First Transgender Mass in Cuba

First Transgender Mass in Cuba

From Reuters news media, a story about a transgender priest conducting her first Mass in Communist Cuba.


By Sarah Marsh and Anett Rios | MATANZAS, Cuba

MATANZAS, Cuba For decades belonging to a religion and being anything but heterosexual was stigmatized in Communist-ruled, macho Cuba, making the Mass held by three transgender pastors in the western Cuban city of Matanzas all the more groundbreaking.

Rainbow flags decorated the chapel, while the pastors, who had flown in from Brazil, Canada and the United States, wore stoles in the trans hues of light blue, pink and white and the congregation swayed to Caribbean beats.

Friday was the first time a trans pastor held a Holy Communion in Cuba, highlighting how much the island nation has changed since both religious believers and homosexuals went to “correctional” labor camps in the early years after the 1959 revolution.

“Tonight has been a night of celebration of equality between all people, marking a new era for Cuba,” said Alexya Salvador, a Brazilian trans pastor, born Alexander, wearing a black dress with a white clerical collar and lacy sleeves she made herself.

“God’s love is radically inclusive.”

The Mass on Friday was the highlight of a three-day conference on transsexuality and theology organized by the Matanzas-based Cuban branch of the international Metropolitan Community Church.

“This is not only a first of its kind event for Cuba, but certainly one of the very first ever to be held anywhere in the world,” said Allyson Robinson, a trans Baptist reverend from Washington.

The conference took place ahead of the 10th anniversary, next weekend, of Cuba celebrating the global day against homophobia, and included a raucous “transformist” party as well as a variety of panels on theology and personal experiences.

In one, Salvador argued God was transgender, given the Holy Trinity was made up of the Holy Spirit, which she views as feminine, the Father and the Son.

Elaine Saralegui, a lesbian pastor who founded the Cuban branch of the MCC nearly two years ago, said she hoped the conference would foster greater inclusion of trans people and prove that being trans and Christian were not incompatible.

“I leave with having learnt a lot of things I can share with other trans,” said one participant, a 26-year-old Cuban trans woman called Malu Duardo, “in particular that there is a God for everyone.”

Saralegui’s congregation numbers around 35 but she said she also gets asked to hold Mass at lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans (LGBT) activist events around the rest of the island nation of 11 million inhabitants.

“Nearly always they ask me to hold a liturgy there, so we have to improvise wine, bread and hold a (Lord’s) supper anywhere,” she said.

The trans pastors said they were impressed by Cuba’s progressiveness in some respects, for example providing state-financed sex reassignment.

The country was clearly lagging the rest of the Americas in other ways though, they said. Same-sex couples may not marry or adopt children and a promised update to Cuba’s family code has been slow to materialize.

“Everyone should have the right to have a family,” said Salvador, who has adopted two children, including a trans girl. “I believe this touch of God will also happen in the Cuban community.”

Posted in Articles, Holy Communion, LGBT History, Open and Affirming Churches, Pride, Transgender, Transgender Awareness, Transgender Hope | Leave a comment

Be Yourselves! Be Proud of Who You Are and Be Proud of Your Faith

Bible App Wants LGBTQ Christians to Be Themselves

I came across a society and culture article and would like to share it in hopes that folks find another way to be true to themselves and reclaim their identities as well as their faith.

Now more than ever the LGBT community needs to be visible and proud and proactive in how the rest of society perceives us. We need to stand up for our rights to identify freely and honestly. We need to stand up for our rights to exist and to be part of our communities and society as a whole. We also need to be willing to proclaim our faith and our beliefs as well, without fear of discrimination or persecution.

People need to understand that we can be persons of faith and religion as well as members of the LGBT community. People also need to understand that just because we may be gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender or queer or asexual or gender fluid, we have a right to worship and be involved in spirituality and religious culture if we chose to. Additionally, we should not have sacrifice who we fundamentally are in order to worship God or to have spiritual beliefs. We should not have to give up our relationships or gender identities or gender expressions to be included and respected in religious communities.

Posted in Articles, Editorial, Equality, Opinion | Leave a comment

Stances of Faith on LGBTQ Issues in Islam

— From the Human Rights Council webpage.

With over a billion followers, Islam is the second largest religion in the world, and noted for its diversity of culture and ethnicity. Founded by the prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) in 622 CE, Islam is an Abrahamic religion that shares its roots with Judaism and Christianity and recognizes Abraham, Moses and Jesus as prophets. Its sacred texts are the Qur’an, and secondary sources are found in cultural practices such as Sunnah and less so in Hadith, which continue to be studied and interpreted by both scholars and the faithful. At the core of Islam is the Shahadah, a declaration of faith that states, “There is no god but God, and later adaptations added “and Muhammad is the messenger of God.” The Shahadah is one of the Five Pillars of Islam that also include charitable giving, fasting, praying several times each day, and going on pilgrimage to Mecca, if economically feasible, at least once in a lifetime.

Because Islam has no central governing body, it is not possible to state clear policies regarding issues of interest to LGBTQ people. Depending on nationality, generation, family upbringing, and cultural influences, Islamic individuals and institutions fall along a wide spectrum, from welcoming and inclusive to a level of rejection that can be marked by a range of actions ranging from social sequestration to physical violence. In the United States, there is a growing movement to create inclusive communities for LGBTQ Muslims and their allies. This encompasses scholarly work that interprets sacred texts through a lens shaped by Muhammad’s own celebration of the diversity of Creation.

LGBTQ Equality

On Inclusion

It is rare that an openly LGBTQ Muslim feels fully welcome at a mainstream mosque in the United States. Cultural norms and traditional readings of sacred texts often uphold a hetero-normative binary of gender identification and sexual orientation that don’t allow for the range of identities present in today’s society. However, there are growing opportunities for alternative and meaningful worship and community. Muslims for Progressive Values (MPV) has founded Unity Mosques in Atlanta, GA; Columbus, OH; and Los Angeles, CA. The Muslim Alliance for Sexual and Gender Diversity hosts an annual retreat for LGBTQ Muslims in Pennsylvania each May. MECCA Institute, an online school for the study of an inclusive theology of Islam will open in fall 2015. (For further resources, see below.)

Transgender men and women are recognized and accepted in many Islamic cultures around the world. In fact, the idea of a man or woman identifying as a member of the opposite gender is more likely to be accepted than that of a man or woman expressing sexual desire for someone of their own gender.

As early as 1988, gender reassignment surgery was declared acceptable under Islamic law by scholars at Egypt’s Al-Azhar, the world’s oldest Islamic university. In Iran, in 1987, Ayatollah Khomeini declared transgender surgical operations allowable. The basis for this attitude of acceptance is the belief that a person is born transgender but chooses to be homosexual, making homosexuality a sin. Nevertheless, many transgender Muslims after reassignment surgery suffer rejection, socially and culturally, in their own communities due to their remaining in their place of origin.  If one is unable to relocate to another region where they are not known, they often suffer verbal and physical violence.

On Marriage Equality

As with Christianity and Judaism, Islam’s sacred texts have been used to oppress LGBTQ people across the centuries. A traditional reading of the Qur’an can lead to the condemnation of homosexual acts and thus of same-sex marriage. However, because there is no central governing authority, communities and individuals are free to make their own choices regarding this issue. Same-sex weddings are performed by Imams individually, and at some Unity Mosques, and similar inclusive mosque communities across the United States and Canada. One of the nation’s most prominent Muslim Americans, United States Representative Keith Ellison (D-MN) states unequivocally,

“I believe in expanding marriage rights and responsibilities to same-sex couples and to have those marriages recognized by other states and the federal government.”

On Ordination

There is no formal ordination process in Islam. Worship is most often led by imams who have completed extensive theological studies and have proven themselves strong leaders. Female and LGBTQ imams now hold leadership roles in many communities, including Unity Mosques. Imam Daayiee Abdullah, founder and ED of MECCA Institute, Ani Zonneveld, founder and ED of MPV, and Imam Amina Wadud an independent Islamic scholar, are three of the most prominent Muslim leaders working for LGBTQ inclusion today.

On Employment

In 2013, the Islamic Society of North America—the largest Muslim organization in the United States—declared its approval of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), adding its name to an interfaith coalition and calling ENDA a “measured, common sense solution that will ensure workers are judged on their merits, not on their personal characteristics like sexual orientation or gender identity.”

Next Steps

Despite the positive steps noted above, LGBTQ Muslims in the United States face significant challenges, including a nationwide anti-Muslim bigotry that touches the lives of all Muslims. LGBTQ Muslims often remain closeted in order to live in their faith communities and to remain close to their families. However, in addition to strides made by organizations such as MSGD, MPV and MECCA Institute, a move toward greater inclusion is also happening on college campuses, at the work place, and in private homes across the country. In the coming months, HRC will publish a Coming Home guide for LGBTQ Muslims and allies who wish to explore these issues more fully. Email to reserve a copy.

Posted in Equality, Islam, Muslim Queer Culture, Peace, Pride | Leave a comment

The Kingdom of God


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Romans 9:25-26

Romans 9:25-26

“As indeed he says in Hosea, ‘Those who are not my people I will call, my people, and her who was not beloved I will call beloved.’ And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘you are not my people’ there they shall be called children of the living God.”


With the New Testament and the new covenant proposed by Jesus, the rules and old Mosaic Law that held an entire nation-state in bondage to sacrifice for their sin was now rescinded and rendered obsolete. The promise of salvation becomes much more approachable now. The New Testament opens the door for those who have long felt rejected, isolated, and unworthy. Jesus speaks of salvation being available to Gentiles as well as Jews. Jesus speaks of love and forgiveness being freely offered to any one who comes to Him for salvation and forgiveness of sin. The labels of distinction no longer matter. The distinctions themselves no longer matter. In the eyes of Jesus, all God’s creation has value and is worthy of redemption. Jesus sees beauty in all people and has hope for all people.

The LGBT community may think they do not belong because someone may make a claim or site some Biblical Scripture or read a passage from the Qu’ran or Talmud or Torah. The truth is, God wants to restore relationships and to redeem all of humanity and set right the relationships that have been broken by sin, ignorance, hatred, bigotry, and discrimination.  In the Christian faith-culture, God sends Christ, His, to restore those relationships and to make salvation available to not just the 12 tribes of Israel or to a select few or to a clique of high priests or prophets, but to all of humanity– if they only believe that salvation is possible through God.


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Mathew 5:11 “Blessed are you when people revile and persecute you….”

Mathew 5:11 (NRSV)

“Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.”


People who would persecute and discriminate against you and use the Bible as their justification for these acts of discrimination, persecution, hatred, or violence are misrepresenting Jesus and ignoring the truth that comes from His mouth. Jesus commands us all to love each other as we would want to be loved. Jesus also commands that we love our God as much as we possibly can with all our hearts, minds, and souls. Jesus takes each and every one of us as we are. He sees beauty in all of us. He sees the wonder of God’s creation and finds redeeming value in us regardless of where we are at in our lives or who we are or appear to be.

Jesus knows that we are all have unique flaws or quirks or bits of imperfection and we are all vulnerable to sin and temptations and so on… but He also sees through our exteriors and looks into our souls and knows where our intentions are and knows the value of our characters.

We are challenged to be sincere and honest. We are challenged to be open to God. We are invited to love others and be compassionate and caring and mindful of the value of our relationships with each other as well as our relationship to God.

Jesus does not segregate or separate among His church. Each person has equal value and equal place with Him in His kingdom. In fact, He calls us His heirs. We are called God’s children. Anyone who proposes that you are somehow less than or unworthy or in some way inferior and incapable of being a true Christian is not understanding the power of God’s love and the forgiveness and redemption Christ offers.

As someone in the LGBT community, you are not less than a heterosexual or cisgender person. You are not unworthy or inferior to heterosexuals or cisgender or non-transgender people. You are not mistakes or abominations or lacking in faith or lacking in the capacity to be redeemed or forgiven. You will not be judged based on your labels and outward appearances. You may be judged and held accountable for your actions and the content of your character– but no differently and by no different standards than anyone else. You will be held accountable just as anyone else will be.

Jesus condemned no one who sought Him out for salvation and forgiveness. Jesus condemned no one He came across during His ministry. He simply welcomed people to Him and loved them and cared about them and cared for them. He wanted to heal, mend the broken, redeem, save, and promise everyone something better– eternal life in Paradise.

Anything contrary to this image of Christ is not truly Christian.


Posted in Editorial, Equality, Forgiveness, Hope, Inspiration, Jesus, Love, Love thy Neighbor, Mathew, Opinion | Leave a comment

Some Good News Around the U.S.

I came across this article about First Parish Church in Plymouth, Massachusetts and their observance of International Transgender Day of Visibility and thought it was worth sharing.

First Parish of Plymouth Hosts Transgender Day of Visibility

By Emily Clark

PLYMOUTH – For 60 years she went to work in more ways than one, slogging through a male gender assignment at odds with who she really was.

She married a woman, had children, worked her job as an attorney, checking in with therapists who just couldn’t “cure” her of this need to be female.

As a kid, her peers were copying Roy Rogers while she reached for the skirt and frilled blouse of his woman sidekick, Dale Evans. She was 12 when a priest refused her absolution until she stopped dressing like a girl. An only child, Sara Schnorr connected with her female cousins, sharing clothes and reveling in stolen moments when she could just be who she really was. Her aunts registered their disgust and decided there was something wrong with her.

Decades would pass before a different therapist, a more informed therapist, looked her in the eyes and told her the truth. She was woman in a man’s body – that simple, but that unbelievably complicated. This stuff happened to people, to good people like her, and maybe it was high time to just be who she was.

Schnorr took the plunge, and transitioned socially and medically. She had all those conversations with the wife, the employer, the co-workers, the clients, the friends, the family. She emerged as Sara, a lot stronger and happier than she could have imagined, she said. Her clients, employer and co-workers stunned her with acceptance, support and love.

For people of nonconforming genders it is a surprisingly common scenario. Their truth is often not ready for prime time because some people aren’t ready for their truth. In some cases, like Schnorr’s, the struggle goes on for generations.

The transcommunity and its supporters are trying to change that. First Parish Unitarian Universalist Church in Plymouth held its first ever Transgender Day of Visibility Celebration Tuesday night, drawing a crowd of nearly 100 transcommunity members and supporters from around the region.

Laughter and music hallmarked the evening, which featured the thrilling vocal power of transwoman Nickie McNeil, who sang to thunderous applause.

The Rev. Ed Hardy, of First Parish, opened the celebration with welcoming statements and an acknowledgement that, while the gay community is experiencing great strides in acceptance, many in the transcommunity are not accepted by society and are suffering discrimination. As a result, many are closeted, hiding true identities in an effort to protect themselves from rejection, discrimination and violence.

“We like to think we’re pretty liberal, but we still have a lot of work to do,” Hardy added.

Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition Executive Director Mason Dunn echoed those sentiments when he chronicled the difficulty he and transcommunity supporters have had passing legislation to protect transgender people from discrimination in “public accommodations,” which means any public place, including hospitals, libraries and parks. Dunn noted that the legislation was finally passed in July of 2016 but is now facing opposition, once again, from those who oppose transgender rights.

A 2018 ballot question threatens to unravel all the work Dunn and others have done to secure equal rights for transgender people in public places.

Dunn, who said he is a transman, noted that he also happens to be Jewish, and that transphobia often intersects with other types of discrimination like racism and sexism. The bottom line is that people are all tied together with the common thread of humanity, and a threat to anyone’s freedom is a threat to everyone’s freedom.

“I want to thank you for being here because your liberty is tied to my liberty,” he added.

Schnorr urged transpeople to be true to themselves and not to allow others to dictate who they are. Hiding your identity can lead to depression, sadness and regret, she added.

A panel discussion capped the evening, as Schnorr, Dunn, McNeil and others took the stage, fielding questions. A panel member named Taz identified as a non-binary person, meaning neither exclusively male nor female.

Dunn explained that society’s insistence on viewing gender as binary, or either male or female, is not accurate. If someone isn’t a man, that doesn’t automatically imply the person is a woman, he added. The “Torah” recognizes six different genders.

“Judeo Christianity is not binary, so stop it,” Dunn added, as the crowd erupted in laughter.

Dunn also noted that supporters of the transgender community, while appreciated, don’t belong in the acronym LGBTQIA, which stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning, intersex and asexual. The “A” shouldn’t stand for “ally,” he added.

“Just because you’re a Red Sox fan, doesn’t mean you play on the team,” he said to more laughter.

Sabrina Hewitt, a transwoman from Wilmington, noted that her transition from male to female several years ago was fraught with harassment, a job loss and a landlord who suddenly wanted her out of the building. Her employer originally claimed to be accepting of her transition, then made her work life miserable, allowing co-workers to harass her and refusing to accommodate her in any way. Hewitt said her boss then proceeded to write her up for mistakes she wasn’t making. While America boasts laws against discrimination, Dunn noted that intolerant cisgender people find ways around these laws by jacking up the rent on apartments for transgender people or making their lives at work so uncomfortable they are forced to leave. He differentiated between legal equality and “lived equality,” noting that fairness for the transgender community has not really arrived.

First Parish Unitarian Universalist Music Director Sandi Hammond, who came up with the idea of having a Transgender Day of Visibility Celebration at the church, noted that suicide attempts among transpeople are 20 times the national average.

“While the media is certainly giving trans identities a lot of coverage recently, the day-to-day living for trans people can still be incredibly challenging, with discrimination in the workplace, family rejection, homelessness, depression,” Hammond added. “We wanted to do this event to communicate our love and support for people of all gender identities, and to convey that there is a safe space here at First Parish Plymouth. To anyone questioning their gender identity, First Parish is here as a safe space for you and there are allies who care.”

For more information on Nickie McNeil who is releasing her debut CD soon, visit

Follow Emily Clark on Twitter @emilyOCM.

Posted in Articles, Good News from Around the U.S., Hope, Inspiration, Open and Affirming Churches, Transgender, Transgender Awareness, Transgender Hope | Leave a comment