Across our country, transgender people continued to be targeted for discrimination and deadly violence. Legislators are proposing and passing laws to restrict drag shows and gender-affirming medical care. And here in Pittsburgh, the College Republicans at the University of Pittsburgh have invited Michael Knowles to our neighborhood to advocate for the eradication of transgender people from public life.
In the midst of this hatred, we affirm that God loves us all as our authentic selves. And we need each other to show up as our authentic selves - in our neighborhoods, our schools, our workplaces, our families, and our churches. If anything should be eradicated from public life, it is the transphobia that silences, marginalizes, and kills our friends and neighbors.
We know that our Christian tradition is sometimes a source of pain for transgender and nonbinary people. But we also know that through God's mercy it can be a source of healing. The joy that God feels for transgender people is nothing new. Although this good news is often suppressed, the Bible itself has had affirming words for transgender people for thousands of years.
Consider Acts 8:26-39, in which the Apostle Philip has a transformative encounter with a royal official from Ethiopia, a eunuch, a person whose gender existed beyond the binary, and who was searching the scriptures for God's welcome and asked Philip to explain the meaning of the prophet Isaiah.
After Philip had shared the good news with him, that God was welcoming people just like him into the fellowship of God’s people, the official pointed to a pool of water and asked "What can stand in the way of my being baptized?" Seeing nothing to prevent this - not in his nationality nor in his gender identity - Philip joined him in the water and baptized him. The official went away rejoicing.
God's Spirit is constantly asking us to step into our true identities in Christ, to embrace our beloved selves, and transgender folks are prophets of that invitation. Transgender people are leaders of the Church. Our scriptures and our tradition show God's embrace of transgender people - we know this to be true, and it's nothing new. But there are some people who are still catching up to it.
If you're curious to explore more good news for transgender and nonbinary people in the Bible - or to share it with friends and family - check out the YouTube channel "Transgender and Christian" by Austen Hartke. A great place to start is this pair of short videos on the Hebrew Scriptures and the Christian Scriptures.
Eunuchs, Prophets, and Coming Home
Recognized, Baptized, and Called
With the prophets, we are praying and working for the day when transgender people will have no reason to fear their neighbors, but will enjoy all of the flourishing that God intends.
Mike and Erin