|Jennifer Josef, ILGA-ASIA|
|Jennifer Josef, ILGA-ASIA|
On July 8, TransLutherans was announced as a new affinity group in ReconcilingWorks: Lutherans for Full Participation at our assembly in Washington, D.C. Thanks to the board for approving the formation of this group at its 2012 spring meeting in Minneapolis. TransLutherans has been a long time in the making. A word or two about the history of this process is in order.
The board of LC/NA approved a resolution in the fall of 2002 to add transgender and bisexual to our vision and mission statements, and a task force was formed to integrate this work into the RIC program. In 2003 transgender and bisexual identities were to be included in all subsequent mission statements of congregations who were to become RIC. All congregations previously approved as RIC were asked to update their statements as well. Many chose to use the wording "all sexual orientations and gender identities." Those gathered at the final business session of the 2010 biennial assembly of LC/NA in Minneapolis approved a resolution to increase transgender and bisexual training opportunities for board, staff, and Regional Coordinators, to create a national speakers bureau qualified to provide education, to commit the Legislative team and trans/bi/queer communities to work together to create resolutions for synod and church wide assemblies.
These resolutions would expand the welcome of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) to specifically include trans*, bi and all people affected by binary gender oppression.
TransLutherans will support a network of people who will help to carry out this important work.
Several years ago, two related personal experiences deeply affected the course of my advocacy and the carrying out of these sacred tasks through ReconcilingWorks as transgender representative and board member.
Twenty-five years ago I distanced myself from the Church. My faith life was mired in a valley of despair and was slipping away as my gender identity, first sensed at age 3, welled up within me and began to fill my consciousness. I was overwhelmed with fear of losing everything I held dear, including my very life, were I to come out as a trans* person. When I finally did come out to myself, then to my wife and some close friends, a feeling of relief began to creep back into my life, and my faith life was slowly restored. Many months later I sought to reestablish my ELCA church home and arranged a meeting with my pastor.
After reintroducing myself and explaining to them that I was in the midst of my gender transition, I shared how I very much wanted -- needed -- to feel welcome once again in my congregation, from which I had distanced myself after many years of faithful service. They looked at me for a few moments with furrowed brow, and finally said "JamieAnn, I think you might be welcome in one, maybe two churches in town. Certainly the Congregational church would welcome you, and there may be one other." It was at this moment that I began to understand that people like me might not be considered children of God and a part of the marvelous Divine creation of humanity. I subsequently sought out a Reconciling in Christ (RIC) congregation in a nearby town and the first worship service I attended as my true self transformed my life. I began a life of advocacy for all LGBTQI people, working at the intersection of oppressions in faith and secular communities.
The primary goals of TransLutherans are several-fold to lift up and provide support for transgender and gender non-conforming people; to call out to the people of God to welcome us as part of God's sacred creation; to educate others about transgender and gender non-conforming people and the issues we face; to advocate for welcome and full inclusion of transgender and gender non-conforming people in the life of the Church.
All transgender and gender non-conforming people and our allies are invited to join our new affinity group. If you are a Lutheran transgender or gender non-conforming person or an ally, no matter where you are in your journey of faith, please contact me and join TransLutherans. There is strength in numbers as all of us, people of an infinite variety of sexual orientations and gender identities, walk together with one another and with God.
Please pray for this newborn affinity group and for our work among us. God continues to call all of us by name -- there is a place at the table for all of us, no exceptions. Let us all be reconciled with one another through Christ, whose love and mercy and grace are infinite.