Earlier this month the United Methodist Church - nation‚Äôs second largest Protestant church - disappointed gays and lesbians, choosing to retain church laws that decree homosexuality is ‚Äúincompatible with Christian teaching,‚ÄĚ and bar queer people from church membership. But, in a separate vote, they rejected similar language in relation to transgender people.
‚ÄúThe outcome as far as the General Conference is exactly the opposite of what, for example, Barney Frank would expect or HRC,‚ÄĚ maintains Tina Seitz, a transgender woman from Detroit who shared her story with the press and delegates at this year‚Äôs Church meeting.
With the collaboration of groups like Affirmations, Reconciling Ministries Network and SoulForce, Seitz advocated for transgender inclusion and supported Rev. Drew Phoenix - a transgender pastor in Baltimore who was at risk of losing his congregation.
‚ÄúIt was a big success,‚ÄĚ Seitz reports, noting that the anti-trans legislation was defeated and Phoenix allowed to continue ministering. ‚ÄúI was just blown away by the determination of everybody to help eliminate the bias and prejudice they face on a daily basis.‚ÄĚ
When Seitz transitioned in 2005, her former church rejected her and the pastor of another publicly condemned her for being transgender. ‚ÄúGoing through transition‚Ä¶is usually the deepest, darkest time in our lives,‚ÄĚ Seitz maintains. ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs a time that we need the most guidance and the time also when we tend to find the most prejudice from organized religion.‚ÄĚ
She eventually found a welcoming Methodist church, but Seitz says, she knows others who aren‚Äôt as fortunate. ‚ÄúI‚Äôve heard [so] many horror stories of people who were stealth and trying to attend a church; and when it was brought out‚Ä¶in many cases, [they get] bounced out of the church. It‚Äôs not that they are really trying to hide who they are, it‚Äôs just that they‚Äôve gotten past that point in their lives where they need to tell everybody.‚ÄĚ
There are many reasons for churches to accept transgender members, but Seitz insists it all boils down to one. ‚ÄúWhat would Jesus do? Knowing that he [accepted] people who were rejected by everybody else? That he talked to everybody regardless of whether there was a tradition [against it]? Any [religious] group that isn‚Äôt inclusive of all people is obviously judging them; and that‚Äôs not‚Ä¶what the Christian philosophy is all about.‚ÄĚ
Seitz contends that the United Methodist‚Äôs anti-gay stance will have to undergo further constitutional review to reconcile inconsistencies, like another law that states, ‚ÄúCertain basic human rights and civil liberties are due all persons. We are committed to supporting those rights and liberties for homosexual persons.‚ÄĚ
While Seitz admits she‚Äôs relatively new to religious advocacy work, she‚Äôs been involved with trans activism since she came out, and she encourages others to do the same.
‚ÄúThere‚Äôre so many causes that need people, especially within the transgender community, because so many people want to go stealth, and I totally understand that, but there‚Äôs so few of us that are actually willing to stand up and do the advocacy work. ‚ÄĚ
Doing her part, Seitz is on the board of the LGBT affinity group at her work, where she transitioned and raves, ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs been a wonderful experience. I have yet to hear a negative word from a single individual. And I‚Äôve been given so many opportunities to educate people within the working environment.‚ÄĚ
Now she‚Äôs also speaking at local colleges. Seitz credits her tenacity to advice from a transgender aunt. ‚ÄúShe told me was that in order to survive at being transgender the first thing somebody needs to develop is the attitude, ‚ÄėI don‚Äôt give a crap what anybody else says.‚Äô I‚Äôve kind of lived that philosophy.
I‚Äôve [been] a bulldog in advocacy work. That‚Äôs how I deal with the prejudice, the bigotry that‚Äôs out there‚Ä¶instead of sitting at home crying about it, I become more determined to go out and do something.‚ÄĚ
Trans author Jacob Anderson-Minshall has an essay in the anthology, Men Speak Out: Views on Gender, Sex and Power.