Comments: Equality bill completes passage through Parliament

As a transsexual Christian, I feel glad about his legislation. It isn't perfect but it extends protections against prejudice and discrimination.

I am pleased that schools may not discriminate on grounds of gender reassignment. I was asked to leave when the time came for me to transition. I had really generous references but 95 job applications later, it was obvious I wasn't going to get a position - so I joined the NHS who have proved to be excellent on inclusion.

I wonder what the Anglican church will be like on inclusion. I am exploring vocation as a nun. I am sincere and hoping a way may be found for accepting me into community as a woman and as a person. I have been exploring this with my priest and with a nun, and I am about to start the actual approaches to convents.

This is not, of course, a legislative matter. I'm also acutely conscious of the importance of how existing members of a community may feel, and whether they'd want me.

But - in principle - if the Anglican Church seeks to be inclusive, I wonder if it has space for transsexual nuns and transsexual priests.

The education community, in my view, offers plenty of rhetoric about welcoming diversity and the importance of community including everyone - but I feel it runs scared of putting that into practice for fear of parental prejudice.

The NHS, in my view, is awesome. I was inundated with interview offers and got a place on a brilliant unit almost straight away.

I wonder where the Church stands. I wonder whether the Church dares to truly include transsexual men and women and treat them as equals.

Because I feel God prompting me to ask, to explore, and I hope I may get a chance to serve and love and share.

With love,

Posted by Susannah Clark at Wednesday, 7 April 2010 at 6:12pm BST

The final debate can be viewed at

The Government stressed that the Lords' defeat of provisions clarifying the limits of exemptions for religious organisation would make no difference to the law, since the elements removed by the Lords - such as an express proportionality test - are implicit in the existing exception anyway because of binding case law.

The Government said that it has now responded to the European Commission's reasoned opinion of November 2009 which suggests that the UK exceptions do not comply with the EU Equal Treatment Framework Directive. Although its response is confidential, the Government said that it did not tell the European Commission that the Bill will amend Reg 7 of the Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003 to bring the position into line with the Directive as, in its view, the existing legislation already complies with the Directive. I doubt that the Commission will agree, and, if it does not, some further legislation will be necessary.

Posted by badman at Wednesday, 7 April 2010 at 8:05pm BST

"if the Anglican Church seeks to be inclusive, I wonder if it has space for transsexual nuns and transsexual priests." - Susanna Clarke -

Well, Susanna, if you are authentic enough to be employed by the N.H.S. and are content to offer your life to God in Community as a Nun, then Paul has a word for you, and it is this: "In Christ, there is neither male nor female." It seems to me, as an advocate of LGBT persons already within the ambience of the Anglican Church, that you should pursue your quest in the light of this significant statement of the Thirteenth Apostle. Blessings!

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Thursday, 8 April 2010 at 12:09am BST

I was totally taken aback when I read Susannah Clark's post. Did God make a mistake when he made you male? It is absolute madness to attempt to change your gender and then say that you have listened to Gods call to follow him into religious life. Just who are you listening to? Rev Ron smith, it never ceases to amaze me just how you can manipulate scripture to mean whatever you want it to mean. You should really give classes. Il be praying for the healing of both of you.

Posted by mark wharton at Thursday, 8 April 2010 at 12:31pm BST

Some years ago the then Bishop of Bristol, Barry Rogerson, confirmed that a man who had gender re-assingment as a woman could remain at her post as a parish priest.

Posted by Richard Ashby at Thursday, 8 April 2010 at 2:00pm BST

"It is absolute madness to attempt to change your gender..."

Oh dear, Mark Wharton, is that the caring face of ecclesiastical conservatism at work again? Or the scientifically well-informed one?

Posted by Fr Mark at Thursday, 8 April 2010 at 8:52pm BST

Male and female may be biologically assigned, but masculine and feminine are cultural constructs.

Susannah is no more mad than any of the rest of us in this world driven by ambition, greed, and cowardice. I see no reason to cut her off from the Fellowship of Christ's Eternal Priesthood, or to deny her the opportunity to explore her vocation. Nor would I deny God His liberty in making such a calling.

Posted by Counterlight at Thursday, 8 April 2010 at 8:56pm BST

"Did God make a mistake when he made you male?"

No, Mark, God did not make a mistake, no more than when God made me gay and female, and you male and [I assume] straight. How dare you call another of God's beloved 'a mistake.' Shame on you.

Posted by Cynthia Gilliatt at Thursday, 8 April 2010 at 9:28pm BST

Mr. Wharton,

God makes all of us female to begin, then sends hormones to customize the body of some in a masculine direction. God doesn't make us male or female -- God makes us as we find ourselves to be. Some people, now called intersex, have genitals between the male and female standard; God makes them so. Others LOOK male or female standard, but have feelings and desires that don't match. Our minds are also sex organs, made by God. I wish all of us could live as we feel impelled to, in the bodies we were born with. I can't tell anyone else what to do with their body, however.

Posted by Mudduck at Thursday, 8 April 2010 at 10:08pm BST

"Did God make a mistake when he made you male?"

Unbelievable. And She didn't make any mistakes in Haiti or Chile recently either. But God did give us a brain to be in touch and to improve....maybe that's not a mistake after all.

The other night I rode the train back from Albany, NY after helping a promising young musician move into his post at the cathedral there, and was seated in the dining car across from a transgendered-transsexual (?). It was weird and a little uncomfortable for this (raised conservatively) mid-westerner, but I grit my teeth and listened. He/She wasn't a bad person after all, and perhaps things didn't turn out quite right (I had an operation in my adolescence to put right what "God didn't"-let's just say my voice wasn't changing soon enough).

I challenge you to do this Mark...listen and stop being so better than the rest of us.

Posted by evensongjunkie (formerly cbfh) at Thursday, 8 April 2010 at 10:29pm BST

Susanna was absolutely moved by your testimony, hope wherever you calling leads you, God will fulfil your desire to serve him and bless you Fr Ron in your encouragement. I find it interesting Mark that you feel it necessary to pray for healing for these two willing servants. Do you not think that God would want to bestow healing IF he has no part in Susanna's call or Fr. Ron's careful and encouraging support. God loves, God calls and God is not powerless nor rejects those he creates in His image.

Posted by Fr. Jon at Thursday, 8 April 2010 at 11:37pm BST

Is there a variation of humanity in which God's image is not present? The rest is trivial.

Posted by Oriscus at Friday, 9 April 2010 at 6:43am BST

I hope Susanna will continue to have the courage of her conviction and live and serve in the knowledge of God's love and calling for her.

Mark, I don't know how old you are or where you were educated, but this is the kind of elementary biology my children are learning for their GCSE exams at 16. If you live in Britain, I suggest you take a biology GCSE, if in another country, whatever equivalent they offer. I'm sure you don't realise just how uneducated you sound, but you would really do yourself a favour if you did not make public pronouncements like this.

Posted by Erika Baker at Friday, 9 April 2010 at 8:07am BST

Another question - what kind of logic parades the ex-gay movement and tells gay people they could change if they only wanted to, but then tells transgendered people that they must remain as God made them?

Posted by Erika Baker at Friday, 9 April 2010 at 10:02am BST

"Did God make a mistake when he made you male?"
- Mark Wharton, on Thursday -

Mark, this is precisely the problem with many opponents of the LGBT community's efforts to educate conservative Church people. They usually base their argument on an out-dated understanding of basic biological and psychological research that has taken place since the Scriptures were written, and since the Church laid down its moral precepts about gender and sexuality that have been historically ill-informed.

What is needed is for the Church to thoroughly enter into dialogue with those whose task it is to research and develop new understanding of the human sexual phenomena that have now been brought to light in the last decade or so. Theology in not is opposition to science - on this issue, as well as that of evolution. Why are theologians so loth to engage with the phenomena that are involved in the amazing facts of the diversity of human gender diversity, and the consequent problems of finding the right answers to a valid human response.

God gave us minds as well as bodies. Let's give God the honour of responding to human sexual relationships with an honest appraisal of the scientific facts of our common humanity without prejudice, especially from an outdated hermeneutic point of view.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Friday, 9 April 2010 at 11:54am BST

Genesis 1:27 says:

"So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them."

This implies that the the image of God contains both female and male. Would this mean that God is in some sense transgender ("Of, relating to, or designating a person whose identity does not conform unambiguously to conventional notions of male or female gender roles, but combines or moves between these.")?

Posted by Steve Caldwell at Friday, 9 April 2010 at 1:26pm BST

"This implies that the the image of God contains both female and male. - Steve Caldwell, on Friday -

Precisely, Steve! This gives us one reason why the exclusively patriarchal image of God runs counter to the fact that, if we are all made in the image and likeness of God, then God has to contain (or
surpass) any singular construct of human sexuality.

This is basic to the need for 'inclusive language' when expounding the Scriptures - in order that they may be understood to be totally inclusive for the instruction of all humanity, as created in the divine image and likeness.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Sunday, 11 April 2010 at 1:43am BST

Out of the interest of desiring to understand more on this issue, how do people read 1 Cor 11:14-15 "Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him, 15 but that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For long hair is given to her as a covering." (bearing in mind the historical context of head covering vs the universal principle that Paul is making here)?

Posted by Bob at Sunday, 11 April 2010 at 5:51pm BST

' do people read 1 Cor 11:14-15.. ?' (Quote)

I have nt given this verse (and great many others) much / any thought for years now. Sorry about that.

But is nt it high time Paul's various letters were not treated as sacrosanct ?

Just look ! There are living letters all around us and though aglow the C of E stops its ears to them so often...

Posted by Rev Laurence Roberts at Monday, 12 April 2010 at 8:18pm BST

I guess it depends on how we view Paul's letters - as one of the Apostles who's writings are part of the Canon of Scripture or just as letter that has historical interest? Hmm, interesting. With your view then, how do we take Paul's teachings - as moral guidelines? No cultural relevence? Read our context into it?

Posted by Bob at Tuesday, 13 April 2010 at 11:03pm BST

The writings of a man, nothing more, no more capable or worthy of inspiration and Holy Spirit's guidance than the rest of us, just as capable of error, whose writings were also selected as canon by the same sort of men. To do otherwise is not only spiritual laziness making one unworthy of the name disciple, but also errant idolatry.

Hope that answers your loaded questions. Happy fishing!

Posted by MarkBrunson at Wednesday, 14 April 2010 at 7:34am BST

Thanks Mark. No fishing intended or trying to cause debate here! Although I do respectfully disagree with the theological conviction on this issue, I am merely desiring just to understand and appreciate others views on this.

With that in mind, then how much how much of a reference point does the Bible play in our spirituality. And are their parts of Scripture that we are to focus more on (e.g. teachings and life of Jesus, Old Testament Law, etc)?

Posted by Bob at Wednesday, 14 April 2010 at 10:52am BST

Worst allergy season ever, here, Bob. Forgive the churlishness. I appreciate honest and respectful disagreement.

Now, I'm not a theologian, but, I suspect you weren't looking for a theologian's answer. If you're like me, those tend to obfuscate rather than illuminate.

My answer is this, and it is a layman's answer:

I treat Scripture as very important and very sacred because it points me to what my heart and soul have been seeking. It gives me a form to direct myself toward. It is a letter of introduction. Having been introduced, I come to know the Introduced on a personal level. In this regard, it can be compared to the rules of writing or painting - you must know the rules to know how to reinterpret the rules. While I accept that the community can curb excesses, I don't accept that an institutional "community" is necessarily the best interpreter - hence, I have no problem disregarding the "mind of the communion" argument.

But, to get back to the letter of introduction analogy, the key point is to come to know, not the letter, but the person. Once they are there, the letters may help at first, but you *must* know the person. The person, in this case, is God. This is why I personally do not believe that Scripture can be pre-eminent. The entirety of life, including reason, tradition and scripture, are contained within that person, and speaks to us of Him. It isn't "faith" to toss aside what reality tells us, it's fear. It's faith to believe that God continues speaking - indeed, even Scripture tells us this in the promise of the Advocate, or Paraclete or Holy Spirit - and that speaking is too large to be contained in ink and paper.

I esteem the Scriptures, but because I hold them in the proper place. If I believed they were infallible, or the dictated words of God, I would hate them, for they make little sense and have little love or compassion. Yet, seeing them in a flexible context, I can see the love and compassion evident *in the experience* of those who wrote their own experiences.

Posted by MarkBrunson at Friday, 16 April 2010 at 5:11am BST
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