10 Ways to Serve Transgender Congregants

  1. Add a nondiscrimination clause to the congregation’s bylaws and hiring policies protecting gender identity and gender expression.
  2. Learn the language of gender identity and transgenderism. “Transgender” and “transsexual” are not synonymous, and terms such as “transvestite” and “hermaphrodite” are no longer in favor and may be offensive to some. The definitions provided in this guide are a useful starting point. It is also important to refer to transgender persons with the pronoun (he/his, she/her) of the gender they are presenting. If you are unsure, ask.
  3. Use non-gendered language whenever possible. For instance, “people of all genders” is a better reference to humankind than “men and women.”
  4. Download an adult education curriculum on transgender issues for communities of faith. Curricula are available from the Human Rights Campaign, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force’s Institute for Welcoming Resources, and several denominational groups. These resources are generally free of charge and useful for both individual and group study.
  5. Reach out to your local LGBT community center or advocacy group. Meet with transgender people, learn their issues and develop a referral network for transgender health, counseling and legal services.
  6. Designate at least one restroom in your building as gender-neutral. Change the sign from “Men” or “Women” to read “All Genders,” “Unisex” or “Family.”
  7. Explore the relationship between sacred texts and the transgender experience. For instance, Biblical references to the eunuch (Deuteronomy 23:1, Isaiah 56:4-5, Wisdom 3:14, Matthew 19:10-12, Acts 8:26-40) may have a particular resonance for transgender Jews and Christians.
  8. Plan a liturgical prayer, worship service or special event to observe the Transgender Day of Remembrance. This day is set aside each November to remember the victims of anti-transgender hatred or prejudice. There may also be an observance in your area that you can promote to your congregation.
  9. Host a transgender film and discussion night. Feature films such as “Transamerica,” “Boys Don’t Cry” and “Normal,” as well as “Call Me Malcolm,” produced by the United Church of Christ, set the stage for dialogue around the transgender experience.
  10. Don’t wait for a transgender person to walk in the door. Begin now to learn about gender identity issues and the pastoral needs of transgender people, and lead your congregants to do the same. Create a space where transgender persons feel welcome and invited.
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