On Sunday, the Church of England, the governing body, the General Synod, voted by an overwhelming majority, not only of hospitality, but also to affirm transgender people. The world now seems to be a better place. Put in doubt their experience is well known to be harmful to trans people, who often have to affirm the reality of their gender identity when those around them are puzzled or hostile to what they are saying. The Church of England, it is evident the uncertainty about the trans people have contributed to this.
So far, the Church of England has appeared in two minds about trans people, and even now, not all of the members of the church are convinced. Contrary to international multi-disciplinary standard of care, some Christians think that trans people’s mind should be altered to suit their bodies. This is the reason why the Church of England, the decisive vote is so important. The signals that this church, as an institution, is ready to align with the evidence that approves trans realities of peoples and their right to self-determination. It is of a piece with his decision the previous day to align with the professional bodies who consider gay conversion therapy to be harmful.
To be transgender is not an obstacle to ordination in the Church of England, though still very dependent on a bishop
The synod debate on trans people was not so much on science and theology, even if these were part of it. The most powerful interventions in the debate were those that included the stories of Christians transgender people and their families. Trans people are not a group of “others”, but are already actively involved in the life of the Church of England. We may be a minority, but many of us, clergy and laity, to contribute to the life and mission of the church throughout ordinary, unremarkable ways. We love God and love the church, even if some of us have been affected by it.
My journey, as someone that the transition 2001, having been ordained for more than 20 years, illustrates the church’s ambivalence in that moment. To be transgender is not an obstacle to ordination in the Church of England, though still very depended by a bishop of the Church of England, the bishops have a degree of autonomy in their dioceses. View of the church of trans clergy, at the time, was perhaps less significant than its attitude towards women. My bishop, who has not ordained women, I wanted to sell the permit they had given me, the practice of a hospital chaplain. In the end it was easier to move a chaplaincy post in another diocese, where the bishop was cautious, but has provided excellent pastoral care and, finally, affirmation.
On the other hand, my theological college contemporary, the late Rev Carol Stone, the transition as a parish priest in 2000, was fully supported by his bishop, which he did ordain women. At the same time, people were offering us their order, which was passed earlier in their life, and the Church of England put the provisions that have allowed them to enter the discernment.
The church has been less enthusiastic of gay people. Photo: Marc Mueller/EPA
The Church of England, and then implacable opposition to gay marriage, and his initial reservations about civil unions, also had serious consequences for trans people who were heterosexually married. The Gender Recognition Act 2004 provided that they could obtain full recognition of gender only, before divorcing from your spouse and then, if they wish, to enter into a civil partnership. It was strange to find the position of the church is apparently encouraging the divorce.
At the time of my passing, I was in a long-term partnership with the man who is now my husband. Since the Gender Recognition Act, trans people are legally confirmed their gender identity in all its provisions, are able to marry a person of the opposite sex, in their parish church. If clergy are aware of someone of the sex path, and the conscientious objection to a marriage, are not obliged to conduct the ceremony. However, the Church of England, not the subject of the Gender Recognition Act as well as in the case of the Marriage (same Sex Couples) Act 2013, which extended the scope of exemptions.
This means that the Church of England, find it easier to accept trans people lesbian or gay? Perhaps, even if it was sometimes less at ease with both groups. But, given the tone of the recent General Synod debates, it now seems ready to listen, learn and change. Trans people who transition, as I did, fit into the male/female binary, the church tends to insist. Non-binary people seem to question the distinction, but were mentioned in Sunday’s debate, which was said to signal hope for all gender variant people.
The Church of England is still very much in conflict with homosexuality, but has only set up different groups to map the way forward. The next step for the bishops is to consider the introduction of liturgies to mark transgender people travel. Trans people must be part of the conversation.
• Tina Beardsley is an employee of the Trans Britain: Our Long Journey from the Shadows, by Christine Burns, which is available for pre-order unbound.com