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 

Read more: MLK in Memphis

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.

Continue reading “Sarah, Drew, and Tomila (UMC transgender history)”

Making the Connections: MLK and the Five Threats

Today is the day that we remember Martin Luther King, Jr in the United States. It is a complicated day, marked by a complicated legacy. In real life, MLK was decried by liberals in the last years of his life for being impatient and not “staying in his lane” as a civil rights leader, but his words are now frequently taken out of context to advocate for a color-blind, comfortable kind of post-racial “success” even while we life in a world that is ripe with racism.

Dr King spoke about three evils: racism, militarism, and economic exploitation. This frustrated many who thought he should have limited his message to the issues of racism, specifically. However, King knew that the oppression of Black people was based not only on racism and white supremacy and the degradation of Jim Crow laws, but also on the way the economy was constructed to maintain an impoverished class, and the way the military-industrial complex used Black and Brown bodies.

In OtherWise Christian: A Guidebook for Transgender Liberation, I also named a triple threat: white supremacy, Christian supremacy, and gender oppression. These three are not separate from King’s triple threat. King was not known for being outspoken about Christian supremacy and gender oppression. However, he worked closely with Bayard Rustin who was a known “homosexual” as well as Jewish and Muslim and other colleagues of faith who were not Christian. Women’s, LGBT, and Interfaith organizing have expanded exponentially since King’s death. We now have language and leaders that King was never exposed to.

Meanwhile, we live in a world where the U.S. war-making machine is alive and well–and being upheld by toxic masculinity. The gap between “rich” and “poor” has only grown since King’s death. Black and Brown people, transgender and same-gender-loving people are exponentially more likely to live in poverty. The intersection of race and gender means that transgender people of color are particularly at risk.

I am with King in saying that white supremacy, militarism, and economic exploitation are problematic. I like to think that, if he had lived, Dr King would have grown more vocal about Christian supremacy and gender oppression. Indeed, transgender liberation is not possible until we deal with all of these dynamics. We need a comprehensive analysis that makes the connections between gender oppression, white supremacy, militarism, Christian supremacy, and economic exploitation.

The treatment of King’s legacy is very similar to that of Jesus in that both legacies are often domesticated and presented as campaigns for submission and compliance, paired with respectability politics. Both Jesus and Dr King were impactful religious radicals who shook things up, each in their own times, each in their own ways. Too many of us have been bamboozled into believing they were less radical than they were. This is more white bullshit (a technical term).

On this day, may we remember that each of us can follow them in claiming a deep analysis of the principalities and powers of this world, while doing our part to be a part of the resistance. Join us in reclaiming a more radical message!

Some additional resources:

Compiled by Mx Chris Paige on January 20, 2020.

Note: This blog is intended to be an on-going work in progress. Please contact us if you have additions, corrections, or concerns.

The Black Trans Prayer Book (2020)

In addition to the #TransphobiaIsASin campaign, today is also the first day to pre-order The Black Trans Prayer Book. The current timeline is that the book will ship February 1, 2020.

I have served as administrative support for the TBTPB project through my role at Transfaith, so I have been watching and waiting on this project for more than a year now. Obviously, J Mase III and Lady Dane Edidi have been working even longer than that on this labor of love! I seriously don’t even have that kind of patience (as you can see by how I’m popping out books), so I have big respect for the way that they have done this work and am confident that the finished project is/will be phenomenal.

While I cannot review the book (yet), I have been only one step removed from their process in several ways and am super excited about the collaboration that it represents, not only by the co-editors, but by all of the contributors. In early 2019, they held a retreat where most of the contributors gathered to discuss the themes of the book. So, even when individuals have written parts of the book, there is a deeper collaboration that preceded that writing.

There is so much heart and brilliance and love … poems and prayers and spells and theological narrative and personal journeys…

J Mase III, 1/15/2020

What’s more is that today they announced that they have received funding for a DOCUMENTARY! This is a super exciting development for the entire community, but especially for Black and Brown Trans Folk.

The Black Trans Prayer Book: A Performative Documentary explores the lives, reflections, performances, and spiritual journey of the contributors to the Black Trans Prayer Book—a collaborative text, co-edited by J Mase III & Lady Dane Figueroa Edidi, that explores the healing needs of Black trans people.

Here is the Facebook Live with J Mase III (from snowy Seattle from the looks of it!). Since I can’t review the book yet, I want to highlight more of the analysis behind these projects.

[To address] the religious based trauma that we experience all the time… knowing that we have a right to healing, that we have a right to disrupt that type of violence, and that we have a right to hold religious institutions accountable. … to dismantle religious-based violence, and to reframe conversations about what it means to be a trans person (particularly a Black Trans person) and our right to healing.

J Mase III, 1/15/2020

Congratulations to Dane and Mase, to the many contributors, and to all of us who will benefit from this important, ground-breaking work!

Compiled by Mx Chris Paige on January 15, 2020.

Note: This blog is intended to be an on-going work in progress. Please contact us if you have additions, corrections, or concerns.

Transgender Liberation: Beyond Pink or Blue, 1998

Today was the (first) transgender visibility march. Seems like a great day to pull out a classic!

Leslie Feinberg is one of three OtherWise prophets that I honor around the edges of OtherWise Christian: A Guidebook for Transgender Liberation. Leslie Feinberg was talking about gender-benders and intersex folk long before most people were educated about those topics (recognizing that we still have a long way to go, even today).

Transgender Liberation: Beyond Pink or Blue is Feinberg’s 1998 book. It is a collection of speeches, with a few individual profiles of transgender people woven in. It’s a great resource for thinking about how things were back in 1997 or 1998, during the “transgender spring.” While Feinberg is not writing from a Christian point of view, ze push on all of the edges of what organized back then.

What makes Feinberg especially prophetic is that zir writing is still timely today. The politicians are different, but the issues are very much the same. Feinberg coined the term “Transgender Liberation” and did important work connecting the dots with other kinds of liberation, making the case that broad based solidarity is important for our survival.

Our lives are proof that sex and gender are much more complex than a delivery room doctor’s glance at genitals can determine, more variegated than pink or blue birth caps. (page 5)

And if you do not identify as transgender or transsexual or intersexual, your life is diminished by our oppression as well. … So the defense of each individual’s right to control their own body, and to explore the path of self-expression, enhances your own freedom to discover more about yourself and your potentialities. (page 6)

To me, gender is the poetry each of us makes out of the language we are taught. (page 10)

We… don’t have to explain why we are the way we are. We have to explain who we are. How we see ourselves. (page 29)

The real burning question is: How did we ever find the courage? From what underground spring did we draw our pride? How did each of us make our way in life, without a single familiar star in the night sky to guide us, to this room where we have at last found others like ourselves? … I think we have the whole world to give back to each other. (page 34)

The way in which people express themselves is a very important part of who they are. It is not possible to force all people to live outside of femininity and masculinity. Only androgynous people live comfortably in that gender space. There’s no social compulsion strong enough to force anyone else to dwell there. Trans people are an example of the futility of this strategy. (page 53)

What is the bedrock on which all of our diverse trans populations can build solidarity? The commitment to be the best fighters against each other’s oppression. … Unity depends on respect for diversity, no matter what tools of language are ultimately used. (page 60)

I live proudly in a body of my own design. I defend my right to be complex. (page 70)

I recently put that question to Puerto Rican drag queen Sylvia Rivera–a combatant at Stonewall: “Were you fighting against police brutality? Were you fighting racism? Or for your right to be gay? Did you fight because so few of the queens could produce the military draft cards government agents demanded that night? Or because so many of you were homeless and hungry and embattled on the streets?”

Sylvia replied with quiet dignity, “We were fighting for our lives.” (pages 96-97)

What unites us is not a common sexuality or experience or identities or self-expressions. It’s that we are up against a common enemy. (page 102)

That’s why we must ask everyone who puts forward theory: Which side are you on? … History is recorded from the point of view of the hunter or the hunted. … So the question we must demand of historians is: Which side are you on? (pages 115, 119)

So perhaps the greatest contribution that any of us can make who excavate history, and who develop and clarify theory, is to ensure that our history and theory is relevant and accessible to all those who are ready and willing to take action. (page 124)

Leslie Feinberg also has a 1992 pamphlet, titled Transgender Liberation: A Movement Whose Time Has Come, which is available as a free PDF from Workers World. Pieces of this pamphlet would make their way into Feinberg’s equally important Transgender Warriors: Making History from Joan of Arc to Dennis Rodman (1997).

Feinberg writes with a strong class analysis born of their involvement in Marxist and communist organizing. The 1992 pamphlet actually has a very nuanced assessment of the role of Christian tradition in gender oppression (incl. transgender as well as women’s rights).

Feinberg’s classic Stone Butch Blues is also available for free as a PDF (or at-cost through Lulu) at Feinberg’s website.

Compiled by Mx. Chris Paige on September 26, 2019.

Note: This blog is intended to be an on-going work in progress. Please contact us if you have additions, corrections, or concerns.


In chapter 11 of OtherWise Christian: A Guidebook for Transgender Liberation, I use “transgendered” as an example of the way the meanings of words can change over time.

When I started exploring my gender identity in 1998, we were saying “transgendered” (among other things), but somewhere around 2006 “best practices” evolved and that particular word went out of style.

I reference some reflections by Julia Serano on related topics. She gives meaningful treatments on a number of fronts, which I recommend:

In particular, I reference that first article and the dynamics around “word-sabotage” and “word-elimination” campaigns that Serano brings up.

I agree with Serano that dismissing another person’s word choice out of hand is problematic, even as I respect efforts to develop coherent “best practices.”

My treatment in OtherWise Christian is necessarily abbreviated because these nuances are only relevant insofar as I am wrestling with the nature of language used for gender diversity over time (e.g. eunuchs). Serano’s book Outspoken includes much of this materal and may be worth your time if these topics around modern language intrigue you.

The bottom line is that word meanings change over time. A word that is perfectly acceptable at one point may be anathema at another. This is true even before we get to dynamics like colonization that may demonize certain aspects of a culture as a way of discrediting the opposition.

Understanding these historical shifts are important when we look at contributions from the “transgender spring” and books like Omnigender or Trans-Gendered, which use language that was appropriate at the time, but which might be dismissed out of hand today.

As I was pulling together yesterday’s post and this (unedited) interview footage with Kate Bornstein and Leslie Feinberg from an In the Life episode (1996), which touches on the development of language and the role of the internet in transgender organizing.

Compiled by Mx. Chris Paige on September 25, 2019.

Note: This blog is intended to be an on-going work in progress. Please contact us if you have corrections or are able to contribute further context or reflections.

Finding Our History; Outlaw (1994)

I am just so delighted that this popped up on my Facebook feed. Leslie Feinberg is one of the three OtherWise Prophets who I specifically acknowledge in OtherWise Christian: A Guidebook for Transgender Liberation. However, their impact is mostly tangential to my (first) book and so they only appear in the preface and acknowledgements. Still, this video shows just a glimpse of how Feinberg tilled the soil of history for all of us.

Continue reading “Finding Our History; Outlaw (1994)”

Transfaith (2012)

Louis Mitchell and I started corresponding after Bishop Yvette Flunder assigned us to lead the advocacy committee of TransSaints late in 2009. Louis and I then shared a room at a Fellowship of Affirming Ministries event.

I don’t think it was quite a brother-sibling relationship from the start, but we were certainly kindred spirits, who were somehow in orbit around one another at event after event (both TFAM and other faith-based spaces) that were collecting transgender volunteers.

Let’s just say that, by the end of 2010, Louis and I had already shared many frustrations in these various venues. We began discussing what it might look like to build an organization by and for transgender people–instead of continuing to volunteer for organizations whose interest in transgender leadership seemed… uneven.

I had inheirited the 501c3 structure from the Interfaith Working Group, so we were able to skip over the hassles of incorporating. Louis and I started working to expand the board of directors during 2011 and I was eventually named founding executive director of Transfaith beginning January 1, 2012.

Transfaith had been a website since 1999. Meanwhile, a constellation of transgender leaders had been working together informally under a number of different banners for particular events leading up to our 2012 launch. Transforming Transfaith from an informal group of colleagues to an organization allowed us to set our own priorities, though it came with its own challenges.

While we built an organizational structure and have pursued many projects, our strength has continued to be in the relationships that we have built, prioritizing multi-tradition, multi-racial, multi-gender collaboration. I stepped down as executive director of Transfaith at the end of 2017 and Louis Mitchell became executive director of Transfaith at the beginning of 2018.

Additionally, those relationships have informed pretty much everything about OtherWise Christian, from the content of the book itself to my perspectives on race, Judaism, and especially my self-understanding as a transgender person.

Compiled by Mx Chris Paige on September 14, 2019.

Note: This blog is intended to be an on-going work in progress. Please contact us if you have corrections or are able to contribute further context or reflections.

Transgender Religious History

Even our most prominent transgender religious history is often obscured by our culture’s (and the LGBT movement’s) overwhelming emphasis on the politics of sexual orientation. Yet transgender religious folk have been making history for quite some time.

There are so many ways the world organizes to erase us–to pretend that we don’t exist, to forget about us. Remembering our histories is one small, but important way that we can claim our identities and our agency as sacred. We can honor our own elders and ancestors. We can celebrate all of the times that we have come through, somehow, when away was made out of no way.

Continue reading “Transgender Religious History”