Church Provides A Pillar of Support for Transgender Woman August 30, 2016

Linda4Linda Rogers considers herself lucky. She’s a transgender woman—meaning she was assigned a male identity at birth but her gender identity is that of a woman—and has been active in the transgender equality movement for decades. She’s heard plenty of stories about transgender people who have experienced discrimination. But she says she’s been fortunate that in her personal and professional life, people have always seemed to accept who she is.

“I don’t think I’ve been discriminated against—at least, not that I can prove. I’m more of a success story. There are plenty of trans people who I’m sure have been discriminated against. But I’m a success story.”

Still, Linda has had to make some tough choices in her career because of her gender identity. In 2003, Linda to move from Ohio to New Hampshire to advance her career in marketing. But because her new job required her to represent the company to secure government and military facilities that had rigid security clearance requirements, she had to work under the male identity listed on her birth certificate.

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“I was out in the trans community in Ohio for decades before I moved here. But mine was a very high-end job, and I represented the company, so I made a conscious decision to transition everywhere in my life except the office until I retired.”

Linda, who is retired now, says that although this trade-off enabled her to access resources that many transgender people are never able to access because of social, legal and economic restrictions, she would be happier if she knew that no one else would ever have to make such a choice.

“I’m aware that I’m very fortunate. Because of what I did for a living I had access to medical care for the transition. I was prosperous, and employed, which provided me a platform to do a lot of things. Still, I would like for people to not have to go through [the experience of living two separate lives].”

Linda3One very important place that Linda has been able to live openly is in her church. She’s a member at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Concord. When she officially transitioned six years ago, she hid no part of the process from her congregation. All of her fellow church members were incredibly supportive, and even asked her if she would take on leadership positions, including serving on the church’s board and the Greater Concord Interfaith Council.

In all of these roles, she has consciously chosen to represent her community as a transgender person of faith.

“Basically, I was able to educate our whole congregation and by extension many people in that particular forum, just by being who I am. I don’t pretend to be anything other than a trans person, and that’s my way of bringing these two communities—the trans community and my faith community—together.”

As a member of the Interfaith Council, Linda says she does come into contact with other people of faith whose churches are not as accepting of transgender people as her’s has been. But, in the same way that Linda—when she first began transitioning to her true self six years ago—was open to sharing her experience with people to help familiarize them with what it means to be transgender, she treats these interfaith meetings as an educational opportunity.

“It’s really a matter of not preaching to them,” she says, when she meets someone who is not as accepting. Changing hearts and minds is a gradual process, she says, and the best thing she can do is be herself and represent herself as a caring member of the church.

“I show them I’m just somebody else in the faith community, who does the work, who cares. Being out there and involved and being caring member, that’s more effective, especially if they find out later on I’m trans. I just show up and they can learn that I’m a good upstanding citizen whose blood is red just like theirs.”