– by C. Kristian Clauser, Transgender Extension Ministry co-chair –
Coming from Alaska to Georgia and in between, eleven United Methodist transgender leaders gathered in Chicago on October 18-19, 2012. They were joined by three allies to set the course for the Transgender Extension Ministry (TEM) of RMN. TransPresbyterian Alex McNeill facilitated the day. As RMN’s newest extension ministry, TEM seeks to build leaders and community for transgender United Methodists and to speak to RMN and to the UMC on behalf of transgender people.
Rev. Drew Phoenix (Alaska) will serve as the TEM representative on the RMN board starting in 2013. C. Kristian Clauser (Minnesota) and Tina Seitz (Michigan) will co-chair TEM as it works to equip and empower people to transform our church and society into places that celebrate gender diversity. TEM holds monthly conference calls and is planning to be a powerful presence at the Labor Day 2013 reconciling convocation in Chevy Chase, MD.
While acknowledging the addition of “gender identity” to the equal rights section of the UM Book of Discipline, the leaders named the ongoing challenges requiring education and advocacy. Too many people still either leave out transgender education altogether or lump gender identity with sexual orientation and misunderstand the differences. Others, even in reconciling congregations, imagine they are welcoming and ready to receive a transgender member but are woefully unprepared to extend full hospitality. Instead of offering healing and hope, lack of preparation causes harm.
RMN values gender diversity and has included transgender United Methodists in all levels of leadership for many years, but recognizes that being safe in a pew requires grassroots commitment. Wherever you are in the process of being out, if you are a transgender person and would like to connect to TEM, contact Kristian and Tina at Transgender@rmnetwork.org. If you would like to be a more significant ally to support TEM, please contact the RMN office.