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Religious Tolerance logo



2017: Why are some people transgender?

Beliefs and policies of more liberal
faith groups, LGBT community, etc.

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Part 9 of nine parts.

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This topic is continued from the previous essay.

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During mid-2015, Josh Katzowitz, wrote an article in Newsmax titled: "7 Christian Denominations With [The] Most Liberal Stance on Transgender Community." 1 He included some christian denominations who have very conservative teachings on being transgender, but which show some signs of change.

He listed the following seven denominations:

  • Roman Catholic Church: Diego Neria Lejárraga, a Spanish transgender man, was identified as female at birth and who now identifies as male. During late 2014, he wrote a letter to Pope Francis describing his personal struggles within the Church. Pope Francis allegedly phoned Lejárraga immediately and later arranged a formal meeting among himself, Lejárraga, and his fiancee in the Vatican for 2015-JAN-24.

    Jane Fae, who is herself transgender, writing for the Catholic Herald, described the alleged event. She said that Lejárraga allegedly asked the Pope whether -- after his gender reassignment surgery -- there was still:

    "... a place somewhere in the house of God for him." 2

    Pope Francis allegedly responded by embracing Lejárraga, which Fae described in the title of her article was "The hug that could change history."

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Fae wrote:

    "This, I told myself, is why Pope Francis is rapidly winning a special place in the hearts of those who have felt marginalized, rejected by a Church that they still desperately long to believe in.

    Then came dissection by the Vatican-watchers and professional observers of matters ecclesiastical. These reports, they pointed out, were neither confirmed nor denied officially. Translation: the meeting may well have happened; but this simple affirmation of Christian love remains too controversial for the Church to own up to." 2

Antonia Blumberg, writing for the Huffington Post, said:

    "Francis DeBernardo, Executive Director of New Ways Ministry which advocates for LGBT Catholics, said he wondered at the Vatican’s silence on the reported meeting.

    'The Vatican’s reluctance to verify the meeting is another indication of why I don’t think their attitude can yet be called 'acceptance,' DeBernardo told The Huffington Post by email.

    'Even so, he said it would not surprise him if the meeting had taken place'." 3

DeBernardo said:

    "This pope, through his many gestures of meeting with those who society and the church treat as outcasts, has made it his mission to lead by example, and to send a strong message of welcome and hospitality to all people, regardless of their state in life. ...Pope Francis is an intellectual who values discussion. I think that his meeting with the transgender man was a gesture not only of pastoral care, but of genuine interest in learning about the transgender experience from a firsthand source." 3

However, at least a dozen Cardinals and Bishops in the Catholic Church have issued statements recently on the topic of gender identity -- all very negative. For example:

  • Cardinal Rubén Salazar Gómez, Archbishop of Bogota, Columbia wrote:

    "We reject the implementation of gender ideology in the Colombian education, because it’s a destructive ideology, [it] destroys the human being, taking away its fundamental principle of the complementary relationship between man and woman. ... Individual rights can’t go against the rights of the community… [we must] proclaim the family as the cell of social life."

  • Cardinal José Francisco Robles Ortega, Archbishop of Guadalajara, Mexico:

    "The future of humanity is played in marriage and the natural family is formed by a heterosexual couple. ... The proliferation of the mentality of gender ideology ... denies the natural reciprocity between a man and a woman."

To our knowledge, there has been no official change in the Church's opposition to equality for -- or the acceptance of -- transgender individuals. However, the Church moves very slowly and can take decades or centuries to change.

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  • Lutheran Church: The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) is the most liberal Lutheran church in the U.S. and one of the most liberal of all Christian denominations in the U.S. At their 2009 National Assembly, delegates voted to allow gay and lesbian as clergy, even if they were in a sexual-active relationship. Previously, they could only serve if they had taken a vow of celibacy. On 2010-JUL-25, seven gay and transgender persons in California were reinstated as pastors after having been barred from serving in the denomination for two decades. The "Bay Area Seven" were: Revs. Jeff Johnson, Megan Rohrer, Paul Brenner, Craig Minich, Dawn Roginski, Sharon Stalkfleet and Ross Merkel. Jeff Johnson wrote:

    "We finally got to the direction we knew the Lutheran church was heading. It just took it longer to get there. ... [It was] a policy that ruined lives, destroyed faiths." 4

  • Episcopal Church: The Episcopal Church in the United States of America (ECUSA) is also among the most liberal Christian denominations in the U.S. They first approved the ordination of transgender candidates in 2012. However, this intensified the existing strains within the worldwide Anglican Communion particularly with the Anglican churches in Africa which hold very negative views of the entire LGBT community.

  • Presbyterian Church (USA): A group of congregation within the PCUSA have formed a non-profit group called "More Light Presbyterians." During 2013, Alex McNeill became their executive director. He was the first transgender person to lead a mainline Protestant organization in the U.S. He said at the time:

    "I’m honored to join More Light, which has always been on the forefront of the Christian tradition of fostering acceptance for the most vulnerable among us. I look forward to building on this proud tradition to create a fully welcoming church." 1

  • United Methodist Church (UMC): The denomination lacks an official policy on transgender matters. However, during 2007, Rev. Drew Phoenix became the first UMC minister to transition from female to male and remain registered as a member of the clergy. 1 Another UMC member of the clergy, Rev. David Weekley, transition in 2009. During 2013, he said:

    "I received real mixed feedback from people — colleagues, parishioners, just friends of the community. While I had a lot of support, there was a lot of pushback. There were attempts made to bring charges against my ministry -- to have my ordination revoked. ... The problem is, so often, even if the policy is open, for transgender people to actually be called to a church or have an opportunity to serve is a different story. Transgender people are just newer on the radar, and for a lot of us who transitioned years ago, we were told by the folks we worked with not to share our story." 5

  • The Society of Friends (Quakers): According to the Human Rights Campaign:

    "Many local Friends communities welcome LGBTQ people unequivocally. In addition, the Friends General Conference, one of three major national associations for Friends meetings and churches in the United States, issued a statement in fall 2004, 'Minute on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Friends,' emphasizing that LGBTQ people were welcome in their religious community:

    'Our experience has been that spiritual gifts are not distributed with regard to sexual orientation or gender identity.

    Our experience has been that our Gatherings and Central Committee work have been immeasurably enriched over the years by the full participation and Spirit-guided leadership of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer Friends. We will never go back to silencing those voices or suppressing those gifts. Our experience confirms that we are all equal before God, as God made us, and we feel blessed to be engaged in the work of Friends General Conference together'." 6

  • The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (The Mormons): The church has traditionally opposed equal rights for the LGBT community. Mormons made an immense contribution in time and money to support Proposition 8 in California during 2008. (Prop 8 amended the California Constitution to temporarily ban gay marriages.)

    One problem facing transgender Mormons is that some church meetings strictly separate men from women. Members who have undergone gender reassignment surgery cannot attend. They are also prohibited from being ordained. However, some observers believe that there has been a glimmer of hope that these policies might change. During late 2015-JAN, a meeting was held in which members of the public were permitted to ask questions from top leaders of the Mormon Church on LGBT matters. A mother said:

    "I have a transgender son who came out to us about a year ago. ... I hate having to fear what retaliation [from the church] I might have for supporting him . ... I think we as members need that assurance that we can indeed have our own opinions, support our children, and still follow our beliefs."

Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles replied:

"This question concerns transgender, and I think we need to acknowledge that while we have been acquainted with lesbians and homosexuals for some time, being acquainted with the unique problems of a transgender situation is something we have not had so much experience with, and we have some unfinished business in teaching on that." 7

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Josh Katzowitz, "7 Christian Denominations With Most Liberal Stance on Transgender Community," Newsmax, 2015-MAY-07, at: http://www.newsmax.com/
  2. Jane Fae, "The hug that could change history," Catholic Herald, 2015-FEB-05, at: http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/
  3. Antonia Blumberg, "Pope Francis Reported To Have Met With Transgender Man At The Vatican," Huffington Post, 2015-JAN-27, at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/
  4. Alejandro Martínez-Cabrera, "Gay and transgender Lutheran pastors reinstated," SFGATE, 2010-JUL-26, at: http://www.sfgate.com/
  5. "Rev. David Weekley, One Of First Transgender Methodist Clergyman, Shares His Story," Huffington Post, 2013-JUN-28, at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/
  6. "Stances of Faiths on LGBTQ Issues: Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)," Human Rights Campaign, undated, at: http://www.hrc.org/
  7. Taylor G. Petrey, "A Mormon Leader Signals New Openness on Transgender Issues. This Could Be Huge," Slate," 2013-FEB-13, at: http://www.slate.com/

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Copyright © 2017 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally posted on: 2017-JAN-19
Updated on 2017-JAN-29
Author:
B.A. Robinson
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