Press Statement – Rev. Drew Phoenix
My name is Rev. Drew Phoenix. I am an ordained minister in The United Methodist Church have served churches in Maryland for 20 years and now pastor in Alaska. In 2007 I became the first United Methodist minister to publicly transition from female to male and retain my ordination. But it came at a cost. What should have remained deeply intimate and personal became unnecessarily controversial and political. Defamatory statements were made against me, charges filed to discredit me, and several attempts made to end my employment with The United Methodist Church – all of this in spite of the fact that I am a highly qualified, effective minister in good standing in my denomination.
I am not alone. Tens of thousands of transgender people across the country, each and every day, are subject to hate-motivated violence and job discrimination born of fear and ignorance. The unemployment rate for transgender Americans is disproportionately high (roughly 35%) and an even larger number are grossly unemployed.
My experience has opened my eyes to the pastoral implications of similar situations when they occur in non-religious settings and today I speak to you as a pastor for those who cannot always speak for themselves. While the discrimination I experienced in the church gives me a keen understanding of the job discrimination transgender people face every day, it is important to note that the bills we’re promoting exempt churches from their effects because we so respect the free exercise of religion.
As a person of faith and an ordained minister, I call on Congress to enact legislation that brings an end to both the violence and the discrimination. As religious leaders and people of faith, we cannot sit by while our transgender sisters and brothers, made in the image of the Divine, continue to be oppressed. We have a moral responsibility to care for the most marginalized among us. Justice demands that we take action and put in place, safeguards against violence and workplace discrimination, for the most vulnerable.