Many thanks to Dr Meredith Lake and Rohan Salmond for inviting Penny Jones and I to share in this episode of ABC's Soul Search, exploring queer theology and its expression in World Pride. It was a great joy, including sharing with such delightful co-interlocutors and friends as Dr Peter Kline and Benjamin Oh.
Recent weeks have been some of the hardest of my life in Christian ministry. Discussion of the Religious Discrimination Bill proposals fell into another debacle in the midst of concerted opposition and some brave Liberal backbenchers who stood out against the Bill's cruelty in the face of approaching election pressures. The political use and abuse of transgender people, especially school children, was particularly monstrous. Coming on top of several years of similar controversy and very slow positive changes in Churches, the pastoral burdens and spiritual impact was hard to bear. Thankfully, in the Uniting Church at least, opposition to the form of the Bill was expressed from the top clearly and positively. Particularly encouraging was the UCA President's Pastoral Letter which opens up possibilities for real progress, especially in addressing the deficit in transgender and non-binary care and celebration. In general however, there is such a long way to go and the 'gruesome week' demonstrated that amply. Media outlets, notably ABC's The Drum (see, for example, the clip on YouTube above) and the Guardian Australia (see article here) were kind enough to interview me and share some of my LGBTIQ+ faith perspectives, which I know are so vital to so many.
I'm hugely grateful to Dr John Wallace, film-maker Rachel Lane and her wonderful team, for bringing to fruition the short documentary Faithfully Me, sharing part of the stories of myself and Rhett Pearson as transgender people of faith living into our authentic selves. This was shown on ABC Compass on 24 May, and is available on iView here until 23 June, and afterwards will be shared by Equal Voices and others on YouTube and through other channels. We hope it will be a blessing to many, sharing further light and understanding, and affirming gender diverse people in churches and wider society. In this project I am particularly grateful as ever for the support of my wife, the Revd Penny Jones (who also shares some of her journey with me in the film), and friends and colleagues from St Francis College & St John's Cathedral in Brisbane (both of which, by kind permission respectively of the College Principal and Dean, were part of the locations filmed).
Just when some trans people and their families might have hoped it was safe to start going back in the water of ordinary life, the ABC stir up the dangerous waves again. Coming on top of the extraordinary 'no' campaign assault on gender diversity during the postal survey, its seems mainstream media seek to learn few lessons. Last night's showing (27 November 2017) of the BBC documentary Transgender Kids: Who Knows Best? was a striking case in point. Its initial showing (in the UK in January 2017) was strongly opposed and then vigorously criticised by many authoritative voices in the UK, including Trans Media Watch who made a formal complaint to the BBC questioning whether it had breached its own code of conduct. Such protests rightly raised a plethora of issues, not least the alarmist commentary and space given to isolated and pernicious 'experts' whose views have long been discredited by their peers and left behind by modern medical, psychological and pastoral authorities and practice. Knowing all this, why then did the ABC repeat the BBC's own mistakes in the face of a transgender community still reeling from recent affronts? Was it a false sense of 'balance', perhaps justified in some strange thinking of ABC minds by the repeat showing of another BBC offering immediately beforehand in Louis Theroux's 2015 documentary Transgender Kids? Whether yes or no, it reflects major problems with media handling of transgender issues today...
The Revd Dr Jo Inkpin: