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TransEpiscopal: The Final Sexual Frontier?

TransEpiscopal: The Final Sexual Frontier?

News Analysis

By David W. Virtue
August 20, 2009

TransEpiscopal. No, it is not a visa to get into 815 2nd Avenue, The Episcopal Church's headquarters in New York, via a TransEpiscopal railway, nor is it Mrs. Jefferts Schori's intention to have a 17th offshore diocese in London with a number of Church of England parishes dissatisfied with the direction of the Church of England.

TransEpiscopal is the latest in a long line of sexualities that embrace a group calling themselves transgendered Episcopalians, that is, men and women who have had a sex change operation, so that someone can go from male-to-female and female-to-male via a surgeon's knife in what is called sex reassignment surgery.

Up to this point The Episcopal Church has dealt mainly with gays and lesbians, which, over time, morphed into something called LGBT which included bisexuals and a group calling themselves transgendered. (No, the letters have nothing to do with Gay Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato sandwiches either.) We are on a whole new plain here.

Before GC2009 wrapped up its adventures with sexuality issues in Anaheim, Resolution C048 was passed supporting something called the Employment Non-discrimination Act (ENDA) under the Episcopal rubric of Discrimination. It read thus: "Resolved, the House of Bishops concurring, that the 76th General Convention of The Episcopal Church support the extension of existing federal laws that prohibit employment discrimination to include discrimination because of sexual orientation or gender identity and expression along with those prohibitions based on race, gender, religion, national origin, age, and disability..."

The explanation was that transgender(ed), bisexual, lesbian and gay persons are at risk from discrimination and harassment in every area of life and in particular in seeking and maintaining employment. The end of ENDA was clearly in their sights.

Not to be outdone, The Episcopal Church's First Sodomite Emeritus Dr. Louie Crew weighed in with his own resolution (D032) arguing that transgendered lay folks should not experience discrimination in lay employment based on race, color, sex, national origin, age, familial status, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.

Naturally, in the name of social justice, inclusion, diversity, heterosexism, homosexualism and transgenderism, both resolutions passed.

Another resolution, C061, which attempted to add the phrase "gender identity and expression" to the list of protected classes in Title III, Canon 1, Section 2 (the Canon on Ordained Ministries), was not successful. It passed in the House of Deputies, but the House of Bishops amended it to remove the whole list of protected classes ("...race, color, ethnic origin, national origin, sex, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, disabilities or age...") and changed it to read something along the lines of "The process of discerning who is called to ordained ministry is open to all people..." died on the vine. But the transgendered community made it clear that they would be back in three years to try again. A 19 year-old trans-man deputy from Rhode Island, Dee Tavolaro led the failed charge.

The Episcopal Church even went so far as to produce a video from something called the Gender Identity Project or GIP that explained transgenderism to people still recovering from V. Gene Robinson, a non-celibate homosexual, being consecrated bishop.

"Transgender Basics" is a 20 minute educational film on the concepts of gender and transgender people. Two providers from the Center's Gender Identity Project (GIP) discuss basic concepts of gender, sexual orientation, identity and gender roles. Three transgender community members share their personal experiences of being trans and genderqueer.

"Our culture likes to make things simple, and gender isn't." Carrie Davis, Transgender Community Organizer, in Transgender Basics. Indeed it doesn't.

Basically transgendered folk argue that what goes on between your legs is sex, what goes on between your ears is gender, and it is important that the two line up for satisfactory gender identification. They are not called to celibacy and they believe that sexual behavior is permitted, but VOL cannot say for sure with whom.

In Canterbury, a transgendered priest was an exhibit on display at Lambeth 2008 exhibit hall. The Rev. Dr. Cameron Partridge, a transgender Episcopal priest from the Diocese of Massachusetts, was a speaker at a Lambeth Conference "fringe" event along with four other transgender people. A former female with a PhD from Harvard, Partridge transitioned to maleness about six years ago. He has served part-time as priest at St. Luke's and St. Margaret's Episcopal Church in Allston, Massachusetts, since June 2006.

Transgendered folk like to quote this biblical text to support their sex change: "As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to the promise." Galatians 3:27-29 (NRSV) Presumably the bit about "no longer male or female" is compelling "evidence" of the New Testament support for transgendered identity.

We doubt, however, that the Apostle Paul would agree with this textual interpretation. Not even the most liberal theologian in history has argued that the text could be thus interpreted.

According to one blogger, there were at least eight transgendered persons embedded in the larger Integrity team at GC2009. They comprised five transwomen, two transmen, and a gay male ally; three priests, one deacon, and four lay people; and one of their number, Dee Tavalaro, a 19-year-old layman, was the first trans deputy in the House of Deputies. They come from Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Maryland, Michigan, Wisconsin, and, yes, California - and span the age spectrum from nineteen to seventy.

At the concluding press conference led by the President of the House of Deputies, Dr. Bonnie Anderson, the Presiding Bishop, the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, and the Bishop of the Diocese of Los Angeles, the Rt. Rev. Jon Bruno, a questioner, Rachel Swan with Integrity USA, asked the panel if they would comment on the passage of the resolutions that deal with advocacy for transgender people, "kind of a first for our church."

Bruno replied, "Well, transgender people are part of the congregations in this diocese, and they're part of the world community. And it's a good thing that we're dealing with this openly. We need to talk about the fact that humanity is different wherever you go, and that we are all called to be loved as children of God, and dealt with, with equity and love."

Anderson followed his remarks by saying, "Let me just add that in the House of Deputies we had testimony from transgender persons. It was very moving. It was very well received in the House of Deputies. I believe that it helped us to see and learn about that particular way of being. We welcomed that and did pass resolutions to include all people, including transgender persons."

Clearly the use of LGBT shows where The Episcopal Church is going. Once it became mandatory to approve of the homosexual lifestyle, then the transgendered demanded and received approval of their behaviors.

The strategy, for obvious reasons, was to have the campaign for approval of a bisexual lifestyle follow "victory" for the homosexuals and transgendered. However, we have yet to see an ordained bisexual in an Episcopal pulpit (that I know of) preaching a sermon on "Peter, James and John" and whatever sexual possibilities might be construed from certain biblical texts. Queer theologians already argue that based on John 21:20 where Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved at the Last Supper might well indicate more than just a platonic relationship between the two.

To date no other denomination in the US has publicly grappled with transgender or even bi-sexual issues, but you can be sure it will come.

Many of the mainline protestant denominations are still wrestling with gay and lesbian issues and the real possibility that one or more will have future pansexual pastors in their pulpits.

Once that has been achieved there will no doubt come a time when someone will push the transgender envelope. For Episcopalians, adultery and bestiality still remain no no's.

For now, the passage of resolutions D025 and C056 will pose enough headaches for Mrs. Jefferts Schori as two dioceses, Minnesota and Los Angeles, have nominated gay and lesbian candidates as possible bishops.

Most of the The Episcopal Church may well see the possibility of yet another openly homoerotic bishop as a communion-breaking event that could finally sever TEC from global Anglicanism.

The possibility of a transgendered bishop in the future might be seen by some as a huge "inclusive" step forward and the promise of (trans) sexual fulfillment by TEC to a handful of sexually confused persons.

For orthodox Anglicans, it will be viewed as a huge step backwards, dangerous enough to sink the church beneath the waves of a dying post-modern culture to which TEC has married itself, thereby making itself a denominational orphan.


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