Advocacy organization meeting with Bishop Robinson to talk about trans people and religion
Local transgender activist Kelli Busey struggled for years over how her gender identity fit in with faith. But she ultimately gives the credit for finding her soul to a straight friend.
"I became involved in a church when a friend kept asking me to go," she said. "Turns out it was a Metropolitan Community Church so there was complete acceptance of the LGBT community. That allowed the possibilities that were there inside of me to come out and be free of fear and self doubt."
It is an experience Busey fears not all transgender people have.
"At that church, I learned about all of these denominations that had a hard time understanding our community, and it just made me so upset," she said.
Busey believes no group should be excluded from faith. That’s why she and the rest of Dallas Transgender Advocates and Allies are planning an event to focus on barriers to faith for transgender people.
Transgender Conversations will take place Saturday, Nov. 22, from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. at the Sheraton Dallas Hotel, 400 North Olive St. The event is open to the public, but DTAA is asking for a $20 donation.
It will feature a panel of six transgender people talking with Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson, the only openly gay bishop of the Episcopal Church.
"What we want to do is bring faith more into the forefront of transgender people’s thinking," Busey said. "The other thing we want to do is make people think about the denominations that view us in a favorable light like Robinson’s [and] what do they do to enable trans people to function fully in society.
"Some faiths still actively pursue us like rodents. We want to know how our allies are going to stand up for us," Busey said.
This event comes as a result of Robinson’s planned attendance at the Black Tie Dinner, an annual fundraiser that this year will benefit 18 local beneficiaries and the Human Rights Campaign.
Robinson will be accepting the Elizabeth Birch Award in recognition for his work on a national scale for LGBT rights.
Transgender activists have targeted the dinner since HRC last year supported a version of the Employment Nondiscrimination Act that didn’t include gender identity. Robinson addressed the activists’ concerns in a September interview with the Dallas Voice.
"Well, first of all, I only learned of this protest very recently. I am intending to write back to the transgender group and say that I do intend to receive the award and speak at the Black Tie Dinner, but that I would also be willing to appear, meet with, participate in an event, whatever, with the transgender community to show my support and to speak on their behalf as a fellow member of the community, the larger LGBT community," Robinson told the Voice.
He went on to say, "The Human Rights Campaign has an enormous influence in Washington, and they’ve got considerable political savvy, and the fact of the matter is that a full LGBT bill simply would not have passed. And I don’t think we always have to hold out for the full loaf before moving forward. You get what you can accomplish and then continue to work for the rest of it.
"If I believed that HRC was not supportive of transgender people, if I believed that they were not going to continue to work diligently to get transgender people covered under that bill, then that would be a whole different story, but I’m not of that opinion," Robinson said.
Even with Robinson arranging this meeting with the transgender community, Busey says the group still expects some protesting at the event from both sides. But that aside, she feels the event has already accomplished most of its goals before even happening.
"My most ardent desire is to open up the world of faith to other transgender people because the GLBT community as a whole has gotten to the point where we look at religion as a wall where it is unapproachable, but that’s a misconnection," she said. "This conversation will help to prove that point."
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 14, 2008.