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.
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.
As I was researching the United Methodist Transgender Timeline yesterday, I remembered that I know of several transgender Catholic priests! Now, given the nature of the Roman Catholic Church, not all of them are Roman Catholic.
In any case, I got carried away and got a good start on a timeline for transgender Catholic and Orthodox traditions. Will you help me to add additional details? Please be in touch!
I’ve created a United Church of Christ Transgender Timeline, but I would love to develop parallel resources for other denominations and movements. I have some lived experience around the United Methodist Church, so I thought maybe I would start there…
That said, I need your help to expand this list! This is a decent first draft, but I am sure there are more details to be added. In particular, the polity of the UMC, with Bishops appointing clergy to churches, means that many situations are quietly handled behind the scenes. I assume that there were earlier cases that were handled in this manner and I would be delighted to include them.
Please be in touch, if you have details to add to this timeline (corrections are also welcome)–or if you would like to help me create timelines for other denominations or movements.
I would also love to find collaborators who might help me create similar resources for other denominations and movements, as a historical record. Please be in touch!
The United Methodist Alliance for Transgender Inclusion (UMATI) is currently running a Bible/book study using OtherWise Christian: A Guidebook for Transgender Liberation. UMATI is the transgender caucus affiliated with the United Methodist Church. Continue reading “United Methodist Alliance for Transgender Inclusion (UMATI)”