Tamsin Michael Robson is a transfeminine genderqueer preacher. They talked to Kate Spencer about what those terms mean to them and how being genderqueer shapes their Christian faith. Robson, who is currently seeking ordination in The United Church of Canada, serves as a worship leader at Halifax’s Queer Spirit Church, which holds monthly services for the LGBTQ2S+ community.
On what it means to be transfeminine and genderqueer: “Transfeminine” is a descriptor that includes transgender women, along with others who might be assigned male but embrace femininity as a part of their gender.
“Genderqueer” is a highly personal term for me. While it describes anyone whose gender identity isn’t exclusively male or female, I use it to underline that my queerness originates in my gender, not necessarily in my sexuality.
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On beginning their faith journey: When I was very young, we went to a Lutheran church with a pastor who had an amazing no-nonsense approach to spirituality. He had this ethos: “If you’re not surrendering to the radiant love at the heart of the universe, what are you even doing?” He became the standard by which I measured all other preaching.
On becoming involved in the United Church: When I heard St. Andrew’s United in Halifax was doing Pride Sunday for the first time a few years ago, I invited myself to the worship committee meeting and pitched a sermon about Jesus’s narrative being incredibly relatable to queer people. Jesus flouted every social convention. People saw the passion in my preaching. I took other opportunities to guest-preach where I could.
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On reconciling a Christian faith with a genderqueer life: Christianity was assimilated by an empire and misused. I have to espouse the Christianity based on our common humanity. The kingdom of God is the antithesis to the kingdom of Caesar. The Gospel of Christ says we have room to be better human beings and can build a system that is apart from the empire.
On affirmation: I am queer. I am non-monogamous. And I’m very open about it; I’ve spoken about it in the pulpit. I’m staking my eternity on it. A God that would send me to hell for exploring joyous human connection is not a God I want to be involved with. If God is, in fact, love, as 1 John tells us, I feel that God loves all forms of love and connection. I can’t find a way around that.
On queer and trans spirituality: A lot of my trans friends are deeply spiritual people, but they haven’t found that spirituality in the church. For my graduate research, I interviewed trans and non-binary people of all types of faith traditions and spiritual orientations. These people are predisposed to be suspicious of what society expects of them and are ready to ask deep questions. When they come to a faith environment with questions, they tend not to find answers.
Churches could be incredible havens for spiritual exploration, but “church” has become so calcified that we’re afraid to confront those questions. My mission is to be as loudly queer as possible and as loudly spiritual as possible. I want to be open about reading scripture through a queer lens — showing people this cool stuff I’ve found. And if they want to be a part of it, so much the better.
This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.
Kate Spencer is a writer in Halifax.
This story first appeared in Broadview’s July/August 2023 issue with the title “‘My Mission Is to Be as Loudly Queer and as Loudly Spiritual as Possible’.”
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