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This article was published 30/4/2016 (1396 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Every time he feeds his young daughter in public, Dugald-area resident Trevor MacDonald decides how much he’s willing to explain about his family situation.
"Because I’m still nursing my child, that’s the time people might realize I have another gender identity than they expected," says MacDonald, 30, whose transition from female to male included a legal name change, testosterone treatment, and chest surgery.
"I do have a lot of privilege as a white male, but when someone sees me nursing a child in public, and then it sometimes becomes unsafe."
The father of an 18-month-old daughter and five-year-old son speaks about his experiences of parenting as a transgender man at the Spirit & Soul workshop, May 7 at Churchill Park United Church (525 Beresford Ave.).
The goal of the daylong workshop sponsored by several affirming United churches is to get to know and understand people in the transgender community through sharing stories, explains organizer Betty Young.
She says the workshop grew out of long discussions at Churchill Park about what it means to be affirming and welcoming to all people, as well as drafting a mission statement to reflect that.
"That’s our goal, where we don’t even think about a person’s sexual orientation," says Young.
The workshop marks the first time Winnipeg congregations within the United Church of Canada will meet to learn about and from transgender people, says the minister of Rainbow Ministry, an outreach program to Winnipeg’s United Churches operating since 1996.
"We talk about LGBT and we talk about orientation but how do we understand transgender and how does a transgender person understand themselves?" says Patrick Woodbeck, also a student minister at Windsor Park United.
"As churches, we’re very much about relationships. Wouldn’t it be amazing for people to tell us stories and to hear those stories as part of what the church is about?"
What is also amazing is people of faith want to be more supportive and inclusive of people like him, says MacDonald, author of the upcoming book Where’s the Mother?: Stories from a Transgender Dad, to be released May 24.
"In the case of LGBTQ people, it would help to understand it’s not a lifestyle, it’s not a choice," says MacDonald, 30, who blogs at www.milkjunkies.net.
"It has to do with someone’s core identity and to do what you have to do, what’s comfortable, to live one’s life."
After coming out as a transgender man, MacDonald and his partner decided to have children. MacDonald stopped taking testosterone and was able to conceive and deliver two healthy children because he still has female reproductive organs.
He is willing to share his experiences and advocate for others but admits there are also some questions too personal or just inappropriate.
"I think it’s helpful to think before you ask a question if it would be OK to ask that question of someone who is not transgender," says the B.C. native, now living with his husband and two children on a rural property east of Winnipeg.
"You wouldn’t ask a stranger about their genitals but it happens to transgender people all the time."
Woodbeck says what is most important in the conversation is to remember all people are created by God and inherently worthy, and Jesus Christ consistently welcomed people who were marginalized.
In 1988, the United Church of Canada declared all persons, regardless of sexual orientation, were welcome to become members of the denomination, and eligible to be considered for ministry. Although his denomination led the way in accepting LGBTQ people as members, Woodbeck says the work still continues within the United Church.
"It’s a process, it’s a journey. We’re moving along but it’s a journey, it’s never done."
Brenda Suderman has been a columnist in the Saturday paper since 2000, first writing about family entertainment, and about faith and religion since 2006.
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