For (too) many years, with others, I've coaxed and cajoled. Sadly though, at this transition point, I’m going to have to say it clearly once more - many ‘affirming’ church leaders truly frustrate me and are major problematic parts of the continuing ‘issues’ that churches and wider society have with sexuality & gender Individually some church leaders can be quite kindly in disposition, as well as otherwise gifted, but as a body they are a key element of the (straight) problem we have, alongside the bigots they refuse to face down publicly. It also sometimes feels like they are stuck in a time warp. For two things stand out...
It was a loving honour recently to share with other amazing 'trans* trailblazers' and Senator Janet Rice in an evening of story telling to celebrate the life of Janet's late wife, Dr Penny Whetton (among many other things a distinguished climate scientist). Below is a short reflection I shared - on the contribution of what I have called 'trans-ing' our world to the growth of ecological spirituality. For together, in our different callings, we can continue to share in the kind of joys and transformation which were so important to Penny, and which shine in the lives and voices of the other contributors to her memorial event - the remarkable Ricki Coughlan, Eddie Ayers, and Amao Leota Lu...
It has been a great delight, and a surprising honour, to be featured as one of the 'Dangerous Women' of Queensland in the recent podcast series produced by the State Library of Queensland. Each of the other episodes features remarkable women from different fields of life and experience - including the extraordinary Lilian Cooper who, with her life partner Josephine Bedford, were also queer pioneers associated with the Anglican Church in Brisbane. My conversation with the wonderful Holly Zwalf can be found here, and the full podcast series here. I am also grateful for a positive article in the Brisbane Times by Jocelyn Garcia, in which she highlights 'finding your roar' - part of what I hope I can convey to others (of whatever gender identity and/or journey):
"I hope my story can encourage other people, not to be exactly like me, but whoever they want to be and have courage to take on difficult things because it is worthwhile in the end, Above all, it’s about taking courage and trusting the deep-down things of love and life in yourself." (full article here)
With thanks to the terrific Fr Peter Maher, it was good yesterday to share in our national Equal Voices' welcome of Pope Francis' support for 'same sex' civil unions (see our media release below, and here) - in itself a very small step of LGBTIQ+ affirmation, but historically highly significant and very important within the largest and most powerful Church in the world's largest religion. It is also a small ray of light in the face of reaction (not least recently in the Anglican Church of Australia).
I have to say however that I do remain quite frustrated, not only by the slowness of fuller Christian affirmations, but also by the continued use of the outdated binary term 'same sex' - which has been unhelpfully extended by many (like the leading Anglican Australian bishop aka Primate) to cover relationships like my own 'same gender' marriage. Trans and non binary relationships need to be recognised properly, not just lumped in with binary 'same sex', whilst transphobia is at stake in religious limiting of relationships too. It is multi-dimensional 'equal marriage' we're seeking everywhere, for the diversity of loving human relationships who seek this - not other clumsy conceptions. However one step forward is better than nothing :-) ...
In the face of wider societal backlash, a fellow transgender Anglican priest in Australia (the Revd Sorèl Coward - pictured with my wife and I above) has been refused a license to officiate - this at a time when trans people need all the help we can get, and when we were explicitly excluded from national church ‘same sex marriage’ discussions (the ostensible reason for Sorèl’s rejection), This is such a confused decision by the Archbishop of Adelaide (who is also the Primate, i.e senior Australian bishop, of the Australian Anglican Church) that it is hard to know where to begin or end with the questions it raises. But now it is in the public sphere, I at least will ask some of them - and I hope as many people as possible will do so too. It is a direct consequence of official Church refusal to engage appropriately with the complexity of human gender and sexuality, and how little gender and sexually diverse people are even allowed to contribute our expert wisdom and experience. It is potentially another step to narrow sectarianism and such sad treatment of a lovely person who, ironically, has both the professional expertise and personal experience to help the Church grow in these matters. The affirming model of trans care is clearly vital to anyone with the eyes to see - and this certainly doesn’t involve using people’s long established loving marriages (blessed in Church for God’s sake!) against them. It is more than time for the Church and others to do all that is possible to address the deficit of transgender care and celebration.
Initial coverage of this novel problematising of transgender Anglicans can be found here and here. My wife and I, as married Anglican priest in good standing, have written today to the Archbishop of Adelaide - a letter which can be found below (or downloaded here).
I've done quite a bit of speaking, teaching, preaching, Zoom conferencing, writing, and other ministry in recent months, but it was particularly lovely today, in our parish marking of the Season of Creation, to be back behind the altar - or (holy) table (depending on your theological outlook). It might have happened earlier but COVID Safe issues have restricted opportunities. It was only afterwards however, reflecting partly on why I was so moved, that I realised something else. This wasn't just the first time I've personally presided at the eucharist after my surgery earlier this year, but it was almost certainly the first time that a post-GRS transgender woman had ever publicly presided at the eucharist in Australia with full canonical order (there are others, treasured by me, who have gone before, but in different ways). Maybe transubstantiation or scholastic ‘real presence’ were not involved, but it was definitely about really present love and substantially transforming - bodily and spiritually breaking open to new creation for all. One more step along the way... 😻🙏🦋
#transinggod #miltonanglican #eucharistisforall
One of the most encouraging aspects of the Australian theological scene is the work of the Australian Collaborators in Feminist Theologies. Based at the University of Divinity, Melbourne, this vital network has considerably inspired and supported me in recent times and will, I hope, continue to grow in strength and influence. From a transgender perspective, it is certainly a very positive community in which to be a part. Personally I am already thankful to this project and its leaders to have an essay (entitled 'From Footballs to Matildas? - Gender Diverse People and Theological Game Change') included in the forthcoming book Contemporary Feminist Theologies: Power, Authority, Love - part of Routledge's 'Gender, Theology and Spirituality' series. I am also pleased to share in the Horizons series of online conversations which the Collaborators run on a monthly basis. This month, I am myself a focal point, chatting with Dr Cath McKinney about intersectionality, not least the challenges and opportunities of gender diverse people within feminist developments (link to event here). Here below - and at this link - is a short reflection to stimulate thought and discussion, trying to move well beyond fruitless destructive controversies such as that recently stoked by J.K.Rowling. Our times, and people of all gender identities, call for genuine depth of greater connection, contemplation, and creativity...
The more I grow older, and hopefully a little deeper in understanding, the more I am aware of how religious traditions have wrestled with sexuality and gender in all kinds of extraordinary ways. For sexuality and gender have always been such powerful aspects of human lives and spirituality has therefore necessarily engaged with them as vital features of revelation and relationship, as well as repression and resistance. Sadly. so many 'sanitised' and narrowed readings of the Bible and religious traditions have significantly contributed to human distancing from intimate, celebratory and mature sexuality and gender identities. These are typically those which have much airplay today in wider media as well as conservative and fundamentalist circles. When however we look afresh at scripture and tradition, particularly through lenses of 'queer' experience, we find something very different. Some features can be quite confronting, even profoundly disturbing, full of extraordinary violence and subjugation. Some aspects can also be very different from our our contemporary contexts. Yet there are others, rightly viewed, which can help us face up to our own opportunities for growth towards richer sexual and gendered lives. They can be quite challenging but offer considerable liberative potential. Among these is the story (in Genesis 32.22-31) of Jacob's wresting with the divine, their wounding and blessing...
One of the most profound things about being a priest is sharing in great transition times in all kinds of people’s lives. Sometimes these are also marked in special ways at special times and/or places. Sadly, whilst they were much better at this in former ages (including adapting ‘pagan’ practices), Christians recently have often narrowed, and even exclusified, our human ‘rites of passage’ - with beautiful exceptions, like Dorothy McRae-McMahon, who have actively explored words and symbols for a much greater range of vital human experiences. In one sense ‘holy holding’ of transgender experiences is part of this, though particularly gorgeous! 😻🧚
I've shared in other similar occasions in recent times, but I’m really looking forward to this coming Sunday - partly as a contribution to the renewed unfolding of divine presence and naming, encouraging others to the same (seriously its not hard to do!), but above all for the opportunity to lead our parish in celebrating a beautiful person (and increasingly beloved friend) in our Milton Anglican community. The eye shadow may or may not be on show - and glitter is sadly out due to COVID-19 - but there will certainly be dancing in the heart of God. 💃🙏🦋
As my wife Penny and I approach our 35th wedding anniversary next month, we are increasingly aware of how our marriage has become one of God's delightful little prophetic jokes to prompt deeper loving awareness. The other day, for instance, we went to a shop in Brisbane to see if we could buy some dresses for our upcoming renewal of vows event. I found a splendid one I liked quite quickly and the shop assistant asked me if it was for a special occasion. 'Yes', I said, 'Penny and I are renewing our vows in a few weeks time. It will be our 35th wedding anniversary'. The assistant was very professional and just murmured 'how lovely'. For the next few minutes however it was very evident that the cogs were whirring in her brain. Clearly I 'passed' more than well enough for her to be considerably puzzled how two women could be marking 35 years of official marriage. Maybe she wondered if we came from some country she hadn't heard of which had quietly adopted marriage equality decades before others. Perhaps she pondered if there was some special lesbian rite she had never imagined. Whatever the case, as for others in society, and certainly within church circles, our fully sanctioned and richly flourishing marriage had stirred the pot. Once again Penny and I were a gentle loving challenge to preconceptions and an invitation to more expansive relationships and celebration of life...
The Revd Dr Jo Inkpin: