Transgender Folks Accepted in Faith Communities
Recently, many religious communities have become more accepting of those who do not have traditional genders or sexualities.
By Marissa Roberto
More Religious Americans Welcoming LGBTQ+ Individuals
Throughout time, the alliances between the LGBTQ+ community and various religions has been tricky. It is often perceived that all religions are not accepting to those who identify within the LGBTQ+ community. According to GLAAD’s Accelerating Acceptance 2017 survey, 22 percent of the people who participated in the survey in 2016 said that they feel uncomfortable having members of the LGBTQ+ community in their place of worship.
Though some may feel uncomfortable, more Americans today accept those within that group and think that they should be accepted fully into religious traditions. According to Pew Research Center, more than 60 percent of individuals who practice Buddhism, Catholicism, Hinduism, Judaism and Mainline Protestant believe that the LGBTQ+ community should be accepted within their religious groups.
Within the last couple of decades, many religions that are deemed conservative, like Judaism, have introduced policies of acceptance into their workings. It has even become noticeable that religious leaders within those conservative faiths are recognizing and supporting equal rights for all human beings.
“I grew up as a conservative Jewish person,” Gabriel Morris, a non-binary student from Northeastern University, said. “In Judaism there are different levels of practice: reform, conservative and orthodox. And so, when I started to come to terms with my identity, as LGBT, I didn’t feel like anyone ever shamed me from a Jewish perspective.”
Morris felt a strong connection to staying faithful to the Jewish religion but could not see themself being labeled as “conservative.” While looking more in depth at their faith, they found a pull towards the Reform Movement in Judaism.
“The reform movement in Judaism is actually really powerful, super accepting and inviting and it’s also a movement for gender equity even in Israel,” Morris said. “I think that coming to terms with my sexuality and gender identity was easier when I chose to identify as a Reform Jew then when I identified as conservative.”
According to GLAAD, a media company producing content about LGBTQ+ acceptance, “Despite increasing religious acceptance of LGBTQ people, three out of four religious leaders interviewed by the media on LGBTQ issues come from traditions that have policies or traditions that oppose LGBTQ equality.”
“I feel that it is important in today’s world that religious leaders, faith leaders, whatever words you want to use for it, people who are responsible for helping others grow in their faith in a God or a being, a supreme being whoever that may be, to help them to realize that sexuality is a part of, it [is] not the whole of,” Pastor Jim Goodyear, pastor of Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Huntington Valley, said.
GLAAD also found that many other religions are debating whether or not to change their policies to include those in the LGBTQ+ community and allow them to participate in various services, like being ordained into the clergy.
“The Church is explicitly patriarchal. Only men can be priests. And priests for the most part occupy all the positions of power,” Kathleen Grimes, a gender and women’s studies professor at Villanova University, said. “I come from a Catholic tradition. In recent years, some of the church teaching has wanted to push this idea that there are only men or women. Everyone is either a man, and that is based on what type of body you have, or you are a women and you have a certain body, so therefore, a certain gender goes with that. I [personally] don’t really know if that’s true.”
The Church is also unsure whether or not they should allow the blessing of same-sex couples and marriage within their community.
According to a 2001 Pew Research Center poll, 57 percent of people opposed gay marriage in the United States. Now, in a recent 2017 poll asking the same question, same-sex marriage has grown to 62 percent of Americans fully supporting the act.
Support among same-sex marriage within different religious groups has also increased. Pew Research reported that 68 percent of Mainline Protestants are for allowing same-sex marriage, as well as roughly two-thirds of practicing Catholics.
Due to this, many attitudes are slowly adapting to accept the LGBTQ+ community into the church.
In February 2018, New Ways Ministry, an advocacy site for LGBTQ+ Catholics, conducted a survey on whether or not attitudes and acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community has increased or decreased in the Catholic Church within the last four years.
With 162 participants responding to their questionnaire, they found that, “Overall, it seems that respondents feel that attitudes and acceptance have increased in the church as a whole. 24 percent of respondents reported an increase, while only 8 percent reported a decrease.”
While those numbers seem small, New Ways Ministry views this outcome as positive because acceptance within the Catholic Church community has risen.
“I know a lot of people are like ‘being LGBT and religious don’t intersect,’ but for me it’s the idea that God loves everybody. God doesn’t care who I am, he cares about what I do with who I am and so I’m choosing to be positive and put positivity out there,” Morris said.
By Marissa Roberto