14 things churches can do to stand up for transgender people
In 2018 I wrote What Transgender People Need from Churches. Much of it's still solid, but a lot has changed since then, including the reality that my husband transitioned. I decided to update the piece and post it again, in hopes that churches who're truly committed to stepping up for transgender people can do some things to help.
So what can churches do to be welcoming, inclusive, and supportive of all gender identities?
Provide a gender neutral bathroom. Bathroom use is a major challenge for non-binary and trans people. Without gender-neutral spaces, people often have to choose which room to use based on potential danger level. Optimally all bathrooms would be gender neutral, but if that’s not possible, offering any option is still helpful.
State where family style and/or gender neutral bathrooms are during the announcements or other appropriate points in the service.
Have those who speak from the front of the church state their pronouns when introducing themselves. (Note: don't use the term "preferred pronouns." It's just "pronouns.")
Include pronouns on nametags.
Offer sermons which address the unjust extremity of recent targeting and legislation.
Offer sermons which include and affirm transgender people.
Include transgender and non-binary individuals in church life in as public a way as they feel comfortable.
Post trans-supportive signage and rainbow/trans flags outside your building. You might get pushback, but the message it sends to those who long for simple acceptance and sanctuary is profound.
Work toward equal rights legislation. This is particularly needed by clergy RIGHT NOW. Tenets of Christianity have been used throughout history to justify inequality for marginalized groups. Christian leadership must work toward justice not only from the pulpit, but also through the legislative process. Churches can't endorse candidates, but they can speak about issues. So speak up, and take action. Write letters to representatives as a congregation. Host public forums. Invite local or regional reps to listening sessions.
Use gender neutral language. Instead of "brothers and sisters" say "beloveds," "folks" "kindred," "people," or "family," Instead of "ma'am" or "sir," say "friend." Instead of "boys and girls" say "kids," or "children."
Offer renaming ceremonies, special blessings, baptismal remembrance liturgies, marriage recommittals for couples, etc., and promote their availability on social media, the church website, and during announcements.
Shut down smack talk. If you hear someone inappropriately discussing transgender or non-binary people, intervene. Gently but firmly.
Contemplate the difference between stating welcome to someone and making them feel like they belong. And then do the things that bring about the latter.
Assume people in the congregation are not cisgender. And assume there are trans or non-binary youth who're assessing their risk every time someone speaks. Then do what can be done to help them feel safe.
These are no small actions; they take commitment and intentional effort. But by demonstrating acceptance of the gender spectrum, churches may actually keep people alive.
If you'd like to lead your congregation or small group of a scriptural exploration of gender, take a look at Transfigured: A 40-day journey through scripture for gender-queer and transgender people.