I have spent the weekend in Portland, OR at the Transforming Faith, Divining Gender Conference where in addition to performing and co-presenting with Allyson Robinson, I sat in on the most amazing and mind expanding talks.
In particular I sat in awe as I heard Dr. Virginia Ramey Mollenkott speak about Transgender Behavior and Imagery in the Bible. Dr. Mollenkott does not only provide brilliant, thoughtful and moving content, she speaks like a poet. She never wastes a word. I am not one to sit and listen to a talk much, but I could have sat there all day soaking in her words and the ways she expressed them. Scholarly performance art at its finest.
She outlined seven points that she then explored in detail.
- The Scriptures are trans friendly
- Transgender individuals and issues help to transcend stereotypes.
- The presence of transgender people in the Bible (and faith communities) are reminders of diversity.
- Transgender people have historically built the bridges between the seen and the unseen world.
- Transgender people become specialists in gender, sexuality and spirituality.
- Transgender issues and people help bring people to the often forgotten middle ground. In doing so they help to challenge the religious addiction to certainty.
- Transgender people demonstrate that all genders and sexualities are sacred revealing a holy, divine continuum.
Another talk that opened my eyes and gave me new information was one by Faisal Alam, the founder of Al-Fatiha, a US-based organizaton dedicated to supporting and empowering LGBTIQ Muslims. He led us in tradition Muslim prayer and then gave a talk entitled, Hidden Voices: The Lives of LGBT Muslims.
Did you know that the second highest percentage of Gender Reassignment Surgery in the world is in Iran (the first being in Thailand)? Faisal shared the history behind that and how by looking at science and listening to stories clerics came to the place where they said it was acceptable for someone to have such surgeries. As one cleric put it, it sia way to align one’s organs with one’s soul in order to reveal what is hidden.
Faisal also spoke about the Islamic Reformation that took place before the Crusades and how progressive Islam was back then. Sadly many of the writings of that time were destroyed by Crusaders or are housed in the Vatican with very limited access. As a result, the faith in many places has been co-opted by extreme views that oppress women and stifle discussion.
My show was well received. One trans woman gave me the highest possible praise when she said that by the end of the show as she wondered about me as I morphed into various genders. She suddenly grew confused and didn’t know if I was a bio gay male or a female to male trans person or if I was pre-op male to female trans. Music to a gender-shifting actors ears.
Today Christine Bakke and I will meet with a group of mental health professionals and trauma experts to discuss the harm of gay reparative therapy and ex-gay ministry in hopes to develop some treatment plans. I have to say though that during the conference and my presentations, I felt relieved that I did not have to discuss ex-gay issues. Most people there knew nothing of my Ex-Gay Survivor work or my Homo No Mo play. Talking about that stuff drains me in a way that I do not realize until I do something different.
Gotta fly to West Hills Friends Church to hang out with some of my Quaker folks.