January 19, 2007

Seminary To Host Transgender Conference

From Beliefnet.com:

BERKELEY, Calif. (RNS) The first Transgender Religious Summit to be held at a Christian seminary will bring together 50 activists, transgender members of faith communities, academics and religious leaders this weekend (Jan. 19-21) at the Pacific School of Religion here.

"Transgender people are emerging from the spiritual closet," said Justin Tanis, program manager for the National Center for Transgender Equality, a Washington-based advocacy group that is co-sponsoring the summit with the seminary's Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in Religion and Ministry.

The summit is designed to create dialogue among transgender people and their allies in faith communities who are concerned with human rights and social justice issues. Tanis said the program will empower people to speak about transgender matters in churches and the public sphere. Participants come from Jewish, Christian, Buddhist and pagan faith communities.

"Something like this conference would have been unheard of 12 years ago," said the Rev. Erin Swenson, a transgender Presbyterian pastoral counselor.

Organizers said the transgender community is gaining momentum and is organizing itself as a movement. In addition, more religious communities are realizing that transgender people are part of their congregations, Swenson said.

Response, however, has been mixed. In 2003, the Catholic Church banned transgender people from religious orders while Unitarian Universalists and the United Church of Christ have begun ordaining transgender ministers. Swenson said transgender people have many gifts to offer to their congregations and society at large. She said these gifts include having a deep sense of personal integrity and an ability to be honest about who they are.

Transgender people also can help faith communities emphasize love, self-respect and human dignity as "central core values."

While conservative religious groups have opposed steps to protect against gender discrimination, none were invited to the summit. Tanis, however, said dialogue between transgender people of faith and conservative groups is a "worthy goal."

1 comment:

  1. Wow, as trans-woman and a recent seminary grad, I wish I had known about this earlier, it sounds great.