From Tomboy to Transgender: Why YES on 3 is a Yes to Me
I was sitting on the floor of a musty room in the mountains of North Georgia when I first learned the word cisgender.* It was 2011 and my first time at a retreat for LGBTQ Presbyterians discerning a call to ministry. We introduced ourselves by sharing pronouns and our sexual and gender identities. I was assigned female at birth (AFAB) and had been living as a woman, but I knew in that moment that I was not a cisgender person.
As a child, I was called a tomboy. I wore boys’ clothes and played with boys, matchbox cars, and G.I. JOE. I felt on some level that tomboy was not a desirable label for a young girl in the South. It was a way to explain my “peculiar” behavior–to indicate that something about me was a little off. I grew up in a moderately sized town in Arkansas that was a haven for progressives, artists, and musicians. My parents have been queer allies for decades, and they made sure that I had loving, familial relationships with gay and lesbian people. For that, I am so grateful. I always knew it was ok to be gay. But I didn’t really know anything about transgender people. I was well into my 20s before I had language and stories to help guide me through embracing my own transgender identity.
I wonder how different my adolescence could have been had I only known. Our culture is fixed on the idea that there are only two genders–man and woman–and that there are particular ways that you are supposed to behave, look, speak, work, and love. Christianity has been one of the worst offenders in upholding this gender binary. However, the prophet Jeremiah reminds us that sometimes we have to destroy in order to rebuild. (Jer. 1:4-10) This rings true for many transgender people. I’ve had to reconstruct my own story in order to live as the complex, beautiful, flourishing human that God created me to be. As a pastor, I am called to live authentically and to make sure that all of God’s people are loved, seen, and safe. That’s why I support the YES on 3 campaign to defend transgender rights in Massachusetts.
In 2016, Governor Charlie Baker signed a law ensuring protections for transgender people from discrimination in public places, such as restaurants, stores, and doctors’ offices; and yes, restrooms in those places. Now, the state’s transgender nondiscrimination law will be on the ballot this November and is at risk of being repealed – a move that would make Massachusetts the first in the nation to roll back transgender protections at the statewide ballot. Question 3 asks whether to uphold the current state law that protects transgender people from discrimination in public places. A “yes” vote keeps the current law as it is.
This is not just a Massachusetts issue or a political issue. This is about standing up for the dignity, safety, and rights of all people. We are working to tear down hatred, misinformation, and fear. We are building a Beloved Community in which people of all gender identities and expressions are treated with dignity and respect. I want people of faith from Boston to Burbank to shout out: “All God’s people have worth!” Will you commit, right now, to helping YES on 3 spread this message?
The campaign is hosting a FAITH WEEK of ACTION (WOA), October 8-14th. We’re asking every faith community to make a commitment to participate at some level – and there are several ways to get involved:
- We invite ministers to speak from the pulpit or invite a speaker during services (Campaign can provide sample sermon starters for pastors)
- If you’re in Massachusetts, collect “Pledge to Vote Yes” postcards from members of your congregation before or after service. Pick them up at a local campaign office, or we can mail them to you. https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSeXAnt7ikcCRxurh5tFXowVGOBTpH9qSGQZZAtE-sf1bD6RVA/viewform
- Host a phone bank after worship services! http://www.theneat.org/signup-houseparty.html
- We encourage all congregations to share the word about faith week of action – through emails, announcements during service and/or bulletin announcements – and to invite congregants to attend campaign events that week.
For a complete listing of events and to RSVP, click here! https://secure.freedomma.org/page/s/faith-action
Donate here: https://secure.freedomma.org/page/contribute/donate
*cisgender, adj: denoting or relating to a person whose sense of personal identity and gender corresponds with their birth sex
The Rev. Molly McGinnis (they/them/theirs) is a minister in the Presbyterian Church (USA) and currently serves as a Faith Organizer for the YES on 3 campaign for transgender rights in Massachusetts. Molly earned their B.A. from the University of Arkansas and a Masters of Divinity at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary. Molly has a heart for LGBTQ inclusion and advocacy in the Church. As a transgender pastor, Molly seeks to reconcile queer people and faith communities and to help educate people on intersections of faith, gender identity, and sexual identity. Molly is a poet, foodie, and traveler. They live in Boston with their partner, Katie, and their dog, Culpepper.