GenderSpark

By | 2018-06-06T15:43:09+00:00 June 6th, 2018|Uncategorized|

When Nick Daughtry first visited Metropolitan Community Church – Detroit four months ago, it was absolutely the right fit.
“It was one of things where going in I instantly knew that it was where I belonged,” he said. “It’s a very calming feeling when you find a spiritual place and you know you belong there.”
Since that time, things have continued to fall into place for Daughtry at MCC-D, such as the time he almost effortlessly found himself appointed as co-chair of a new group called GenderSpark that is dedicated to providing a space “where people can feel affirmed in both their gender and spiritual identities, regardless of what those may be.” In addition, the group emphasizes in its description that it invites those who are seeking a “safe space to explore their gender identity.”
“I actually sat down at the table during the first meeting on accident,” Daughtry recalled. “They were having a meeting, just trying to form a transgender or gender non-conforming group to try to do some outreach. It’s something the church didn’t have at the time. So, Natalie (Fitzpatrick) and I were named chairs and we’re just doing our best to get the group off and running.”
Fitzpatrick said that it was good fortune to have gotten Daughtry’s help on the project so quickly and easily. She said that because the project is in its fledgling state, it can still use support, but it has built a solid foundation.
“It was kind of I’d call it a grassroots effort,” she said. “A number of trans and gender non-conforming people within the church – maybe with a little bit of prompting from the reverend – came together and it kind of spontaneously took off from there. The real theme underneath it is sort of that you can have a spiritual relationship with whatever you want to call God and still be trans or anywhere on the LGBT spectrum. That, to me, is kind of revolutionary.”
The Rev. Dr. Roland Stringfellow, senior pastor and teacher for MCC-D, said the group formed organically and that the need for it was definitely present.
“I’ve been very pleased that over the last year or so our transgender and gender non-conforming individual numbers has been on the increase,” Stringfellow said. “We recognized that we needed to have good spiritual support on what does it mean to come out as trans and be a spiritual person. There are a lot of amazing support groups out there for trans individuals who are doing great work but they don’t focus on the spiritual component and we wanted to fill that void.”
Fitzpatrick said that MCC-D’s positive and supportive attitude is not only what appeals to her, but many of the church’s new members — and especially to members of the church’s new group.
“I’ve not experienced a place where I felt that combination was possible before,” Fitzpatrick said. “So I think that’s what makes us unique. I’m sure somewhere else in the world this exists but it’s the first time that I’ve come across it.”
Jennifer Miracle-Best, a trans ally and spouse, has been helping the group since it started.
“The group was initially formed by a group of members from MCC-D who wanted to provide a space for people who are transgender, gender non-conforming, non-binary, or anywhere else on the gender spectrum to connect with others, as well as to explore their spiritual needs,” Miracle-Best said. “As I’m sure you realize, most LGBT people have experienced some form of rejection, condemnation, discrimination et cetera, by people who call themselves Christians and often in the name of God.”
Daughtry said that bearing that overwhelming rejection in mind, he’d like to see the group find different, kinder ways of bringing people in.
“I have an idea of doing a cooking night and bringing people in and starting from scratch because some people don’t know how to cook and talking to them through food (could be helpful),” he said.
One of the biggest challenges that Daughtry said he has faced since he started presenting as male is dealing with day-to-day services that he once didn’t think twice about, like when he goes for his regular massages. He said that this group’s discussion might help other trans and gender non-conforming people create LGBTQ-friendly connections in all aspects of life.
“It’s not that easy for me to go get a massage because I haven’t had top surgery. So, finding that connection is hard and knowing that this or that group is LGBT-friendly and that they give massages to everyone on the spectrum is important,” he said. “It’s important to have those connections and to know those things.”
Though it’s still fairly new, Fitzpatrick said she sees the group expanding quickly.
“I’d like to reach as many people as possible,” she said. “I’d like to let them know there’s a path for them to have a spiritual relationships while being true to who they are … we’re not pushing religion on people, we’re simply offering them a place where that combination exists if it’s right for them. It’s more about offering that possibility if that possibility feels right for you.”
For more information about the group, contact mccdgenderspark@gmail.com.

About the Author:

Jason A. Michael earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Wayne State University before joining Between The Lines as a contributing writer in 1999. Jason has received both the Spirit of Detroit Award (presented by the Detroit City Council) and the Media Award from the Community Pride Banquet & Awards Ceremony for his writing and activism. Jason is also an Essence magazine bestselling author having written the authorized biography "Strength Of A Woman: The Phyllis Hyman Story," which he released on his own JAM Books imprint.