The first openly transgender priest to preach at the Washington National Cathedral urged the gay community Sunday to be brave and open-minded as it works to eliminate oppression.
The Rev. Cameron Partridge told the audience at the landmark Episcopal church that people need to be unashamed of who they are and embrace “the blessing of collaborating visions.”
“We need to see one another, to be revelations to one another, to go out into the world together across our differences,” Mr. Partridge said, “so that we might be able to show one another resources we literally may not be able to see or access on our own.”
Mr. Partridge is the Episcopal chaplain at Boston University and a lecturer and counselor for Episcopal and Anglican students at the Harvard Divinity School. He completed his transition to male in 2001, according to Boston University.
His sermon came at the conclusion of two weeks of LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning) advocacy for the cathedral.
The idea of revelation was at the heart of Mr. Partridge’s sermon, which referenced the scripture readings from earlier in the service.
“When Jesus tells his disciples to speak in the light, to uncover the hidden, to proclaim from the heights, he is asking them to join that stream, to become active participants in that blindingly good news,” Mr. Partridge said. “Of course, Jesus also explicitly warns that not everyone would experience such revelation as good, and that some might actively persecute the disciples for it. Doing this work would be utterly demanding.”
A good biblical example of someone with resilience and strength, Mr. Partridge said, is Hagar, the handmaiden who was forced to bear Abraham’s child only to be exiled with their son, Ishmael.
“Like Hagar, so many people in the LGBTQ community, and particularly in the trans community, have at one point or another or for a lifetime found ourselves in situations of intense oppression, isolation and despair,” he said. “We have been utterly unable to see beyond the horizon of our often multiple, intersectional margins.”
A 2011 study by the Williams Institute at University of California at Los Angeles estimated that there are about 700,000 transgender people in the United States.
Mr. Partridge applauded the progress that has been made to get acceptance of the LBTQ community, though he admitted there is still much to do, a feeling echoed by the dean of the cathedral, the Rev. Gary Hall.
“A lot of really positive things have happened in the past year, but we still have a long way to go,” said Mr. Hall, referencing the overturning of California’s Proposition 8 ban on same-sex marriage and the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn part of the Defense of Marriage Act.
“I hope to see a day where civil marriage equality is a reality in every state of the nation and also religious equality … in all faith traditions,” Mr. Hall said.
The Right Rev. Gene Robinson, the first openly gay Episcopal bishop, also was present at Sunday’s service, and he expressed pride in the progress made by the church in the decade since he was elected, particularly the advocacy by the National Cathedral.
“What I’ve seen over the last decade, this beloved church of ours is risking its life,” Mr. Robinson said. “The cathedral’s voice is being heard in a new and powerful way. In a sense the cathedral has come out to the world in new and bold ways.”