As I spoke to other transgender Christians, I found that many expressed frustration with the lack of education on trans issues in their churches. They told me that even though trans people are being recognized in the media, real and relevant conversations are just not happening in the sanctuary or at Bible study. Maybe folks are worried about saying the wrong thing, or perhaps our churches don’t make space for discussion. Whatever the reason, we as Christians are called into fellowship with one another, and real fellowship takes education and communication. In that spirit, here are seven things that transgender people in your congregation wish you knew.
An influx of requests from Christian universities for the right to discriminate on the basis of gender identity have flooded the Department of Education. As many as sixty Christian schools have submitted requests for Title IX waivers since 2014, when the Department of Education announced their protections were inclusive of transgender students. Before this clarification, only a handful of universities had asked for such waivers in the 40-plus years since Title IX was established in 1972. But the decision to extend protections to transgender students has prompted dozens of Christian schools request these waivers.
Christians — particularly those of the more conservative variety — often oppose accommodations for transgender persons. But these believers are having a very important conversation in the wrong direction. When trying to understand transgender issues, Christians should start with the personal, not political. When Christians begin by committing to political goals rather than educating themselves on the complicated, sensitive nuances of this matter, they often come off looking privileged, mean, or just flat-out clueless.
But transgender issues are bigger than so-called bathroom bills and similar legislation. Society is beginning to see these issues as personal matters that affect the real lives of real people with real hurts.
A few Christians out there are, thankfully, trying to think deeply about transgender people. Mark Yarhouse is a professor at Regent University School of Psychology and Counseling and author of Understanding Gender Dysphoria: Navigating Transgender Issues in a Changing Culture. Megan DeFranza is a visiting researcher at Boston University’s School of Theology and author of Sex Difference in Christian Theology: Male, Female, and Intersex in the Image of God. Here we discuss the complexity of transgender issues often overlooked by Christians.
Not long ago, the thought of a transgender person speaking openly to a Roman Catholic priest in Colombia would have seemed unthinkable. Now cultural shifts are making way for LGBT acceptance, at least in some urban areas.
“We are liberal,” said Marcela Sánchez, director of Colombia Diversa, the nation’s most prominent LGBT rights organization. “Please don’t say Colombia isn’t liberal!”
Recent polls estimate that two-thirds of Colombians oppose same-sex marriage, but that is less opposition than in many Latin American countries, including neighboring Ecuador. Support for same-sex marriage is highest in Bogotá, the nation’s capital, where, in a 2010 poll conducted by local newspaper El Tiempo, 63 percent of residents endorsed the right of same-sex couples to marry in civil ceremonies.
The White House has hired its first openly transgender staff member, the Washington Post reports.
The staffer, Raffi Freedman-Gurspan, will work as a recruitment director for presidential personnel. She is not the first transgender staff person to be hired by other agencies under this administration, but is the first to work in the White House. She is also a transgender woman of color, which LGBT groups noted as significant a news release.
When a movie examines a group of people whose stories are only starting to gain mainstream attention — and does it with honesty and compassion — it’s important to pay attention. Director Sean Baker’s wickedly funny and stylish film Tangerine dives deep into the transgender community in Los Angeles in a way that explores the strengths, vulnerabilities, and deep needs of its characters. In other words, it portrays them as real people, not as caricatures — or Oscar-friendly approximations played by a cisgendered actor in drag.
Saima Butt witnessed an acid attack in February 2014 that left the victim scarred and writhing in pain. One onlooker said the assault was God’s retribution, and that her death would mean one less sinner in society.
“People enjoy our agonies and treat us like insects,” Butt said of herself and of the anonymous victim.
Butt is supervisor at the Khawaja Sara Society in Lahore and a member of the local “khawaja sara” or third-gender community. Pakistan added a third-gender option to national identity cards in 2009, but official recognition has not stopped discrimination against those who choose not to be identified as either male or female.
Amid the national buzz over transgender celebrity Caitlyn (formerly Bruce) Jenner revealing her new female identity, a leading culture warrior in the Catholic hierarchy on June 3 denounced the spread of “gender ideology” and warned that it threatens the very foundation of the church’s faith.
“The clear biological fact is that a human being is born either male or female,” Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco said at the start of an address in Manhattan at a conference aimed at promoting an older form of the Mass in Latin.
The binaries simply don’t work, and when we try to cling to them we feel like the universe is crumbling around us when we see evidence to the contrary, and especially when we sense it within ourselves.
Welcome to the world, Caitlyn. You are beautiful.