For decades, Rev. Donnie Anderson, a Baptist minister who now serves as Executive Minister at the Rhode Island State Council of Churches, had worked to build up a name as an advocate for poor people, homeless people, and members of the LGBTQ community in Rhode Island. And throughout all this time, Rev. Anderson was grappling with significant questions about gender identity, certain that she is transgender but unsure how best to confront her identity.
As she neared the age of 70, she took the plunge, coming out to her wife of nearly a quarter-century and announcing that she is transgender – that is, while she was raised as a boy, she knew herself deeply to be female. In the summer of 2018 she transitioned to live every day as the woman she has long understood herself to be. The Rhode Island State Council of Churches was supportive, issuing a statement supporting Rev. Anderson and granting her a months-long sabbatical. Her family, while surprised, also embarked on the journey with her.
Rev. Anderson is pleased with how her news was received – but she also understands that there’s a long way to go in the path to dignity and equality for all LGBTQ people. To illustrate, she recalls a specific meeting with another transgender person of faith at a conference: “In talking to the other transgender person who was there, who was a pastor, he and I realized that there are not many of us who are out who are clergy. I’m sure there are a bunch of people like me but nobody knows about. In fact, when people say, ‘You’re the first transgender person I know.’ I say, ‘Well, that you know about.’”