How this transgender Christian vlogger is busting stereotypes on YouTube

Ask people in the LGBT community what comes to mind when they think of Christianity, and some will say that Christians are “homophobes.” And who can blame them, with all the news of evangelical leaders spouting hateful anti-gay sentiment and Christian bakers refusing to make wedding cakes and all.

But such a simplified view of the Christian community leaves out not only the liberal and even radical Christians fighting for LGBT acceptance in the church, but also LGBT Christians themselves.

Austen Hartke is just one transgender Christian using the power of Bible study to fight discrimination, primarily through his YouTube video series, “Transgender and Christian.”

“There are a few people out there who believe that, just by being transgender, just by being gender non-conforming, you are walking away from God. Or even that your whole existence is some kind of abomination,” Hartke said in the first video in the series, posted in January. 

“I’m making this video because I want there to be more resources out there for people who are trying to bring their gender identity and their faith together. I want the voices of love to outnumber the voices of hate.” 

The videos are posted every Wednesday and tackle subjects like specific Bible verses that are often used to justify discrimination. Sometimes, however, Hartke addresses parts of the Bible that seem to play with gender roles and even suggest specific references to trans people.

In a video posted on April 22, Hartke explored one passage that he said people often ask him to break down. Galatians 3:28 reads: “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Hartke knows his stuff: he’s got a master’s degree in Old Testament/Hebrew Bible Studies from Luther Seminary and he was a panelist at last week’s Atlanta Regional Conference of the Reformation Project, which trains Christians to understand LGBT issues.

The presence of transgender people in the Christian community is rapidly increasing. (You can find a partial list of ordained transgender pastors, for instance, on TransChristians.org.) 

While LGBT-affirming churches are scattered across the world, led by the 222 chapters of the gay-founded Metropolitan Community Church (MCC), understanding and acceptance of transgender congregants is just starting to ripple throughout smaller Christian communities and churches across the nation.

Photo via Lionheart/Austen Hartke

Mary Emily O'Hara

Mary Emily O'Hara

Mary Emily O'Hara is an LGBTQ reporter. Her work has appeared in Rolling Stone, NBC Out, Daily Dot, Broadly, Vice, the Daily Beast, the Advocate, Huffington Post, DNAinfo, Al Jazeera, and Portland's Pulitzer Prize-winning newsweekly Willamette Week, among other outlets.