Rev. Kalie Hargrove / Courtesy photo

Trans Pastor: It Is Time for Christians to Repent for Harming Trans People

As a trans woman who is ordained in a nonaffirming denomination, I am often asked why I am still a Christian. I have been expelled from seminary for being trans, have had Christian family members publicly condemn me, and have had online strangers with “Christian” in their bios tell me how much better the world would be if I killed myself.

While I have my list of reasons for continuing in my faith, the one that drives me the most to speak out is the fact that Christianity is my tradition. Not just the positives, but most importantly, the negatives. As faith leaders, especially white Christian leaders, we must recognize the fact that we are part of a tradition that is aggressively targeting trans rights in the U.S., and we have a responsibility to work to change that.

Last fall, there was a hearing for Georgia’s Senate Bill 88 that was open for comments from the public. While I sat there, I watched as the senators and sponsors of the bill used their Christian faith to justify their attempt to remove LGBTQ protections in the State of Georgia.

This is not the first time that Christianity has been used in the state to further injustice and discrimination. Georgia has a history of opposing human rights on the basis of Christian tradition. Throughout Reconstruction and Jim Crow, many Christians were vocally supportive of segregation, redlining, and voter restrictions that harmed Black Georgians. It was also Christians that supported the police raids on predominantly Black queer establishments that began the “Stonewall of the South” with its raid on Ansley Mall Mini-Cinema. Regardless of our personal thoughts and positions as individuals of faith or as a congregation, we also need to recognize that we are just as responsible for our tradition’s actions as those who use it to promote inequality and bigotry.

Even today, it is professing Christians who are leading the way in pushing for anti-trans laws in our state. U.S. representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, who has bragged about being a Christian nationalist, has also been known for her intentional anti-trans rhetoric and pushing anti-trans narratives at the national level. In our state government, Senator Carden H. Summers has led the way in passing anti-trans laws by writing Senate Bill 140, which stripped trans youth from access to gender-affirming care, while holding to and citing his Christian beliefs and rallying other Christian politicians to join in the removal of trans rights to health care.

Part of being a faith leader is recognizing the fact that we are called to more than just being teachers. We are also called to take part in leading our tradition in new directions. We must be leaders undoing the harm we took part in creating.

So, this year, I am urging our Christian religious leaders to join in the movement to change the way our tradition has shown up in the world and in our communities. Our tradition needs leaders who will proactively change course and work to reverse the harm Christians have caused. Simply put, our tradition needs repentance:

  • Repent for the theologies used to kill and oppress others by letting go of our adherence to teachings that excuse slavery, genocide, and bigotry.
  • Repent for the votes we used to elect officials from within our traditions that institutionalized systemic racism and queerphobia by actively engaging with the political landscape and encouraging others to be politically active in social justice.
  • Repent for our comfort as the privileged tradition upheld by Eurocentric supremacy by working to tear down the very ideological frameworks that hold our tradition superior by association.
  • And mostly, we must repent for our silence.

As faith leaders, we need to be the ones showing up and speaking out. We may minister in our religious buildings, but we also need to minister in our Capitol building. We must be there for “the least of these” and lead the repentance of our tradition through our actions, not our mere words.

For the 236-year history of Georgia as a U.S. state, our tradition has tried to “bless the Lord and Father, but with [our tongues] we curse the people who were made in the image of God” (James 3:9).

To the queer community, our Black, Indigenous, and people of color siblings, women, immigrants, and every marginalized group in between, you deserve better. Our faith tradition has failed you by perpetuating the harm we face today and have faced throughout Georgia’s history. It is time for our faith to repent.