Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Name Change Liturgies and Trans People: a Church of England Perspective

This morning resolution D036 ("Adding a Name Change Rite to the Book of Occasional Services") was passed by its legislative committee and now heads to the House of Bishops, where it should be on their calendar tomorrow (and will subsequently need to pass the House of Deputies). As we await the forward movement of this resolution, TransEpiscopal is pleased to share this reflection from The Revd Dr. Christina Beardsley of the Church of England about how the Church of England is going through its own process regarding a name change liturgy. The major difference between D036 and the C of E's is that ours is not specifically a trans name change resolution, whereas theirs is in fact intended to be. TransEpiscopal is very glad that D036 proposes a rite broadly applicable to many people. At the same time, we are also glad to see that another part of the Anglican Communion is thinking about name change liturgies in connection with trans people. The Spirit seems to be moving in the midst of all of this, and we look forward to seeing what emerges. 

The Blackburn Diocesan Synod Motion on Liturgies for Transgender People
A Blog Post for TransEpsicopal by the Revd Dr Christina Beardsley,
(former Changing Attitude, England trustee for trans people)

First of all, thank you for inviting me to post again on the TransEpisocpal blog, and I’m sorry not to be joining the TransEpiscopal delegation at General Convention in Salt Lake City in July. I loved being with you in Indianapolis in 2012, and was so pleased and proud when the transgender non-discrimination resolutions were approved then.

Revd Dr. Christina Beardsley at the 77th General Convention
It would have been exciting to be present at this year’s General Convention, when name change liturgies are being considered because, as you’ve no doubt heard, the General Synod of the Church of England will also be discussing this … at a date to be confirmed; but discuss this matter it will, at some point.

Let me explain – just a little – how governance works in the Church of England. Unlike TEC, with its triennial meetings of the General Convention, the Church of England’s General Synod meets twice, sometimes three times a year, depending on its current business load. The meetings are held in February (in London), July (in York) and, if need be, in November (in London); they usually last three to four days.

General Synod is composed of three houses: Bishops, Clergy and Laity. The three Houses can, and do, meet separately – the House of Bishops (diocesans plus elected suffragans, plus, for the moment, elected women clergy representatives) and the College of Bishops (diocesans, suffragans, plus the elected women clergy) meet regularly at other times – but most of General Synod’s business and debating is conducted with members of all three houses present in the chamber, even if they subsequently vote by houses.

The Church of England’s synodical structure is made up of Deanery Synods (composed of laity elected by the parishes, plus the licensed clergy of the deanery), Diocesan Synods (composed of clergy and laity, elected respectively by the clergy and lay members of the deanery synods) and General Synod (also elected by the clergy and lay members of deanery synods). There are a number of additional constituencies as well, including cathedral deans and universities.

The opportunity to vote in Church elections is something I feel strongly about having been disenfranchised for at least four years as a consequence of my transition in 2001. It felt dreadful to be excluded from this important aspect of Church life, and I would urge anyone who has a vote to use it, wisely and well.

There will be elections to the General Synod in 2015 and much is happening to ensure that people with inclusive views are elected on this occasion. Synod members serve for five years, and it was soon apparent that some of those who served during the last quinquennium had not been transparent about their views when they stood as candidates. That period was dominated by the debates on the consecration of women as bishops, and given the struggle that entailed, some of those who had claimed, as candidates, to ‘favour’ women’s ministry, evidently did not equate that conviction with their inclusion in the episcopate.

The newly elected Synod will discuss the Shared Conversations on Human Sexuality that are taking place in the Church of England, with diocesan delegations currently meeting in regional groups, and it is vital that those elected support the full inclusion of lgbti people.

It will also be the new General Synod that will discuss the following motion from the Blackburn Diocesan Synod:   

“That this Synod, recognising the need for transgender people to be welcomed and affirmed in their parish church, calls on the House of Bishops to consider whether some nationally commended liturgical materials might be prepared to mark a person's gender transition."

The Church of England’s synodical structure is a two-way street. General Synod can send matters for discussion to Diocesan and Deanery Synods, as it did with Women Bishops. Likewise, a Deanery Synod can send a successful motion to its Diocesan Synod for debate and, if approved there, on for discussion by the General Synod, as has happened in this case.

The story of the Blackburn motion is one of grassroots Christian response. A young man approached his local church for baptism, following gender transition, but he had already been baptised, so the parish priest, the Revd Chris Newlands, Vicar of Lancaster Priory, worked with him to produce a suitable rite to mark this significant change in his life. Realising that this scenario must be occurring in other places, Chris brought it to the attention of his church council, and then his Deanery Synod (Lancaster and Morecambe), where a motion was passed, and sent on to the Blackburn Diocesan Synod. I prepared the background paper for the Blackburn Diocesan Synod debate, which is available here:

After receiving Diocesan Synod approval, the motion was sent on to the General Synod. It is now parked in a list of such motions which you can find hereIt will be for the General Synod’s Business Committee to decide when to schedule it for debate, and one can anticipate delay, maybe until the regional Shared Conversations are complete. 

In the meantime there has been press interest in the motion, the most sensitive piece coming, naturally, from the Guardian with a companion piece by the Revd Giles Fraser, who mentions the late Revd Carol Stone (Carol and I were at theological college together, though neither was aware that the other was trans at that date – 1976-78). The Guardian article also mentions Susan Musgrove’s Service of Affirmation and Blessing, which took place in her parish church in Northumberland in 2013, and which I blogged about at the time (here).

Services of this kind, therefore, are happening already and have been for some time. Will the General Synod have the courage to invite the House of Bishops to explore and commend forms of prayer for Church of England parishes that wish to celebrate with and affirm their transgender congregants and parishioners? I do hope so, given that parish clergy are already recognising and responding to a pastoral need.

Chris Newlands was interviewed about the motion on the BBC Radio 4 Sunday programme (which covers religious current affairs) on the 24th May 2015. Sadly, I don’t think you’ll be able to access the link but I’ll include it just in case (here). The interview begins at 6 minutes 58 seconds. 

Chris is asked why, if parish clergy are already devising services for transgender people, a common liturgy is needed. In reply, Chris notes that transgender people are a vulnerable group in society, often subject to bullying and abuse, and at high risk of suicide. He believes that an official Church of England service would be an important signal of the Church’s welcome, an affirmation of God’s love for transgender people that would counter the many negative messages transgender people often receive.

As the Revd Rachel Mann has commented, it will also be important for trans people to be consulted and involved in the preparation of any liturgies, given that we are the best people to articulate our own needs, and some of us will be skilled in theology, spirituality and worship (Rachel, for instance, is a poet as well as being a priest).

In the Sibyls, Christian spiritualityfor transgender people,  which I’ve belonged to for nearly two decades, we have noticed a huge change. In the early days of Sibyls, the mid to late 1990s, trans people were rejected by their churches, and Sibyls events the only place where members could receive Holy Communion as themselves. Today, society is so much better informed about trans matters, and clergy and congregations less judgemental and more receptive to trans people. Sadly, rejection can still happen, of course, but a transformation has taken place, and the grassroots desire for Church of England liturgies to mark trans people’s lives is part of that.

At this side of the pond we will watch with interest as similar proposals come before the General Convention, praying for you, as I know you pray for us. Pray please that the Blackburn motion, now passed, will not be delayed too long in coming before the General Synod, and for its successful progress once it reaches there.      

Monday, June 29, 2015

God Was There: Open Hearings on D036 & D037

by the Revd Dr. Cameron Partridge

What a whirlwind the last couple of days at General Convention have been. Friday the news of the Supreme Court’s decision blew through Convention like wildfire. People are absolutely jubilant. And then yesterday Bishop Michael Curry of North Carolina was elected the next Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church on a landslide, first ballot vote. He follows Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori as a pioneer: she has been the first woman elected to this position, while he is the first African American. He is an firey, articulate preacher and evangelist, the kind of inspiring leader you want to get up and follow to the ends of the earth. Yesterday the House of Deputies also discussed C019 “Establish Response to Systemic Racial Injustice”. As Deputy Jennifer Baskerville Burrows wrote, “To hear a white member of the [Social Justice and U.S. Policy] committee say words to the effect of, “we have the chance to make race the centerpiece of the next triennium” signals a shift.  If funded, resolution C019 will put real muscle (to the tune of $1.2 million) behind the work of racial reconciliation for both justice and mission strategy.”

Amid this intense, spirited movement, two of the resolutions that TransEpiscopal has been particularly tracking have also made their way through the open hearing process.

Andrew Amanda testifying
in support of D037
D037 came first. This is the resolution that calls for a study of the canons to clarify that and/or how people who have legally changed their name(s) can have their names amended in church records and registries and church certificates reissued. It came to the committee on Governance and Structure last night amid several other complex resolutions on the possibilities of restructuring aspects of our Church’s governance. To begin, the chaplain of the committee lead us in prayer and a hymn, one of my favorites: “God is love and where true love is, God [Godself] is there.” When our resolution came up, something like six or seven of us testified in support of it. No one testified against. We told stories of how we or people we know have been impacted in our full access to the life of the Church by not being able to change records in a consistent way, or to have certificates reissued. After we were finished, a number of deputies and bishops came up to us, thanking us for our testimony. As the Structure committee sifts through all the complexities of the restructuring resolutions, our stories were, as one committee member later related to me, very straight forward and incarnational. We hope it moves out of committee and to one of the houses quickly.

Then twelve hours later, at 7:30 this morning, we gathered again to testify in support of D036. This resolution, on “Adding a Name Change Liturgy to the Book of Occasional Services”, came to the Committee on Prayerbook and Liturgy. Once again we began and ended with prayer and song, and once more we had a great group of people prepared to testify. I am hoping that some of these folks will write about their experiences as well. I lead off my own testimony by recounting an experience I had in 2001 when I first claimed my name. I described how I passed a difficult night, sharing the name Cameron with loved ones. When I went to church the following morning and was asked to do the first reading, I had been stunned to find myself standing before the congregation reading the story of Jacob wrestling with the divine stranger who then gave him the name Israel. Flash forward several years, my tesimony continued, to my years in parish ministry in which I had a trans parishioner who 
Cameron Partridge testifying in support of D036.
Photo credit: the Living Church / Covenant magazine
wanted to take on his chosen name in the context of the congregation. And so I put together a rite as a component of the Sunday liturgy, drawing in part upon the name change rite in Changes: Prayers and Services Honoring Rites of Passage that is the subject of D036. To be able to take up one’s name in the midst of one’s congregation, to be named and seen in that way, can be a profound recognition of the deep spiritual significance of embodying one’s name, I concluded. I was also struck that in addition to the other trans folks who testified—and, again, there were several powerful speakers – there were non trans ones as well, lifting up the flexibility of this resource to be used by many people. These were folks in a religious order who talked about the possibilities of claiming a new name in connection with religious life. This rite is additionally applicable to situations like adoption or divorce/remarriage. I especially appreciate that this resource came out of indigenous Episcopal congregations, communities that have long recognized the spiritual significance of names and particularly of taking on a new name later in life.

We now wait for D036 and D037 to go to their houses of origin. The name change liturgy resolution should first travel to the House of Bishops, while the name change canon study resolution should head to the House of Deputies. Meanwhile a number of resolutions related to liturgical marriage equality are coming forward to the Houses of Bishops and Deputies as well. Stay tuned on all of these fronts.

Amid all of this, the hymn from the beginning of the D037 hearing continues to echo in my ears: God is love and where true love is, God Godself is there.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Prayers of Thanksgiving

by the Rev. Gwen Fry

Many in the Trans* community often don’t have much to be thankful for. There are many, who in making the choice to live authentically, lose much that we knew before. Some of us lose nearly everything, but gain our life. We all transition from one reality or state to another spiritually, psychologically and, for some, physically. Early on there doesn’t seem to be much at all to be thankful for. Life is hard and very difficult in the midst of life’s transitions. But eventually we all come to realize that we can be thankful for our life lived authentically. This is certainly true in my case.

Nearly one year ago to the day was the last time I celebrated the Eucharist as a priest in the Diocese of Arkansas. The evening before I celebrated at the altar that last time I snapped this photo through the door of the church at dusk. I placed my iPhone camera directly against the window and snapped the picture. A few days later I looked at the photos I had taken and much to my surprise, my reflection also somehow appeared in the top of the photo. A friend of mine commented on it and called it "The Trans Christ. "As the conversation continued I felt "Outside Looking In" was a better fit. At the time I reflected and wrote; “For me it defines my unique status in the church, not only as a trans woman, but also as a priest. It is funny how the church doesn’t know what to do with a priest who is trans and the trans community doesn’t know what to do with a trans woman who is a priest. So here I stand, for now, outside looking in.” The sense of loss and grief is present in every transition in life.

In that pilgrimage through and out of transitions we begin to see and appreciate the unexpected generosity and compassion in our unencumbered new life. I think of the friendship that is created and the true caring and compassion they show when you least expect it; Joining you in an otherwise empty pew so you will not be alone. There is the unexpected dinner from a neighbor because “you look tired after a long day. Take this spaghetti and meat sauce. You don’t worry ‘bout cooking tonight.” There is the sack of fresh produce sitting on your doorstep when you arrive home after a long day of cleaning houses. There is the laying on of hands at the healing service by your priest. And the telephone call on Father’s Day.

Nearly a year after that photograph was taken I realize I had it all wrong. I wasn’t “Outside Looking In.” Looking back at it again I was really “Inside Looking Out.” And I give thanks.

A Crack in Our Current Practice: A Trans Angle on Marriage Equality in The Episcopal Church

As TransEpiscopal celebrates today's Supreme Court decision honoring marriage equality, and as we join in supporting efforts toward full liturgical marriage equality in The Episcopal Church here at General Convention, we offer this essay from Iain Stanford who brings a trans angle to this conversation.

by Iain Stanford

Over the last several weeks, the blogosphere and Facebook have been alive with different opinions, questions and concerns about the various resolutions regarding  marriage equality in The Episcopal Church. As I read the various arguments, I keep wondering if people realize that we already have same sex couples in The Episcopal Church who were married using the service for Holy Matrimony in the Book of Common Prayer. Let me explain.

At the 77th General Convention of the Episcopal Church in 2012, the church spoke loudly in support of transgender people as full members of our Church by adding gender identity and gender expression to the non-discrimination canons. As a trans person, though, the canons for marriage and the use of the BCP can become a bit, well, surreal.

Take for example the fictional couple of Jim and Francine. On their day, they walk through the red doors and up the aisle, the celebration begins with the words from the BCP, “Dearly Beloved: We have come together in the presence of God to witness and bless the joining together of this man and this woman in Holy Matrimony.” (BCP 423) And a little later, the priest pronounces, “they are husband and wife.”  (BCP 428) Now several years go by, and Francine slowly acknowledges all those feelings when it comes to gender. All her life, people have asked, “are you a girl or boy?” She talks to friends, therapists, and yes, even her priest. Eventually, she knows that God is calling her to move forward, to become Francis. She does! After transition, they are now Jim and Francis. They live into what it means to be a same sex couple in society. And yes, they are still married in the eyes of the Church.

I can hear some people say, “But they came to the altar like any other heterosexual couple.”

Which begs the question: what is the connection between the outward and visible sign or signs of gender and marriage?

Ok, let’s take a more personal example, me! I am not married. When I was living in the world as a lesbian and partnered, I could not be married in the Church. At that time, I could only marry a man, but after my transition, everything shifted. Now I can marry a woman, but alas I can no longer marry a man. What exactly has changed?

The shift here is not a theological one. It is not about Augustine’s theology of the goods of marriage or even Elizabeth Stuarts’ theology of gay and lesbian relationships as “just friends.”  The shift is my physical body. My negotiation of gender has shifted from the outward and visible sign of a woman to that of a man, more specifically a trans man. My own sense of gender exceeds binary definition. I own my full gender history. My story, while common in trans communities, is not as well known outside of those circles. I am proud of the ways I participated in breaking down barriers for women in the 1980s, even if only in small ways. I was one of the few women who studied engineering in those years, and the first to be elected president of my university’s engineering honorary. Today, I live and move mostly as just another short white guy. To know me is to understand that I am the sum of all my years.

To my mind, the experience of transgender people in the Church reveals a crack in our current practice. The church is invested first and foremost in the simulacra of heterosexuality. It upholds heteronormativity:

One is born male, grows up to be a man, adheres to masculine gender norms, sexually desires women, and exercises this desire in a monogamous, life long committed marriage, which takes as its aim the procreation of children.

Or one is born a female, grows up to be a woman, adheres to feminine gender norms, sexually desires men, and exercises this desire in a monogamous, life long committed marriage, which takes as its aim the procreation of children.

Currently access to Holy Matrimony in the BCP requires the outward and visible sign of heterosexuality. Our practice – and our theology for that matter—assumes a stable gender identity that corresponds with assigned birth sex. Neither our practices nor our theology account for the experiences of transgender people, particularly those who understand themselves as having a non-binary gender.

Our current understanding of the human body in terms of sex, gender and sexuality has been shaped by various scientific, medical, and religious discourses over the last century or so. Terms like heterosexuality and its complement, homosexuality, emerge from the work of late 19th century sexologists like Havelock Ellis.  These terms give us a new way of describing how humans desire; they do not invent those desires. Similarly, over the last several decades, we have new terms to describe how people live out their genders.  

It is time we live into the full acceptance of all gender identities and gender expressions. Marriage is not about body parts. I am here to testify to this as a fact. It is first and foremost a vocation (as "Christian Marriage As Vocation," essay two from the Task Force on Marriage report, argues). It is a call from God for two people to join their lives in service to God, be that for the raising of children or for the uplift of all God’s creation.

Let us not forget: there are married trans Episcopalians who already hold out a glimpse of full liturgical marriage equality to our Church, even as there are other trans Episcopalians newly unable to access it. Now is the time to make full liturgical marriage equality real for everyone.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Held in the Balance - the Revd Gwen Fry on General Convention

by the Reverend Gwen Fry

Every time I look at the photo with me in the background on the TransEpiscopaal Facebook page and blog I remember how important it was for me to be there at GC 2012. You see, at that time I wasn’t what you would call an active member of TransEpiscopal, working on important legislation or volunteering at the TransEpiscopal booth in the exhibition hall. No, I was more of a lurker on the list serve and had been for a number of years. I was there to track legislation, however, and I was there to attend a very special Eucharist. And as it turned out, I was there to attend the triennial family reunion of the church. I attended General Convention 2012 in Indianapolis for very personal reasons.

Having no responsibilities at the convention as a visitor I was free to go from house to house observing our church at work. The first day I was there I immediately took note of the gender neutral bathroom facility strategically placed between the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops. I know, you’re thinking bathrooms? But for me that was an incredible statement my church made. The church that I grew up in, in a very tangible way, supported me and all gender non-conforming children of God.

Sitting in the galleries of both houses listening to the discussion on resolutions D019 and D002 filled me with hope for my church. The bishops and deputies who stood up in support of these resolutions was a powerful witness to the broad, inclusive church I was proud to be a member of. Even those who stood in opposition of these resolutions filled me with hope because we are not a monolithic tradition here in The Episcopal Church. It reminded me that the tent is indeed big and it reminded me that even with these nondiscrimination clauses added to the canons, we have much work left to do to gain true acceptance throughout the church. As the votes were cast and tallied in both the House of Bishops and House of Deputies there was a deep sense of gratitude, joy, and acceptance that washed over me. It was quite surreal actually. With this monumental decision (at least in my eyes) the Episcopal Church gave me the “cover” I thought was necessary for me to come out and live authentically after 21 years as a priest in the church.

The evening before I left the convention and headed for home, I attended the TransEpiscopal Eucharist. It was a perfect way to rejoice with others the incredible gains achieved at GC2012. It was also the first time I was in a room, worshipping with others, who knew me. Fully knew me. At that Eucharist I began a journey that brought me out of the shadows of lurking on a list serve. I was no longer on the sidelines of my community and stepped onto the playing field, simply by being known.

And so every time I see that banner across the top of TransEpiscopal’s blog or Facebook page with me standing in the background I am reminded of how far we have come as a church and how much I have grown. It hasn’t all been pretty or easy the past three years. There have been many losses and disappointments. There has also been resurrection and new life, in the church and personally.

Legislation is never antiseptic and removed from the lives of people. It is deeply personal and affects the lives of many whether we can see them or know them, understand them or even agree with them. Individuals like me are always held in the balance of the decisions we make as a church. Even as individuals like me are held in the balance by GC decisions, at the same time GC decisions do not necessarily prevent individuals from encountering difficulty. That experience certainly held true for me. It was most difficult to seek the dissolution of the pastoral relationship with a parish and people I deeply love and who loved me. We need to live into GC decisions, to engage and embrace them in our congregations and dioceses. What we do at GC truly does matter because of the connections between the layers of our church.

I look forward to joining my colleagues and friends of TransEpiscopal in Salt Lake City to continue our work in the church. I am attending this General Convention because it is personal. Because there will be others attending this year who are just like I was three years ago, desperately looking for a place to call home, feel the support of their church, and experience the transforming power of the love of God.

Trans Legislation at the General Convention: From 2006-2012 and Beyond

As the 78th General Convention approaches this week, here is a brief review of trans legislation that has come before the Convention in years past. As you can see from the shift between 2006 and 2012, and as previous blog posts narrate, we have come an incredibly long way. The five resolutions listed under 2015 begin to point to much work that we still need to do.


1)    C030 -- The Diocese of California referred a resolution to General Convention calling for the addition of “gender identity and expression” to the list of non-discrimination demographic categories in Canon III.1.2. The Committee on Canons took it up as resolution C030 (“On the Topic of Amending Canon III.1.2 [Of the Ministry of All Baptized Persons]”). As the legislative history reports, the committee recommended discharge and re-referral to the Committee on Ministry. As far as we know, that referral never happened, or was never acted upon by the Committee on Ministry. As the legislative history reports, “Resolution Died With Adjournment.”

2)    The Diocese of New York passed a resolution calling on TEC to come out in support of fully gender inclusive secular civil rights resolution (e.g. ENDA) but it got lost in the shuffle and somehow was never considered at this GC.


1)    D090— encouraged inclusive self-identification on all church forms, creating flexible options for people to identify their gender, names, and preferred pronouns. A question that lingered for us was the problem of amending registries and having certificates reissued (e.g. baptismal, confirmation or ordination) upon request after someone has changed their name (which is why a resolution addressing that has been submitted to GC 2015)

2)    C048 put TEC on record in support of a fully trans inclusive version of the Federal Employment Nondiscrimination Act 

3)    D012 put TEC on record in support of fully trans inclusive nondiscrimination and hate crimes laws at the local, state and federal levels 

4)    D032 (Nondiscrimination protection for lay employees in TEC) – declared that lay employees in TEC are not to be discriminated against on the basis of several demographic designations, including gender identity and expression

5)    C061 Canon Change re: Access to the Ordination process passed the HOD but failed in HOB (HOB actually amended it and sent it back to HOD, which declined to concur) 


1)    D002 added “gender identity and expression” to Canon III.1.2 re: nondiscrimination in access to discernment for the ordination process 

2)    D019 amended Canon I.17.5 (aka “the Rights of the Laity”), clarifying that “No one shall be denied rights, status or access to an equal place in the life, worship, and governance of this Church” on the basis of “gender identity and expression,” among a number of other demographic categories

3)    D022 called for a church wide response to the epidemic of bullying based on a number of categories, including gender identity and expression  


1)   D036 "Adding Name Change Rite to the Book of Occasional Services”. This resolution calls upon the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music (SCLM) to include the name change service from Changes: Prayers and Services Honoring Rites of Passage in its proposed comprehensive revision of the Book of Occasional Services (BOS). The rite is adaptable for various life and circumstances, including the name changes of trans people.

2)    D037 “Amending Names in Church Records, Registries and Certificates”. This resolution requests a study with recommendations to be brought to the 79th General Convention regarding the pastoral need to allow church records and registries to be changed and certificates to be reissued to reflect a person’s new legal name. It calls for several groups to be consulted as part of this process, including transgender people.

3)    D028 “Oppose Conversion Therapy”. This resolution seeks to put the 78th General Convention on record in support of legislation banning state-licensed therapists from engaging in scientifically discredited and dangerous practices that try to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

4) Addendum to Resolutions A073 & A074: these resolutions which call for an update of TEC's Model Policies & Resources for the Prevention of Sexual Misconduct and Abuse of Youth and Children have received an addendum that "calls for the creation of inclusive policy and practices in regard to LGBTQ and gender variant individuals." As the Standing Commission on Lifelong Christian Formation & Education's explanation goes on to say, "we would like to recommend that the 78th General Convention... call for the creation of model policies to support ministries that safeguard the dignity of our LGBTQ children, youth, participants, and leaders."

5) A051 "Support LGBT African Advocacy". This resolution, which went to hearing this morning (6/24), "encourage parishes, dioceses, especially those with companion relationships in Anglican Africa, as well as advocacy groups, to build relationships with African Anglican scholars and activists who are working to advance generous understandings of the Bible that affirm the dignity of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex people."

Sunday, June 21, 2015

'Now is the Acceptable Time': The Work Before Us at General Convention

As we come to the 78th General Convention, TransEpiscopal looks forward to building on the major strides our Church has made over the last decade on behalf of trans people. We also come with a sense of urgency about the gaps that remain between what our Church has done and what remains to be done.
We celebrate tremendous legislative gains between the 2006 and 2012 General Conventions, particularly the addition of “gender identity and expression” to our canons for access to lay ministry and to the discernment process for ordained ministry. Those votes, as many of our blog posts from those Conventions have witnessed, were exhilarating to experience. We also celebrate the stories we hear and tell about congregations that lift up trans people across the church. We are lectors, greeters, Eucharistic ministers. We are in young adult and campus ministries. We serve on vestries and search committees. We serve on diocesan committees, as Deputies to General Convention, on nominating committees, on task forces. Several of us are ordained to the diaconate and the priesthood. Others are in various stages of the ordination process in several different dioceses. Some are in seminary.
Yet at the same time we also know that this progress is not uniformly felt across the Church. Different people in the same Church can have widely different experiences. This should not be the case.
Vivian Taylor’s letter to the editor of The Episcopal CafĂ© underscores this truth in stories that are difficult to read and were undoubtedly more difficult to live through. Many of us have had such experiences over the years as well. They point to the gaps that exist between the legislative actions we have taken and the realities on the ground, which can be varied and far removed from one another. The challenge is to grow across that gap as a Church, indeed, as a family. This requires honest conversation—conversation that may well be painful along the way. 
Already, for several decades the Church has been having related conversations about different facets of our shared humanity—about women, about race, about sexuality, about economic inequality, about neo-colonialism, about the intersections of these facets of people’s experiences and lived identities. In all of this we have been doing a collective theology of the human person. Unpacking what it means to incorporate trans people is part of this ongoing conversation, and indeed it calls us, as Vivian put it, to “commit to move beyond honoring one or two trans heroes or thinking about your own gender to praying on and addressing the structural needs of trans people.” We consider the following realities crucial to engaging this conversation: 
some trans people are binary-identified, that is, male or female, but
some of us are not binary identified; we may identify as gender nonconforming or genderqueer,     to use two of several related terms
some of us have changed or wish to physically change our bodies
some of us do not wish to physically change our bodies
we have varying relationships to and abilities to access medical transition, that is, to physically change our bodies
we, like cisgender people, have varying sexual orientations: we can be trans and heterosexual, lesbian, gay, bisexual or queer
trans women, as well as gender nonconforming people, are much more often the targets of anti-trans violence than trans men (see the 2011 study Injustice at Every Turn for important stories and statistics regarding this)
trans women are especially vulnerable when facing multiple points of discrimination from racism, sexism, classism, and/or immigration status, as well as transphobia. Thus far this year there have been eight transgender women or gender non conforming people of color who have been killed in the U.S. (see this story from the Anti-Violence Project)
those of us who are trans women are routinely subjected to trans misogyny—a doubled form of misogyny- in which we encounter both the sexism associated with women assigned female at birth and another layer of stigma associated with having transitioned (see Julia Serrano’s Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity for more about this)
an aspect of this trans misogyny: trans women are, as Vivian’s piece points out, frequently forced into double-binds. These often relate to appearance and demeanor: don’t fulfill feminine stereotypes, on the one hand, and don’t be too assertive, on the other. The former gets criticized as undermining efforts to dismantle patriarchal standards of femininity; the latter gets criticized as hold-over “male privilege.” These critiques disrespect and demean trans women.
these double binds can be levied at trans women particularly in women’s spaces and by feminists who were formed or strongly influenced by theories of second wave (1970s and 80s) radical feminism. This type of feminism has more recently been referred to as “trans exclusionary radical feminism.”
This pattern can be as true in church spaces as in secular spaces.
We would also like to underscore that this is an especially difficult season for trans people both in and outside our Church. The unprecedented visibility of trans people in the media over the past year, particularly over the last few months since Caitlyn Jenner came out, has created arenas of serious backlash. The recent Elinor Burkett piece in the New York Times (which activated several of the last bullet points above), followed by horribly transmisogynistic tweets from Anne Lamott, a trusted source of wisdom, have added to a sense of vulnerability, of unsafety, particularly for trans women. Vivian’s comment about trans people not feeling “allowed to settle here, to make a home and put down roots,” speaks to a sense of precariousness that has intensified for many of us in recent weeks and months.
This week at General Convention TransEpiscopal will be supporting several resolutions, two of which speak specifically to this desire to make a home and put down roots in our beloved Church. One resolution (whose number is pending) will ask for the proposed revision of the Book of Occasional Services to include a name change liturgy. The other (also with a pending number) will call for a study of the canons to address the pastoral need to amend legal name changes in church registries and to reissue church certificates—baptismal, confirmation, or ordination certificates, for instance – when it is requested. In the case of the first resolution, what is at stake is the Church’s affirmation of trans people’s chosen names, recognizing our names in the midst of our congregations as icons of our spiritual journeys. The second resolution seeks to prompt a study whose purpose is ultimately to safeguard trans people’s privacy, to assure that, should one not wish to disclose one’s previous name, the Church will respect that wish, doing all it can to facilitate our freedom to make our way in the Church.
As we think, pray, and talk about these matters coming into General Convention, we look forward to open, clarifying, supportive conversations. Engaging in such conversations both at GC and in your own dioceses and congregations is one concrete thing you can do to support the trans people in TEC. Another is to support this legislation, to work to make it and the changes we have already made in our Church concrete, structurally real in your own contexts. We are inspired by today’s passage from 2 Corinthians 6: “now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation!” (6:2) And as it concludes, “our heart is wide open to you… open wide your hearts also” (6:11,13).
For the TransEpiscopal Steering Committee:
Donna Cartwright
Gwen Fry
Gari Green
Andrew/Amanda Leigh-Bullard
Mycroft Masada
Kori Pacyniak
Cameron Partridge
Iain Stanford

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Emerging Voices: TransEpiscopal at the 2009 General Convention

This post forms the second in a series about the history of TransEpiscopal’s legislative efforts at the General Convention of The Episcopal Church, as we head to the 78th General Convention at the end of June.

After our first effort at GC legislative advocacy in 2006 (described here) we realized that we needed to bring a team. We also experienced the power of working in coalition. In 2007 we had become members of the Consultation, “a collaboration of progressive organizations within the Episcopal Church that partner to work for social justice.” Even as we attended GC with our own focus, we also collaborated with the nine other member groups of the Consultation. The key to TransEpiscopal’s work lay not in lifting up any one particular voice or having any one specific spokesperson, but rather in operating collectively and intersectionally. We chose to work this way out of respect for the varied experiences and identities within our own communities and in recognition that we are not alone in being impacted by oppressive social structures. Thus far we have emphasized collegiality, respect, shared resources, variously offered gifts and talents, and collective determination. TransEpiscopal has never had a president, has never had elected positions. Perhaps someday a different structure will make more sense for us. Perhaps not.

Coming into the 76th General Convention in Anaheim, we were expecting four transgender-themed resolutions amid a much greater number related to liturgical blessings for same sex couples and overturning the (ambiguous) moratorium on openly gay bishops. Some of our targeted resolutions sought to put the Episcopal Church on record in support of secular transgender nondiscrimination legislation, while others sought to amend our own canons in support of trans equality within TEC. Never before had a group of trans Episcopalians organized ourselves to testify at the committee hearings to where these resolutions had been directed. Never before had there been an openly trans Deputy to General Convention, which we gained in Dante Tavolaro of Rhode Island. With growing excitement, we made our way through Convention. To get a flavor for our energy, see this early blog post about the intense opening days of Convention or this one in which I raced up and down the escalators between the House of Bishops and Deputies meetings; this testimony from Dante Tavolaro from the floor of the House of Deputies; this progress report from Michelle Hansen; this recorded testimony from Gari Green or from Vicki Gray.

After all was said and done, the 2009 General Convention passed four trans-themed resolutions:

1)    D090 encouraged inclusive self-identification on all church forms, calling for flexible options to identify gender, names, and preferred pronouns. 

2)    C048 put TEC on record in support of a fully trans inclusive version of the Federal Employment Nondiscrimination Act 

3)    D012 put TEC on record in support of fully trans inclusive nondiscrimination and hate crimes laws at the local, state and federal levels

4)    D032 declared that lay employees in TEC are not to be discriminated against on the basis of several demographic designations, including gender identity and expression. 

There was one resolution that did not pass in 2009, or at least not in both Houses of the Convention. Resolution C061 sought to do what C030 had targeted in 2006: to add “gender identity and expression” to Canon III.1.2, prohibiting discrimination on this basis in access to the ordination process. While the 2006 attempt never made it out of Committee, this time it did. It was debated on the floor of the House of Deputies and was sent to theHouse of Bishops once it passed. Among the bishops, however, there was an attempt to eliminate all of the specific nondiscrimination language in the canon, substituting the word “all”. You can read about this turn of events here. The archival legislation history can be found here

While we were disappointed at this outcome, we were determined to help bring this legislation back in 2012, in part because of how buoyed we were by all the progress made at this Convention—trans specific legislation as well as the overturning of B033 and the call for liturgical material to bless same sex couples.

We had come into the 2009 GC wondering “how our presence [would] be received,” particularly in “communications about the Convention,” and how “transgender people and concerns” might or might not be incorporated “into well-entrenched narratives about the debates of the Episcopal Church.”

We left Convention with then President of the House of Deputies Bonnie Anderson as well as Bishop J. Jon Bruno of Los Angeles speaking about trans people in the concluding press conference:

Rt. Rev. Jon Bruno: Well, transgender people are part of the congregations in this diocese, and they’re part of the world community. And it’s a good thing that we’re dealing with this openly. We need to talk about the fact that humanity is different wherever you go, and that we are all called to be loved as children of God, and dealt with, with equity and love.

Dr. Bonnie Anderson: Let me just add that in the House of Deputies we had testimony from transgender persons. It was very moving. It was very well received in the House of Deputies. I believe that it helped us to see and learn about that particular way of being. We welcomed that and did pass resolutions to include all people, including transgender persons.”

We had traveled a good deal from the illegible, barely traceable remnants of our legislative efforts in 2006. Working collaboratively and gathering new friends along the way, we had made unexpected, remarkable progress in 2009. None of this meant that there weren’t and aren’t still major gaps—gaps in which trans people continue to experience significant difficulty in the church and in the world. Stay tuned for more on both the further progress made in 2012 and gaps that remain to be engaged and transformed….