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  • Writer's pictureKimberlee Runnion

[Trans]itioning our Language

Updated: Nov 26, 2022


I received some wonderful feedback from a friend of mine that is an important update to this post. Thank you, Brige Mendes for calling me out and helping me learn! As a reminder to my readers, I am not an expert, and I so appreciate feedback like this. I have removed my use of the asterisk but have kept the poster simply to explain what the trans community includes.

"I really love this post to but thought you might want to know some of the info is a bit outdated

The asterisk has really fallen out of use. It made sense for a long time when genderqueer/nonbinary/"other" identities did not quite fit with the most commonly known definition of what it meant to be transgender. It was understood by most to be someone who identified as the opposite sex and were taking steps to make a physical and social transition to the opposite sex. Now a days the definition of transgender is simply ANYONE who does not identify with the GENDER they were assigned at birth. No ifs ands or buts about it. The asterisk implies ifs ands and buts and is slightly otherizing, ironically sort of exclusive when it was originally meant to include. It suggests that those who are not simply transitioning from one end of the binary to the other are somehow "less trans" or "not REALLY trans". So the asterisk has been dropped from regular usage and it is to be understood that any of the identities on that poster are part of the Transgender community.

That said it is still a nice way to expand cishets understanding of what trans is, in posts like this"


Last week, I talked about inclusive language, but I stopped at the use of gendered pronouns for God. I’d like to pick up where I left off because inclusive language is so much more than that.

“Consider the phrase itself: ‘inclusive language.’ In other words, we want our language to include others, to include other views of God, include other interpretations of Scripture, include other encounters of the Holy.”

Let’s jump back up to that first part: including others.

I believe I have been very lucky to grow up in the liberal bubble that I did. Despite growing up in conservative communities, my mother has always been very openly welcoming of diverse people, opinions, cultures, and worldviews. In fact, I wasn’t even scared to come out to my mother – that’s how open and affirming she was. Unfortunately, that bubble meant that reality occasionally hit me like a ton of bricks.

I was in a long-term relationship with another woman for 4 years before we started the coming out process. Her church life was very important to her, but I was not active in church at the time, so I started attending her home church (also trying to win over her conservative family): a Missionary Baptist church in rural Missouri. PC(USA)ers: if you ever want to experience culture shock, ask me how!

Suddenly, I was in an organization where the business meeting was referred to as the “men’s meeting” because women were not allowed to attend. Even in larger congregational meetings, women could only participate if they had a husband or other male relative who gave them permission to do so. I often had to chuckle at the irony when women in this church referred to “those poor, oppressed Muslim women.”

The biggest switch for me was that this church read the Bible in “its original form”: the King James Version. HA! That meant that they had a fundamental misunderstanding of the writing of the Bible, and more importantly (at least for this post), it meant a return to gendered language. I had never realized how big a difference it made to hear “brothers and sisters in Christ” versus “brothers in Christ.” Women were left out of this service entirely! I felt more connected to God when I didn’t attend church!

Recently, I’ve heard complaints about the use of “brothers and sisters” in the church context – from people who are trans. In my (and many others’) excitement at finally being included, we left out some other folks. What about those who don’t identify as male or female – those who fall somewhere in between for whatever reason? (If you’re looking for a resource on intersex issues, here’s a great one!)

We often hear the word “friends” thrown around in church, and while that’s certainly an alternative, “brothers and sisters” indicates a closeness, a familial relationship that “friends” seems to ignore. The alternative I’ve heard recently that I’ve fallen in love with is “faith family.” This one connects us with that strong familial bond but isn’t limited to our individual church or even our denomination – it recognizes the closeness we can feel with all those who seek to follow God. (I would argue that it is even not limited to followers of Christ, but that’s certainly debatable.)

What are some alternatives you’ve heard and liked/disliked? What are other ways you use inclusive language to welcome others? I’d love to hear your experiences in the comments!

#queer #inclusivelanguage #PCUSA #church #microaggressions #genderqueer #gender #trans


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