Crossing Boundaries: A Transgender Priest Becomes a University Chaplain

Religion & Politics
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January 3, 2013
Issues: 

In December of 2001, Cameron Partridge was a 28-year-old candidate for the Episcopal priesthood in Massachusetts when he informed his bishop he would be transitioning from female to male. The Rt. Rev. M. Thomas Shaw admits this news left him feeling uneasy. But, he added, “I’m old enough now that when I feel discomfort that probably means God wants me to pay attention to this.”
Partridge had known he wanted to be a priest since he was in his teens. But he grew up in a fairly conservative church in California with little exposure to women or gay clergy until just before he left for college. While attending Bryn Mawr, he came out as gay during his sophomore year. Finding himself still called to ministry, he later enrolled in Harvard Divinity School, where he received a Master of Divinity degree in 1998 and a Doctor of Theology degree in 2008. While a theological student, a progressive local church, Christ Episcopal, sponsored him for ordination.
In 2005, four years after his conversation with Shaw, Partridge was ordained to the Episcopal priesthood. He served in local congregations until 2011, when Shaw appointed him as chaplain to Boston University (BU). He now has the distinction of being one of the first trans chaplains at a major university, in addition to being one of just seven openly trans clergy in the Episcopal Church. He continues to teach and, since his transition, he has found himself engaging in more advocacy and political action. He told me, “I seemed to need to pass through certain kind of fear before I could embrace a fuller vocation to contribute to conversations on trans and wider LGBT equality in and outside ecclesial contexts, as well as to explore these themes in academic contexts.”

GLAAD featured Rev. Cameron Partridge as a trans faith leader who is creating welcoming communities.