MLK in Memphis

I was grateful to be involved in an observance at Cooperman Barnabas Medical Center on January 19, 2023 in remembrance of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr and his legacy for an interfaith audience. These were my comments invited on behalf of the LGBT+ community, where I highlighted the campaign in Memphis where MLK ultimately would be assassinated.

Good afternoon. As a long time transgender religious organizer, I love reading civil rights history. Not just the highlight reels, but the back stories. Not just the quotes you see on social media, but whole speeches. It’s such a rich legacy that still has so much to teach us about the work of love and justice 

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When the Rev Dr King was assassinated in 1968, he had been working in Memphis, Tennessee. If you check that history, you’ll find that it was a campaign that was about racial justice, yes. But it was also a campaign about economic justice–and at it’s core about the right to basic human dignity.

If you read or listen to his words in Memphis, all of his words, not just the highlight reel, You’ll find he was saying that even though some work is valued more than others, all work has dignity. On March 18th, 1968, he said, “Whenever you are engaged in work that serves humanity and is for the building of humanity, [that work] has dignity and [that work] has worth.” That’s a word I think we all deserve to hear.

Dr King literally said that the work of sanitation workers is as significant as that of a physician. He was saying that whatever our job may be, whatever our lives may look like, whatever pronouns we use, whoever we count as family, whatever neighborhood or country we may have been born in, whatever faith we may or may not have, we are all human. We are all worthy of respect. We all deserve to be treated with dignity.

And Dr King urged us to know our place–that is to claim our value as children of the universe. He encouraged us to invest the time and energy it takes to see one another, not just as cogs in a machine, but, to recognize that each and every one of us, is beloved and worthy of care. And so I invite you to lift your spirits with me, in the name of all that is good and right.

We pray that everyone who enters this campus will know that they are welcome , that they are beloved, and that they are worthy of care. We pray that everyone who works here , that everyone who provides care, from environmental services to our medical professionals, will be celebrated for the important service they provide toward the building of humanity. May we find the wisdom to seek healing for our own broken places at least as much as we do  for those we serve. As we remember the legacy of Dr King, may we find the strength to carry on his legacy and all those who labored with him. May even our hallway greetings be a kind of Prayer for the Beloved Community to be sustained in our midst.

Amen. Ashe. Blessed be.

Compiled by Mx Chris Paige on January 21, 2023 (follow on Facebook). Please be in touch with corrections and feedback. This blog is a work in progress!

Sarah, Drew, and Tomila (UMC transgender history)

It turns out that the Rev. Sarah Flynn, who was the first known transgender clergy on my UMC timeline was friends with the Rev. Tomila Louise (of blessed memory, d. 2005) who transitioned “a year or two” earlier than Sarah. I hope to share more of Tomila’s story in the near future, but for now here is Sarah’s letter to the UMC Judicial Council in support of Drew Phoenix, citing Tomila’s story (and her own).

From: Sarah Flynn
Sent: Friday, September 14, 2007, 9:00 AM
Subject: RE: Rev. Drew Phoenx

To the members of the United Methodist Judicial Council

RE: In support of the appointment of Rev. Drew Phoenix

September 13, 2007

I write to you in support of the appointment of the Rev. Drew Phoenix, clergy member of the Baltimore Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.

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Transgender-Affirming Pastoral Care

OtherWise Christian is very much focused on making resources related to transgender-affirming religion (and Christianity specifically) more accessible at the grassroots. Meanwhile,  I am also moving into academia! The complexity of this dance will likely show up here in some subtle ways, though I expect my focus here will remain oriented toward the grassroots.

That said, a prominent research topic now that I have some access to academic databases, journal articles, and a theological library is transgender pastoral or spiritual care. For a research class, I was able to spend some time digging. Unfortunately, there was very little transgender-specific content out there. There is much work to be done!

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MCC TRANSformative Church Ministry Program, 2013

While I will be listing this resource with other transgender and religious curriculum, it is actually much more than that. This guide from the MCC Transgender Ministries team (led by Angel Collie) provides a recommended process for developing a comprehensive ministry with “transgender, gender non-conforming, and intersex people including educational, worship, and programmatic resources.” The suggested timeline is two to three years and includes goals around activism, education, and worship. In the context of Metropolitan Community Churches, a congregation or organization can be “certified” as having completed program goals. The main landing page for the program is found on the MCC website.

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HRC Gender Identity and Our Faith Communities curriculum, 2008

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.

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Transgender and Religious Curriculum Guide

I’m looking over past blog entries and realizing that I didn’t yet have a landing page for curriculum options. I’ve already posted about several options, but there are more that I’ll be adding as this isn’t yet a complete list! Most (but not all) of these are oriented toward Christian audiences. I would love to learn about additional resources to support conversation in other traditions!

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Transformative Inclusion, 2017 and 2019

The Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies (CLGS) at Pacific School of Religion has been working on transgender concerns since the early Transgender Religious Leaders Summits (circa 2006). The Latinx Roundtable, Jewish Roundtable, African-American Roundtable, Asian and Pacific Islander Roundtable, and Transgender Roundtable have provided leadership for a variety of events and resources. Justin Tanis and Jakob Hero have provided some of the most prominent transgender leadership, including around these resources.

They have produced two booklets titled Transformative Inclusionone with Christian perspectives (2017) and one with Jewish perspectives (2019). Each guide is 24 pages long, uses mostly the same pictures, and follows the same outline.  They each provide an accessible introduction to issues to be aware of in developing transgender inclusion at the congregational level, though I was surprised to see the word “transgenderism” used prominently.

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Transfigured: A 40-day Journey through Scripture for Gender-queer and Transgender people

Suzanne DeWitt Hall has self-published several books talking about sex, sexuality, gender, and Christianity. As a cisgender, queer author, she admits that she is a observer to the transgender experience. Her concise introduction to gender and the Bible in Transfigured: A 40-day Journey through Scripture for Gender-queer and Transgender People (2018) is useful. However, I would recommend it “for” cisgender allies more than “for” gender-queer and transgender people.

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They/Them-singular for the Grammar Police

But they/them is plural!” This is an argument (or question) that feels real and pervasive. Unfortunately, it is not a grounded in a thorough understanding of English grammar at all! If you need more formal sources (dictionary, style guide, etc), there are more references here–or you can watch some or all of these videos (total 23 minutes of content).

Often, we find that the question (under the question) isn’t really about grammar at all. If what you really want to hear more about is non-binary or they/them gender experiences, then I recommend this other “What Does They/Them Singular Really Mean?” blog entry.

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