender Equality in Washington, DC. Following the success of the first Transgender Religious Summit held in 2007, Pacific School of Religion is the only Christian seminary to have held conferences exclusively focusing on transgender religious issues.

Bernard Schlager, interim deputy director and director of national programs at CLGS, announced the formation of the roundtable at the end of the conference. “The question is, how can we bring something to the discussion [on transgender religious issues] given our location at a seminary?” Schlager said. He asked those in attendance for written suggestions and nominations for religious leaders for the roundtable, and said the organization would represent “as many religious traditions as possible, and be geographically and ethnically diverse.” Schlager said CLGS would seek funding for a two-year pilot program, and named Justin Tanis, coordinator of programs for the National Center for Transgender Equality as the roundtable’s first coordinator.

The transgender religious summit focused on strategy for changing policies in religious denominations for broader acceptance and accommodation of transgender people. Speakers stressed the need for denominations to address issues of inclusion of transgender members, to educate churches and synagogues about adults, youth and children that express gender differently, and to examine policies of human resources and ordination of transgender clergy and employees.

“One of the significant changes in the last 15 years is that there are now people who are in training for ministry who are open about who they are, and who are able to say, ‘This is who I am. This is the identity God has given me. I come before my community of faith as this person,’” said Tanis, a graduate of Harvard Divinity School and San Francisco Theological Seminary. “We’re here because people shouldn’t have to choose between their [religious] vocations and the policies and structures of their faith communities.”

The conference had strong representation from denominations that have provided leadership in acceptance of transgender people, including the United Church of Christ, the Unitarian Universalist Association, the United Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches, and the Union of Reform Judaism, although several more denominations were represented by the 50-plus speakers and attendees from across the United States and Canada. Conference presenters expressed the importance of continued education in all denominations, including those considered “tolerant.” The conference also focused on continuing issues for the transgender community as a whole, including access to health care, educating the public about transgender people, employment, and government non-discrimination policies.

For more information on the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in Religion and Ministry, see: http://www.clgs.org/. For more information on the National Center for Transgender Equality, see: www.nctequality.org.

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2 Comments»

  Peterson Toscano wrote @

wow oh wow! I can’t wait to hear more. Imagine all the wonderful people and contacts you are making. Awesome. Thanks for sharing.

  planetransgender wrote @

Congradulations Reverend ! You are a gift in gods eye, just the way you are! If you have a chance visit an AGAPA MCC church. You will be welcomed and loved.


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