Transgender university chaplain at the intersections

Becky Garrison writing at Religion and Politics talks with Cameron Partridge about his journey to becoming university chaplain:

In December of 2001, Cameron Partridge was a 28-year-old candidate for the Episcopal priesthood in Massachusetts when he informed his bishop he would be transitioning from female to male. The Rt. Rev. M. Thomas Shaw admits this news left him feeling uneasy. But, he added, “I’m old enough now that when I feel discomfort that probably means God wants me to pay attention to this.”

Partridge had known he wanted to be a priest since he was in his teens. But he grew up in a fairly conservative church in California with little exposure to women or gay clergy until just before he left for college. While attending Bryn Mawr, he came out as gay during his sophomore year. Finding himself still called to ministry, he later enrolled in Harvard Divinity School, where he received a Master of Divinity degree in 1998 and a Doctor of Theology degree in 2008. While a theological student, a progressive local church, Christ Episcopal, sponsored him for ordination.

…Partridge prefers not to dwell on his gender transition. He reads trans narratives in the media with a critical eye. “Sometimes portrayals of trans lives have a before-after type focus,” he said. “They can dwell on people’s former lives, their previous names, when they ‘knew’ they were trans, how their family reacted. And while that can be powerful, I personally find that narrative pattern restrictive and sometimes invasive.” He prefers to keep his personal life private. “When it comes to my family, it’s one thing for me to be openly trans, and even to be open about being a husband and dad, but my family members need space to be who they are,” he said. “The public pieces of my vocation are not necessarily theirs.”

Partridge does not feel his transgender status has hindered his role as a chaplain; if anything, it has helped him connect with students. “In one sense, my being trans doesn’t matter,” he said. “In another way, I’m able to have certain conversations about the complexities of human identity with college students, who are figuring out their own identities.” …

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