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The House of Bishops has committed itself to taking ‘a wider look at the Church of England’s approach to same-sex relationships more generally in the light of the listening process launched by the Lambeth Conference in 1998’. A ‘consultation document’ is promised in two years time in 2013.

As one of the Changing Attitude Trustees for Trans people I have to ask, ‘will any consideration be given to gender identity in this process, or will Trans people continue to be overlooked once again in these discussions?’

It’s not that we want to be awkward but, while there is an overlap with sexuality for those Trans Christians with same-sex attraction or in same-sex partnerships, the ‘presenting issue’ for Trans people is primarily one of gender identity, and we know, empirically, from the Sibyls workshop ‘Gender, sexuality and spirituality’ that Trans Christians feel deeply frustrated with a Church that seems to spend so much time discussing sexuality but ignoring gender identity, even though the Church of England is in the midst of a major gender issue, as it considers the current proposals for the consecration of women as bishops.

One conspicuous exception to this was the Bishops’ report, Some issues in human sexuality: a guide to the debate (2003) which, for all its faults – including, as Adrian Thatcher noted, the misguided notion that we are engaged in a reasonable debate – did include a chapter on gender identity. and another, specifically on Transsexualism, though it closed with a series of questions rather than reaching any conclusions.

Like many Church of England documents of this kind it tries to balance views that seem to be contradictory, in this instance those that are said to be ‘traditional’ (though just how representative they are of ‘the tradition’ is debatable) and others that are referred to as ‘revisionary’ (even though they may well be drawing on ancient traditions), very similar to the manner in which the Church of England has insisted on describing itself as both Catholic and Reformed, though  in reality the two emphases have not always sat together that comfortably, albeit a saintly few have managed to synthesise the two.

There have been times in the Church of England’s history, and we are living in one now, when people seem to talking at each other rather than to and with one another – no wonder it’s difficult for small minorities to be heard.

Here the Church of England, as the Established Church, could learn from government which has prioritised Trans people for separate attention in its review of equality for LGB&T people, simply because Trans people tend to be disproportionately disadvantaged compared to the other groups. Recently, on this blog, I published the link to the Department of Equality’s first Transgender e-bulletin, and there has now been a second, though the links don’t seem to be working at the moment (I think because of archiving on the Department of Equality Website).

Have a look at it if you can: it contains a follow-up questionnaire about health issues and the deadline for that is July 17th.


  1. Tiffy Stedman says

    I think Christina tells it as it is. Us T-folk have got a real problem PR-wise in being linked into the big (bad?) LGBT thing. Mainly cos we’re not about sex – at least, not just cos of the T bit 🙂

    Gender and gender identity is still poorly understood by much of the Church. We’re still wrestling our way out of the ‘ladies do the flowers and make the tea’ way of thinking. For a large number of congregations, there just isn’t the guidance about what to do about the arrival of a trans person – whether from within or without. So it just depends on the attitude of particular fellowships and incumbants.

    I had a very interesting (and, for me, scary) discussion with my vicar a few weeks ago: what would be feel about having a trans-sexual in his congregation? [I am not very ‘out’ yet but am not far short of going full time]. I was relieved by his answer, which was both wise and accepting.

    But I know that there’s still a large spectrum of opinion within the church. And it seems to me that large segments of this spectrum are just not rooted in either Scripture or in the Grace of God. It’s a lot more Daily Mail than Daily Bread.

    It is very pleasing to see what the Dept of Equality is up to re trans issues. But, back within the Church, we need more understanding both of the needs we have and the large expanse of clear water that there is between gender and sexuality.

  2. says

    Hi Tiffy, Thanks for these comments. It’s also worth noting that LGB people often have ‘issues of gender’ to cope with as well as issues of sexuality: criticism of gender presentation/performance, especially perceived failure to conform to gender stereotypes are themes that have emerged when we have run the ‘Gender, sexuality, spirituality’ workshop with LGB&T groups. This is why I think LGB&T alliances like Changing Attitude or the LGBT Anglican Coalition are worthwhile enterprises for Trans people to be involved with but. like G & B participants, Trans participants, have to work hard to ensure that their issues are also being addressed and not squeezed out by the emphasis (frequently a reaction to those who disagree with us) on gay men.

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