From Christendom to Freedom by Jonathon Thunderword

I’ve always said that OtherWise Engaged Publishing is not limited to the OtherWise Christian brand. It is a multi-tradition publishing operation for projects from OtherWise-gendered folk that are in alignment with our values. Easy to say, but the first four books were pretty specifically Christian, including the first two OtherWise Reflection Guides. Granted.

OtherWise Christian 2: Stories of Resistance began to offer some more diverse perspectives. However, we have more explicitly turned that corner with From Christendom to Freedom: Journey-Making with a Black Transgender Elder (2020) by Jonathon Thunderword.

LAUNCH CONVERSATION with Louis Mitchell of Transfaith
Saturday, May 9, 3pm Eastern
Join us on Facebook Live!

I first met Jonathon at a Fellowship of Affirming Ministries gathering in 2008. Under Bishop Yvette Flunder’s direction, we co-led (with others) a workshop on transgender experience. Little did I know then how either of our lives would unfold.

Like Appendix C in OtherWise Christian: A Guidebook for Transgender Liberation (2019), Jonathon talks about Christendom as something different from the Jesus Movement. Christendom is what happened with the Jesus Movement got deeply entangled with Empire. While it touches on Jonathon’s experiences (pro and con) in Christian community, this is a decidedly post-Christian memoir.

As he puts it, Jonathon “followed Jesus into Judaism” and shares some of that journey, but he does not stop there. Jonathon reflects on early years in the Nation of Islam as well as his experiences listening to non-believers. I learned a lot more about his experience with Amma and Hindu tradition in his book than I ever did in conversation around conferences we attended together.

I know that some of the memories Jonathon dredged up working on this book were painful for him. While each section is quite short, I should offer trigger-warnings for sexual abuse by religious leaders, as well as references to sex work, use of illegal substances, and sexism/misogyny. Of course, these experiences are offered in a reflective context which explores them with sensitivity.

Jonathon does not pull any punches in talking about his experience as a Black man, either. The image that opens his Introduction is more than uncomfortable, but it is offered with deliberate intent. He frequently reflects on how racial dynamics impacted his faith journey(s). I found his candid revelations about struggling with contemplative practices particularly insightful, as he embraces both the search for stillness and African-American cultural influences.

So, many of the patterns of community engagement among African-Americans emphasize call and response between the congregation and a leader in ways that do not require widespread access to books, paper, or even literacy. These patterns are also connected to our roots in Africa, which predate the written word or modern educational standards. (Chapter 8: Cultivating Quiet)

Religion is never simply one thing. It is race and gender and culture and teaching and mystical experience and physical practice and community and individual discernment and more. Jonathon manages to speak to these dynamics (and more) in a brief and accessible way, based in anecdotes from his personal adventures in religious experience.

Each chapter includes between four and six short sections. Each section is followed by a reflection question. This dynamic turns his spiritual auto-biography into a kind of workbook, which invites the reader to reflect on their own preferences and experiences. Because of his long journey and deep questions, the core of From Christendom to Freedom is not just another transgender memoir, but an an object lesson in what he calls “Finding Another Right Road Authentically and Holistically.”

The Afterword points explicitly to Jonathon’s Trans-Anointing ministry which supports people of trans experience to claim their own spiritual journeys, as he encourages spiritual independence for each of us as we live out our own truth.

I am the editor and publisher of From Christendom to Freedom: Journey-Making with a Black Transgender Elder, so, naturally, I am a fan! More importantly, I want to say what an honor and a privilege is has been to work with Jonathon (and Triptta) in birthing this project.

Anyhow, much of Jonathon’s front and back “matter” is available online on the OtherWise Engaged website: Table of Contents, Foreword by the Rev Monica Joy Cross, Preface, Introduction, Afterword, Works Cited (or Recommended). Please take a look!

While this offering is not the first in a formal series, it is still the first of a kind that you can expect more of in the OtherWise Engaged Publishing catalog. Bobbi Taylor and KimiFloyd are each also working on book projects that will be spiritual autobiographies drawing on their own experiences navigating multiple cultural/spiritual influences. Sign up for updates from OtherWise Engaged Publishing to hear about what is next!

Compiled by Mx Chris Paige on May 4, 2020.

OC2: Minister KimiFloyd


To be two-spirit is to bring two halves back together, to heal division in myself, and then help end the oppression of my people. … I am rejecting centuries of language and violence that tried to deny my existence…

Minister KimiFloyd in
“Balance”
OtherWise Christian 2: Stories of Resistance

Continue reading “OC2: Minister KimiFloyd”

OC2: Table of Contents

Table of Contents
OtherWise Christian 2: Stories of Resistance
Edited by Mx Chris Paige

Foreword by the Rev Victoria Kolakowski (retired)
Preface by Mx Chris Paige
Introduction by Mx Chris Paige

Continue reading “OC2: Table of Contents”

We Gather by Louis Mitchell

My friend and co-conspirator wrote this invocation for the 2013 online Transgender Day of Remembrance service that we did as TDOR Unite. That project was co-sponsored by Transfaith, the Trans People of Color Coalition, the Trans Latin@ Coalitions, and The UU Church of the Larger Fellowship.

Everybody knows that I love me some Louis, but I think this is one of his best things–on a topic that is so difficult to do well. I am grateful that he agreed to let me properly publish it as a part of In Remembrance of Me, Bearing Witness to Transgender Tragedy this year. Review the Table of Contents for links to additional content previews!

Continue reading “We Gather by Louis Mitchell”

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”

United Church of Christ Transgender Timeline

As we launched the Trans Still Speaking initiative in 2017, I compiled a timeline of transgender history in the United Church of Christ. It was initially published on Transfaith’s website. Today, I’ve moved it over to my blog at otherwisechristian.com and updated it with a few new details.I look forward to continuing to expand this resource with more details, past, present, and future. What do you notice that needs to be added?

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!

Continue reading “United Church of Christ Transgender Timeline”

Transgender Christian Oral Histories

When I was creating the list of transgender Christian (auto) biographies, I remembered that we also have some oral histories. It’s actually super wonderful to be able to hear our people’s voices. As always, please let me know if you are aware of transgender Christians who may be lurking in other oral history archives!

In addition, I’ll want to make a list of documentaries, which are a little different. However, The Believers is one that I think should also be on an oral history list.

Thank you to the LGBT Religious Archives Network for hosting several oral histories!

ALSO Transgender Christian (auto)Biographies

ALSO Transgender and the Christian Bible

Compiled by Mx. Chris Paige on on August 16, 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.

The Fellowship of Affirming Ministries (TFAM)

This week, I will be gathering with the Fellowship of Affirming Ministries (TFAM) in Atlantic City, NJ for the TFAM Convocation. The Convocation is an annual gathering of TFAM folk from across the country and around the world.

Continue reading “The Fellowship of Affirming Ministries (TFAM)”

Crossing Paths: Where Transgender and Religion Meet, 2003

Crossing Paths: Where Transgender and Religion Meet was published in 2003 as a 114 page PDF by the Unitarian Universalist Association’s Office of Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian and Transgender Concerns.

While this UUA resource is not exclusively Christian, Crossing Paths was one of the first readily available PDF format anthology in the “transgender spring.” The PDF was originally available on the UUA’s website. However, the copy we link to is a copy retained on the Transfaith website.

Continue reading “Crossing Paths: Where Transgender and Religion Meet, 2003”