Calvary Presbyterian Church continues to support transgender youth and adults. March 2023 is Transgender Awareness Month. We show our continuing support through messages such as, “Trans Lives Matter,” “Believe Trans Kids,” “Support Trans Kids,” and “Protect Trans Kids.” This blog will offer some insight into Presbyterian and San Francisco organizations that actively support and advocate for LGBTQI+ people. I hope that you will take time to read through these resources. There is hope. So many inspired people of all ages are working together for freedom, safety, and love. Now that I am raising two teens I have come to more clearly understand the context and reality that LGBTQI+ youth live in every day. It is crucial to support the growth and development of transgender children and youth who sense that their “gender identity does not correspond with, or sit comfortably with, the sex they were registered at birth.” That is the definition of transgender offered by Twinkl, an education website for children ages preschool to 8th grade. See more definitions at the end of this blog. When adults do not see or support children, youth or adults as they are, the risks of gender dysphoria and suicide increase.
Transgender children, youth, young adults, adults, and senior adults do not want to be “othered” as they are children of God. We want to believe, support, and protect them, so that they can live safely and freely without fear and shame. God created us in Their image. May we have the courage to send out Jesus’ message of love and acceptance to ourselves and all people.
In March 2018, I attended a Time to Connect: 69th annual California Council of Parent Participation Nursery Schools (CCPPNS) Conference hosted by the San Francisco co-op preschool community. There I attended Janna Barkin’s workshop in which she educated us about transgender children and youth, as well as read from her book He Has Always Been My Son. I then asked her to speak at Calvary for an Adult Ed later in October 2018. Janna continues to work with Bay Area and communities in the U.S. to share her experiences.
Janna regularly connects with people at the Spahr Center in Marin, founded by Rev. Dr. Jane Adams-Spahr. Rev. Spahr is a Presbyterian pastor who began her “out” liberation work with and for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people as the Minister of Pastoral Care in the “Ministry of Light” in the “Castro area of Metropolitan Community Church in San Francisco from 1980-1982 when her own Presbyterian denomination did not know what to do with this “lesbyterian”. She was also the Grand Marshal of the Pride Parade in 2020. Janie has spoken at Calvary during services.
After learning from Janna Barkin, Janie Spahr, and hearing Aria Sa’id, President + Chief Strategist at The Transgender District, speak at several Human Rights Commission events, I started to publicly show support for transgender people, starting at the 2019 Trans March. The Trans March at Mission Dolores Park on June 28, 2019 highlighted the event as “an important political statement at a time when our federal administration is targeting transgender and gender nonconforming communities (TGNC). This year’s Trans March theme “Our Home, Our Sanctuary” calls attention to the violence immigrants are facing, the housing crisis affecting trans communities, and to announce the historic first-in-the-nation housing program.” In 2019 and 2022, I wore my Free Mom Hugs t-shirt during Civic Center and Market St. June Pride events and offered hugs to hundreds of people. Many youth would light up and say, “I want a mom hug.” Sometimes they would say things like, “I haven’t seen my mom in a year after she kicked me out of the house.” “My mom and I don’t talk anymore.” This kind of isolation and rejection is traumatic for a youth who is still learning how to live independently. Brains are still growing and shaping until the age of 25, so early abandonment can be devastating to the youth’s mental and physical wellness. Having a few healthy adults with boundaries in a LGBTQI+ youth’s life can make all of the difference.
In 2019, I learned about San Francisco’s Lyric Center for LGBTQQ+ Youth whose “mission is to build community and inspire positive social change through education enhancement, career trainings, health promotion, and leadership development with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning (LGBTQQ) youth, their families, and allies of all races, classes, genders, and abilities. LYRIC’s vision is a diverse society where LGBTQQ youth are embraced for who they are and encouraged to be who they want to be. By working towards social justice and supporting young leaders, their families and allies, LYRIC is building a world that honors, respects and appreciates LGBTQQ youth and their contributions.”
My daughter has been involved in SFUSD middle and high school clubs that advocate for LGBTQI+ people and youth victims of sexual harassment. Genders and Sexualities Alliance (GSA) middle and high school groups bring awareness of the LGBTQ+ community within schools. GSA used to stand for Gay Straight Alliance. Teens offer lunchtime film festivals, participate in joint GSA activities with other schools, and spread awareness on festival days. They foster peer leadership and community-building. Students educate peers as well as parents, teachers, admin etc. They speak truth to power in order to get more protections in place. In SFUSD high schools, there is a group called SASHA which stands for Students Against Sexual Harassment and Assault. They have done several walk-outs in order to get the message to administration. Sadly, we know that sexual violence has also gone hand-in-hand with discrimination against LGBTQI+ people.
Now for the work of the Presbyterian Church (USA). In 2018, the 223rd General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) voted to affirm its commitment to the full welcome, acceptance, and inclusion of transgender people, people who identify as gender non-binary, and people of all gender identities within the full life of the church and the world. It went further to lament “the ways that the policies and actions of the PC(USA) have caused gifted, faithful, LGBTQIA+ Christians to leave the Presbyterian church so that they could find a more welcoming place to serve, as they have been gifted and called by the Spirit.”
In 2021, the PC(USA) adopted The Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) service which began in 1999 by advocate and writer “Gwendolyn Ann Smith to remember the November 28, 1998, murder of Rita Hester, a member of the transgender community in Boston who worked with education about transgender issues.
Presbyterian Mission comments in a web article, “By many accounts, 2021 has been a record-breaking year in the United States and around the world for the murder of people who are transgender, though advocates caution against such characterizations saying while things have improved in recent years, police and media have a history of misgendering trans crime victims. There is a broad consensus that a disproportionately large number of victims are transgender women of color.”
Before the PCUSA was open and affirming for people who are LGBTQIA+, there were some other groups working to change the PCUSA. One of them, the Covenant Network, a national Presbyterian network advocating for a more just church, had its first office in our Calvary Lower Level. Rev. Laird Stuart was one of its founding members. Both Rev. Joann Lee, and Rev. Marci Glass have been on the board of Covenant Network, so they have seen the harm caused by discrimination and have worked to change the church. Rev. Joann Lee served eight years on the Advocacy Committee for Women’s Concerns. Here is a 2022 article from that group entitled “Standing with and celebrating transgender and nonbinary youth.” Here is a Covenant Network publication: LGBTQIA+ Deepening our Understanding: A Resource in Transgender Identity .
Before he came to Calvary, Rev. Victor Floyd pastored Metropolitan Community Church MCC-San Francisco. As an out gay man, in the 1990s he served More Light Presbyterians (Presbyterians for Lesbian & Gay Concerns) as moderator of the southeast. More Light Presbyterians, a non-profit organization dedicated to allowing the full participation of LGBTQIA+ people in life, ministry, and witness of the Presbyterian Church (USA) and in society.His call to ministry came through LGBTQI+ equality work. Here is a MCC TDOR Toolkit available to learn more.
San Francisco’s Transgender Cultural District in the Tenderloin memorializes the 1966 Compton’s Cafeteria Riot where police harassed drag queens, transgender people, mainly trans women. For years, drag queens were considered transgender people. This riot happened before the well-known 1969 Stonewall Uprising in New York City. “The mission of the Transgender District is to create an urban environment that fosters the rich history, culture, legacy, and empowerment of transgender people and its deep roots in the southeastern Tenderloin neighborhood. The transgender district aims to stabilize and economically empower the transgender community through ownership of homes, businesses, historic and cultural sites, and safe community spaces.”
University of California San Francisco is hosting a National Transgender Health Summit on May 5, 2023 sponsored by UCSF Center of Excellence for Transgender Health, UCSF Center of AIDS Prevention Studies, UCSF Prevention Research Center, Pacific AIDS Education and Training Center, and UCSF Alliance Health Project.
Here is a short list of definitions to clarify terms. From Twinkl Transgender Awareness 2023
Transgender: An umbrella term used to describe those whose gender identity does not correspond with, or sit comfortably with, the sex they were registered at birth. We can also use the shorthand trans.
Non-Binary: People who experience their gender identity and/or gender expression as falling outside the categories of man and woman. Usually, these people use the pronouns they/them, although this is down to personal preference.
Gender Non-Conforming: A term that describes people whose gender expression is different from ‘conventional’ expectations of masculinity and femininity. You should note that not all gender non-conforming people identify as transgender; nor vice versa.
Gender Identity: This refers to our sense of who we are and how we see and describe ourselves. Many people identify as “male” or “female”. These are sometimes called “binary” identities. Some people feel their gender identity is different from their biological sex.
Gender Expression: This refers to the way a person may choose to express their gender identity through things such as: a person’s name, pronouns, clothing, behavior, voice, haircut, body characteristics and other physical features. Remember though, a person’s gender identity should not be assumed by their gender expression.
Transition: A process a trans person may take to live in the gender they identify as.
Cisgender: A person whose gender identity corresponds with their biological sex (e.g. a person who was assigned biologically male or female at birth, and continues to identify this way)
Cover photo: Art work by Jess Churchill