Crossing the T

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

Archive for Trans Life

UMC to debate policy on transgender clergy

Received this week from Soulforce (emphasis mine):

In 2007, the United Methodist Church’s Judicial Council ruled that a newly-transitioned transgender pastor, Rev. Drew Phoenix of St. John’s United Methodist Church in Baltimore, could continue to serve his church, as his congregation desires. However, because church law makes no reference to transgender people, the Judicial Council referred the broader question of whether transgender ministers are eligible for clergy appointments to the church’s main legislative body, the United Methodist General Conference, which will convene in Fort Worth, Texas, April 23-May 2.

The judicial council’s ruling has inspired both inclusive and discriminatory legislative proposals. A coalition of progressive organizations within the church have proposed expanding the church’s statement of civil rights to affirm support for “all persons, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.” The coalition has also proposed amending the church’s membership rules to state: “no person shall or will be excluded from baptized or professing membership in the United Methodist Church for reasons related to sexual orientation or gender identity.”

Unfortunately, anti-LGBT organizations have proposed legislation that is misinformed and discriminatory. One such proposal comes from the leader of an ex-gay ministry:

“Therefore, be it resolved, that in faithfulness to Scripture and Christian/Jewish tradition about God’s gift of male and female, and out of deep compassion for persons struggling with gender and sexual identity issues, we do not recognize transgenderism or transsexuality as part of God’s good intentions for humankind and we oppose sex reassignment therapy (hormonal or surgical) as a solution to these conditions.”

Another piece of legislation, introduced by an employee of the right-wing Institute for Religion and Democracy, would make simply “identifying as transgender” a “chargeable offense” for clergy.

The United Methodist Church is the 2nd largest Protestant denomination in the U.S. The impact of this General Conference will resound beyond the denomination and ultimately affect conversations about civil rights.

Soulforce is organizing an opportunity for delegates to the UMC General Conference to meet with transgender people and their allies this Friday.  More information is available here.  Christianity Today also has coverage.


Church wrecker?

I’ve been reading The Two Aunties blog for several weeks now.  Sarah and Kay are a married trans couple living in the southeast who have continued to be active in their small Episcopal church through transition and beyond.  This morning Sarah wrote about her experience in worship yesterday:

As the only transgender person of our small church, I was greatly saddened at this morning’s service. We are a small church in number, but as the service started only 4 people were in the seats; not counting the altar party and those who were sitting in the choir.

Many of us can relate to the kind of discouragement a person feels on a Sunday like that.  But imagine how much worse it would be if you thought it was all your fault.  Sarah continues:

I have developed a strong bond with my church and to most of the people who attend, and when attendance is down I am too quick to . . . think those who I expect to show up wanted to stay away because of me. My strong love for my church was one of the last road blocks, if you like, which held me back in revealing my being trans. The one reason that I waited so long, was my fear that by revealing my true self, that would cause people to react by point fingers at me if the church were to crumble where it stood. Being the person who causes a church’s demise was the last thing I wanted on my head.

Reading Sarah’s fears brought me back to my early years in ministry.  I was pastoring a small Baptist congregation overseas that had been teetering on the edge of collapse for some time before they called me, and I felt myself to be in many ways the last, best hope for renewal for this once thriving church.  I evaluated every decision I made, every sermon I preached, every pastoral action I undertook by the attendance at our worship services.  When lots of people showed up, I felt affirmed.  When only a few came, I doubted.  And on those dark days when my family and I were the only ones there, I despaired.

Then one day I realized that my own choices had much less to do with the size of our congregation than I had previously believed.  I can’t pinpoint what led me to that realization, but I’m sure it was connected to learning the following:

  • People make their own choices about where and when to worship.
  • I am not responsible for those choices.
  • I am responsible for my own choices.
  • My responsibility for my choices is to God, not to the congregation.
  • To carry out my ministry with integrity, I must resist the temptation to take responsibility for the choices of others.

Sarah, you are not responsible for what has happened to your beloved church.  If some have left the church because of your presence there, they did so because they chose to.  You are not responsible for their choices; they are.  You are responsible only for your own choice to live with integrity among the people of God you have loved.  And you are not responsible to them; you are responsible to God.

There is a myth among Christians that living with integrity will always lead to prosperity.  Even a cursory reading of Scripture, I think, dispells that myth.  Frequently, individuals and congregations who stand firm for what is right do not prosper.  Sometimes they face strong resistance.  Sometimes that resistance even comes from within.  “This calls for patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of God’s people.”  “If you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God.  To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.”

Action alert: Demand investigation into murders of trans-women in Columbia

I just received this alert from the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission:

On March 23, 2006, 19-year-old Darlyn Acevedo Ramirez was murdered in the city of Santiago de Cali, Colombia. This is one of 13 unsolved murders of trans women that have taken place in the past two years. Besides these terrible crimes, the physical, psychological and ethical mistreatment suffered by trans women in Santiago de Cali is a serious and continuous problem, and a daily violation of the human and constitutional rights of this community.

Among the rights violated in this case are:

  • The right to life;
  • The right to and security of the person;
  • The rights to be free from discrimination;
  • The right to equal protection before the law; and
  • The right to simple and prompt recourse to a competent court for protection


The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) and Santamaria Foundation GLTB of Colombia ask your support in seeking the urgent resolution of these crimes as well as in instituting measures to prevent them from happening in the future. We request that letters be sent immediately to the Colombian authorities, demanding immediate action to investigate and prevent these terrible human rights violations.

Read the entire alert here, where you can also find a sample letter you can cut and paste along with email addresses for Columbian government officials. 

In the past two years, the community of over 3,000 Cali trans women has experienced 13 homicides and over 30 attempted murders.  That means that a trans woman in this community has more than a 1-in-70 chance of being a victim of a life-threatening attack.  And before you object by noting that Columbia has one of the highest murder rates in the world, note also that a trans woman’s chance of getting murdered is over 20 times the national average.  And that not a single case has been solved. 

Please take a moment to send some emails.  If you won’t do that much, please take ten seconds to pray that this violence will end.

Can I Quote You? Rep. Tammy Baldwin on social change

There will not be a magic day when we wake up and it’s now OK to express ourselves publicly. We make that day by doing things publicly until it’s simply the way things are.

Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Madison, Wisconsin), the first openly gay non-incumbant elected to Congress, in an interview with the Detriot News

Can I Quote You? Jennifer Finney Boylan on activism

Activism for me takes the form of living a normal life and doing so very publicly. […] A lot of good is done simply by being public, by being visible and by telling stories so people can see that a life like mine, a family like mine is familiar and it’s normal, and that it’s a lot less extraordinary than it seems.

Author, professor, and reluctant transgender activist Jennifer Finney Boylan, in an AP article today

And a comment from me: Jenny is right on the mark here, I think. May her tribe increase!

My Trans Soundtrack – Calling All Angels

I need a sign to let me know you’re here
‘Cause my TV set just keeps it all from being clear
I want a reason for the way things have to be
I need a hand to help build up some kind of hope inside of me

I love my dad.

My dad has always been an incredible person to me, a person of deep integrity, pure motives, and kind humor. As a child I worshiped him, as an adolescent I idolized him, and as a young adult I sought to emulate him in every way I could. Over the years, our relationship matured and mellowed into a deep friendship that I valued above almost any other. Even though we were separated by thousands of miles for most of a decade, we spoke several times a week and emailed almost daily. I’ve never known any father and son who were closer than we were.

I didn’t get to come out to my dad the way I wanted to. Events moved in such a way that I had to do it by email, from a distance, and with the help of my sister and step-mother. After my dad found out that I was transgendered, we didn’t speak for almost a month.

As the days passed, I was surprised at how much I wasn’t hurting over it. I’d feel around in my heart and find no real pain or anger or anything. “He’s just getting used to the whole thing,” I said to myself. “It’s hard when your only son says he’s going to become a woman and asks for your acceptance as a daughter. He’ll come around. It will be like it used to be again.”

Then one day (as I was driving to see my therapist, coincidentally) I this song came on the radio. “I need a sign to let me know you’re here.” And I thought of my dad, and I missed him so profoundly that I could barely stand the hurt of it. I wept so hard I had to pull off the road.

We did talk again, the first thing he said was, “I want you to know that I love you as much today as I did the day you were born. I don’t understand, but I want you to know that I love you.” I got the sign I was looking for.

Today things are better, though we still have a long way to go. Maybe things will never be the same again. But I choose to hope–I choose to hope that someday, they’ll be even better.

Lesson learned: Sometimes the words we don’t say can shake someone’s world as much as those we do.


“Calling All Angels” by Train, on My Private Nation, 2003 (Lyrics)

It’s easy to kill a trans person

On Saturday, Sanesha Stewart, a transwoman of color living in the Bronx, was murdered in her own apartment. She was 25 years old. Her accused killer, Steve McMillan, had known her for months, yet when he was arrested, he claimed to have been enraged to find out that she was what the media coverage called not really a woman. He stabbed her over and over again in the chest and throat. She tried to fight him off; there were defensive wounds found on her hands.

On Tuesday, eighth-grader Lawrence King was in a classroom in Oxnard, Calif. He was openly gay, and often came to school in gender-bending clothing, makeup, jewelry and shoes. According to another student, it was freaking the guys out. One of them shot Lawrence in the head. He was declared brain-dead on Wednesday.

It is easy to look at cases like this and think, how tragic. How random. How senseless.

But then, you forget how easy it is to kill a transgender person.

Read the rest here.