There are groups that have been ostracized by churches for many years. Instead of following the call to welcome as many leaders on which faiths are founded admonished, historically churches have sought to isolate and insulate themselves from the outside world. Fortunately, LGBTQIA+ people are more included in the life and leadership of many churches today. Many still have a ways to go to be fully affirming, though.
Trans people are often misunderstood by their churches. Their basic needs are often overlooked, sometimes out of spite, but out of a lack of knowledge. It is exhausting to continually explain their identity and request the things they need when all they want to do is be accepted and worship alongside everyone else. With a few changes, your church can ease this burden and communicate that they are welcome and loved.
The simplest way to welcome trans people is to respect their personal pronouns. If your church uses nametags, put your pronouns under your name. Get used to using "they" as a singular pronoun, as this is how many trans and nonbinary people identify. Treating personal pronouns as the extension of identity that they are shows that you recognize gender as a spectrum, not a binary.
Church leaders can model this behavior even further. When you introduce yourself from the pulpit or in conversation, include your pronouns after you say your name. Saying, "My name is Joe, and my pronouns are he/him/his," lets the people who hear it know that you believe personal pronouns are important and are committed to getting it right. It communicates that your church is a place where trans people don't have to explain why if they ask to be referred to properly.
It's not likely that you spend a lot of time thinking about the restrooms in your church. They are there when you need them, and a lot of people take them for granted. If they need to use the facilities, they simply walk into the restroom that is designated for them without much ado.
Of course, restrooms are necessary, and people definitely notice when they are out of order or the line is long. Additionally, if your building only has restrooms designated for men and women, trans people, particularly those who are in the middle of the transitioning process, may feel uncomfortable having to choose either of those options. Instead, consider having gender-neutral restrooms, such as a standalone room with a locking outer door. You can start by turning one of your smaller existing restrooms into this type of facility until you can afford the update. For the cost of installing a lock, you can make sure everyone's basic needs are met.
You can have a great welcome statement on your website, but the truth of how important inclusion is to your church comes across more clearly in your weekly schedule. Many churches traditionally segregate certain activities into offerings for men and women, but this practice can make those who are transitioning or who may not be comfortable identifying with either end of the spectrum feel left out. Take a look at how many gendered activities you advertise:
- Women's Bible study
- Men's prayer breakfast
- Moms’ morning out
- Daddy-daughter dances
A parent's morning out can appeal to stay-at-home caretakers of all genders without leaving anyone out. A scripture study that is open to all invites everyone to the conversation. These activities can be just as meaningful when they're available to all people.
Welcoming and including trans members in your church requires intentional inspection of the way you are used to doing things. Change may not be as difficult as you expect, and the benefits of making inclusive changes are worth any effort involved.