Toni Newman: “I’m accountable only to God”
Toni Newman grew up in a strict, southern Christian household. But when Toni came out as a gay man in college, family and church relationships were strained. And then, Toni came to realize she was really a transgender woman, not gay. She says she lost her friends in the gay community and felt the whole world turn away: “Not only did I lose my natural family, my church family, I lost my gay family.”
In the past decade, public opinion on LGBT issues, like same-sex marriage, has changed drastically. But the growing acceptance of the L, the G, and the B has not necessarily extended to the T — transgender people. That may be because being transgender is not a sexual orientation, but a gender identity; it isn’t about who you love, it’s about who you are. We talk to two journalists and two researchers on how Americans, particularly those of faith, are still working through the complexities of gender identity. We talk with Emma Green, staff writer for The Atlantic, and Robert P. Jones, founder of the Public Religion Research Institute, plus Kevin Eckstrom, former editor in chief of Religion News Service and current chief of communications at the Washington National Cathedral, and Rob Griffin, associate director of research of the Public Religion Research Institute.
In a preview for the rest of our series, we asked some scholars from a variety of different faith traditions: Is it okay to be trans in the eyes of God? But as we’ll learn, the answer is far from simple. We’ll hear from just a few voices, informed, but not entirely representative of their faiths, about what they interpret the answer to be.