Thank God for transgender persons and their families, who exemplify
the amazing beauty of the divine creation in all its complexity and
It is a blessing to share community with our transgender sons and
daughters, brothers and sisters, and fathers and mothers and to work
alongside them to assure that each and every person, including each
and every transgender person, has what they need and deserve: respect
and a secure sense of personal dignity and worth, a fair share of
resources, a life without fear, and the freedom to live in the world
as one’s authentic self.
As a clergyperson and president of the Religious Coalition Against
Discrimination, I am proud of the fact that RCAD’s statewide
multireligious network of faith leaders has committed itself to a
three-year initiative to promote transgender inclusion and equality in
our congregations and communities.
As a Christian ethicist, I have often reminded seminarians and myself
that it is wise, in the midst of social change, to slow down and avoid
“premature clarity,” or what might be called rush to judgment. Before
giving any kind of ethical evaluation, we ought to take the time to
understand as fully as possible the reality before us, in this
instance transgenderism. The best way to gain understanding is to
listen to and learn from transgender persons.
Maine Transnet, a nonprofit organization in Maine, is dedicated to
educating the public about gender identity and raising awareness of
the varied forms of gender expression. Its website provides resources
to the trans community of Maine, as well as consultation, education
and training to social service, mental health professionals and
interested others. My advice, then, is to “go to the source” and
become better educated.
Our first step is to learn, because too many people, including Michael
Heath, in his July 23 BDN OpEd “On sexual morality,” are uninformed or
misinformed when it comes to transgender persons and their lives. To
trivialize a transgender person as someone posing as “a man in a
dress” or to speak judgmentally of sexual difference as “normalizing
perversion” is a sure sign that religiously affiliated persons, as
well as all persons of good will, have work to do to become better
informed and more respectful of those transgender persons in Maine and
elsewhere who courageously and generously share their lives, hopes and
concerns with the non-transgender majority.
Awareness of transgender persons in our families, schools and
congregations may help us appreciate how the categories we often rely
on to describe human reality may actually be quite limited (and
limiting) in their capacity to encompass the wide spectrum of human
Transgender refers to those whose gender identity and/or gender
expression differs from their biological sex. Many transgender people
find that the sex assigned to them at birth (their natal sex) is
incompatible with their gender identity. (“I am told I am a boy, and
my body looks male, but I know myself to be female, and it’s far
easier to re-sculpt my body than it is to alter my psyche.”) For an
educational resource that offers language that is respectful of sexual
and other kinds of difference, see the Religious Institute on Sexual
Morality, Justice, and Healing’s online resource, “A Time to Seek:
Study Guide on Sexual and Gender Diversity.”
<http://www.religiou sinstitute. org/timetoseek>
Extending a respectful, hospitable welcome to transgender people and
their families is fully in keeping with Jesus’ mandate to love thy
neighbor. Standing within the prophetic tradition of his community,
Jesus called for a new moral order constructed on the basis of
biblical justice or the principle of right relatedness.
If we question whether our relations with others are just and rightly
ordered, we need only ask two questions. First, ask how transgender
persons (and others on the margins) are being treated and whether they
live with dignity and security as respected members of the community.
If the answer is “no” or “not yet,” then a second question should be
posed: Are those in the non-transgender majority willing to trade
places? If we hesitate, then we have serious justice education and
advocacy to do together.
Now let’s rush to engage in that educational journey — for the sake of
transgender persons, yes, but also for the sake of our own souls.