Pride: Giving Thanks for Trans Joy

by | May 9, 2024

I’m the proud mother of a transgender young adult. I’m also a priest in The Episcopal Church and a member of your Diocesan staff.

This is what I most want you to know about life as the parent of a trans person. There is nothing more beautiful than the joy that comes when someone you love deeply bursts forth into the world as the person they know themselves to be. Sure, there are moments of awkwardness, of missed pronouns and bad haircuts and weird family interactions. The time leading up to a decision to transition and the ongoing challenges of transition itself can be mystifying and even terrifying. But the joy — the gender euphoria that comes in the moments when someone perceives that the world has seen them, that they have been able to present themselves in a way that matches their inner experience — that joy is a true privilege to witness and to share.

June is Pride month, when we celebrate the LGBTQIA+ community. As we head into Pride celebrations, I am certainly aware of the level of threat and violence and fear that trans people are facing in this country. I see joy fade as people find their lives under a microscope and hear themselves described in the most monstrous terms. I see other families facing the threat of legal prosecution and family separation for making the same decisions that I made on behalf of and in partnership with my own child. I’m sure that there are plenty of people within our church who have a lot more questions than answers about shifting norms around gender, especially if you haven’t had the chance to know many trans or nonbinary people personally. I can’t answer all those questions in a short reflection, but I’m willing to engage in conversation if you are sincerely seeking to understand. One lesson the Holy Spirit has taught me is that there are many things I can come to understand when I lead with my heart, rather than with the questions generated by my often anxious mind.

For you my dear Episcopalians in the Diocese of Washington, I offer not a learning primer, but a testimony. I believe that we as a church have a calling in the midst of all the noise around transgender “issues.” It’s a calling that — like all of our callings — is about people, not about issues. We have a calling to open space for trans joy. We have a calling to be together in ways that celebrate trans humanity and invite the sharing of joy. Sometimes that will mean taking risks and defending each other’s ability simply to exist, but mostly it will involve drawing near, loving one another and entering deeply enough into one another’s lives that we experience one of the marks of being true church: “Rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep.” (Romans 12:15)

The space within the Christian world where trans human beings can just be — free to rejoice and to weep and to live full, complicated human lives — remains vanishingly small. Among my own trans kid’s friends, several have expressed shock that it could even be possible to have a parent who is both Christian clergy and supportive of trans identity. This really is one of those things where if we don’t take up the calling, another generation will grow up believing that it is impossible that a priest or a church could find room for them at the table. When we shut the door while we try to sort ourselves out of our doubts and questions, or fail to welcome those who venture through the doors we leave ajar, we let Jesus down. And that is no small thing.

When my own child began the transition journey, I was deeply thankful that my life in the church had already given me multiple chances to engage deeply with wonderful, diverse, multi-faceted trans people, several of whom witnessed to me in sharing their stories and their faith. Transition was a steep learning curve as a parent, as it was for my child — trans people don’t get special handbooks to guide them, just a lot of advice from a lot of people who haven’t lived inside their minds, hearts, and bodies, and these days a lot of general noise from people who don’t know them at all. But thanks to the trans people that God had placed in my path, I had a few things going for me. The most important, I realize now, was an experience and expectation of trans joy.

The Rev. Anna Olson
Director, School for Christian Faith and Leadership


Help celebrate and witness to LGBTQIA+ joy with siblings from the Episcopal Diocese of Washington by marching in the
Capital Pride parade on Saturday, June 8.

If you and/or your community are interested in joining the diocesan contingent to walk the parade, complete this Google form to let us know.

All EDOW marchers should plan to meet at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church (1514 15ths St. NW) at 2:25 p.m. for a brief prayer and instructions
before we head to the parade staging area together.