Follow Friday: Transgender Christians

by Rachel Held Evans Read Distraction Free

It’s been reported that in the wake of all the controversy surrounding North Carolina’s HB2 “bathroom bill,” calls to transgender suicide hotlines have more than doubled. A quick glance at my Facebook timeline would explain why, as the amount of fear and misinformation being spread about transgender people seems to be reaching a dangerous peak. 

So for today’s Follow Friday, I wanted to feature some beautiful siblings in Christ who are doing the hard work of telling their stories, engaging the culture, and helping the Church better understand what it means to be a transgender person of faith. Please consider sharing their videos and articles online to counter some of the destructive messages getting airtime these days. (Or, better yet, invite them to speak at your conference or church!) 

Allyson Robinson 

I had the privilege of getting to know Allyson at the Why Christian? conference in Minneapolis last year, and she is one of the kindest, wisest people I’ve ever met. And with a background as an Army officer and Baptist pastor, with degrees in both physics and theology, she’s also one of the most interesting! 

Allyson is believed to be the first openly transgender person ever to be ordained by a Baptist church. She recently served as transitional pastor of Washington, D.C.’s Calvary Baptist Church, a congregation that has served the nation’s capital for over 150 years. Allyson is the founder and principal of Warrior Poet Strategies, a D.C. based consulting firm advising clients in organizational design, diversity and inclusion, and social and civic entrepreneurship. Previously, she led diversity initiatives at the Human Rights Campaign and was the first transgender person to lead a national LGBT organization as exective director of OutServe-SLDN. Allyson has degrees from West Point, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Arizona State, and Oxford University. She’s been married to Danyelle for more than 20 years, and the two have four children. 

Also, this lady can preach! Allyson is one of my favorite speakers, not only on topics related to gender and sexuality, but also on topics related to science, faith, doubt, and bridge-building. Be sure to check out these talks…

At TEDx Nightingale: 

At The Reformation Project Conference, Washington DC: 

At the Progressive Youth Ministry conference, Dallas: 

Allyson will be speaking at Middle Collegiate Church in New York City on June 26, and at Foundry United Methodist Church in Washington D.C. on July 24. Be sure to check out Allyson’s Web site and follow her on Twitter

Austen Hartke 

I only recently discovered Austen’s work but he’s since become my go-to for resourcing Christians who are new to the topic of transgender identity and faith because this guy is SUCH a Bible nerd! He is perhaps best known as the creator of the YouTube series “Transgender and Christian,” which seeks to understand, interpret, and share parts of the Bible that relate to gender identity and the lives of transgender individuals. But he’s also got an excellent blog and active Twitter presence. 

Austen is a graduate of Luther Seminary’s Master of Arts program in Old Testament/Hebrew Bible Studies, and is the winner of the 2010 John Milton Prize in Old Testament Writing from the same institution. As a transgender person of faith, his greatest passion is helping other trans and gender-non-conforming people see themselves in scripture, and to walk with them in their journey towards wholeness.

Some of my favorite, most shareable articles from Austen include: “What does it mean to be transgender?,” “Dysphoria and Dysmorphia: Understanding Identity and Mental Illness,” and “Standing Up for Transgender Neighbors” 

Here's a sample from his "Transgender and Christian" series: 

Nicole Garcia 

Nicole Garcia is a transgender Latina who began her gender transition in 2003 while employed as a law enforcement officer for the state of Colorado. Ten years later, she resigned from her position as a state parole officer to complete her education in counseling. On May 17, 2014, she was awarded a Master of Arts in Counseling from the University of Colorado Denver and opened her own private counseling practice. She is enrolled in a hybrid online/campus Master of Divinity program through Luther Seminary in St. Paul MN, allowing her to pursue her calling to ordained ministry in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

Nicole has shared her story with The New York Times, RNS, and GLAAD. Check out her Web site, follow her on Twitter, and watch her speak at The Reformation Project conference in Kansas City: 

Asher O’Callaghan

I’m absolutely thrilled that Asher O’Callaghan agreed to speak at Why Christian? 2016! Asher serves as Pastor of Zion Lutheran Church in the small mountain town of Idaho Springs, Colorado. He’s bisexual and transgender. So after a fundamentalist upbringing, Asher thought he was done with organized religion. He fancied himself spiritual but not religious. But then he stumbled into a church called House For All Sinners and Saints (HFASS) in Denver and God screwed up all his plans. There he heard an invitation he couldn’t help but go share. From Christ’s open Table he heard: “Behold who you are. Become what you receive.” It changed everything. As a pastor, Asher still finds himself hungering for that same Meal every single week. 

Follow Asher on Twitter, and be sure to join us for Why Christian? in September

Lisa Salazar

Lisa Salazar has been a friend of the blog since she participated in “Ask a Transgender Christian” way back when.  

She is a photographer, educator, graphic designer, and the author of Transparently: Behind the Scenes of a Good Life.

Lisa shared her story with The New York Times here.  Be sure to check out Lisa’s Web site and follow her on Twitter


Note: Some additional trans voices are listed in this RNS piece by Eliel Cruz. 

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