Vigil and pray. More than thoughts and prayers. Resistance. This is what can be expected from the Philadelphia Trans Wellness Conference’s spirituality track this year.
Running July 25-27 and programmed by Transfaith, Philly’s multi-tradition, multi-faith organization run for and by trans people, this year’s spirituality offerings are wide-ranging. The conference sessions vary from a Shabbat dinner to the Muslim prayer Jumu’ah, spiritual practices in the Latinx community to a seminar on mindfulness.
“We try to bring a diversity of content,” said Chris Paige, co-founder of Transfaith who identifies as OtherWise-gendered. “Not everyone has access to safe religious leadership and spaces, and we want to offer that.”
Transfaith attempted to narrow its focus at this year’s conference and identify what attendees needed most out of sessions, Paige said.
Through the sessions, they added, Transfaith seeks to ask and answer: “How do we vigilant pray? How do we do this as we resist a world that’s assaulting us in so many ways?”
Each day of the conference, the organization will offer a roundtable and discussion only open to trans and gender-nonconforming folk. Closed topics include giving spiritual care in trans communities and transgender leaders in religious systems.
On July 25, well-known activist and Muslim trans person Tynan Power will join other members of the Trans and Muslim Project — which aims to “build relationships with transgender leadership and allies in Muslim traditions” — for the event “Salah: A Seminar on Muslim Prayer.” Power coordinated the Trans Wellness Conference’s Muslim programming from 2012-14.
Paige said they are particularly looking forward to Friday’s Shabbat Dinner and Kabbalat Shabbat service, where D’var Torah will be led by Koach Baruch Frazier, a black, queer, Jewish healer and musician who was a part of the Ferguson uprising in St. Louis.
“When we found out Frazier was coming to Philadelphia, we wanted to work with him,” Paige said.
Started in 1999 as only a website, Transfaith has evolved over time.
Outside of the Wellness Conference, the nonprofit organization puts together a resource roundup in spring which features online videos highlighting folks who offer trans resources.
“We really have a model of collegiality and collaboration so we don’t feel like we have to produce or publish everything,” Paige said. “We use our platform to support the work that other people are doing, so resource roundup is a really good example of that.”
This year, Transfaith also started a “come as you are Friday dinner” at Living Water United Church of Christ in Northeast Philadelphia. Paige said, “The idea of it is to have a community meal...have it be sober and intergenerational,” adding, “We’re taking a break for the summer, but will begin again in the fall.”
But Paige isn’t taking a break this summer. They released a book July 1 titled, “OtherWise Christian: A Guidebook for Transgender Liberation.” Paige said the book is “a love letter to the transgender community, a biblical self-defense, and a little bit of a historical record.” n