I have been a member of a very socially liberal, at least in terms of its official policy, church for a few years now. I started attending early in transition when I was definitely not passing, so a number of people know I’m transgender.
These days I almost always get read by strangers as a cisgender female, and the church is large enough–something over 800 members and growing–that I often meet people I’ve never met before who don’t know I’m trans.
I’m not exactly in stealth–I gave a presentation on transgender issues to a group under the auspices of the social justice committee last year–but I don’t normally wave the trans flag either. I just want to be me and get on with my life. One of my friends there told me that she knew me for three months before someone outed me to her. I’m glad that I had that opportunity for her to get to know me without seeing me through the transgender lens.
Last week the assistant minister approached me about becoming a member of the “worship team.” I’m going to be a little vague here because I’m trying to be anonymous on this blog so I don’t want to identify my specific religious affiliation, but once or twice a month I would briefly be the center of attention during a service as I performed a ritual suitable for lay people and did a reading.
Despite the church officially being open and affirming of LGBTQ people, I have had a few encounters with church members who know I’m trans who said things to me, carefully out of earshot of anyone else, that made it clear that in their view I should not be welcome there.
The denomination may be open and affirming in theory, but I assure you that there are some people in the pews who are not.
I told the minister that I had experienced some transphobic bigotry in the church, and that there might be some problems if I were in the role he proposed. He said that as far as he was concerned I was a human being worthy of love and acceptance and that anyone who didn’t agree was in the wrong church. I think he meant it.
When 99% of what you hear from religious figures in this country talking about people like you is snickering and hatred and fear-mongering and encouraging their followers to hurt you and your peers in any way possible, encountering a religious leader who sincerely wants to see you embraced with love and acceptance means more than I can express.