A note to fearful pastors: Don't worry, trans people aren’t likely to break down the doors to your church any time soon.
Some thoughts in the aftermath of a young trans girl’s tragic suicide on Dec. 28, 2014.
A recent survey indicated close to 70% of transgender persons wanted nothing to do with organized religion. You don't need to be a rocket scientist to imagine why this may be so. I would not be surprised, given the viral reaction in the trans community to Lelaah Alcorn’s death, if that number isn’t 90% by now. If you haven’t read the story, here’s the Google search link. Or see this on MSNBC
Interestingly, one reality that is emerging in my research is that the church is not seen as a place of refuge by trans persons. As a matter of fact, most trans people would rather stay away—forever. Who walks bleeding into a lion’s den?
Despite the fact that there are conversations happening, they are likely to be akin to “preaching to the choir.” Churches that genuinely want to be or are already inclusive will continue to be few and far between. It’s wonderful there are conversations taking place and that some trans persons have found church homes, but honestly, I don't believe we should expect much more growth in numbers.
If there is going to be any movement, it won't be trans persons towards the church, it’s going to have to be the church moving towards the trans community. Let’s wait an see if this happens.
When will we see large numbers of church people attend TDOR, for example? Or when will parents who love and support their trans kids not be made to feel like child abusers? Better yet, when will parents be told to love their trans kids (or family members)? When will we hear preachers telling their congregants to support trans inclusive policies in schools, etc.? When will unemployed trans persons be offered jobs by Christian business owners? When will we see fund-raisers at churches for trans persons who can’t afford medications or surgeries?
These may all be pipe dreams, but I am more convinced than ever that the King’s banquet is not going to take place in big cathedrals, it’s going to take place in community shelters. Church people are going to have to leave the comforts of their sanctuaries if they want to celebrate diversity.
I'm generally fairly optimistic, but I am no longer fooling myself that the church is ready for trans persons. Jesus’ proviso continues to temper my hopes. “Not everyone can accept this teaching, but only those to whom it is given.” (Matt. 19:11)