Sold Out Conference Trains Clergy and Laity on Spiritual Care of Transgender People and Families

  TransLucent: Spiritual Care for Trans* Families in Seabury Auditorium of General Seminary on October 26, 2018.

TransLucent: Spiritual Care for Trans* Families in Seabury Auditorium of General Seminary on October 26, 2018.

On Friday, October 26, General Seminary hosted the sold-out TransLucent: Spiritual Care for Trans* Families, overfilling the capacity of Seabury Auditorium with compassionate hearts.  

The Very Rev. Kurt H. Dunkle, Dean and President welcomed participants who travelled throughout the country, many of whom had never been on the Close of General Seminary. The first of its kind in Episcopal seminaries, Dean Dunkle approved and prioritized the planning and publicity of the conference, opening the day with a hearty, “This is important.”

The Rev. Dr. April Stace, Affiliate Professor of Arts and Pastoral Care and the Rev. Kate Malin, Adjunct Professor of Homiletics and Rector of Christ Church Rye, NY organized TransLucent. When asked about the importance of this conference, Stace responded, “Religious institutions have an opportunity to save lives.” She went on to cite several studies that indicated the significant decrease of depression and suicide rates among transgender people and discovering a genuinely affirming religious community.

One priest who traveled from suburban Chicago identified the need for the conference, “Multiple families in our parish have a person in gender transition right now, and our clergy team realized we could use some help in our theology/pastoral care game in this area.”

TransLucent was intended for clergy and lay leaders who care for the spiritual needs of transgender people and their families. The conference offered a cross-disciplinary perspective of speakers: Dr. Lou Himes, a clinical psychologist and founder of QuIPP (Queer Identities Psychology Partnership), Joan Rater, the award-winning television writer and producer (Grey’s Anatomy, Madam Secretary) who is the parent of a transgender son, Austen Hartke, author of Transforming: The Bible and the Lives of Transgender Christians and creator of the YouTube series Transgender and Christian, and Rabbi Jo Hirschman along with Dr. Barbara Warren, both from Mount Sinai Hospital.

  Joan Rater (Grey’s Anatomy, Madam Secretary) offers her story about her son, Tom, to TransLucent attendees.

Joan Rater (Grey’s Anatomy, Madam Secretary) offers her story about her son, Tom, to TransLucent attendees.

In addition to many other important methods of processing, humor was a consistent theme among the presenters. In describing the experience of being a parent of a transgender son, Joan Rater shared a routine interaction with her friends: “‘How's Maggie?’ I responded: ‘Maggie's transgender and has changed her name to Tom and their fine, thanks for asking.’”

Participants described the experience of TransLucent as “life-giving” and “deeply necessary.” Many others cited the timeliness of the conference, given a recent announcement by the Trump administration to consider redefining gender, jeopardizing certain legal protections for transgender people. 

Discussions related to the organization of resources for the spiritual care and direction of transgender people and their families, along with further training are currently underway.