CLGS A Program of Pacific School of Religion Sun, 08 Mar 2020 05:38:24 +0000 en-US hourly 1 CLGS March 2020 e-newsletter Sun, 08 Mar 2020 05:30:45 +0000 CLGS March 2020 e-newsletter

Rev. Jakob Hero-Shaw, CLGS Trans Roundtable Coordinator: On Being a Faith Leader Who is Also A Trans Person Sat, 07 Mar 2020 20:20:36 +0000

Rev. Jakob Hero-Shaw

As a pastor, I am always happy when one of my congregants represents our church in the community. Recently, a congregant was attending a community event and was approached by someone she did not know. This person said to my congregant, in a gossipy stage whisper, “I knew your pastor when he was a she.” My congregant was taken aback by this, not because my trans status was a surprise to her, but because of the way the comment was delivered. It was as if this information was intended to undermine something fundamental about my ability to serve Christ and to serve my faith community – or perhaps undermine the work of our entire faith community.

One of the peculiar things about being a faith leader who is also a trans person is that people frequently attempt to “out” me to my own congregation. This can only have the negative impact that’s intended, if people believe that a trans identity is shameful and, therefore, should always be hidden.  If we take away the shame, then transphobic comments lose their power. March 31st is Trans Day of Visibility and, in honor of this, I encourage my trans and nonbinary siblings to speak your truth and to tell your stories. I also encourage cisgender people to take this opportunity to truly listen to the trans people in your life, paying particular attention to the parameters and boundaries that trans people set in telling their own stories.

As trans people claim our right to our own truth, I believe that we could benefit from the demystification of the notion of “before.” This means that we get to control the narrative. We get to choose how much of our story is shared, how it is shared, and who has access to this information. Sometimes well-meaning allies and friends overshare their knowledge about the histories of the trans people in their lives. Some people believe that they have – and are entitled to –  information and details about trans lives, such as birth names and information about medical status.

While there is no one-size-fits-all guide to being supportive of trans people, there are some guidelines that can prove helpful in supporting trans and nonbinary people. Before speaking of someone else’s trans status, first think about whether you have permission. Then, before speaking, also check your motivation. To stand in solidarity with trans people means having a commitment to constant awareness about the line between visibility and privacy. Sometimes old friends or acquaintances are titillated by the social appeal of having known a person before they came out.

Many trans and nonbinary people change their names and their pronouns at some point in their lives; some do not. Many have medical procedures and take hormones, but some do not. These details are not always intended to be public information. The intention of our words matters but the impact matters even more. We can mean well, but if our words are harmful, then harm is done.

The person who voiced the conspiratorial whisper about the history of my pronouns did not, in fact, ever know me as “a she.” But even if this person had, does it matter? Am I any less of a pastor, teacher, or community leader because I was born and raised with gender expectations—and pronouns—that did not match my true identity? Should I live a life of fear or shame because there are people in this world who once knew me by a different name? Let’s be aware of the ways our words shape people’s understanding about human worth.

On this Trans Day of Visibility, I encourage cisgender people to speak up when you hear trans people being spoken about in harmful ways. I encourage you to educate people whenever you can and, if they refuse to learn, I encourage you to shut down the harmful language altogether. If you are a faith leader, a teacher, or anyone who is given a public forum in which to speak, please invite trans people into your pulpits, your classrooms, and other venues. Reach out to the trans people in your life, particularly trans women of color, find out if they want you to hand them the microphone. Let them know that their voices, their stories, and their visibility matters. Lastly, if you are a trans person, I encourage you to speak your truth. You and your journey are a gift from the Divine!

Rev. Jakob Hero-Shaw, MDiv, MA | Senior Pastor, Metropolitan Community Church (MCC) of Tampa | Coordinator, CLGS Transgender Roundtable


Rabbi Jane Litman, CLGS Jewish Roundtable Coordinator: Reflections on HIV/AIDS Ministry Thu, 05 Mar 2020 17:19:29 +0000

Rabbi Jane Litman

“I sat in my quiet bookshelf lined study, listening intently to the young man awkwardly perched on the chair next to me.

The thin pale man was silently leaking tears, and finally spoke, “He was lying on the couch and said, ‘I’m going to take all the pain killers we have, everything.  Then wait half an hour until I’m totally out, and put the pillow over my face and hold it there until I stop breathing.  I mean it. Promise you’ll do it.’  He begged me.  What was I supposed to do?  I just couldn’t let him suffer anymore. “

This was the first time a congregant told me about assisting a dying person.  It wasn’t the last, but it is the time that is seared into my memory.  My congregant was so young and so unhappy; I didn’t think he was much older than twenty.  I felt completely inadequate to the situation.  How could I help him?

“That’s incredibly traumatic,” I said.  “That must have broken your heart.”

He started sobbing, great sad loud sobs, deep sobs, sobs of profound pain.  I felt my eyes wet a bit and waited, quietly praying to God to give me what I needed to be helpful to my congregant.

This was maybe 1992.  In those days, gay men joined synagogues in order to die in community, to have someone say Kaddish for them.  It was early in my career, at my first congregation, Kol Simcha, a gay outreach synagogue in Orange County.  As a rabbinical student in Philadelphia, I had been an AIDS buddy to a man who was terribly sick. I would go and straighten up his home and make chicken soup as he coughed, and then read to him from the Torah or any other Jewish text I was studying.  He promised to get out of the house and come to my ordination, but he was dead by then.  In 1987, I led organized a delegation of rabbis and doctors to talk with the Jewish funeral homes about how to support the partners and families of those who died of AIDS.  I thought I knew about AIDS.

But being a pastor isn’t the same as being a buddy or an activist.  Being a pastor requires the ability to help hold the pain.  Pastors are the spiritual equivalent of first responders. We run toward the fire. For me, it was a strange position, part of the queer community: one of the mourners, one of the caregivers; but not myself at risk.  That is when I really learned how to pray.

Then about 1996, it changed.  AIDS stopped being a death sentence.  I led a group called “Back to the Future” for people who had all but resigned themselves to an early death, and now had to re-engage the details of living.  This was not only true for the people who had managed to stay alive, but for the entire community.  Even now, more than a generation later, we are still integrating the AIDS epidemic and its devastation.  As those of us who survived now come to the time of life in which people die naturally, each death brings back those unnatural heartbreaking deaths.

I wonder where that young man is today.  I wonder if he managed to grieve his loss and forgive himself.  I pray that this is so.”

AFTER/LIFE runs from Thursday, February 13, 2020 (the 26th anniversary of Aulerich-Sugai’s death) through June 11, 2020. It overlaps with Pride Month (June) and precedes the 23rd International AIDS conference, AIDS2020, which will take place in Oakland and San Francisco in July 2020. This conference marks the 30th anniversary of the development of life-saving antiretroviral therapies.

On Thursday, March 12, from 5-7 pm CLGS and CARe (The Center for the Arts & Religion at The Graduate Theological Union)are hosting a panel discussion in conjunction with CARe’s Spring exhibition, AFTER/LIFE.  This show features the work of Ed Aulerich-Sugai and Mark Mitchell, innovative and inspiring artists who were both affected by HIV/AIDS, leading to Ed’s death in 1994.

Moderated by Dr. Bernard Schlager (Executive Director, Center for LGBTQ and Gender Studies in Religion), our panelists are: Bishop Yvette A. Flunder (City of Refuge UCC), Rabbi Jane Litman (CLGS Jewish Roundtable and Rabbi at Chico Havurah), the Rev. Elder Jim Mitulski (Interim Pastor, Island United Church UCC, Foster City and AIDS activist), and Steven Tierney (Professor Emeritus in Counseling Psychology at the California Institute of Integral Studies, and Clinical Director, Seeds of Awareness, Oakland).

Our diverse group of accomplished panelists will discuss spirituality, ministry, and community in the days when AIDS was first recognized and in more recent times.

CLGS February 2020 e-newsletter Sun, 09 Feb 2020 21:45:28 +0000 CLGS February 2020 e-newsletter

Faith, Family, Equality/ Fe, Familia, Igualdad: The Latinx Roundtable – Expanding Our Reach Tue, 28 Jan 2020 17:23:26 +0000 Since the inception of the Latinx Roundtable we’ve had the intention and expectation that all of our resources would be available in English, Spanish, and Portuguese.  For some of us, having materials developed in – or translated to – Portuguese is beyond our individual expertise – but we have partnered with others and made it a reality.  Being intentional about this has meant that we were able to readily provide resources at a first-ever Congress of LGBTI+ Churches and Communities: Ecumenical Dialogue for the Respect of Diversity (1o Congresso Igrejas e Comunidade LGBTI+: Diálogos ecumênicos para o respeito a diversidade) held in São Paolo, Brazil in June 2019.  We were honored to be able to support the work of the Congress and to share our materials with attendees.

As has often been the case in the United States and in various places in Spanish-speaking Latin America, the sharing of our our resources has meant that lives are transformed, whether by providing LGBTQ+ persons tools for self-empowerment or by offering to others the tools to understand, accept, and affirm LGBTQ+ persons in their families and faith communities.  The organizers of the Congress are now working on a Latin-America wide conference and other regional conferences in Brazil.  The work continues!

In 2020 the LRT will focus on developing new resources (including one on HIV/AIDS and another on Immigration), and we will continue to distribute our existing materials throughout the United States and Latin America.  We will also work with LGBTQ+ immigrants fleeing violence from the northern triangle of Central America: this work at the southern US border will give us an opportunity to partner with the CLGS Trans Roundtable and other faith organizations involved in this work.  Working in collaboration with other CLGS Roundtables is an excellent example of LRT’s advantages in being a part of the Center.

As Coordinator of the LRT I am also working on a resource based on my own research on the ways in which Latinx LGBTQ+ persons experience a sense of belonging in mainline Protestant denominations, with initial data from Latinx LGBTQ+ persons in the Episcopal Church.

At the LRT we believe that our work is multifocal and we want every person to be able to bring their whole selves into their faith communities; this means that faith communities, especially in historically white denominations, need to deal seriously and proactively with issues relating to sexuality, gender identity, and with the ever-present issues of racism and misogyny.  Ultimately, of course, we want faith communities to be places of belonging for all persons who are members.  This is necessary and prophetic work.

I invite you to hear about some of this research at the Tuesday, 10 March 2020, CLGS Lavender Lunch where I will be speaking on “Latinx and LGBTQ: Challenges to Belonging in Mainline Churches.”  This Lavender Lunch will be livestreamed on CLGS’ Facebook page and available for later viewing.

With Pride,


The Rev. Carla E. Roland Guzmán | Coordinator, CLGS Latinx Roundtable | January 2020

Trans Seminarian Religious Leadership Cohort offers workshop on Queering Religious Leadership at Creating Change Conference Sat, 18 Jan 2020 14:04:26 +0000 View the workshop offered by our Trans Seminarian Religious Leadership Cohort at the Creating Change 2020 Conference in Dallas: “Queering Religious Leadership: Trans and Non-Binary Seminarians (Re)Envisioning Ministry

Click here to view the video!

CLGS January 2020 e-newsletter Sun, 05 Jan 2020 19:46:18 +0000 CLGS January 2020 Newsletter

CLGS Seeking a Social Media Coordinator Tue, 17 Dec 2019 06:11:00 +0000 The Center for LGBTQ and Gender Studies in Religion (CLGS) is seeking a Social Media Coordinator to plan, implement, and monitor the social media strategies for CLGS and its LGBTQ Religious Archives Network (LGBTQ-RAN) program. This is a part-time position (24 hours per month).

CLGS Social Media Coordinator Job Posting

LGBTQ Leaders Meet with Congressional Representatives About Non-Discrimination Protections Sat, 14 Dec 2019 15:30:18 +0000

Rev. Roland Stringfellow, CLGS

CLGS is in its second year of working as a part of a national coalition of equality organizations to educate federal policymakers about the harms caused to LGBTQ people by discrimination and the need for a federal response to anti-LGBTQ discrimination.  Equality organizations from North Carolina, Florida, Texas, Ohio, Georgia and Utah are meeting with their members of Congress to share compelling stories from LGBTQ people in their states with the goal of changing hearts and minds.  Rev. Dr. Roland Stringfellow, Coordinator of the CLGS African American Roundtable, is representing this work in the State of Michigan on behalf of CLGS.

Recently, Rev. Stringfellow and his coalition partners met in Washington DC for a day of training about the “Fairness Act,” which is the Republican version of the Equality Act.  The Equality Act (H.R.5), which passed the US House on 17 May 2019, prohibits discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity in public accommodations and facilities, education, federal funding, employment and housing. The bill prohibits the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 from providing a claim, defense, or basis for challenging such protections.

In contract, the “Fairness For All” Act, sponsored by Republican Representative Chris Steward of Utah, would also ban discrimination against LGBTQ people in employment, housing, education, and public accommodations — but it carves out broad exemptions for churches and other religious organizations.  Discrimination against LGBTQ parents in adoption and foster care services, as well as discrimination about LGBTQ people in educational institutions, would be permitted under this version of the bill.

Revs. Ruth Hawley-Lowry and Roland Stringfellow

Rev. Stringfellow and his colleague Rev. Ruth Hawley-Lowry of Zeeland, Michigan, recently met with Michigan lawmakers Senator Gary Peters (D), Rep. Andy Levin (D), Rep. Justin Amash (I), Rep. Bill Huizenga (R), and Rep. Fred Upton (R).  Rep. Upton is co-sponsor of the “Fairness Act” and both he and Rep. Amash agreed to meet with LGBTQ people in who live in their districts in 2020 to share personal stories of how non-discrimination legislation would impact their lives.  A key phrase that is shared with these lawmakers is that this work is Pastoral, not Political since we are not in the business of endorsing any political candidate.

Revs. Stringfellow and Hawley-Lowry are continuing this pastoral work by conducting training sessions for clergy and religious leaders throughout Michigan.  Recently, in Holland, Michigan, they conducted a half-day training co-led by staff from the Center for American Progress in Washington DC, using a Toolkit for Faith Leaders on LGBTQ Equality, which provides step-by-step suggestions on how to meet with federal lawmakers and speak with them about supporting non-discrimination legislation at the state and federal levels.

CLGS is proud to continue this important national work in the upcoming year!

My December Dilemma Sat, 14 Dec 2019 14:27:34 +0000 Some years ago I was grocery shopping with my then young son Asher during the weeks leading up to Christmas.  As we were checking out, the clerk smiled and said to Asher, “I hope you’re being a good boy so that Santa will visit you.”

Asher replied, “I don’t have to be good; I’m Jewish.”

December can be a difficult month for non-Christians (and for Christians as well, but in different ways), because Christmas is in the air.  The Christmas music, decorations, warm “Merry Christmas” greetings from strangers – these all contribute to a feeling of invisibility for those who are not going to the party.

LGBTQ  people well understand this feeling of invisibility as our identity is often unseen.  We are asked about other gender spouses/dates we don’t have or want; about childhoods in a gender that wasn’t ours.  People use the wrong pronouns.  Our sexual orientations and gender identities are about so much more than sex/gender.  It is often painful for this important aspect of our selves to remain hidden.

How to deal with misidentification?  A few years ago, I decided that December would be my personal Jewish queer “out” month.  I wear a rainbow yarmulke and various signifiers of my Jewish and queer identities – pins, t-shirts, jewelry with various combinations of Jewish/rainbow symbols and declarations.  You’d probably be surprised that all of this outerwear has almost no impact on the assumptions of Christmas celebration and heterosexuality.  But I feel better in my personal resistance.

And occasionally, even when I am not in the Bay Area bubble, someone does notice.  That someone is often another Jew or queer who understands and gives me a knowing comment or nod.  They say, “I like your chai necklace,” or “I bought the same shirt at Pride last year.”  We share a moment of mutual recognition and acknowledgement.  I am seen.

Even more rarely, someone who is not a member of either of my tribes notices and comments: “You’re Jewish – well, Happy Hanukah, that’s right isn’t it?  That’s what you say to Jewish people, right?”

“Right,” I respond.  “Thank you.”  No need to go into a long explanation of how Hanukah is not the Jewish Christmas and was a pretty minor holiday until Jews felt like we needed something to deal with the December onslaught.  It really is enough to be seen and correctly identified, even a little bit.

Rabbi Jane Rachel Litman
Coordinator, CLGS Jewish Roundtable