Four months ago, I decided to begin what I called the Transgender Summer of Faith Tour. My hope was to speak at as many institutions of faith in and around the state of Kansas over the course of the summer. By all accounts, it has been quite successful.
I have been blessed with the opportunity to present at seven different faith institutions in Kansas during the summer including giving the message at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowships in Manhattan, Lawrence, and Topeka, and providing the sermon for Central Congregational United Church of Christ (UCC) in Topeka.
I sat with my friend and co-presenter Susan Gerth in the basement of a Catholic Church in Manhattan and had a wonderful conversation with a Catholic women’s group. I shared my journey of faith with a Sunday School class at a Baptist church in Lawrence. I spoke to a discussion group at one church that is not completely out and open within its own building, but they were out and open enough to invite me to speak.
As the summer was coming to a close, I decided to extend the tour – now the Transgender Faith Tour – and to try to extend its reach beyond Kansas. I am happy to say that the tour is off to a tremendous beginning as I will be speaking October 11th for the Diversity Fellowship in Joplin, Missouri; October 12th for Mayflower Congregational UCC in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; and again on October 12th for the United Church of Norman, UCC in Norman, Oklahoma.
So, why did I feel the need to do a transgender faith tour? I ran out of fingers and toes (and hairs on my head) as I tried to keep a count of the number of times I have heard LGBT and Christian represented as an either/or proposition. You can be Christian or you can be LGBT, the story goes, but you can not be both. Faith is wonderful, I am told, as long as it is a particular understanding of faith, and people like me are not invited to the table.
44 years ago, an incredible man introduced a different idea – the idea that all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, are worthy of God’s love. Metropolitan Community Church was born out of the idea that LGBT and Christian are not mutually exclusive.
. . . and the birth of a dream led to MCC’s first worship service: a gathering of 12 people in Rev. Troy Perry’s living room in Huntington Park, California on October 6, 1968.
Over the years, many denominations have adopted more inclusive positions about LGBT. In 1985, the UCC General Synod urged “UCC congregations to ‘Declare Themselves Open and Affirming.’”
I remember when that happened, because some of my family and friends left the United Church of Christ, rather that attend a church where LGBT people were welcomed.
As is typically the case, the “T” in LGBT comes after. This is amazingly and undeniably true when it comes to learning about what it means to be transgender. Institutions of faith are not an exception.
I share my journey of feeling completely isolated from God, then finding a faith institution where I could embrace my authentic self without fear. I speak of living in the darkness and then emerging into the light. I try to show the light that shines from my soul, in ways that I did not believe were possible. And I talk about the relationship I have found with a God of my understanding; a relationship that I had been told was not available to me.
The feedback I have received is the reason why to keep this tour going and let it go wherever God wants it to go. There are no speaker fees. I don’t worry too much about how these things happen. My personal definition of faith is that God will provide for whatever it is that God wants me to do.
My analogy for faith is the child who leaps from the edge of the swimming pool, without fear, no hesitation, in absolute joy, and lands in the waiting arms of a parent. It has taken me several years to learn how to leap from the edge of the pool in something of the same fashion. It will be exciting to see where it takes me. I know I will land in the arms of God.
For more information visit the Transgender Faith Tour website.
Stephanie Mott is a transsexual woman from Topeka, Kansas and a nationally known speaker on transgender issues. In addition, Stephanie is the executive director of Kansas Statewide Transgender Education Project and a commissioner on the City of Topeka Human Relations Commission. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org