The history of Gender Identity and Our Faith Communities is complicated, but it’s a useful effort that centers many transgender voices (including Jewish and Muslim contributions even though it’s mostly Christian), literally, with the inclusion of audio files by the contributors to accompany the written materials.
While the curriculum stands on its own, HRC wisely deployed the curriculum with transgender facilitator/trainers who can add impromptu wisdom and guidance beyond the written and audio materials. HRC prepped a team of facilitators who could be scheduled to lead the curriculum in congregational settings.
The curriculum is designed to take up three hours of facilitation time in one sitting, which makes it convenient for inviting outside facilitators. The curriculum facilitation design is as follows:
- Step One: The Stories (80 minutes)
- Step Two: Gender Identity and Faith (40 minutes)
- Step Three: A Call for Justice (35 minutes)
The curriculum includes some basics in transgender education, but it is fairly unique in its design around mobilizing religiously-based action and activism. One of the suggested action steps is to circulate an HRC sign up form, but you can choose other action steps as appropriate to your context and commitments. Of course, any of this material can be utilized in a facilitation of your own design.
Part of the PDF curriculum is a content-rich Participant Guide which includes several short essays, which are all great resources in their own right:
- Do We Really Need that T? Trans-inclusion in Communities of Faith – Jakob Hero
- What Is Meant by Gender Identity? – Rev. Sarah Carpenter-Vascik
- My Father Jessica – Rev. Elizabeth Macaulay
- Coming Out Twice – Margaret Blankers
- How I Met the Tumtum: Toward a Jewish Liberation Theology for All Genders – Rabbi Elliot Rose Kukla
- I Chose Life: Reading Torah as Myself – Dana Beyer, M.D.
- Reconnecting with Allah – Rayees Shah
- Seven Reasons Why Congregations Should Embrace Their Transgender Members – Dr. Virginia Ramey Mollenkott
- Easter Transformation – Rev. Drew Phoenix
- Providing Pastoral Care for the Transgender Community – Rev. Phyllis V. Pennese
- Transitioning While Ordained – Rev. Dr. Erin Swenson
- Who Do I Say That I Am? – Jakob Hero
The audio files that accompany the curriculum design include excerpts from these offerings read by the authors, which provides a multi-vocal collage of transgender voices around several themes. This audio aspect distinguishes the effort from many similar curriculums.
- Dramatic Reading A: Our Stories (~17 minutes)
- Dramatic Reading B: The Blessing of Being Inclusive (~6 minutes)
- Dramatic Reading C: Gender Identity and Jewish Traditions (~5 minutes)
- The Gifts of Transgender People 1: Freedom from Gender Expectations (~4 minutes)
- The Gifts of Transgender People 2: A Broader View of God (3 minutes)
- The Gifts of Transgender People 3: Openness to Ambiguity (~5 minutes)
- The Gifts of Transgender People 4: Empathy for Others (~2.5 minutes)
Chris Glaser created the curriculum under Sharon Groves supervision. The curriculum development process did include an in-person retreat setting with contributors and advisers which resulted in some great pictures being included.
So what is complicated about this curriculum? In 2008, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) was trying to recover from a fiasco around the way they advocated for the 2007 Employment Non Discrimination act. The executive director made promises of trans-inclusion at a major transgender conference and then HRC settled for a non-trans-inclusive bill (which still failed in Congress). This was one incident in a complicated history around trans issues at HRC. The Religion and Faith program then hired a cisgender, gay man to prepared a curriculum around transgender faith advocacy.
Aside from hiring a cisgender writer, my main critique of the curriculum is that it does nothing to introduce or address intersections with intersex experience. I was actually a reader, though I asked that my name not be included in the acknowledgements. Sharon added that red box on page 8 noting the oversight to address my concerns. I feel strongly that transgender education always needs to introduce intersex concerns, even though there are different (but overlapping) set of concerns in intersex education.
Compiled by Mx Chris Paige on July 8, 2021. Please be in touch with corrections and feedback. This blog is a work in progress!