Notes from WATERtalks: Feminist Conversations in Religion Series

“In Conversation about Transgender Inclusion”

An hour-long teleconference with

Rev. M Barclay

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

1 to 2 p.m. ET

WATER spoke with Rev. M Barclay of Reconciling Ministries Network about their ministry of transgender justice and inclusion.

Mary E. Hunt: Welcome to the first teleconference of the 2017-18 season. Special welcome to our new WATER intern from the Mennonite Voluntary Service program, Janaya Sachs; we also have a Wesley Theological Seminary student, Heureuse Kaj, from the Democratic Republic of Congo; and of course we are thrilled to have Hannah Dorfman, our Loretto Volunteer who returns for a second year with us. The WATER office is buzzing.

We welcome all of you to this session. Like all of WATER’s efforts, our purpose is not simply theoretical. Rather, we are focused on changing the cultural and intellectual assumptions that ground discrimination, exclusion, and destruction. As we engage in this important topic of transgender inclusion, we think too of the people affected by recent floods and hurricanes, especially our colleagues in Cuba. Though Cuba gets little press in the United States, the destruction there was significant.

People ask what we DO at WATER and sometimes it is a bit hard to be specific. But today let me underscore that we are a place that nurtures and educates all who join our ranks. Today’s speaker, M Barclay, was a WATER intern about ten years ago. We are proud of their integrity and struggle; we learn from them, and we welcome them back to our table only wishing you, M, were sitting here with us. I remember a conversation about becoming vegetarian when you were with us now some years ago; we did not then discuss your gender or sexuality, but I hope you always felt and will continue to feel WATER’s support for your life and ministry.

Rev. M Barclay is the Director of Communications for Reconciling Ministries Network, an organization working for LGBTQ inclusion in the United Methodist Church. M served for two years as staff liaison to the United Methodist Alliance for Transgender Inclusion (UMAMI). M received a Master of Divinity at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary. They have worked as a hospital chaplain, youth director, justice associate, and faith-based organizer for reproductive justice. M does extensive speaking, writing, preaching, and teaching on the intersections of faith and social justice. A self-identified theology nerd, M is convinced that in every conversation about social justice and being human, there is an opportunity to engage the Divine, Mystery, Love, and the interconnectedness of all of creation. M is pansexual and a non-binary trans person who uses singular they/them pronouns.

Welcome back to WATER, M! We look forward to your remarks.

M Barclay: Thank you, Mary. It’s a nothing short of an honor and a privilege to be on this call. Thank you so much for having me.

When I had the privilege of being an intern at WATER back in 2011, a phrase that was meaningfully gifted to us interns was always, “once a WATER woman, always a WATER woman.” The collective sense of commitment to one another’s work and well-being felt in the WATER community remains of deep significance to me – both in terms of its reflection of my own values and in my experience of being a part of it.

“Once a WATER woman, always a WATER woman;” that is, until you transition. And then what?

“Once a WATER person, always a WATER person.” {Editor’s note: YES!}

That has been my experience of this community – and as a person whose life, ministry, and values are rooted in experiences shaped by being socialized as a woman and liberated, in some significant ways, by feminist theory and feminist theology, to feel an ongoing connection with that which has shaped my life so significantly, is of deep importance to me.

And while there has been some significant friction between some feminist communities and trans communities, as one committed to both, I see our liberation bound up together.

But before I say too much more about that, I want to lay some groundwork, knowing a lot of people aren’t particularly familiar with the terms used in the trans community.

I’ll start by telling you a little bit about myself.

As has been stated, I am the first openly non-binary trans person to be commissioned as a Deacon in The United Methodist Church. An unexpected experience in a denomination that still says “homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.” It’s a strange time in my denomination…

But what do those words even mean?

To be referenced as trans person is to simply say, when the doctors analyzed my body at birth, they made an assumption about my gender that turned out to be inaccurate.

Trans, simply, means one whose gender is different than was assumed at birth.

For those of you who are not trans – for whom the gender assigned to you at birth was the accurate one – the term for that is cisgender – often said just as cis. C-i-s.

I know many people are used to hearing about trans people as simply trans men (which is to say, someone who doctors called a girl at birth but is actually a man), or trans women (someone who doctors assumed is a boy at birth but is actually a woman). However, there are many other ways to be trans.

To be a non-binary trans person is an umbrella term for anyone whose gender cannot accurately be described by solely man or woman. Some of us would say we are both, some of us, like myself, would say neither – because there are other ways of being than the dichotomy we have been given.

So this describes my gender identity – or frankly – just my gender. I am growing weary of the use of an additional identifier on the end of it – gender identity – as if it is as simple as our choosing to call ourselves whatever we like. That aside, my gender – who I am – is a non-binary trans person. Someone whose gender assumed at birth was inaccurate but whose gender is most accurately described outside of the binary.

This is largely separate from my sexual orientation – which is queer or bi or pan – I am not committed to any of these words which can all accurately describe being attracted to more than one gender. There are important reasons for and histories behind each of these but that’s a whole other conversation.

Another thing to know about me – and about trans people – well people in general – is that it’s important to ask and share pronouns.

You may have heard before to ask preferred pronouns, but like much of the language that is evolving as we move out of an apologetic stage, the language is shifting to simply asking pronouns. They are not preferred – they are a matter of accuracy or inaccuracy. The importance behind asking and sharing pronouns is rooted in the simple reality that you cannot look at a person and know their gender, and thus know their pronouns.

So one way to be explicitly trans mindful is to always introduce yourself in public spaces by sharing your name along with your pronouns. So you may say, “Hi, I’m Mary Hunt and my pronouns are she/her/hers.” Or, “Hi, I’m Mark and my pronouns are he/him/his.” Or in my case, “My name is Rev. M Barclay and my pronouns are they/them/theirs.”

For those of us for whom neither he nor she is accurate, a number of gender neutral pronouns have taken shape over the last few decades. You may hear people use newly created pronouns such as ze or hir, which some people do still use, but many of us have found that shifting the use of a word that already exists and actually is used this way often is easier than teaching a new pronoun.

And so you have singular they as a gender neutral pronoun.

Many people already use it as such. When you don’t know someone’s gender, you probably say things often like:

“Which way did they go?” Or, “If I get a call, tell them they can call me back.”

This usage of singular they is now officially accepted by major media such as the Washington Post style guide. Shakespeare, Dickinson, George Bernard Shaw, and Jane Austen used this use of singular they in their writings so it’s not entirely new.

For modern grammar nerds, it can rub the wrong way, but language and its use shifts all the time – and without another option to respectfully speak about people, this is what is developing and what will likely take hold.

In light of the great barriers facing trans people today – especially trans people of color – making the simple shift of modeling, asking, and using people’s correct pronouns goes a long way. It’s a very simple tool for showing basic respect to trans people – a way of saying “I trust you to know who you are better than I do my assumptions.”

Such basic respect is hardly the norm in most places of the country. Many trans people are isolated with few people who respect them for who they really are in their lives. Some are children, some are seniors, some are your neighbors still testing their surroundings to see who is safe to share their identity with.

While the reasons for this are of course many, isolation and lack of basic respect certainly contribute to the incredibly high suicide rate in the trans community. 41% of trans people have attempted suicide. That’s 22 times more likely to attempt suicide than rates in the general population.

To say that being trans in America is tough is a hell of an understatement. The barriers to safety, acceptance, and well-being are many.

For this reason, there’s one experience I’ve had twice now that’d I’d like to share about.

Once a year in Chicago, trans folx from nearby communities gather on the shore of Lake Michigan. This gathering is significant for a few reasons:

  1. So many in the trans community are isolated – finding one another, in spite of the lifeline that it is, can be very difficult – and gatherings of a whole community of trans people are simply a rare occurrence.
  2. It’s a public gathering – we bring our lives and bodies into view – making ourselves vulnerable and also choosing to live and love ourselves freely and proudly together in plain sight.
  3. It’s at the beach and as you might imagine the beach is not exactly an easy place to be for many trans people. The reading of our bodies, by both individuals and systems alike, has done each one of us incredible harm. Not only have many of us endured decades of being closeted and misgendered and misunderstood prior to our coming out as trans because of the way people have read our bodies, but even after coming out we are read and spoken to and gawked at as freaks – especially those of us whose bodies just don’t add up to expectations, don’t conform to assumptions, or line up with the categories intended for us. The vulnerability extends beyond that even. While not every trans person wants any medical intervention on their bodies, many who do want and actually need that healthcare, don’t have access to it. And bearing a body that feels like a betrayal to one’s self in public takes serious courage. That anyone shows up to the beach in such a way is an incredible testament to the power of trans people being able to gather with other trans people – with people who really know just what that takes.

Bringing our bodies into the sun, letting it kiss our skin without concern, or at least concern enough not to be there, of the gazes upon us and the potential consequences thereof, is powerful.

When we are forced to carefully navigate every new social situation, every use of a public restroom, every airport security line, every doctor’s office, every faith community, every sidewalk, every place where gender matters which is of course, nearly everywhere, with vigilance and suspicion, the power and joy of being so free in public, because of our togetherness, is no small thing.

I share this story, however, because it’s these days, just once a year, that I feel most hopeful about what could be – not just for me – but for everyone.

Looking at this mass of individuals, varied in size, shape, race, gender, age, and expression is simply stunning. Looking at this community so deliberate in its public witness of incarnation, so gorgeous in its authenticity and freedom of being and diversity of aesthetic, so unashamed, at least in action if not internally, to enjoy life in a public space not meant for such bodies, begs the question, “What if this is just how it was?” “What if this is what public space felt like and looked like?”

The trans community is filled with just as much sexism, racism, and classism as every other community so there’s no utopian notion here by any means. But in this moment, this visual at the least, is one that speaks to much needed truths in our world that cross marginalized communities. Truths like:

–All bodies are good bodies. There is no one right way to have a body. There are so many different ways to be women, different ways to be men, different ways to be non-binary or intersex.

–Collectivity is necessary for change-making and survival.

–Your body, your agency.

–Exercising vulnerability is power.

I could go on. But it shouldn’t be hard to make the connections between the ways these liberating elements of trans people gathering are just as easily applied to the needs of cis women and cis people of color and cis gay and lesbian and bi communities.

The liberation of trans people, the deepening and broadening of our understanding of gender, will benefit all.

And yet, the narrative has been just the opposite – that the trans community is an extension of patriarchal values rather than a challenge to them.

Though what we now call trans people have existed forever, the opportunity and privilege of being able to write, rather than being written about, our lives through theory and theologies is a slowly evolving one. Instead, most people have been introduced to our lives by reading news articles written by journalists who know nothing about our community, by academics writing theory based not on experience but assumptions, or while being lumped in together along with sexual minorities so that many allies to the trans community, both straight and queer, can hardly tell you the systemic differences between the LGB and the T – much less that some of us are both.

There is so much we have to undo. And so few of us are privileged enough to have access to the resources we need to speak the language of academic theories that are required for others to take us seriously beyond what is already said about us. To say the least, the assumptions that we might know some things about what it means to be trans that cis people don’t isn’t exactly extended to us very often.

And because the narrative of our being was created and shaped about us without us is, of course, paltry at best.

I can’t begin to describe how absolutely maddening it is every time I read an article written by a well-meaning cis journalist who tells the story of a trans person by referencing what clothes they wore as a child or what toy they preferred to play with.

Trans people of every gender wear all kinds of clothes. Our genders are no more attached to the toys we played with as children, or whether we like pink or blue or maybe even green, than cisgender people’s genders are. It sounds just as absurd to say such of a trans person as it does to say of anyone else.

With narratives like this, it’s no wonder many cisgender women found the trans community threatening for so long. If trans people are simply people who brush up against expectations and stereotypes of the gendered ideals created by patriarchy and thus decide to call ourselves something different, that seems to legitimize the rubric – the same rubric women have been fighting to overturn for ages.

With this understanding, cisgender feminist women and trans people of any gender are inherently pitted against one another.

It’s this kind of oversimplified and elementary narrative that undergirds the idea that trans women are simply men in a dress thus dangerous to cisgender women in the restroom. It is a deeply inaccurate portrayal of the trans community that only serves to pit women against women and feed the power and pockets of white cisgender men – at the cost of violence against trans women of color in particular and the ongoing suicide of our young trans boys, girls, and non-binary kids.

I can admit that it was this narrative that kept me from embracing my own identity as a non-binary trans person once I recognized it. I was and remain deeply committed to my feminist values. When I began to recognize my own trans-ness, I felt more at war with myself based on the oversimplified narrative I was given about who trans people are and if I was somehow caving to patriarchal narratives on my life. And so, for a while, I tried to theorize my way out of this new deep sense of knowing myself.

The rise in lesbian butch voices who were publicly arguing trans men and in particular non-binary people were simply tom boys calling themselves something new, and thus erasing the legitimacy of masculine women, plagued my own efforts to understand myself and my own identity. I knew I didn’t believe in reinforcing gender stereotypes – as a well trained and studied and committed feminist that would be the last thing I intended.

The work I would have to do to undo that narrative within myself so that I could fully embrace my own identity as non-binary trans person, just as feminist as I ever was, reminds me so much of the work I had to do as a young person, before I knew I was trans, when I was told I couldn’t go into ministry on account of being a woman. Having grown up in a socially and politically conservative environment, I had no reason to believe this was anything but true. The texts made it clear. Those who had authority in my life made is clear. And the only thing that kept me struggling in the right direction was` 1 – the existence of other women ministers and 2 – the reality that I could not shake inside myself – that this was true for me on some spiritual level. It took me two and a half years of reading new books, talking to people with – in my region – minority views on the subject – and learning about how much broader and deeper that conversation of women in ministry actually is. There was a whole new world of understanding I didn’t have access to, until I was forced to find it.

It felt very similar in my journey of coming out as trans. I didn’t have the understanding or the analysis or the resources to get past the few narratives that had been provided for me. But I was finally starting to see other non-binary people in the world and was connecting with their experiences and identity deeply – in a way that was very different than my very intentional efforts to try to reframe my understanding of myself – through gender theory and academic self-talk – to settle with being a masculine woman – a phrase that never felt right – masculine being something I never have or do identify with.

I resonate with the words of late trans activist Leslie Feinberg who said, “I actually chafe at describing myself as masculine…to me, branding individual self-expression as simply feminine or masculine is like asking poets: Do you write in English or Spanish? The question leaves out the possibilities that the poetry is woven in Cantonese or Ladino, Swahili or Arabic. The question deals only with the system of language the poet has been taught… To me, gender is the poetry each of us makes out of the language we are taught…” [1]

The white western cis patriarchy has mythologized gender into two oppositional and mutually exclusive categories for the purposes of maintaining power relations. The whole system is so normalized that we have come to believe being cisgender and only having two genders is an objective reality that has always been. This is simply not true.

Gender cannot be boiled down to body parts or to stereotypes about clothes and toys – gender is social, economic, cultural, relational, spiritual and neither defined by our bodies nor completely removed from our bodies. It is a sad, sad thing that we have forced many ways of being in the world into two narrow and rigid – even in the variance within – constructions.

In addition, we cannot talk about the problems with cisnormativity and the gender binary without addressing its parents – white supremacy and colonization.

For example, the history of white colonizers deliberately eradicating two spirit Native people, and Christian missionaries connecting gender non-conformity with sin, must remain a central part of this conversation. George Catlin, a european artist who documented native life and culture through his paintings, said of gender non-conforming native people in the 1800s:

“This is one of the most unaccountable and disgusting customs, that I have ever met in the Indian country, and so far as I have been able to learn, belongs only to the Sioux and Sacs and Foxes— perhaps it is practiced by other tribes, but I did not meet with it; and for further account of it I am constrained to refer the reader to the country where it is practiced, and where I should wish that it might be extinguished before it be more fully recorded.”[2]

And extinguished they were.

Cultures across history and continents have recognized more than two genders. The normalization of the western gender binary and its commitment to rigid dichotomies – of sex, of sexuality, of gender, of race, and more, all works hand in hand in maintaining power and eradicating all that threatens the binary world and the power differentiations it depends on.

We cannot talk about gender, in any of its conceptions, without talking about race. And those of us who are white and trans – or any white person in the LGBTQ community – must also recognize the ways our current rhetoric for sexual orientations and genders continue to whitewash different ways of the conversations of sexuality and gender have unfolded across time and culture.

Even still, within the United States, we cannot address trans justice and inclusion without immediately discussing race – as the epidemic of violence towards trans women of color continues and the barriers of housing discrimination, job discrimination, youth family abandonment, and food insecurity threaten trans people of color to a far greater extent.

The more trainings and preaching and workshops I do – both in faith based spaces and beyond – on trans justice and inclusion, the more I think about the phrase I learned from Mary Hunt referencing the need to live a feminism that doesn’t just add women and stir. As she and Charlotte Bunch said, “Feminism must be more than adding women into structures as they are; it must also be about transforming those institutions, making them more human.”[3]

I do a lot of ministry around teaching people how to practice basic steps of welcome to trans people. Addressing matters like pronouns, singular they, the urgent need for safe access to restrooms, and why we can’t assume people’s gender by looking at them.

These things matter – a lot – but they are just the surface. I hope that communities that are beginning to welcome trans people in their fold – whether denominations or individual churches or any gatherings of people awakening to cisnormativity – will not just attempt to “add trans people and stir” but will allow the world of gender to expand and shift and grow in their personal and communal understandings in ways that ultimately serves to transform structures – for the benefit of all.

There is a much more expansive world available than that which has been crafted by the western binary. There are spiritual truths in the trans experience that could benefit all and deepen and broaden our understanding of the Divine. Truths about bodies and change and resilience and perception and autonomy.

If I have learned anything in my efforts to be allies to the communities wherein I hold the privilege, it’s that doing the bare minimum of learning what not to say or do, how to make spaces welcoming, and perhaps learning how to combat a few of the narratives used against them, is just not enough on its own. Not for me or for change making. I am set more free every time I engage in learning from other people about a world I simply can’t access on my own, the experiences foreign to me, even if relatable once shared.

And so as committed as I am to doing trans 101 work and ministry with people – because it makes a practical difference in practice and behavior – I also want to see something different take shape – something deeper and beneficial to both trans people and cis people – where we actually look at the roots of the problem and the ways they interact with other systems and not only the ways to perform an acceptable allyship. No more “add x group and stir.”

We need each other. In ways that extend beyond the surface.

Our lives and concerns and challenges are overlapping and the deeper we dive, the more clearly are entangled roots come into view.

I know there are elements of engaging in these conversations around gender that can be intimidating and sensitive. But it is not trans people that are complicated. We are who we are and who we are has been made complicated by a mythology that harms us all.

This is but a start, but for all of you who are opening yourselves up to what may feel vulnerable for the sake of engaging another marginalized community and widening and deepening the work of liberation, I give thanks and look forward to our continued journey together.

Q & A

MEH: Thank you so much, M, for laying out some of the basics, what you call “Trans 101.” But you’ve also brought us the rich content of your own life with so much integrity, so thank you again. I will now open the floor for questions and comments. I suggest we practice what M has been teaching and use our pronouns when we introduce ourselves, so that we begin to make normative the expression of pronouns so that it’s not just a practice unique to trans people.

Q: She/her/hers: l have a question regarding language and the trans community. My organization is trying to integrate trans community. We’re stumbling upon the fact that the language changes so often. “LGBT” is always changing. We’re attempting to move away from terms such as transgender and nonbinary and talk more in terms that include people beyond the binary. Do you have any views on that practice? Do you have any suggestions for phrases that don’t exclude people who don’t identify with the term transgender?

MB: That’s a hard question, there are so many different answers. You could ask five trans people and get a different answer from each of us. You have to hold the reality that you can do your best and it’s not going to sit right with everyone. I generally use trans as a catchall, although a lot of intersex people don’t identify as trans so I will add intersex if it applies to the conversation at hand. But I think the community has moved beyond trans* – people now are better assuming trans includes those who are nonbinary. I tend to say trans or gender non-conforming, and then be specific about intersex. In order to avoid almost all of that, I often reference “gender identity.” I think it’s too soon to move away from this, even though I critiqued it before. So I would use “gender identity” or trans/gender non-conforming. Language is hard.

Response: Thank you, we’re trying to get a lot of perspectives in the room and see what we can make of it. I think a lot of people don’t know what that means, and it scares them and they shut down. We’re trying to balance being inclusive while also talking to people in the language they understand. We will keep working, thank you for your ministry.

Q: Hi M, she/her/hers, I have a question related to the Sojourners article you sent to participants before the talk. Throughout your ministry, how has your relationship to your faith/faith communities changed?

MB: That’s a good question. I mentioned this in the article, but I can’t imagine having had the strength and courage to come out as a nonbinary person without a faith to lean into. The discrimination I received in the process of ordination based on my sexual orientation was incredibly intimidating. But once you realize a truth about yourself, it’s hard to make it go away. I had to deeply live into my faith and lean into that which is life-giving. My faith has taught me that which is “life-giving” includes challenging structures that are doing harm, living into vulnerability of trusting that people would love me, meet me, and stand in solidarity with me. This allowed me to take the plunge. Even though the Methodist Church has made my life harder in so many serious ways, it’s also been a place where people have given me the strength, community, and opportunity to teach what I have learned. I have been given a lot of agency. Experiences of discrimination have been nothing new. But I’ve been invited to push people in new and different ways. This has been impactful.

Diann L. Neu: M, thank you so much, we have so much to learn from you. I’m grateful that you are part of the WATER community. I have a ritual question. What kind of rituals have you found nourishing for yourself? What kind have you developed and what kind do you need?

MB: I love that question, I wish I had better answers. Honestly, I have not had the time and space to put together any rituals. I do feel like there’s a gaping need for rituals and spiritual opportunities for trans people. There are some that exist, but they are cheesey. We need real, meaningful rituals around the coming out process, taking on a new name, recognizing the validity of a new name. I haven’t seen any rituals done well yet around this.

I like the idea of a bodily ritual for trans people who choose to undergo medical transitions. Also a letting go ritual. I don’t want to generalize, but a lot of us don’t want to treat who we were before transition as something to erase or pretend wasn’t true for us in some meaningful ways. But I also think there are some things about having been perceived as somebody you’re not for so long could be beautifully released through a ritual. I’d like to think about those more.

DLN: Thank you. I remember when I have worked at different times for the LGB community on coming home to ourselves rituals. There are such parallels and power in those because you felt like you belonged to a community. I can only imagine how much these new naming and bodily rituals, letting go of past perceptions, and welcoming home who you are rituals could be. Go for it!

MEH: Thanks, Diann, sounds like we have some work to do here at WATER. I think the advent of trans acceptance has also functioned to show how all of us participate in greater gender diversity and fluidity than we might have understood or been taught. We’re all learning a lot about ourselves. What do you think about the impact of the greater visibility of trans people? They pay a deep price for the courage to simply be. What do you think the impact is on young people? What about parents who are dealing with trans issues for children? Are things loosening up with young people? Is it easier? I’m interested in your reflections on that, particularly in your pastoral capacity.

MB: It’s so hard to watch national conversations around bathrooms and students unfold. Some of us who are sexual minorities recognized at a young age that we were different. There’s a knee-jerk reaction to giving children any source of agency over understanding themselves. Psychologists have made clear that by age 4 most children are aware of their gender to some degree. When I was a child, having awareness of trans people was not something I had in front of me. I was left to make sense of things without any sort of guide. So the fact that some of these things are being made available to children leads to the potential for a much healthier childhood. It’s beautiful to see parents who are open to allowing their child to express themselves. Parents can be isolated too. It’s beautiful to see some children be given the freedom to be who they are. I think a lot of cisgender gay men can probably relate. I know I’m overgeneralizing, but how many gay men were punished because they held their bodies in the “wrong way?” I think we need to apply the same sort of lens to children.

When you have trans kids, the thought that comes up a lot is, what if you make a mistake? Medical intervention for kids is simply to withhold puberty for as long as necessary, so that when they are older they have less medical needs to live into the body that feels right for them. I think there’s a lot of potential for kids. But there are very small pockets where this is allowed and embraced, these kids still face discrimination. So there’s a lot of hope, but kids are also bearing a really big burden.

MEH: M, are there any resources you can suggest for us related to transgender people and faith?

MB: Yeah, there’s not a lot of great stuff yet, unfortunately. There’s a book that’s coming out called Transforming: The Bible and the Lives of Transgender Christians by Austen Hartke, a trans man who wrote the article in Sojourners that I sent out.

I don’t have any go-to trans faith related books. So many trans resources still leave out nonbinary people and have antiquated views towards trans people. I do recommend the organization TransFaith as an ongoing resource. They’ve been around for awhile, and they’re keeping up with the discourse and feature a diverse group of trans people.

MEH: Thanks. When I was in Cuba in May, at the Protestant seminary in Matanzas (Seminario Evangelico de Teologia), there happened to be a conference featuring three trans ministers. In one of the presentations, someone took the Transfiguration of Jesus as a metaphor. I’m wondering what your thoughts are on that?

MB: I’ve seen a lot of trans people engage with that text. I think there are other stories as well. I love John 1 as a metaphor for God transitioning by reincarnating over and over again in different bodies. I love seeing trans people engaging scripture in creative ways. There are so many opportunities around eunuchs and Genesis, for example. Trans people are doing some phenomenal work.

MEH: Deep thanks to you, M. I wonder just as a closing, is there anything else about yourself you would like to share?

MB: I take my role as deacon very seriously. I hold it as deeply as I hold some of my other identities. In the Methodist Church, the Deacon is supposed to be an extension of the best of the Church into the world where it matters. Particularly in the time that we’re in where there is so much harm and hurt, I’m very drawn to the language of bringing that which is divine and healing into those places. It’s at the core of my identity, even as I hold it in relation to many of the challenges that come with relating to institutional religion.

MEH: Thanks so much, M, for an enriching hour. I bless you in your ministry. You’re proof that once you get into WATER, it’s hard to get out. You call us to push forward to greater and greater inclusion.

WATER thanks Rev. M Barclay for their work. We look forward to further conversation. 

Please join us for the next WATERtalk on Wednesday, October 11, 2017 from 1 PM to 2 PM ET. We will be joined by Robyn Henderson-Espinoza, Jennifer Bailey, and Micky ScottBey Jones of the Faith Matters Network. All are welcome. REGISTER HERE.

[1] Feinberg, Leslie. Trans Liberation Beyond Pink or Blue, Beacon Press, 1998. Page 9


[3] Bunch, Charlotte. Passionate Politics: Feminist Theory in Action, Macmillan, 1987. Page 140.