Pride in the Bible Belt

by RJ Robles

I came out to my Puerto Rican parents two years ago as transgender. My family has been changed because of my existence. In this millennial era, I have observed a world that is ever changing towards us.

From administrations that were more open and affirming to administrations that attack us left and right. I live in a state where it is impossible to change your gender marker on your birth certificate, where name changing through the court system is a huge risk depending on the judge, and where we can still be fired from work for being trans.

I live in the Bible Belt. It is risky, it is challenging, but it is also beautiful. I am just as proud of being trans as I am of being an activist. I am proud of being trans, like I am proud of being a Christian. I boldly claim in these times being a transgender minister in the South because the spiritual lives and well-being of so many of us depends on it.

I have been taught that being prideful is sinful. I have unlearned this harmful theology, by knowing that it is okay to be myself fully in this Kin-Dom of God. I have learned that I am beautiful and a worthy child of God.

God calls us to love ourselves as we love others, and to love others as we love ourselves. So this month of Pride, I am here to tell you that I deeply love myself, my community, and all of our allies and accomplices.

This month of Pride, means celebrating who I am and whom I have been called to be. Now more than ever we must love our bodies, our flesh, our spirits, our community, our people, our loved ones, our chosen families, and our beautiful and fierce trans people of color.

My existence is resistance not only during Pride, but during all the days of the year. I am proud of who I am and am becoming. I cannot wait to see what the future will bring. I am sure it will be rooted in beauty, strength, and resistance and led by our younger generations of our trans people.

Let’s keep fighting, remembering that we must liberate ourselves from these chains. Remembering that our liberation is tied together. That we cannot move forward without all of us being free from oppression.

I give thanks to my trans-ancestors that have paved the way for me. And I trust in their guidance and in their sweet, sweet love for me. May we go beyond pride, claiming our belonging in this world forever.

Rj Robles is a queer and transgender Latinx activist and member of Southerners on New Ground seeking to continue the strong legacy of trans people of color organizing in the South. They hold a BA in Gender & Women Studies and Psychology from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Rj is currently finishing their Master of Divinity (M.Div) at Vanderbilt Divinity School, where their focus is on the intersections of transgender theology and pastoral care and counseling. They serve currently as the first paid employee and Program Coordinator of the Trans Buddy Program at the Program for LGBTQI Health at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, which assists transgender people in getting access to healthcare in Nashville. Their work there consists of training medical professionals on transgender issues and cultural sensitivity, assisting Tennessee's transgender community with access to transition related healthcare, coordinating, recruiting, and training volunteers of the program in order to provide patient advocacy and emotional support to transgender patients.