Ally responds to transphobia

Sharon Groves, Director of the Human Rights Campaign Foundation‘s Religion and Faith Program, responded yesterday to Russell Moore screed from last week that was published in the Washington Post.

Groves’ essay is entitled What transgender people teach us about God, and our humanity.

While it is not quite the same as having an actual transperson provide a response, it is always good to see an ally speak up for us.


Ultimately, the transgender question is about more than just sex. It’s about what it means to be human.”
Russell D. Moore, On Faith, Aug. 15

There are certainly more egregious quotes from Moore’s recent essay, but to focus on them would miss the larger point – that there is no transgender question.  The question is about how people of faith continue to grow in their understanding of our transgender brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, teachers and pastors.   And it’s a growth that, make no mistake, Mr. Moore wants to shut down.In order to grow, one must leave the ‘love the sinner, hate the sin’ framework behind.  Mr. Moore relies on this narrow, tired and, frankly, dangerous argument to denounce transgender experience as sinful.


Groves says that Moore’s argument is dangerous because it discourages people from actually getting to know transpeople, to find out what our lives are like, and to understand how we live our lives.

He’s shutting down any deeper conversation and, in the process, dampening our understanding of how the spark of the divine exists in all of us.–Groves

Groves posits the question of what would happen if transpeople were actually taken seriously and we considered what this means to our humanity and how to live it.

What if rather than saying that biology is destiny we actually explored the ways in which we all experience our own gender identities and expressions?  What if we learned about the lived experiences of our transgender peers?

People fear that biology is not destiny.  That’s somewhat understandable, but then they transfer that fear to a fear of transpeople.  And a fear becomes hatred.  And transpeople die.

The core teachings of Christianity are to love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength and love your neighbor as yourself.  We cannot love God fully if we don’t do the work of trying to understand who God is for each of us.  When we look at the most moving and transformative religious writing – from Augustine to Thomas Merton – there is a sense of openness and curiosity to the experience of God.   We can’t love God if we don’t try to glean how God works in our lives.Similarly, we can’t really love our neighbors if we cast off all curiosity about who they are and their experience of life in the world.  And finally, if we remain uninterested in ourselves – about how we come to know our gender–then we can’t really love the difference that shows up in our neighbors.

Few people are willing to do the introspection required to truly know their gender.  And that lack of willingness is why people fail to understand who we transpeople are.  Transpeople were and are able to “go there” and question every hard and fast truth they encountered, not just about gender, but about every facet of what it means to be human.I have always said about my teaching on this issue:  I can open the door to learning, but I cannot make anyone come in.  People have free will.

And transgender people should be free to experience the same free will.



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