News, On Campus

Openly Transgender Priest Speaks on Identity, Faith

Rev. Cameron Partridge, one of seven openly transgender priests in the Episcopal clergy, spoke Tuesday night in Fulton about the relation between gender identity and faith in regards to the transgender community.

In his talk, Partridge emphasized using “giveness and goodness” in relation to approaching the themes of “ambiguity and change” that so often face transgender people in their journey to finding their true identity.

Growing up, Partridge belonged to a conservative church in the Bay Area. It was not until he was a teenager that Partridge felt his call to ministry. Throughout his college search, Partridge looked for a university that would support him in his pursuit of chaplaincy.

Bryn Mawr College, an all-women’s college in Pennsylvania, answered his calling. It was there that he discovered that his feminism and his faith weren’t at odds. During Partridge’s sophomore year at Bryn Mawr, he came out as gay, and in 2002, post-graduation, he made the transition from a female to a male.

In 2005, after receiving his master’s of divinity and while working on his doctorate in theology at Harvard, Partridge was ordained to the Episcopal priesthood. He served in local congregations around Boston until 2011, when he was appointed a chaplain at Boston University.

In expressing his experience as self-identifying as genderqueer and being a member of the Christian faith, Partridge talked particularly about the complexity of gender, and how it relates to the Christian pillars of giving thanks for creation. Partridge emphasized that to him, God’s creation is not static. He believes gender is about embracing the process of coming into God’s creation. Through coming into one’s identity, Partridge emphasized that we should embrace our bodies as evolving creations that can be changed or altered as we wish.

“In giving thanks for creation, we are giving thanks for what God declared good,” Patridge said.

Part of the gender transition that many transgender people experience, Partridge noted, is that they must be accepting of the ambiguity and fear that can accompany the process. Partridge emphasized that, especially in today’s society, people must seize faith as a way to open themselves up, which involves taking risks. In taking these risks, Partridge believes people can become more complete versions of themselves.

Partridge was careful to mention, however, the risks transgender people take in being open about their gender identities. Partridge said that while society is improving the lens through which it views the transgender community, this calendar year marks the most deaths from the transgender community on record.

Partridge invited students to celebrate the transgender community. He wants people to celebrate their transgender peers for being a vibrant community that has come a long way, but acknowledge that there is still much to accomplish.

During the question-and-answer period of the event, one student asked Partridge for advice on how to come to terms with one’s own “becoming” or the process of finding oneself.

Partridge advised, in reflection on 1 John 3:2, that people should feel comforted by the idea that “God does see you, hear you, and will be with you. ”

“What would happen if we open ourselves up and decide not to be afraid?” Partridge said.

Featured Image by Isabelle Lumb

October 5, 2016