Transgender people are beloved by God, and people’s discomfort does not give anyone the right to exclude them from aspects of basic human dignity, wrote a gay priest in an op-ed for his local newspaper.
Fr. Steve Wolf shared about his trans sister, Maddie, who he said is “the happiest I have ever seen her” after she embraced her trans identity. Wolf writes for the Tennessean:
“I have not yet met a trans sibling who gave me reason to be afraid in any way. And I believe God invites each of us to stand in defense of any child of God who is being bullied, even if that means accompanying a sister in transition and standing guard outside of a bathroom stall.”
Wolf has also spent time at Nashville PFLAG meetings where he met other trans people, and he has been “blessed to hear their stories and come to know them as friends.” These encounters have taught Wolf to lean into and even embrace discomfort:
“Sometimes we encounter people whose decisions in following their conscience seeking discernment about what it means to be created in God’s image might make us uncomfortable, but our discomfort does not automatically mean that we need to feel threatened or afraid.
“Any discomfort of ours does not give us the right to exclude another child of God from basic human activities such as going to church or school or to the bathroom.
“Sometimes God invites us to see our discomfort as an opportunity to talk to another and listen to the story of the other, perhaps even to be a friend.”
Knowing the impact that local policy can have on the experiences of trans people, Wolf directs his message of love and encounter especially to Tennessee lawmakers:
“Our governor and state lawmakers have seemed concerned about psychological, emotional and physical harm to some young Tennesseans, but without concern for the psychological, emotional and physical harm of the young Tennesseans who are also transgender. These lawmakers seem not to know that the good citizens of Tennessee do not choose to be lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, cis gender or heterosexual; rather, each of these is a discovery that each human being makes.”
Especially in the context of the anti-LGBTQ religious narratives that can be common in some areas of the U.S., Wolf’s words are sacred and even life-saving. As someone from the South, I know how important it can be for Southern trans people and queers, especially young people, to know that they deserve dignity, respect, and love. They deserve a place in our church if they desire it. Wolf represents a Christ-like witness to the stories and lived realities of the trans loved ones in his life, and more priests should follow his example of vocal and active allyship to the trans community.
—Barbara Anne Kozee, New Ways Ministry, October 5, 2021