Intersection of faith and gender Identity in the American Heartland
Intersection of faith and sexuality has long been a controversial subject between LGBTQI and faith circles, with those topics intersecting here in Richmond more often then not.
It’s not hard to find faith groups in Richmond on the other side of LGBTQ issues as well – with The Family Foundation, a group who claims to apply “a biblical worldview and founding principles to culture and public policy,” being one of the loudest anti-equality voices around.
Yet, beyond Richmond itself, one transgender woman has taken her message of faith and spirituality on the road around America in the hopes of getting more churches to open their doors.
“My faith told me there was something wrong with me being who I was,” said Stephanie Mott Executive Director of the Transgender Faith Tour based in Topeka, Kansas.
Mott began her journey of living authentically in the mid 2000′s, but her struggle with identity and faith commenced long before point.
During the 1960′s she was part of the United Church of Christ where the message preached by its leadership was not accepting nor LGBTQI inclusive.
Despite the adversity, Mott stayed with her church for some time before finally leaving her faith behind. She always believed in God as the creator of the universe, but also spent a great deal of her life thinking “God didn’t like her the way she was created.”
About the time Mott started living authentically, she became aware of a local church that not only accepted trans members, but had several who attended weekly. It was the local Metropolitan Community Church, (MCC), one of the most LGBTQI friendly churches in the country.
As she returned to faith, her desire to get more involved with social issues, particularly with faith and gender issues, grew until she found the social justice group within a local Unitarian Universalist Church. She began to speak at events around Topeka until a friend of hers invited her to West Planes, Missouri, and from then on she’s been bringing her story and her love of God to any church that will have her.
She’s traveled from Arkansas to Oklahoma, Indiana, Ohio, and all over the Country. She’s been invited to Texas next year and said she’ll be running this tour as long as she can.
“It occurred to me how important it was to have people hear from a transgender person who also identifies as a woman of faith,” she said. “And then one thing lead to another.”
While many of her stops are at LGBTQI friendly churches, such as Unitarian churches, she’s also been invited to less accepting spots like Catholic and Baptist congregations.
“A lot of times they have never met anyone whose transgender, let alone a transgender person of faith,” Mott said about speaking at the groups who traditionally don’t allow transgender members. “But when they see the love that I have for God and Christ… I think it fundamentally changes the way the people see transgender.” For those in the transgender community who’ve lost faith, Mott is not surprised. “This is what happens when church don’t accept people who are LGBTQ, people walk away from faith,” she said.
Whether or not Mott’s journey is making an impact, only time will tell.
Find out more info about Stephanie Mott’s Transgender Faith Tour here.
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