NEXT STEPS FOR FAITH COMMUNITIES
Praying for transgender justice is a great first step for faith communities. Actually manifesting a world in which transgender people are able to live and flourish in all aspects of life obviously requires more than prayer, however, and people of all faiths and no faiths are needed in the struggle.
To fully join the movement for transgender justice, faith communities need to live out and be a force for transgender justice within and outside their walls, incorporating it in every area of the congregational life and community ministries.
WORSHIP AND PRACTICE
The first question any faith community that is serious about transgender justice needs to ask itself is: Can people of all genders access the spiritual practices of our community? This includes the rituals and other elements of spiritual practice—for example, are members unnecessarily divided by gender, as often happens in choral groups? It also includes practical concerns such as whether there are bathrooms available for people of all genders, including non-binary individuals who aren’t women or men.
After ensuring that transgender people are able to engage in the spiritual practices of your faith community without being forced to compromise or deny a part of themselves, the next step toward transgender justice is to consider whether space has been created in your community for the specific spiritual needs and gifts of transgender people.
For example, are your community’s leaders prepared to provide competent, compassionate, trans-affirming pastoral care to trans people and their families? Are there opportunities for spiritual rituals specific to trans people’s lives, such as renaming ceremonies or celebrations of transition milestones? Does your faith community acknowledge and/or participant in trans community events such as Transgender Day of Remembrance and Transgender Day of Visibility? Are transgender people able to be leaders in your community—as staff, worship leaders, volunteers, etc.? Finally, does your faith community celebrate the resilience, vibrancy, and spiritual gifts of trans communities as much as you mourn the injustices and violence born by trans people?
MEMBERSHIP AND COMMUNITY
Transgender justice calls us to recognize that religious spaces have far too often been unwelcome or even traumatic and dangerous places for transgender people. Given this truth, faith communities need to do far more than put “all are welcome” on their road sign for trans people to (a) actually take the risk of entering the doors and (b) actually experience welcome if they do so.
First steps that faith communities can take are to make sure that transgender people are explicitly welcomed in places like your website, orders of service, and other printed materials, as well as out loud by congregational leaders (such as your minister, rabbi, pastor, or imam, if you have one), and making sure that greeters, ushers, and other such leaders are prepared to welcome people of all gender identities and expressions (for example, not assuming what restroom a newcomer needs when the person asks where the restrooms are and not assuming what pronouns someone uses based on how they look).
Deeper steps that faith communities can take include reviewing your policies and procedures and making sure they take gender diversity into consideration—for example, ensuring that any bylaws and/or hiring policies include nondiscrimination clauses, that any membership forms for both adults and children don’t force people to check one of only two boxes to indicate gender, and so forth—and also making sure that any gender-specific groups and events hosted by the community (such as a women’s group) are explicitly trans-inclusive.
If your faith community offers opportunities for religious education to members of any or all ages, such as Bible study, Sunday school, or spiritual enrichment classes, it is vital for this dimension of your community to be inclusive of gender diversity.
Many faith communities offer religious education opportunities that specifically focus on transgender identity and inclusion, and there are some good options available for doing this on the religious education page of this website. For faith communities that have gone through an “Open and Affirming” or “Welcoming” process in the past, it is particularly important to take intentional steps to increase understanding and inclusion around transgender identity on a regular basis. Many of these programs and processes focus largely on welcoming lesbian and gay people, and leave members ill-prepared to welcome transgender people (as well as bisexual and queer people).
It is just as important, however, that all of the religious education that your faith community offers be inclusive of gender diversity. Diversity of gender identity and expression can be integrated into children’s religious education by way of stories and lessons that discuss difference and diversity. Adult and youth leaders can talk openly with children and youth about gender identity and expression, cultivating an environment where openness and asking questions about gender are welcome and assumptions and stereotypes related to gender are not.
A good rule of thumb is to always assume that any class or study group, of any age, already includes a transgender or gender nonconforming participant, even if it isn’t apparent, and to be mindful of how such participants will experience different lessons or practices.
SOCIAL ACTION AND SOCIAL JUSTICE
A final key way that faith communities can take action for transgender justice is by showing up for transgender justice in your local and wider communities.
Ways to do this well include being in active relationship as a faith community with local trans-led and trans-focused organizations and groups and finding out what they are working on and what sort of help they need; finding out what the local and state laws in your region are that impact transgender people and who to lobby to change them for the better; and showing up as trans-affirming people of faith in the public square at demonstrations, by writing op-eds, and even by being publicly pro-trans on social media and with family and friends.
You can also take action for transgender justice within your faith movement (if applicable), by finding out if there is a transgender membership group for people of your faith and how to support it, researching denominational policies that negatively impact transgender people and working to change them, and encouraging faith leaders and other faith communities to join you in being a force for transgender justice.
RESOURCES FOR TRANSGENDER INCLUSION IN FAITH COMMUNITIES
- Developing Trans*Competence: A Guide for Meditation and Retreat Centers, from Transbuddhists
- Made in God’s Image: A Black Church Guide to Gender Difference, from Many Voices
- Making Your Jewish Community Trans-Friendly, from TransTorah
- Resources on trans inclusion and advocacy for trans youth from Keshet
- TransACTION: A Transgender Curriculum for Churches and Religious Institutions, from the National LGBTQ Task Force
- TRANSformative Church Ministry Program, from Metropolitan Community Churches
- Transgender 101: Identity, Inclusion, and Resources, from the Unitarian Universalist Association
- Transitioning to Inclusion: A Guide to Welcoming Transgender Children and Their Families in Your Community of Faith, from the Center for LGBTQ and Gender Studies in Religion
- Voices of Witness: Out of the Box, from Integrity USA
DENOMINATIONAL AND TRADITION-BASED TRANSGENDER GROUPS
- International Council of Two Spirit Societies
- Muslim Alliance for Sexual and Gender Diversity
- Queer and Trans Yogis
- TransCatholic website and Facebook group
- TRUUsT: Transgender Religious professional Unitarian Universalists Together
- United Methodist Alliance for Transgender Inclusion