Blessed Are the Binary Breakers:
A Podcast Featuring Trans and/or Nonbinary Stories
History is unrolling every day, as ordinary people live out their lives. My podcast Blessed Are the Binary Breakers records a small fragment of that history of trans people in a variety of religious backgrounds. Join seminary graduate Avery Smith as they interview transgender and/or nonbinary people about their experiences with faith and gender. Discover the wonderful diversity of gifts and wisdom that trans people offer their faith communities.
You can listen to Blessed Are the Binary Breakers on:
Please feel free to reach out to me at if you are interested in sharing your story on the podcast.
I am working on transcripts for each episode, which will be linked to here as I finish them.
If you would like to help produce transcripts, contact me.
If you are interested in translating an episode into another language, contact me about that too!
[Image description: the cover art for the podcast; it features a brick wall with mainly light blue bricks, but the lines of bricks at the top and bottom are white. Text in all capital somewhat blocky letters read "Blessed are the binary breakers" in the center of the image.]
Episode 1: Avery's genderqueer calling
In this first episode, Avery discusses what made them start up this podcast. They then explore how genderqueerness is part of the vocation they have been discerning since their childhood days of preaching homilies to stuffed animals, all the way through their present studies at Louisville Seminary.
Episode 2: Willow errs on the side of grace
Join me and Willow Hovingh as she shares her experiences as a trans woman transitioning in her fifties. Coming out has brought Willow an abundance of blessings in her personal well-being, her work life and church life, and in her relationships with friends and family, including her trans son.
Episode 3: The UMC General Conference - a nonbinary Methodist's hopes and fears
From February 23-26, 2019, the United Methodist Church is holding a special general conference specifically for the discussion of "human sexuality." The outcome will impact all members of the UMC, but particularly those within it who are LGBTQ+.
In this special episode, nonbinary Methodist Adam Richards was good enough to walk me through the various possible outcomes of this conference. While doing so, they shared their own story -- their love for Methodism and why they stay despite pain and frustation, their plans to pursue a calling to ordination, and the differences they've noticed between LGB issues and trans issues in Methodist churches.
Episode 4: Derek loves his family
Derek Guy has a lot of love to give: for his family, for the youth he's worked with, and for communities where he can fully be himself as a Black trans man.
In this episode, Derek describes how he's been able to transform his traumatic experiences with church hurt and attending a conversion therapy camp into strength he uses to serve youth and adults as a social worker. He talks about identifying more as spiritual than Christian, believing in a higher power and, with his wife, doing what he can to give his son a solid foundation in spirituality.
Derek also talks about the life-giving power of finding communities where he feels supported and welcomed, and the pain and frustration when communities fail to be that -- with concrete advice to communities that want to learn to be more inclusive!
Derek wants listeners to know he can be found on most social media sites if you search DerekJGuy -- check him out!
Episode 5: Adam is a lifelong Methodist
In a previous episode, Adam Richards talked to us about the United Methodist Church's general conference, but we didn't get to hear much about their own life! Adam has a deep love for Wesleyan theology's focus on good fruits and for their university's campus ministry and activist groups. Adam also talks about the support they find from their partner and some family members, the challenges of finding clothing when nonbinary and autistic, and finding the Spirit of Love in secular spaces.
Episode 6: Eli and the prophet Elijah
Eli Rosenberg used to think that being trans was incompatible with faith. But with help from their rabbi, transtorah.org, and the prophet Elijah, they discovered that Judaism has room for all sorts of people and welcomes questions without answers.
In this interview, Eli talks about conflict and interpretation. They wrestle with various supposed dualisms, from faith vs. science to being disabled vs. being made in the image of God -- and find that these concepts are not so dichotomous after all.
They also discuss the challenges of finding trans-friendly therapists, the pain of dysphoria and the wonders of hrt, support from loved ones, and autism and EDS.
Eli can be found on twitter at @chronautist
Episode 7: "God's not gonna leave you" - Christian Witchcraft with Phoenyx
Phoenyx (they or she pronouns) is 30 years old, bisexual, working towards becoming a national certified counselor, and has been exploring different religions for the past few years. Raised Catholic and discovering Christian witchcraft around age 13, Phoenyx has also looked into Judaism, Tibetan Buddhism, Unitarian Universalism, Episcopal Christianity, Irish paganism, and more. At the same time they are also questioning their gender, with some terms they currently use including genderflux and nonbinary.
Some of the things we discuss in this interview include: the need for LGBT+ therapists; challenges with associating with Christianity when a bigoted form of the faith is in the spotlight; the anxiety but also the richness that comes from living in a state of uncertainty regarding faith; the truth to be found in any religion; and what it means to be a valid trans person and how society tries to make each person "pick" between being gay or straight and to "pick" one gender, one faith.
You can find Phoenyx at christ-haunted.tumblr.com or phoenyxoftheashes.tumblr.com. The post that the mention in the interview that explores what the Bible says about witchcraft can be read here: http://phoenyxoftheashes.tumblr.com/post/111134370022/doesnt-the-bible-forbid-witchcraft-and-magic
Episode 8: Hanka is a Polish cryptid
Hanka (he/him or she/her) is a 19-year-old bigender lesbian who was born in Warsaw, has lived in places like Belgium and Israel, and is back in Warsaw again. In this interview, Hanka talks about what it's like to be LGBT in Poland, a very Catholic country where the LGBT community is only just entering the public consciousness; how theatre helped her figure out her gender identity; and how he's moved from thinking something's "wrong" with him to recognizing that experiencing anxiety doesn't mean God has left you.
Find Hanka on instagram at spagetticathimself, and on tumblr as hanqa-a or dyke-community.
Episode 9: When faith hurts - sharing stories of transphobic violence
In this episode, five people share their stories of religious hurt.
Bryce winces when he hears church music. Neko worries about her family finding out she's LGBT, but dreams of leaving Indonesia to be herself. Ryka discovers that they are gay and trans because it was part of God's plan. Spencer is a "drive-by casualty of religious homophobia," and struggles with their relationship with their parents. Avery struggled in their teenage years simply because no one gave them the language they needed to thrive.
My hope for this episode is that listeners who are going through similar pain will feel encouraged to learn that they are not alone; and that all of us will be motivated to compassion -- grieving together and then acting to challenge transphobia and cissexism wherever we find them.
Content warnings are offered before each individual's story (both in the audio and below). In general, this episode contains a lot of discussions on transphobia and homophobia (internalized and otherwise); fear of divine rejection; and family and church conflict.
Ryka can be found on twitter @RSween1.
If you are interested in reaching out to Neko, contact Avery.
Episode 10: Alex is a Haitian Vodou Priest
There are fewer than 5 known transgender priests in the Haitian Vodou religion, and as far as he knows Alex Batagi (initiated under the name Bonkira Bon Oungan, "what is good is rare") is the only currently active one. With the guidance of his spiritual mother, Manbo Maude, his spirits, and his community, Houngan Alex has been able to take up the tools of Vodou -- healing, magic, and devotion to the lwa -- to fully recognize his identity as a trans man and work towards the ultimate goal of Vodou: balance in all areas for all people.
In this episode, Alex discusses his growth from being a pastor's kid to an agnostic and finally to discovering Haitian Vodou right there in Boston. He has found that the lwa, the spirits, embrace and support his whole self. Alex also talks about what it's like to be a white and non-Haitian practitioner of Vodou, as well as the importance of spirituality and community to trans persons.
Episode 11: From End Times to a new beginning - Adi is reconstructing their faith
Adi McNally's life is looking up. For one thing, they've just gotten top surgery! Adi's also moved from a church that kept them isolated and fearful to a church that welcomes all that they are; from being in a homeschool group with right wing values to being involved in their college's LGBT community; and from seeing God as a wrathful parent coming to judge us at the End Times to rediscovering scripture in the light of love.
Join Adi (age 19) as they discuss growing up in a toxic and manipulative religious environment; discovering the link between their eating disorder and gender dysphoria; meeting other queer people and realizing that all they'd been told about LGBT people was wrong; and learning that doubt and questions are a healthy part of faith. They also share a beautiful poem they wrote after their baptism.
Episode 12: Luca is making their community stronger
Luca Alexander is passionate about raising the voices of marginalized women and LGBTQ+ individuals, doing so through their job at the Boston-based consulting team VISIONS, through their scholarship at Boston University, and through participation in queer and Muslim spaces in Boston.
In this episode, they discuss becoming a Muslim; navigating hijab, islamophobia, and gender dysphoria; researching gender segregation; and more. In their studies, they have asked the question of how Islam defines "man" and "woman," where trans and nonbinary people fit within the framework of Islamic law, and whether gender segregation is necessarily mandated. While Luca has had to deal with queerphobia and islamophobia at school and elsewhere, they have also found meaningful community through Queer Muslims of Boston, energy in creating art, and healing in Dhikr, chanting the 99 Names of God.
You can find Luca @LucaRNAlexander on Twitter.
Episode 13: Rev. Jo Inkpin is flourishing with a trans-ing God
After coming out several years ago, Josephine Inkpin became the first openly transgender priest in the Anglican Church of Australia. Born in England, where she and her wife were part of the fight for women's ordination, Jo moved to Australia in 2000 and now helps fight not just for the inclusion of LGBTQA+ persons, but for their affirmation and celebration.
In this episode, Jo envisions the Kingdom of God as a banquet where all are not only allowed at the table but can transform it, and where worship is a party where we are opened to ever-new experiences of God. She explores what it means to worship a God who is artist and art, trans-ing and constantly urging the Church "to trans" as well. Jo also discusses the gifts that trans persons offer their faith communities as agents of transformation, and why it's imperative for some of us to stay and speak up even while others find it necessary to step away.
For some more details on Jo's personal journey, see this article: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-02-23/australias-first-transgender-priest/9477100
Explore more of Jo's incredible work at transspirit.org, or follow her on Twitter @blessedimp.
Episode 14: How are trans people like Jonah? - A Jewish trans woman's perspective
Announcement: Blessed Are the Binary Breakers is going on a hiatus until October!
In this episode, I do not interview anyone, but rather discuss Joy Ladin's introduction to her 2019 text The Soul of the Stranger: Reading God and Torah from a Transgender Perspective. In this text, Ladin compares her attempt to flee from her womanhood to Jonah's attempt to flee from his identity as a prophet. Like Jonah, trans people's decision to live into who they are enriches their communities, just as Jonah's eventual acceptance of his call helps Nineveh.
Episode 15: "We just want to be heard": Dee on Chile, race, and disability
Dee Garnica shares their experience as a 19-year-old nonbinary Chilean, discussing issues of disability, race, and transgender rights in Chile.
While the country does offer universal healthcare, as well as certain legal rights for trans persons, Dee has found that talk of trans issues is regarded as taboo and that the healthcare system fails many disabled persons. Raised Catholic, Dee has also found Catholic school and Mass to be hostile places for them and thus has left religion. Wherever Dee goes, from academia to the workplace, they speak up for their rights, believing that every human being has a right to be heard and respected for who they are.