My name is Vivian Taylor. I am a North Carolina Episcopalian and a trans woman. I testified before the state house committee against House Bill 2, North Carolina’s recent anti-transgender bill. From 2013-2015 I was the executive director of Integrity USA, the gay rights organization of the Episcopal Church.
I was joyed to read the “Letter to the Episcopal Church from the Presiding Bishop and President of House of Deputies on Gender-Identity Discrimination,” and so I believe that I should follow the letter’s advice and speak out against gender identity discrimination.
As Presiding Bishop Curry says in the letter, “As Christians, we bear a particular responsibility to speak out in these situations, because attempts to deny transgender people their dignity and humanity as children of God are too often being made in the name of God. ”
There is a strong temptation to look at the successes of the gay rights movement and celebrate victory. The hard fact is that the gay rights movement has not always served or assisted transgender people. Transgender people have often not been the focus or the aim of the gay rights movement, and that reality is clear in the Episcopal Church.
The sad reality is that there are no transgender people employed full time in the Episcopal Church. The Episcopal Church has ordained no trans women to the priesthood, despite many attempts, and the Episcopal Church has only ordained one trans man and even he has not found full time employment in the Episcopal Church. The Episcopal Church Medical Trust continues to refuse to cover trans health care for church employees.
While it is true that there are between half a dozen and a dozen priests who transitioned after ordination, none are currently employed full time in the Episcopal Church. It is also true that two trans women have been ordained as deacons, but neither is paid by the Episcopal Church.
Committed, faithful trans people are turned away from opportunity in the Church. As one priest in a position of power, an out lesbian woman, so eloquently put it to me in front of a clergy meeting a few years ago, “Now is not the time for trans people. Now is not the time!”
If an Episcopal parish had two gay men deacons, but all gay and lesbian people in every other parish, congregation, and diocese across the Church were turned away because of their homosexuality and no lesbians at all were ordained to the priesthood, well, those would be signs of deep and lasting homophobia in the Episcopal Church.
I believe the Episcopal Church must admit that there is something wrong, admit that we have internal cultural problems that express themselves as transphobia within Church institutions, and study how those problems limit and harm trans people. We must do the honest hard work necessary to right those wrongs and fully bring transgender people in the family of God and Body of Christ.
We would never accept this situation for gay and lesbian people so why is the Episcopal Church willing to accept this reality for transgender people?
As the brother of Christ, St James said, “faith without works is dead.”
Praying for Christian action as well as words,