Can transgender people pray? | Amy Johnson

Many people are aware that Dec. 1 is World AIDS Day each year. But how many of you know that Nov. 20 is the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance?

Transgender Day of Remembrance began with a candlelight vigil in 1999, after the murder of Rita Hester, who was killed because of her gender identity. The day continues to remember, honor and raise awareness about people we have lost due to anti-transgender bias, prejudice or hatred.

Confused? Here’s some basic information.

Biological sex refers to the chromosomes, hormones and genitalia with which we are born. For most people, the sex chromosomes are XX or XY. While there are variations, that’s a different article.  People with XX chromosomes generally have female genitalia. Those who are XY generally have male genitalia.

Gender is about being or feeling male or female. Most people are “cisgender” because they feel and experience that they are the same gender as the genitalia they have. For example: a person with female body parts feels like a girl or woman and experiences herself as a girl or woman.

Some people feel and experience strongly that they are a different gender from the body parts they have. We call that being transgender. Dutch research has shown that one difference between transgender and cisgender people is their brains. That is, a person with male chromosomes, and male genitalia, who feels like a woman, actually has female brain characteristics (and vice versa).

This is different from a man who chooses to be a nurse, or a woman who chooses to be a firefighter.  Gender roles are the roles our society expects us to play and conform to because of the body parts we have. What labels or judgments we have about people who color outside of these lines (tough women or effeminate men, for example) have to do with what roles we have been taught to expect each gender to fulfill.

In our culture, we limit people to one of two gender assignments, male or female.

However, some cultures have three, four or even five gender assignations (some Indonesian cultures, for example).

Sexual orientation has to do with whom we are attracted, and is completely separate from our gender identity.

Still confused? You’re not alone. There are many people who do not understand transgender people, or anyone who falls outside of their own definition of male or female. But these people do exist, and they deserve respect and our willingness to try to understand.

A friend of mine who navigates this on a daily basis gets questions from people struggling with their gender identity. One question he got earlier this year was “Can trans people pray?”

How much work do we have to do in our culture when anyone — anyone! — wonders if they are even allowed to pray?

My friend put together a request for those who were willing to share a prayer. To read the responses, go here (thoughtsonblank.wordpress.com).

You may think you don’t need to know about this, or that it doesn’t affect you. As you look forward to the New Year, I challenge you to learn more about the people behind this issue — their stories, their pain, their triumphs.

Instead of standing in judgment or confusion, take a chance and walk with them.


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