Tag Archives: transgender

What the Whole World Could Learn from a 15-Year-Old Girl

I thought I’d sit down today and get indignant about the crass politicization of a complete non-issue.

No, I’m not talking about Benghazi, or private email servers, or whether or not Donald Trump actually knows how to run a business. I’m talking about something that actually has everyday people acting as though they’ve lost their minds: The issue of which public restroom a person chooses to use.

I know why people are freaked out on a personal level. And I also know why their fears around this issue are being manipulated by the political and religious classes. The first “why” has nothing to do with the vaunted right to privacy or fears of molestation that the foamers are serving up to the media as the reasons.

Instead, it has everything to do with gender itself. Gender being the actual third rail of our society. When people step outside the accepted gender norms of their time and their society, the people around them really lose it. History is littered with examples: Women’s liberation, gay equality… and now transgender people.

If you don’t believe me, Google “Transgender Day of Remembrance” and see what you get. It ain’t a party, a parade, or even a crystal staircase. It’s how transgender people and their allies solemnly remember, every year, just how deadly it can be to step on today’s third rail of gender nonconformity and declare for yourself that your gender and your biological sex might just be misaligned.

So God forbid you should walk into a public restroom designated for use by those who share your gender identity. People will lose their minds. And other people will exploit that. And it will all be a backlash against something only tangentially related to your individual life. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

I’ll start with what I know. The Atlanta metro area has approximately 11,000 homeless people — a ridiculously high percentage of whom are veterans and kids. Those kids are on our streets.

Now, I have marginally more experience to write about the problem of homelessness than about America’s new war on restroom choice. (Not to mention that if the issue of homelessness captivated the public imagination as much as the restroom issue appears to have, who knows? We might actually have a shot at meeting the challenge of homelessness in a relatively short period of time.)

I say “marginally” because, while (compared to most Americans) I have an ocean of experience relating to transgender people as friends, community members and parishioners, I have to admit that I am limited in just how much I can claim to personally relate to their plight in this world.

I was born a biological male and reared as a male, and in the six decades I’ve lived as a male, I’ve never experienced a moment of struggle over the connection between my biological sex and my gender identity.

Of course, my sexual orientation was another matter entirely, at least according to society in general and the church in particular. However, even that was never really a question for me personally. Deep in my soul I have always known that God had not made a mistake with the gene(s) that caused me to be attracted to people of the same gender as me.

Yet I do find it somewhat awkward to address the restroom-choice issue because I don’t feel that I can truly relate in my mind, in the deepest parts of my person, to the incredible struggle and inner turmoil my friends from the transgender community must deal with on multiple fronts. If I’m totally honest with myself, I have to confess that I come up short on true empathy (look it up, it’s not the same as sympathy) with what it must be like to feel “born in the wrong body” biologically.

I have no real clue what it must be like to look in the mirror see my body and think to myself, “This is not who I am. My body is not put together in such a way as to match my mind and/or soul.” I have no idea what it’s like to not be comfortable in my own skin.

As a student of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. — the man I credit with singlehandedly inspiring me to go into ministry — I can relate this gap to an even bigger, more enduring and more perplexing one: The awkward sensation for white liberals of knowing that we will never truly understand, in bones-deep authentic way, what it really is to be black in America.

God knows I’ve spent a lifetime trying to explain what it is to be gay to my straight friends — and while there has been a certain level of understanding reached, eyes still roll and faces blush when I kiss my partner in front of them or refer to him as my husband. So there’s that.

Given all these things, what can I claim to know about the transgender community and the bathroom issue?

First of all, I know several things from a Christian perspective. Those things that I know are rooted in a very clear understanding of Matthew 22:40, where Jesus said, “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.’ This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ These two commands are pegs; everything in God’s Law and the Prophets hangs from them.”

So here’s what I’ll hang off those two commands:

  1. I know that transgender folks do not wake up one day making a choice to change their gender identity so they can go to a different public restroom.
  2. I know that to change one’s biological gender requires ongoing and long-term consultations with psychiatrists, psychologists, medical doctors, support groups and personal therapists.
  3. I know that each of these folks is in fact a child of God.
  4. I know that by the time a transwoman (i.e., a male-to-female transgender person) walks into a women’s restroom, she is a women, her biology notwithstanding.
  5. I know that by the time a transman (a female-to-male transgender person) walks into a men’s restroom, he is a man.
  6. I know transgender folks have been around and using public restrooms in relative peace for a lot longer than this “issue” has been politicized.
  7. I know that this “issue” is part of a backlash against my not-even-one-year-old right to get married — i.e., the political right and religious fundamentalists need another target to wax hysterical about.
  8. I know, based on Jesus’ teachings, that for a pastor to stand in a pulpit and call for transgender people to be killed is not even close to being a Christian response.
  9. I know that there is a really easy fix to all this: Make all bathrooms unisex. After all, going to the bathroom is a private matter for everyone.
  10. I know that to try and turn this discussion into an argument around safety from pedophiles and sexual perverts shows a lack of knowledge, fairness and mercy.
  11. I know the overriding challenge facing the transgender community in the form of this particular issue is that the vast majority of folks screaming about this have not taken the time to learn, watch and or listen.

But don’t take my word for it. Talk to a transgender person. And by that I mean listen. Really listen. And it doesn’t have to be about anything deep. Just what’s going on that day. Because it’s really, really hard to hate someone whose story you actually know.

And if you don’t think you know any transgender people, meet Jazz Jennings:

Katie Couric & Jazz Jennings
Katie Couric interviews transgender advocate Jazz Jennings on her teen years, her new book and equality.

You’re welcome.

Rev. Paul M. Turner

About Rev. Paul M. Turner

Founding and Senior Pastor of Gentle Spirit Christian Church, Rev. Paul M. Turner grew up in suburban Chicago and was ordained by the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches in 1989. He and his husband Bill have lived in metro Atlanta since 1994. He is the editor of the Seeds of Hope blog whose posts from 1999-2005 are at http://whosoever.org/seeds/ -- and which now resides at http://gentlespirit.org/topics/blog/seeds-of-hope/.

Keeping Up With Caitlyn

As Christians we’re commanded to love our neighbors as ourselves. And for the most part, we have a tendency to focus on the first part of that command without really thinking about what the latter half actually means.

In an individual sense, I believe it’s just as important to God that we master the art of unconditional self-love as it is for us to experience unconditional love of each other. Because to love ourselves, we have to see ourselves as God sees us. And the closer we come to that perspective, the closer we come to seeing our brothers and sisters as God sees them — which is what draws into a real relationship with God.

In my ministry I’ve come to emphasize the primacy of having an unfettered relationship with God because I fervently believe in God’s power to speak to our hearts in a way that no self-proclaimed intermediary could hope to do. When we love ourselves as God loves us, and when we love others as God loves them, we can hardly go wrong.

There is no doubt in my mind that God has loved Caitlyn Jenner every minute of her life for who she was at that time. For me there is no doubt that God’s love extends to every transgender person on Earth just as much as much as it does to all of God’s children. And there is also no doubt for me that we are commanded to love each other in the same manner.

The beauty of God’s love is that God is with us both in the valley and on the mountaintop — and the quality of God’s love is immutable in either circumstance. God was with Caitlyn for the six decades she was called Bruce as much as God is with her now.

Consequently, God is as much with everyday transgender people as God is with Caitlyn. What that means is that God is acutely aware of the actual reality of everyday transgender existence — which looks a lot less like a Vanity Fair cover and more like under/unemployment, homelessness, substandard healthcare, ridicule, violence, desperation, and the indignities of state efforts to deny transgender people everyday dignities such as being able to carry accurate identification documents or use public restrooms in peace.

Clearly, the indignities everyday transgender people face aren’t what God wants for any of God’s children. And if God is capable of loving our transgender brothers and sisters as much as God does — and is also capable of being with them in their suffering at our collective hands — then shouldn’t we be capable of the same?

If we can’t love our neighbors — truly love them, all of them — then how can we be certain that we actually love ourselves, that we truly see ourselves as God sees us?

Rev. Paul M. Turner

About Rev. Paul M. Turner

Founding and Senior Pastor of Gentle Spirit Christian Church, Rev. Paul M. Turner grew up in suburban Chicago and was ordained by the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches in 1989. He and his husband Bill have lived in metro Atlanta since 1994. He is the editor of the Seeds of Hope blog whose posts from 1999-2005 are at http://whosoever.org/seeds/ -- and which now resides at http://gentlespirit.org/topics/blog/seeds-of-hope/.

What Does the Bible Say About Homosexuality & Transgenderism?

What does the bible say about homosexuality & transgenderism? This bible study is designed to be used in small group, Sunday school and interactive bible study formats, to help people fully understand the verses used by scriptural literalists to condemn gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender people.  The overarching thesis of the study is that these verses, when understood in their historical and cultural contexts, only describe exploitative and abusive forms of sexuality, not loving same-sex partnerships. Click here to get started.

This bible study was originally published by Open Door Communities and written by Micah and Katharine Royal, who hold the copyright for the information.  A special thanks to Micah and Katherine for allowing us to republish it here. In some parts of this study, where the authors reference handouts or online resources, we’ve attempted provided links to current online resources.  Please feel free to send us an email if you find a broken link. We’ve also made some minor edits for style and clarity.

What Does the Bible Say About Transgenderism?

What Does the Bible Say About Transgenderism?

Session 9 of Homosexuality & Transgenderism: A Bible Study.

Icebreaker: In every culture, there are stereotypes of what it means to be a “real man” or a “real woman”. In the one you grew up in, what is the stereotype for “manliness”? For “womanliness”? Do you think many people live up to these stereotypes well? Why or why not?

Explain that right now you are going to quickly discuss one aspect of the GLBT community which is often overlooked – the transgender community – and what messages the Bible has for them.

Continue reading What Does the Bible Say About Transgenderism?

LET US REMEMBER

Today is a day of mourning. It is not a day that is on the national calendar. In fact with the exception of a small percentage of people in this country this day of mourning will pass completely unnoticed.

Those who remember on this day will find themselves swinging between tears of grief and deep waves of anger not to mention a certain amount of fear of further attacks.

The devastating images of those viciously killed in 2007 for simply trying to be themselves is something we should remember, something that should burn in our souls.

The people we mourn for this day are apart of the community most would just as soon not deal with. Oh we go to watch the drag shows and tell our jokes and we have added a “T” to the GLB_Q but don’t really take seriously folks in the transgender community live in a very dangerous and un-supportive world.

We do not take seriously they find it extremely difficult to get jobs, get health care or any kind of support and dignity.

In fact just this past month Barney Frank, Nancy Pelosi and the HRC made it clear they were not even worth naming in a piece of legislation design to give us job protection. The political spin was that it could not pass if the transgender community was part of it.

In fact, the leaders of HRC told me they were nothing more then a “political calculation”

So the message went out loud and clear…it is still open season on those who would dare to transition from one gender to another.

Of course what we forget is it was these folks who started the whole “gay rights” movement we know today when they stood toe to high heal with the New York City police department at Stonewall.

We forget they have been with us every step of this bloody fight for our rights, our self worth and our very souls.

We forget that each day when they get out of bed and step into the world it may in fact be their last day.

So on this day I want us to remember the transgender community…to pay attention to the day that has become known as “Transgender Day of Remembrance”

May we who mourn and remember today take some comfort in these words of scripture:

“God is King, despite the chaos that may be roaring around us.” (Ps 93)

“If one member suffers, the whole body suffers…” (I Cor 12)

“Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? … Nothing in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom 8)

“Be still and know that I am God” Psalm 46:10

“The Lord takes care of me as his sheep; I will not be without any good thing. He makes a resting-place for me in the green fields: he is my guide by the quiet waters. He gives new life to my soul: he is my guide in the ways of righteousness because of his name. Yes, though I go through the valley of deep shade, I will have no fear of evil; for you are with me, your rod and your support are my comfort. You make ready a table for me in front of my haters: you put oil on my head; my cup is overflowing. Truly, blessing and mercy will be with me all the days of my life; and I will have a place in the house of the Lord all my days.” Psalm 23

Today may we find ourselves moved to pray. May these prayers be for all of the victims, their family and friends.

May we pray for our government to have wisdom, courage and a Christ like response to this insanity. Let us pray for God’s protection and a calming of their and our fears.

And may our prayers be accompanied by expressions of our faith – that we are not conformed to the ways the world and how they will respond to children of God, but to the way the Christ would respond. May we be in our speech and actions the love of God.

Let us remember the words of Gwendolyn Ann Smith,

We have lost so many people in our community to the hand of hatred and prejudice, yet we still are not seemingly willing to fight back. Meanwhile, we die at the hands of a lover, of police, of medical practitioners, and even parents, while the news media calls us “freaks” — and worse.

In fact, the media’s reluctance to cover our deaths lies near the heart of this project. It can be all-but-impossible to find honest, reliable media on the death of a transgender person: It either does not exist (which is how one can cover thirty years of cases and still only have as many as I have to present), or it uses names that the deceased did not own, and pronouns that did not fit their reality.

There is no “safe way” to be transgender: as you look at the many names collected here, note that some of these people may have identified as drag queens, some as heterosexual cross dressers, and some as transsexuals. Some were living very out lives, and some were living fully “stealth” lives. Some were identifying as male, and some, as female. Some lived in small towns, and some in major metropolitan areas.

Today we remember:

Nakia Ladelle Baker
Location: Nashville, Tennessee
Cause of Death: Blunt force trauma to the head
Date of Death: January 7, 2007

Keittirat Longnawa
Location: Rassada, Thailand
Cause of Death: Beaten by 9 Youths who then slit her throat
Date of Death: January 31, 2007

Moira Donaire
Location: Viña del Mar, Chile
Cause of Death: Stabbed 5 times by a street vendor
Date of Death: March 5, 2007

Michelle Carrasco “Chela”
Location: Santiago, Chile
Cause of Death: She was found in a pit with her face completely disfigured.
Date of Death: March 16, 2007

Ruby Rodriguez
Location: San Francisco, California
Cause of Death: She had been strangled and was found naked in the street.
Date of Death: March 16, 2007

Erica Keel
Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Cause of Death: A car repeatedly struck her
Date of Death: March 23, 2007

Bret T. Turner
Location: Madison, Wisconsin
Cause of Death: Multiple stab wounds
Date of Death: April 2, 2007

Unidentified Male Clad in Female Attire
Location: Kingston, Jamaica
Cause of Death: Gunshot wounds to the chest and lower back
Date of Death: July 7, 2007

Victoria Arellano
Location: San Pedro, California
Cause of Death: Denied necessary medications to treat HIV-related side effects.
Date of Death: July 20, 2007

Oscar Mosqueda
Location: Daytona Beach, Florida
Cause of Death: Shot to death
Date of Death: July 29, 2007

Maribelle Reyes
Location: Houston, Texas
Cause of Death: AIDS; Reyes was turned away from several treatment centers due to her transgender status.
Date of Death: August 30, 2007

Rev. Paul M. Turner

About Rev. Paul M. Turner

Founding and Senior Pastor of Gentle Spirit Christian Church, Rev. Paul M. Turner grew up in suburban Chicago and was ordained by the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches in 1989. He and his husband Bill have lived in metro Atlanta since 1994. He is the editor of the Seeds of Hope blog whose posts from 1999-2005 are at http://whosoever.org/seeds/ -- and which now resides at http://gentlespirit.org/topics/blog/seeds-of-hope/.