Listening to Transgender People at Lambeth

Five transgender people made a presentation to a fringe meeting at the Lambeth Conference in Canterbury on 25 July. Four bishops were among the audience who listened for an hour to the testimony of transgender people brought together by Changing Attitude and Integrity. At least one of the four bishops was Evangelical and ‘conservative’ and had attended the seminar because he was strongly committed to the listening process. He commented later that he had been very moved by the stories he had heard. This event represented the first time that a transgender-specific event has ever taken place at a worldwide Anglican Communion meeting.

The testimonies were powerful and given with quiet but assured confidence. The audience listened respectfully. The event had been organized by the Revd Dr Christina Beardsley, an Anglican hospital chaplain and trustee of Changing Attitude England. She chaired the meeting and introduced the panel. It was sponsored by Sibyls, a UK-based transgender Christian support group.

The other panelists who shared their life stories were Stephanie Sheppard, a Methodist from England who has spent time as an evangelist; Mia Nikasimo, a Buddhist from Nigeria now living in England; and an Anglican layman named Steven who transitioned several years ago. Steven made a presentation about intersex and transgender identity.

The Rev. Dr. Cameron Partridge, a transgender Episcopal priest from the Diocese of Massachusetts, has served part-time as priest at St. Luke’s and St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church in Allston since June 2006. He said that the current debate in the Anglican Communion about homosexual inclusion is difficult for transgender Anglicans. “We feel it’s implicitly about us,” he said, adding his reservations about the oversimplified sex and gender categories in which the debate is carried on. “It may be overwhelming to add us into this … I think there’s a lot more complexity and richness that we haven’t yet recognized. If adding trans into the debate helps us to recognize complexity, I actually think that will be a good thing.”

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