I have recently joined the Steering Group of Accepting Evangelicals, to help raise the profile of transgender people in the Church, especially the evangelical ones that often have great difficulty accepting and embracing them. I willingly took this on and hope that I can build on what progress has already been made.
It might seem unwise for gender identity issues to be considered alongside those concerning sexual orientation, since the biblical references are different, as are the moral dilemmas which result. It is a common misconception that homosexuality and transgender are much the same and the last thing we want to do is to reinforce that image.
Having worked alongside lesbian and gay activists to promote acceptance and inclusion for LGBT people in the Church, I am in no doubt that there are great strengths in this joint advocacy. Initially it was good to listen and learn about the issues that gay and lesbian people face, some of them similar to my own, but others quite different. I was also able to share with my colleagues about the experiences of trans people in the Church, so it was very much a two-way process. I quite openly admitted that I still had problems with the Bible and homosexuality, but my gay and lesbian friends gave me the time I needed to work things through and eventually the issues were resolved in my mind. I am forever grateful to them for allowing me that space.
When we consider the biblical perspectives, most are familiar with the passages referring to homosexuality. None of them really apply to transgender, unless of course a trans person also has same-sex attraction. References to trans are few in number, but like the same-sex passages, the interpretation and moral issues emerging from them need to be considered very carefully, with a clear understanding of the context.
We need to recognise that many have worked tirelessly to improve the situation for LGB people over the last two or three decades and much progress has been made. It might appear to be a little cheeky for trans people to now ‘jump on the LGB bandwagon’, but I have met very little reluctance to welcome trans people on board, and the mutual gains need to be appreciated by all of us. A spirit of cooperation will help us to support and speak up for each other when opportunities arise. If we can’t even accept each other, what hope can we ever have for the Church as a whole to accept us?
Having said all that, we should understand that there are limits to what we as individuals can do. I am not adequately qualified to speak on behalf of LGB people, such as leading a seminar on sexuality. But I should always be willing to speak up on behalf of LGB people when the opportunity arises.
So this is why I have joined Accepting Evangelicals, to be a voice for trans people as we all work together for acceptance in the Church, irrespective of our sexuality or gender identity, and I am fully aware that many (if not most) active AE supporters are not L, B, G or T themselves. It is my hope that we can all work side by side towards full acceptance and inclusion.
I hope that you will find the Trans Section of the website helpful, and that it will prove to be accessible, challenging and encouraging.
Elaine Sommers, Accepting Evangelicals
You can view the new Trans section of the website here
Elaine will also be our speaker at our Annual Meeting on 30th November 2013 – come and hear what she has to say.