About Gender-Just Faith

Gender-just faith originally stemmed from a research fellowship through the Fahs Collaborative through the Fahs Collaborative of Meadville Lombard Theological School. The driving question behind the research project was: “how can faith communities better support transgender and gender-creative children, youth, and their families?” While the question applies across all faith communities, this research had a particular focus on Unitarian Universalist and other liberal religious communities.


In the course of a reviewing literature, holding community conversations, and analyzing programs a few things became clear:

1)     If we truly want to support transgender and gender-creative children and youth we must take a holistic family-systems approach.

2)     While children and youth need specific support, one of the greatest areas of growth and need is in developing support for parent/guardians.

3)     If we truly want to support transgender and gender-creative children, youth, and their families we must create gender-just faith communities.

With these two foci at the center, Gender-Just Faith was born. This site serves as a showcase of research and a resource hub intended to help leaders of faith communities lean into being gender-just faith communities while centering the experiences of trans and gnc children, youth, youth and their families.

What is Gender Justice?

When we speak of gender-just faith communities we are referring to what sociologist Ann Travers calls “transformative gender justice.” Drawing on feminist and queer theories, she writes that “a transformative gender justice paradigm locates ‘the problem’ outside of the individual child, youth or adult and squarely within the socio-cultural realms of wealth inequality, racialized sex-typing and gender categorization.”[1] A gender-just faith community recognizes and responds to the specific needs of transgender and gender-creative children, youth, and their families and centers their experience recognizing that one of the most evident ways gender injustice is at play is by making their experiences invisible too often. However, a gender-just faith community recognizes that to create a truly just community we must see the root of that injustice not in the individual but in the wider system of which we are a part and address systemic intersectional injustices in our faith community and more broadly.

 

[1] Ann Travers. 2014. “Transformative Gender Justice as a Framework for Normalizing Gender Variance among Children and Youth” Elizabeth J. Meyer & Annie Pullen Sansfaçon, eds. Supporting Transgender & Gender Creative Youth: Schools, Families, and Communities in Action (Peter Lang, 2014, pp 41-53).

Why an intersectional approach?

Intersectionality is a term coined initially by critical race scholar and civil rights activist Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989 when she wrote about the experience of Black women survivors of domestic abuse. She highlighted the way that both racism and sexism were interlinked in their experiences.[1] This concept is used to describe the way that multiple oppressions are experienced simultaneously and interrelated. To create a gender-just faith community means we must recognize the way that sexism, compulsory heterosexuality, racism, classism, adultism, and other forms of oppression and privilege are at play in interrelated ways in our lives and our communities. Gender is not one more box we check as though it is separate from race, class, ability, etc.. We cannot create just communities without recognizing that trans women of color are among the most vulnerable and abused within our society, or that racialized constructs of gender are working within our communities. Taking an intersectional approach means dwelling in the “and.” We are trans AND Latina; queer AND poor; White AND disabled. Creating gender-just communities will only happen intersectionally.

 

[1] Kimberlé Crenshaw. 1991.  “Mapping the Margins: Intrersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence Against Women of Color” Stanford Law Review 1241 (shortened version reprinted in Laurel Richardson, Verta Taylor, and Nancy Whittier, eds., Feminist Frontiers, 6th edition. McGraw Hill, 2004, pp 405-414)

 

Why center the experiences of trans and gnc children and youth?

If we are creating a gender-just communities for all of our children and youth, why focus specifically on the experiences of transgender and gender-noncomforming/gender-creative children and youth? The vision of Beloved Community that is gender-just is aspirational. We dream of and seek a world where all people are honored, valued, and in which communities have countered institutional racism, sexism, heterosexism, classism, and all other forms of oppression. Because we do not live in those communities or in that world yet it is important that those who are most impacted by the oppression which we seek to eradicate are at the center of conversation and the movement. That is why we center the experiences of transgender and gender-creative children and youth, particularly those children and youth of color, and their families. 

 

 

 
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About Dr. Melissa James

 

Dr. Melissa James is an Ethicist and Sociologist who earned a Ph.D. in Ethics and Social Theory from the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, CA.  She has taught at the college and seminary levels including courses in Sociology, Christianity, Gender Studies, World Religions, and Applied Ethics. She is the Founder and Director of Farm to Faith, San Diego, an interfaith organization dedicated to providing resources to faith communities interested in issues of food justice. She also currently works as the Director of  Family and Lifespan Ministry at the First Unitarian Universalist Church of San Diego. She is a rostered Minister of Word and Service with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and serves as the Diaconal Minister at the Agape House Lutheran-Episcopal Campus Ministry at San Diego State University. She has published as well as presented at a variety of academic conferences on pedagogy, and the sociology of gender.