Spirit and Soul: Not Determined by Anatomy

By 1JustCity Citizen
June 2, 2016

Churchill Park United Church recently hosted an event, ‘Spirit and Soul: Not Determined by Anatomy’, about coming to know and affirm the transgender community. The event was an educational event for people within the United Church to gain a better understanding of what being transgender is like through personal stories, and learning. There was a brief educational component by Dr Reese Malone of the Rainbow Resource Centre, around transgender people throughout different cultures and periods in history, and correct terminology to use (See the bottom for a terminology breakdown). There were three people who each shared their story about transitioning, and the challenges they faced along the way.

The first story that was shared was from a transgender man who had given birth to his two children. For him and his male partner, this was a way to have children; as between the two of them they had the necessary biological parts. This decision wasn’t without its challenges, as there was some difficulty in getting good medical care during and post-pregnancy. It was also a challenge to deal with how people perceived him during his pregnancies and during breastfeeding. He expressed that part of being a good ally to transgender people is helping to change assumptions and language that is used to be more inclusive.

The second speaker identified as a transgender woman. She shared her experiences and struggles in becoming a woman in her 50s. For her, the transition was about becoming her most authentic self, and truly being able to be herself at all times. The decision to transition wasn’t an easy one, and in the end it resulted in the loss of her career, as the company she worked for wasn’t supportive of her decision. We automatically put people into a gender role, whether infants or adults, we shouldn’t automatically assume someone’s gender.

The final speaker was a young transgender woman from Uganda. She identified as a woman her entire life, and was abused as a child because of this. While in Uganda as a young teenager, her mother’s house was burned down, and a new law making being transgender illegal was passed.  She fled to a Nairobi refugee camp as a teenager, where at one point her tent was burned, due to her identity being discovered. Eventually, with the support of some friends, she was able to apply to come to Canada, and made it here in 2015. She wants people in Canada to be aware that there are transgender refugees and immigrants here, and people should do their best to be inclusive and accepting of them. There are also challenges to being a transgender refugee in Canada, including difficulty gaining access to hormone medications and medical services.

As a faith community we should work towards being more inclusive, and nourish our similarities and celebrate the diversity we have in creation rather than be divisive. By educating ourselves on how to be more inclusive and accepting, we can provide a more welcoming place for transgender people.

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