God’s Trans-affirming Love

 

Question & Answer

 
Q: By A Reader
 
How does the church and God feel about transgender people? Will they go to hell?
 

A: By Rev. Irene Monroe

 
Dear Reader,

Trans issues in our churches are not addressed enough. However, trans activism has taken place in both Catholic and Protestant churches across the country. DignityUSA is one such organization that focuses on LGBTQ rights and the Catholic Church. And, their voices want to be heard in Catholic dioceses across the country that will eventually inform and impact the Vatican.

Of the many breakout sessions at the DignityUSA conference in 2017, I wished Pope Francis could have sat in on “Trans Catholic Voices,” because his transphobic pronouncements have and continue to be hurtful. Francis compared transgender people to nuclear weapons. His reason is that transgender people destroy and desecrate God’s holy and ordained order of creation.

“Let’s think of the nuclear arms, of the possibility to annihilate in a few instants a very high number of human beings,” Francis stated in 2015 in an interview with the National Catholic Reporter “Let’s think also of genetic manipulation, of the manipulation of life, or of the gender theory, that does not recognize the order of creation.”

With pronouncements like that, especially from a pope, it’s easy to think transgender people are damned to Hell.

Across the country, there are epic battles in many states to either pass or not pass transgender bathroom bills. In my state of Massachusetts, the bluest of blue states, we’re asking voters to vote “YES” on Question 3, Gender Identity Anti-Discrimination Veto Referendum, to prohibit discrimination based on gender identity in public places—such as hotels, restaurants, and stores.

As a black lesbian in this Trump administration, I now feel like I am moving into a new Jim Crow era reestablishing discriminatory laws targeting LGBTQ Americans. I grew up knowing about racist placards that said “Colored Water Fountain,” “Waiting Room For Colored Only,” ”We Serve Whites Only, and “No N-word Allowed, to name a few.

Since Trump has taken office, there has been an erosion of LGBTQ civil rights under the guise of religious liberty. For example, transgender Americans being denied access to public lavatories is eerily reminiscent of the country’s last century Jim Crow era denying African Americans access to lunch counters, water fountains, and, libraries, gas stations, theaters, and restrooms, to name a few. Signs that read “whites only” prohibited entry.

In Jim Crow America restrooms were a hot-button issue, as today, and a battleground for equal treatment. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlawed discrimination based on national origin, race, hue, gender, and religion. The law mandated desegregation of all public accommodations, including bathrooms. The Obama administration expanded the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to protect LGBTQ Americans. However, in February Trump ’s administration revoked federal guidelines permitting transgender students from using “gender-appropriate facilities ” which aligned with their gender identity.

However, the good news is that there are several trans-affirming stories in the Bible. My favorite one is about Philip the Evangelist and the Ethiopian eunuch conversion to Christianity in Acts 8:26- 39.

We can deduce from this pericope that the teachings of Christ circulated widely across the world and how Christ’s teachings spread, at least one way, throughout the continent of Africa through the Ethiopian Eunuch. Traveling south from Jerusalem to Gaza, Phillip meets the Ethiopian Eunuch, a court official of the Queen of Ethiopia, in his chariot reading from the scroll of Isaiah that theologians commonly refer to as “the Third Suffering Servant Song.” The Ethiopian eunuch had traveled to Jerusalem to worship and was headed home. God tells Philip to follow the Ethiopian to baptize him so that he, too, can spread the good news of Jesus.

While traveling down the road together, Phillip explained the Isaiah text and the Ethiopian asked to be baptized. When they came upon a body of water, Philip baptized him.

Deceased John J. McNeill, a Jesuit priest and theologian, affirmed that the story of the Ethiopian eunuch is evident of “the first baptized gay Christian. This scripture reveals to many progressive Biblical scholars that God welcomes and affirms gender-variant individuals. Eunuchs, for example, were castrated, homosexual, and intersex men. Today the terms could easily translate to mean sexual minorities, referring to LGBTQIA individuals. The term means “the keepers of the bed.” These gender-variant men served and guarded the women in royal palaces and wealthy households.

Also, the story of the Ethiopian eunuch highlights that the early beginnings of Chrsitniaty welcomed not only sexual minorities but also different races, and ethnicities. The Ethiopian eunuch is an example of a queer foreign black man as the first non-Jewish convert to Christianity.

During the “Trans Catholic Voices” breakout season at the DignityUSA conference, an African American transwoman pointed out that Francis statements about transpeople deny them of basic human dignity and perpetuates violence against them. The life expectancy for black trans is 32 years old.

In her closing remarks, the African American transwoman in “Trans Catholic Voices” asked for help from advocates and allies in the room that nearly brought me to tears.

“Trans lives are real lives. Trans deaths are real deaths. God works through other people. Maybe you can be those other people.”

How churches feel about transgender people will vary. However, how God feels about transgender people has always been welcoming and affirming since the beginning of time.

~ Rev. Irene Monroe

About the Author
The Reverend Monroe is an ordained minister. She does a weekly Monday segment, “All Revved Up!” on WGBH (89.7 FM), a Boston member station of National Public Radio (NPR), that is now a podcast, and a weekly Friday commentator on New England Channel NEWS (NECN). Monroe is the Boston voice for Detour’s African American Heritage Trail, Guided Walking Tour of Beacon Hill: Boston’s Black Women Abolitionists (Boston) – Detour

Monroe’s a Huffington Post blogger and a syndicated religion columnist. Her columns appear in cities across the country and in the U.K, Ireland, Canada. Monroe writes a column in the Boston home LGBTQ newspaper Baywindows, Cambridge Chronicle, and Opinion pieces for the Boston Globe.

Monroe stated that her “columns are an interdisciplinary approach drawing on critical race theory, African American, queer and religious studies. As an religion columnist I try to inform the public of the role religion plays in discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people. Because homophobia is both a hatred of the “other ” and it’s usually acted upon ‘in the name of religion,” by reporting religion in the news I aim to highlight how religious intolerance and fundamentalism not only shatters the goal of American democracy, but also aids in perpetuating other forms of oppression such as racism, sexism, classism and anti-Semitism.” Her papers are at the Schlesinger Library at Radcliffe College’s research library on the history of women in America. Click here to visit her website.

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