Transgender issues have become a topic of common conversation due to recent events in government, the news and social media. This has caused much attention to be drawn to the people who identify with the transgender community. Some of the attention has been positive and empowering. Some of the attention has been negative and hurtful. Within religious circles, there are clergy and faith leaders who support the transgender community and there are those who ardently oppose it to the point of judgment and name-calling. This opposition of transgender identifying people by faith-based organizations (churches, synagogues, mosques, temples, etc.) can have a profound impact on the spirituality of their congregants – the people who identify as transgender, their friends and acquaintances.

The message that is transmitted from these places of worship that disagree with the transgender identity is one of dismissal. Transgender people hear that they do not belong in faith circles because of the rules, dictated by an interpretation of Scripture, that say they “are confused” or are “an abomination” and “sinners.” This causes people to wonder about their belonging, their ability to remain faithful and their self-worth as spiritual beings. Children and teenagers are especially at risk when they hear these messages of disdain just as they begin to question their identity and their sense of self. This article seeks to address how children with gender dysphoria and those who identify as transgender might overcome the religious and faith-based stigma that has been put upon them. By seeking guidance from supportive and affirming spiritual care providers, these children and teenagers have a chance at preserving their faith and their sense of the sacred.

The children, teens and families that are seen at the Genecis Clinic at Children’s Health – Medical Center Dallas are seen as a whole person. By using the Genecis Program at Children’s Health as an example of holistic care for children with gender dysphoria, this author will describe how practitioners can uphold and encourage the spirituality of transgender people, even when the religious culture tells them otherwise. This paper is based on the first hand encounters between children, teens, family members and the spiritual care providers at Children’s Health. This paper does not reflect a larger population than those in the Genecis Clinic but it does address how spiritual care can be integrated into the holistic healing and care of people with gender dysphoria and those who identify as transgender.

Key Take Away Points

  • Spirituality is an important aspect of a person's identity
  • Spirituality of transgender persons is important
  • The GENECIS Program seeks to provide holistic care through a multidisciplinary approach that includes spiritual care
  • The role of the spiritual care provider is to provide space for the patient and families of the GENECIS Program to explore their spiritual journey

Author Biography

S. Vance Goodman is a Quaker chaplain who graduated from Perkins School of Theology in Dallas with a Master of Divinity. While studying at Perkins, she served two years as a resident community campus chaplain for Southern Methodist University. She completed her clinical pastoral education training at Children’s Health. Vance currently ministers to patients, families and staff members in the Heart Center and the GENECIS Program on the Dallas campus as well as serving as Bereavement Coordinator for the hospital. Her interests in ministry include spiritual care for families of children with congenital heart disease, gender dysphoria caregiver/staff renewal and bereavement care. Vance enjoys reading, writing, hiking, biking and the outdoors.