Transgender Minister Finds Faith and Support as New Leader of Parish Community
Electa Draper of the Denver Post profiled Protestant minister Rev. Malcolm Himschoot in an inspiring article published Monday, exploring a rare but important discussion about religion and transgender identity.
Rev. Himschoot was installed as a full-time pastor at the Parker United Church of Christ last night in Denver, Colorado. He struggled as a young adult to come to terms with being transgender while simultaneously trying to maintain a close relationship with God and fellow Christians. He worked as a journalist for some time, but found more fulfillment in counseling and helping people than quoting and writing about them. He realized he wanted to be a minister after volunteering with orphans in Guatemala. “When you struggle for a more just world, that’s a profound place to encounter God’s spirit,” he said. He enrolled in theology school in 2000 and graduated in 2004, transitioning during his time in seminary, with the support of his school and church. He has since served in ministries in Denver and Minneapolis.
“I have a life beyond my wildest dreams,” he says now, at 33 years old.
The language in Draper’s article reflects some difficulty that she likely encountered in discussing an issue that is not often covered in the media. The suggestion in the second paragraph that Himschoot “chose” to become male is misleading and does not adequately convey the struggles he faced throughout his life. It is more appropriate to say that Himschoot came out as transgender and subsequently transitioned. Similar to the way LGB people come out about their orientation as lesbian, gay, or bisexual, members of the transgender community come out about their gender identity, and it is naïve and dismissive to imply that they do so as a conscious “choice.” Most transgender people feel a disconnect between their assigned sex and their actual identity from a very young age, and coming out is unavoidable in order for them to live healthy lives.
Draper emphasizes this later in the article by pointing out the depression Himschoot suffered before finally deciding not to commit suicide. “Claiming his own gender identity was a matter of life and death,” she explains, as he was raised in a very conservative Christian family that denounced any transgressions of sexual orientation, let alone gender identity. This is an especially important point to make, as a new study by the National Center for Transgender Equality reveals that a staggering 41% of the transgender population has attempted suicide. Draper also makes the self-evident but often overlooked point that being transgender is hardly the most important part of a person’s identity, nor does it automatically make someone an activist. In Rev. Himschoot’s case, she explains, it “doesn’t dominate his pastoral approach,” and he strives “to be imaginatively compassionate with everyone.”
GLAAD’s Media Reference Guide and Transgender Resource Page are good beginning resources for both journalists and the general population to educate themselves about transgender issues and to clarify common errors—such as the grammatically incorrect use of “transgendered” instead of the adjective “transgender,” which appears in this article and often others.
We applaud Rev. Himschoot’s bravery in reconciling what others may see as an unconventional gender identity with what he knows to be his faith. We wish him well in his new position as pastor of Parker UCC, and we thank Electa Draper for such a thoughtful and informative story.