Transgender Christians are gathering for a weekend of of art, community and spirituality this August in Chicago. The trans-planned and trans-led conference, Rooted, is being put on by the Reconciling Ministries Network (RMN), an organization dedicated to working on LGBTQ issues in the United Methodist Church.
"Especially in times like these, connecting with other trans people of shared faith to build our strength as individuals and a community and simply gathering to celebrate the belovedness of one another for a weekend without having to explain or defend ourselves is incredibly important for building and sustaining our leadership," M Barclay, director of communications at RMN and a non-binary trans person, told NBC Out.
The weekend will feature two facilitators: poet and activist J Mase III and Reverend Erin Swenson, the first openly trans woman to transition and remain an ordained minister in the United Methodist Church.
"Gender is the language of the soul, expressing the very deepest part of each one of us," Rev. Swenson told NBC Out. "The full and healthy expression of authentic gender allows us to grow and to connect with one another and with God. In nurturing transgender leadership, Rooted is essential space for our current time."
Rooted will focus on leadership development for "ecumenical trans and gender-expansive Christians" to equip them with the tools needed to to go back into the church -- and society -- to do faith-centered social justice work.
"In a country that, on paper, is separated by church and state, what we know consciously is that some of the most vicious anti-trans violence and legislation is inspired by the church, rooted in white supremacy and patriarchy," Mase told NBC Out.
"It becomes our duty as trans people, as people of color, as immigrants, as folks who are disabled, as folks who are poor, to reclaim the very institution used to cause us, and so many of the people we love, harm," Mase added.