By: Paul P. Jesep*/TRT Columnist—
In Albany, NY controversy erupted over accusations of disrespect by the leadership of the Pride Center of the Capital Region toward transgender people, particularly trans women. In September, things reached a breaking point with calls for a new CEO and board of directors.
Independent of the hostility cisgender, heterosexual society has shown it raises a number of issues regarding the social, political, and spiritual attitudes LGB persons have toward the trans community.
“All of us must self-examine to find the hidden obstacles to our own spiritual growth,” said Rev. Jim Mulcahy, a Metropolitan Community Church (MCC) pastor and Orthodox priest.
Obstacles to spiritual growth stem from personal and spiritual insecurities about people or communities that seem different.
“It has often been said that the T in LGBT doesn’t neatly fit,” said Mulcahy, who tirelessly shares MCC’s vision of global social justice. “LGBT ministers pastoring congregations [sometimes] struggle to fully integrate transgender people. Many LGB parishioners don’t feel comfortable because of [a] lack of understanding. In the struggle to understand, growth and acceptance happens.”
According to Mulcahy, LGB men and women need to be more aware what marginalizing binary and trans “people does to our own community,” especially when LGB individuals, “complain [about] what wider society does to us.” Let not the persecuted become the persecutor.
Travis Gardner, a trans man who took the time to help educate me, asked three other trans people regarding some of the questions I posed to him.
“As a trans man living in Spokane,” said one of the respondents to Travis’s questions, “the only pushback I legitimately got was from gay men, not a bunch … but enough.”
This trans man added, “I had a lot of negative experiences. One time a guy flat out said, ‘Aren’t you that trans person that does those meetings?’ I could tell his tone was disgusted, but I kept it friendly, I replied yes, and he laughed and [he] rolled his eyes, then … turned his back on me.”
In another response to Travis, the individual observed the biggest misconception, “is that all LGBTQ people have [the] same or similar stories. Realistically, we all dealt with our identities differently, and no two stories are alike, no matter how much we try to group ourselves together.”
A third person responded to Travis by noting, “I feel like we shouldn’t be lumped into the LGB group. Sexuality is totally different and I tend to feel uncomfortable at anything labeled for LGBT people. Trans is just so different from being gay. Even though there are gay trans people I feel like lumping the minority groups together doesn’t work. I’m sure you have all heard plenty about the transphobic gay rights organizations.”
Travis noted, “I believe every person, be they trans [or] cis, every sexuality should stop for a bit and try to see life from someone else’s place. This is no different than any other type of discrimination. We preach to accept, yet we lack that very same self-monitoring tool. Learn to evaluate your own privilege and acknowledge it. As a trans man I now experience male privilege. It’s my responsibility to see that and act appropriate[ly] with that knowledge.”
“I am human just like everyone [in the LGB community],” Travis reflected. “I hurt like you hurt, I bleed like you bleed. We all desire acceptance and to be loved. So, let’s learn to embrace each other. My gender and sexuality doesn’t affect you unless we’re bed partners. Try to remember that we (trans people) were at Stonewall and share that same place in history.”
Travis added, “People box each other into corners unless they see something similar that provides a level of comfort. What would happen if people just saw [one another as] human? No more and no less. Maybe the world wouldn’t be in the mess we’re in today. Hate seems to feed hate.”
According to Travis, “Each person makes up a piece of the puzzle in the world. Be that person trans or not. No better, no worse. My wish is for the world to learn to love and accept itself, to learn to love and accept each other as we are. With our differences.”
Mulcahy observed, “To be part of God is to understand the vast complexity of creation … ” that we are all respected and loved equally by the same Creator.
*Paul is a corporate chaplain, seminary trained priest, and lawyer in greater Albany, NY. He’s also author of “Lost Sense of Self & the Ethics Crisis.”