Uplift: Uplifting LGBTQ+ Experience Within and Beyond Unitarian Universalism

Living Trans* Theology

Living Trans+ Theology

Living Trans+ Theology

By Jaelynn Pema-la Scott

For many trans and gender non-conforming (trans*) persons, the days of our lives are often marked by anxiety, shakiness, and fear. For many of us, it feels as if we are flailing about, overwhelmed with the tasks of transition, and forced to put on an armor of confidence in order to survive. Fragile and unsure, we continually show strength in the face of violence and hate.

Though our spirits might tremble, we commit daily acts of bravery by waking up, getting dressed, and stepping out into a terrifying world. With weariness in our spirit, we wonder if we will find the energy to continue. May we, in these moments of weariness, remember the words of Audre Lorde, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” May these words ignite our faithfulness to this difficult journey towards trans* visibility and justice.

It is the faith of trans and gender non-conforming persons that now speaks life into the wasteland of gender conformity, white supremacy, and patriarchy. We are compelled to tell our stories again and again, although these stories are often unfinished and unclear. Our lives are filled with unanswered questions; Who will now love us in our new bodies? How shall we show up physically today? Will we be able to receive the medical care we need? Can we get a job? Will we survive this trip to the market? Nevertheless, we persist in loudly proclaiming our true name. We do this out of compassion, knowing that a world without trans-ness is a crude and dull existence.

It is our trans* faith that now demands a national conversation on gender, race, and its intersection. It is our boldness that is relentless in pursuit of justice and safety for trans* persons of color. This faith is shored up by the fruits of endurance, especially in those of us who are trans* persons of color. We show fortitude and joy in response to snubs, glaring eyes, and microaggressions.

Trans* persons navigate loss, change, and transitions with grace and beauty. Trans* persons of color do it with fierceness, passion, and soul. Our theology teaches us to persist in spite of one's pain, to love those who hate us, and to continue fighting though we are exhausted. Many of us, cisgender and trans*, are experiencing loss, pain, anger, and burnout in these difficult political times. It is ironic that it is trans* theology that our society so badly needs, and yet it actively kills and silences the holders of this theology.

A person's ability to live with paradox, irony, and contradiction, indicates spiritual maturity. The spiritual power of trans* persons shows up in our determination to live hopefully in the face of despair. The theology that underpins our strength exemplifies how to cope with contradictions and paradox. It is in our lives that our trans* theology bleeds through, at its core is the knowledge that there is magic to be found in groundlessness, tribulations, and contradictions. Trans* theology understands that beauty happens when things fall apart. With the vanishing of that which we hold dearly, the possibility of new love arises. When we say goodbye to comfort and convenience, we have an opportunity to discover and be our authentic selves.

About the Author

Jaelynn Pema-la Scott

Rev. Jaelynn Scott is a Buddhist community minister who has served as the Director of Lifelong Learning at Woodinville Unitarian Universalist Church. A graduate of Naropa University's Buddhist Divinity program, she was ordained by Ven.'s Bhante Chao Chu and Tampalawela Dhammaratana, and brings...


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