Transgender Faith Leaders Help Create Welcoming Communities

This week is Transgender Awareness Week and to mark the occasion, GLAAD’s Religion, Faith, and Values Program wants to highlight the achievements of a few trans faith leaders who have helped make their traditions more open and welcoming spaces for all people. 

 Rev. Cameron Partridge serves as counselor to Episcopal/Anglican students at Harvard Divinity School, where he studied for his Masters in Divinity and Doctorate in Theology. Rev. Partridge now lectures at Harvard on both liturgical topics and those relating to gender and sexuality and has led congregations at Boston University and Christ Church in Cambridge, Mass. Partridge, who transitioned over ten years ago, is married and has a young son. When his son is older, Partridge wants to tell him about his experience and transition and hopes it will help him grow up respecting others for who they are.

Twenty five years ago, when she first began transitioning, JamieAnn Meyers struggled to find a place where she fit within the Lutheran (ELCA) Church. She is now the founder and facilitator of ReconcilingWorks’ affinity group, TransLutheran, which was approved this past spring at the ReconcilingWorks’ board meeting in Minneapolis. She also writes for the Huffington post about trans inclusion and equality.

 

Like JamieAnn Meyers, Nicole Garcia struggled with finding a church where she felt comfortable. Soon after she began transitioning in 2003, she discovered St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in downtown Denver, Colo. and began attending services regularly. In 2008 she was elected Transgender Representative to the Board of Directors of Lutherans Concerned/North America (now ReconcilingWorks). Nicole is deeply involved in the Interfaith Working Group (IWG), which supports transgender and gender nonconforming people from all faith backgrounds, and is pursuing a graduate degree in counseling.

In 2009, after having been ordained as a Methodist (UMC) minister for nearly 30 years, Rev. David Weekley decided to come out to his congregation. Before coming out, he had written anonymously for Reconciling Ministries Network, and had talked about his frustrating with feeling forced back in the closet by a denomination that did not yet accept LGBT people. But when he came out, he was accepted. In an October 14, 2009 entry, he writes: “From the morning I first shared my transgender identity with my congregation I have received emails, letters, cards and other affirmations, prayer-support, and encouragement from all over the United States, and world. Most inspiring and joyful for me are the number of persons contacting me sharing their stories and sharing hope.”

In 1996, Rev. Erin Swenson became the first Presbyterian (PCUSA) minister to retain her ordination after transitioning. In 1999, she co-founded the Southern Association for Gender Education, Inc. (SAGE), an organization dedicated to providing education and resources to colleges, universities, medical groups, and faith organizations. With her background in pastoral counseling, in 2003, Erin became the chair of the Health Ministries Committee of the Presbytery of Greater Atlanta.

The work of Revs. Partridge and Swenson, JamieAnn Meyers, and Nicole Garcia are a few of many people toward acceptance and inclusion in their faith traditions. Without their dedication to change and understanding, welcome might have taken much longer. GLAAD is pleased to recognize the strength of these and other trans activists who work to make their traditions truly welcoming to all people.

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