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Biden, transgender and queer Virginians celebrate Easter and Transgender Day of Visibility

Richmond Unitarian Universalist youth member Isaac Rodriguez, Reverend Byron Tyler Coles and RUU administrator Margaret Rush post for a photo inside their church.
Brad Kutner
Radio IQ
Richmond Unitarian Universalist youth member Isaac Rodriguez, Reverend Byron Tyler Coles and RUU administrator Margaret Rush post for a photo inside their church.

The sun was shining as congregants from First Unitarian Universalist Church of Richmond sang Amazing Grace Easter Sunday morning. The progressive church has long been a home for all Virginians, including LGBTQ folks.

Reverend Byron Tyler Coles is queer and an affiliate minister at Richmond UU. They said it was important to affirm transgender folks in spaces of faith.

“Know you are sacred and holy no matter where you’re at with your journey and we will be free,” they said.

Easter fell on March 31st this year, the same day as the Transgender day of Visibility, a day to celebrate living trans folks which has been marked for the past 15 years. President Joe Biden recognized Sunday for its link to its trans community on Friday as he has since 2021. But Governor Glenn Youngkin and other Christian elected officials chose to condemn Biden’s equality proclamations in social media posts.

“Transgender Americans are part of the fabric of our Nation,” the President's proclamation reads. “Whether serving their communities or in the military, raising families or running businesses, they help America thrive.”

According to a 2015 study, about one in five transgender people practice some sort of religious faith.

And Rev. Coles said during his homily Sunday that Easter marks the death of Jesus after he was persecuted by those in power. They said places of faith should remember that message for all members of their community during such a holy time.

“These narratives that are often pushed, that God is against us, are a lie,” Coles told Radio IQ. “It causes harm on us. And it’s important for religious communities to counter that.”

That message resonated with Henrico County residents and Richmond UU members Elisa and her 15-year-old trans son Nico.

“That gave him the strength and courage to know he’d be loved as he would be loved just as he is, no matter what,” Elisa said.

Richmond UU isn’t the only trans-affirming church in the area. Every Table is a spiritual community led by Rev. Jess Cook, a nonbinary transgender person who serves a community of queer and trans folks who have felt pushed out by their former places of worship.

“Any time you can tell someone you see the presence of god in them there’s going to be transformation and that’s where we’re leading from,” Cook said.

As for Governor Glenn Youngkin, he took to X, formerly known as Twitter, Saturday to tell Biden quote “The only thing to declare on Easter Sunday is Alleluia, He Is Risen.” Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares joined in on criticizing the President, saying Biden honored Easter as a “national transgender day” because he’s “too afraid to offend his left wing backers.”

Requests for additional comment from Youngkin and Miyares were not returned by publication time.

Youngkin has often raised the fears of the transgender community in his politicking. In addition to removing trans-inclusive language from state health websites, he urged Virginia school boards to report students who identify as trans despite concerns for their personal safety. Some Virginia school districts have passed the model policy while others have not.

Youngkin also targeted transgender athletes in the wake of the 2023 election which left control of both legislative chambers in the hands of Democrats. The new majorities went on to defeat two bills targeting trans youth.

Biden, meanwhile, honored both TDoV and Easter in posts on X Sunday.

The president and his wife Jill sent their “warmest wishes to Christians around the world celebrating the power of hope and the promise of Christ’s Resurrection this Easter Sunday.”

In a second post he said transgender people “are made in the image of God, and you're worthy of respect and dignity.”

Back at Every Table, Rev. Cook said, despite push back from conservative elected officials, they think the combination of Easter and the Transgender Day of Visibility is a beautiful one.

“There’s nothing more queer than the resurrection,” they said, comparing their own transition to Jesus’s return three days after his death. “When you call a trans person by their name, they experience resurrection.”

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Brad Kutner is Radio IQ's reporter in Richmond.