OC2: Rev Louis Mitchell


I claim this Holy Hybrid space, in the creases and folds between, as holy space… To be a Holy Hybrid is to claim my own both/and without shame or reservation. 

The Rev. Louis Mitchell in
“Holy Hybrids”
OtherWise Christian 2: Stories of Resistance

Continue reading “OC2: Rev Louis Mitchell”

OtherWise Ambassador: Dawn Sorensen

OtherWise Christian Ambassadors are transgender (or OtherWise) Christians who are available in your local area to share both OtherWise Christian: A Guidebook for Liberation and their own stories and testimonies. I believe that books are important, but our communities also need the opportunity to be in real-life community with folk who can tell their own stories. Every OtherWise Christian Ambassador is also authorized to sell my books.

I’ve known Dawn Sorensen for roughly 20 years from LGBT+ Christian circles. We go way back to when there was a lot less language available for people like us who don’t quite fit into “male” and “female” expectations exactly. Dawn identifies as non-binary or “OtherWise” and answers to any pronoun that is offered with respect and good intentions.

Dawn lives in the Boston area and has a presentation based on OtherWise Christian: A Guidebook for Transgender Liberation, which has already been tested in their local community. It is ready to roll out (complete with power point). Meanwhile, Dawn enjoys preaching, teaching, designing liturgy and worship spaces (for example, the altar), and leveraging technology to benefit the community. They also like working with children and youth of all ages.

Dawn is willing to travel, more or less, throughout the New England area as their schedule allows. Reach out to invite Dawn into your community. You’ll be supporting me, the book(s), and Dawn’s ministry. Don’t forget to compensate Dawn for their time with you, if they are leading an event or preaching in your congregation. Their time and expertise are valuable.

Continue reading “OtherWise Ambassador: Dawn Sorensen”

Review: Stories of Intersex and Faith (film)

I’m honored that the producers invited me to screen Stories of Intersex and Faith, but I’ve been struggling to put appropriate words to what I feel about this important film. The contrast that I am struggling with is that it is both accessible and deep, simple and insightful. So, I am going to break my review down into two parts in order to try to do justice to both aspects without trivializing the other.

Continue reading “Review: Stories of Intersex and Faith (film)”

Stories of Intersex and Faith (Film)

Stories of Intersex and Faith (2019) is a feature-length film from the Intersex and Faith project:

Stories of Intersex and Faith tells the extraordinary stories of five intersex people, allowing viewers to experience what it feels like to be invisible in our culture and subject to abuse and shame simply for being born different. These stories illuminate unique perspectives which are particularly timely for a culture conflicted by questions about sex, gender and religious faith.

from the Intersex and Faith website

If you are unfamiliar with intersex experience, the two-minute trailer itself may provide significant new insight.

Caught in the crossfire at the intersection of medicine, politics and religion, perfectly healthy intersex bodies are mutilated by American surgeons. Consider the stories of five intersex people who found healing and hope in faith. Walk with them. Hear their plea: It’s society that needs to be fixed, not us.

Vimeo trailer description

The film has been showing at film festivals and is currently available for institutional screenings or by special arrangement through those connected to the film. It is not yet available to purchase outright. Visit the film website for news about upcoming screenings.

“[People’s] fears and prejudices could be instantaneously relieved if their faith community could normalize and bring familiarity to the healthy variant that intersex represents. How much suffering could be averted if the leader of the local faith community came to the parents of newborn intersex kids and told them: ‘God knows your healthy intersex child, and they are not sick, and they don’t need surgery.'”

Dr Tiger Devore
on the Stories of Intersex and Faith website

That quote reflects my opinion, too! Faith communities have a great opportunity to educate parents at a time when they are not under so much pressure as they will be when they first learn of an intersex diagnosis. Watch for my review of the film coming soon!

Compiled by Mx Chris Paige on January 18, 2020.

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

Intersex and Faith (Project)

The Intersex and Faith project has a film, a curriculum, and is working to develop support services for parents of intersex children. This project was born from a partnership between Lianne Simon and Megan DeFranza.

Dr. Megan DeFranza is the scholar behind the book Sex Difference in Christian Theology: Male, Female, and Intersex in the Image of God, which I have written about because of its significance in OtherWise Christian: A Guidebook for Transgender Liberation.

Lianne Simon is a Christian intersex woman and advocate, who is also a contributor to OtherWise Christian 2: Stories of Resistance! Another OtherWise Christian 2 contributor, Dr Donovan Ackley III, serves on the advisory board of the Intersex and Faith project.

Most so-called LGBT faith-based organizations have limited transgender-competence–and even less intersex-competence. So, this project is a critical opportunity to provide better information for people of faith. The Intersex and Faith project mission is:

Intersex and Faith’s mission is to help communities of faith minister to those born with bodies that aren’t entirely male or female. We hope to do that via advocacy, education, and support.

Provided by Lianne Simon

Like Dr DeFranza’s book, the Intersex and Faith project does not begin in the culture wars about same-gender-loving or transgender experience. Rather, starting with the experiences of intersex people and their families, the project aims to meet the needs of more theologically conservative communities. While the project emerged from a Christian collaboration, their goal is to be of support in a more widely.

lntersex and Faith was incorporated as a nonprofit in Tennessee in 2017, but Lianne and Megan have been working together giving presentations, writing blog posts, giving interviews, and writing books for years. They met while Dr DeFranza was working on her PhD thesis.

Compiled by Mx Chris Paige on January 18, 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 Rev Victoria Kolakowski (retired)

The Rev Victoria Kolakowski is also known as the Honorable Victoria Kolakowski. In her current career, she is a lawyer who became the first elected, openly transgender judge in the United States. She has also served as the first openly trans trial court judge in the United States.  She has been widely profiled in regards to her historic accomplishments as an attorney and you can Google her for more of those details.

However, in a former career phase, Rev Kolakowski received a Master of Divinity degree from the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, California and was the first openly transgender person to go through the ordination process in the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches (UFMCC). She now identifies as retired MCC clergy.

I like to call the Rev Kolakowski the Queen Mother of Transgender Theology. She wrote three articles in the late 1990s before just about anyone was writing on the topic. At the time, notable gay and lesbian theologians like John McNeill and Nancy Wilson had laid claim to eunuchs as gay and lesbian characters in antiquity. Kolakowski’s intervention was a critical turning point in terms of reading eunuchs in a more literal way–as analogous to transgender people. I outline these various trajectories on eunuchs in Chapter 12 of OtherWise Christian: A Guidebook for Transgender Liberation.

Vanessa Sheridan had a book published in 1993, but it was written anonymously, published privately, and circulated at transgender conferences and gatherings, not so much in the broader church or academy. Sheridan’s second book came out in 1996, but she was still writing primarily for a diaspora of isolated and non-disclosing transgender people.

Kolakowski’s 1997 “Toward a Christian Ethical Response to Transsexual Persons” in Theology & Sexuality was the first transgender theology published in an academic journal. Kolakowski writes:

When I entered seminary at the Pacific School of Religion in 1992, I never expected to be writing about transgender issues. However, I soon learned that there were no transgender-positive articles in any reputable academic journals of theology. Not any. I know because I did an exhaustive literature search using every tool that the 1990s could provide.

It took a few years, but my article “Toward a Christian Ethical Response to Transsexual Persons” was published in the journal Theology and Sexuality in 1997. I tried to keep a neutral voice, so as to be academically appropriate, while still offering affirming interpretations.

Victoria Kolakowski in “Foreward” in
OtherWise Christian 2: Stories of Resistance
(forthcoming in spring 2020)

While much of that article may seem rather remedial to us in 2020, transgender people were barely on the radar of even LGBT (sic) organizations in the 1990s. In “Toward a Christian Ethical Response to Transsexual Persons,”  Kolakowski boldy asserts that Jesus identified as a eunuch and that

the post-operative transsexual is agonado, sexually sterile. A post-operative male-to-female transsexual is thus considered according to [the Western binary] model to be a castrated man, a eunuch. (page 17)

This was a first!

In “The Concubine and the Eunuch: Queering Up the Breeder’s Bible” (Our Families, Our Values: Snapshots of Queer Kinship, 1997), Kolakowski gets even more explicit with her intervention. Published in an anthology along side popular activist clergy such as Nancy Wilson and Janie Spahr, Kolakowski wrote:

As a lesbian transsexual Christian, these New Testament stories are extremely powerful statements of validation and acceptance from Jesus and the early Christian Church. This is unlike the message that well-meaning gay and lesbian biblical scholars have been sending—that the Christian Scriptures are simply neutral rather than overly negative about us. I believe they paint a very different picture, one which I am not inventing just to feel accepted. We need to take ownership of this radical message. (page 47)

In “Throwing a Party: Patriarchy, Gender, and the Death of Jezebel” (Take Back the Word: A Queer Reading of the Bible, 2000), Kolakowski talks about the dangers of assimilation and writes about her own trepidation:

I need to acknowledge that I am completing this essay well past the deadline, partly because I was paralyzed by fear. At what cost to my own (patriarchal institutional) prestige do I write material such as this? Will a patriarchal power system appreciate my analysis? (page 111)

Justin Tanis also contributed to Take Back the Word as an openly transexual author in 2000. Virginia Mollenkott’s Omnigender would be published the following year. The 21st century brought an emergence of several publications as the “transgender spring” blossomed with more fruit.

I met Kolakowski at the second Transgender Leaders Summit in 2008, shortly after I relaunched Transfaith Online and started connecting with transgender people in real life. She joined our board of directors and served faithfully until she became a California judge–which meant severing involvements that might present a conflict of interest or appearance of bias.

I am honored and pleased as punch that Vicky has come out of retirement, even if ever so briefly, to participate in OtherWise Christian 2: Stories of Resistance.

Compiled by Mx. Chris Paige on January 7, 2020.

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

OtherWise Ambassador: Rev Louis Mitchell

OtherWise Christian Ambassadors are transgender (or OtherWise) Christians who are available in your local area to share both OtherWise Christian: A Guidebook for Liberation and their own stories and testimonies. I believe that books are important, but our communities also need the opportunity to be in real-life community with folk who can tell their own stories.

Louis Mitchell wrote the forward for OtherWise Christian, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that he is also an OtherWise Ambassador! He also authorized to sell copies of the book and you ought to have him sign his forward (though he tries to be shy about that).

Rev Louis Mitchell is frequently in Massachusetts, Philadelphia, Seattle, and Southern California. He travels frequently, so be in touch to find out more about his availability. Reach out to invite him into your community. You’ll be supporting me, the book, and his ministry.

Don’t forget to compensate him for his time with you, if he’s leading an event or preaching in your congregation. His time and expertise are valuable. Continue reading “OtherWise Ambassador: Rev Louis Mitchell”

Reading Scripture Event, Sept 14

If you’re in the Greater Charlotte, NC area, you should really try to join the Ministries Beyond Welcome team for “Reading Scripture across Trans-Queer Experience!”

This is exactly one of the reasons that I want to have OtherWise Christian Ambassadors (OCA) across the country (and perhaps around the world!). I can’t be in North Carolina that week, but our Ambassador, The Rev Debra Hopkins, will be present with copies of OtherWise Christian: a Guidebook for Transgender Liberation available for sale (please bring $25 cash)! Continue reading “Reading Scripture Event, Sept 14”

OtherWise Ambassador: Rev Debra Hopkins, Charlotte, NC

OtherWise Christian Ambassadors are transgender (or OtherWise) Christians who are available in your local area to share both OtherWise Christian: A Guidebook for Liberation and their own stories and testimonies. I believe that books are important, but our communities also need the opportunity to be in real-life community with folk who can tell their own stories.

The Rev Debra Hopkins is based in Charlotte, NC and is authorized to sell copies of OtherWise Christian! I hope you’ll reach out and invite her into your community conversations. You’ll be supporting me, the book, and the ministry of Rev Debra Hopkins.

Don’t forget to compensate her for her time with you, if she’s leading an event or preaching in your congregation. Her time and expertise are valuable. Continue reading “OtherWise Ambassador: Rev Debra Hopkins, Charlotte, NC”