Father Tony

She wants to be a lizard.

Filed By Father Tony | November 13, 2008 1:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: gay advice, John the Baptist, mega churches, organized religion, religious tolerance

Dear Father Tony,

It's pretty clear that the LGBT community is angry at organized religion and quite justifiably so, especially in light of recent events. But there are plenty who desire to be received into a loving congregation. More and more churches are recognizing the need to be intentionally welcoming and inclusive.

Let's say you've been given access to the senior pastor of a large metropolitan church whose membership is, for the most part, white, educated and conservative. What gay members may be present are well-closeted. The pastor wants very much to have his church to be open and affirming, and he is willing to guide his congregation in the process.

What advice would you offer him?


Dear Grace,

Before I outline a strategy for you and for the pastor, I want to warn you about the consequences you may not be seeing.

You, because of your efforts, will become a parochial inconvenience. You will become a rocker of the boat. You will be seen as a trouble-maker. If you are successful at talking your pastor into some course of action in this regard, it will certainly erode some of his current support.

You will be burned by this, because, although you are willing to shoulder the traditionally honored prophetic mantle, you are about to find out how very true it is that "a prophet is never accepted in his own town".

Therefore, the first step in your discussion with the pastor is to place this issue squarely on the table. Is he willing to cause some upset? Is he willing to alienate some stiff-necked parishioners who will become worried that he intends to fill their church with a bunch of screaming queens? If he says that he is not afraid, you may then proceed to map out a strategy of success, but keep in mind that you will both be walking through a minefield. Here is some guidance for you both:

  1. Set an ultra-realistic extremely long-term timeframe for change. Don't try to bulldoze your parishioners with your message of diversity. Their opinions have been built over many generations. They do not yet see what you see. Rome was not built in a day, and it probably won't be destroyed in a day. When you come up with what you think is a reasonable time frame, triple it.
  2. Pepper the annual parish calendar with small, seemingly innocuous and palatable events such as discussion group meetings that show up in the parish bulletin under comfortable headings. I.e., don't say "On Tuesday night, in the Saint Aloysious Hall there will be a pot luck supper of the newly formed Calvinist Cock-Suckers. All are welcomed to attend. Pants are optional." Instead, say "The pastor will lead a discussion about the question "Is God calling us to diversity?" or "How should we treat the gay person next to us in the pew?" or "What expression of love can our parish make to its gay membership?" It is important that the pastor lead those discussions. If he is not there, his absence will be seen as hesitant toleration of a fringe element with which he does not want to associate.
  3. Do your homework. In conversations with parishioners, surely you will be able to identify and approach some gay members and those who are sympathetic to gay membership because of gay relatives or friends. These folks will form your core group. If you don't have a good solid core group willing to embrace diversity, you will be a lone voice crying out in the desert, and we all know what happened to John the Baptist.
  4. I know it may seem overly political, but if it was me doing what you are doing, I'd want that initial core group to look and act as mainstream/conservative as possible. I'd be approaching the men in the grey flannel suits and the ladies in beige. I'd save the drag queens dripping in rhinestones and staggering under 30 pounds of sprayed blonde bouffant for later. I know this will get me in some trouble with the people who didn't like dropping the "t" from LGBT proposals, but it's the practical me speaking here. I know what it takes to make even the smallest of changes in a church. It's a delicate business. If you are not willing to make these kinds of compromises, don't waste your time and the time of your pastor. In other words, don't wheel a statue of Richard Simmons into the sanctuary (although there are probably a good number of blue-haired ladies in the front pew who'd love that.)
  5. Ask the pastor to preach specifically about recent events. For instance, he could deliver a sermon entitled "Were the Catholic bishops in California right to ask their parishioners to vote yes on Prop 8?" or, "Was the Mormon church right to fund the Yes on Prop8 effort?" Or, where would Jesus have stood in the Prop8 rallies?" or "What do you do when your heart and your church and your country and your wallet all seem to pull you in different directions".
  6. Remember that in all your efforts, you must be quiet, non-confrontational, patient and able to calm down those who could easily sink your project by inflammatory words and actions. The pastor must be willing to set the ground rules for discussion about the issue. As in "Check your anger at the door."
  7. Do your best to empathize with people who hold absurd positions and fears. Surely you realize that some of the people you are trying to reach deeply believe that diversity will result in the infiltration of their church by child-molesters. They may not say it, but they will think it. Others who oppose you may be the victims of sexual abuse who keep this a secret. They will be silent about their motives.
  8. Do your best to paint the most acceptable and true picture of the gay membership of the parish. If you succeed, your parishioners should come to realize that looking at the gay church membership is exactly like looking in the mirror. The gay members are already there. They sit among them and look no differently. (Another possible sermon title). In fact, if it were me, I would use a linear image of a hand-held mirror as the logo of the initiative once it was off the ground and understood. It's so much easier to swallow than a bunch of wildly flapping rainbows.
  9. Invite some lecturers from other parishes similar to your own that have successfully instituted diversity initiatives or speakers who have written on the subject whose presentation would be non-threatening.
  10. In all things, remember that you are trying to sell something difficult here. You are not just creating a market for a new product. You are trying to reverse some strong customer dislike for a misunderstood product. Be prepared to have some doors slammed in your face.
  11. When you meet with your pastor. Be prepared to make a formal presentation. Lay out the calendar, the topics, the specific strategies, the issues, the expectations and the negatives. Pastors have endless discussions with parishioners who have a good idea that they want to discuss but have not turned their sentiments into specifics. Usually, after meeting with such a one, the pastor closes the door behind them when they leave and thinks to himself "Well that's done. I won't have to deal with that again". Honestly , most meetings really do end up that way. Just "feel good" sessions.
  12. Remember that the goal is to make your fellow parishioners proud to be diverse. Proud to say that their parish is open and welcoming to the LGBT community. The goal is NOT to force them into swallowing a bitter pill.
  13. Finally, if you decide to do all this, prepare for some opposition and some setbacks. Can you handle them? Remember that if it is of the Spirit, it will grow, and, as it says in the bible, clever things that can't break through the locked front door of the palace, always manage, like lizards, to squeeze in through the gaps between the stones. Be the lizards.

Let me know how it goes!

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Wow, I loved this advise. I found it fascinating how well you understand church politics.

It's also a bit amusing coming from a past column that described the various ways in which gay men have trysts when out on vacation. So bizarre! ;p

Father T., I think your approach could be used as a template for encouraging change within that part of the black community unsupportive of full civil rights for gay people - especially g. and j..

So much more effective than shouting "We demand our rights!" and "Haters!".

Tasha Elizabeth | November 13, 2008 4:08 PM

"...I'd save the drag queens dripping in rhinestones and staggering under 30 pounds of sprayed blonde bouffant for later. I know this will get me in some trouble with the people who didn't like dropping the "t" from LGBT proposals..."


sure, that's how i dress for church.

thanks for painting all t-people with the same brush.

thanks for perpetuating a stereotype.

you should know better.

reverend tasha
(yeah a real one, seminary trained and ordained and everything! and also a transitioning transsexual, who refuses to leave anyone at the door. i wonder where Jesus would stand on this one?)

Dear Tasha Elizabeth,

Humor, whether Jewish or Christian often involves exaggeration and the merriment of holding up a mirror with a loopy convex or concave surface. If you have no sense of humor, do not read me (or my beads).

PS: I am of the belief that almost anyone - even a zucchini with a fake address - can "get ordained". Surely you are aware of that. I put no stock in that. When I used to review resumes of job applicants, a BA or an MA meant nothing, and was no guarantee of a brain. Words and deeds will tell me who you are, not titles. And for the record, Jesus had no problem dining with wealthy and respectable friends, just as he had no problem dining with his shadier acquaintances. He did have a problem with hypocrisy and pretentiousness, and folks with a chip on their padded shoulders. If you think the shoe I have mentioned (ruby or otherwise) doesn't fit, please put it back in the box.

You have been absolved, Tara! Father Tony style~

Tasha Elizabeth | November 13, 2008 7:25 PM

Dear Father Tony,

I have a wonderful sense of humor. However I find nothing at all funny about leaving T people outside the church door.

The wounds left by a non-inclusive ENDA are still too fresh in my mind for any reference to excluding T people a laughing matter, regardless how you meant it.

Say what you will, you owe me nothing, but I will call you on it -- if nothing more than for my own benefit, as selfish as that may seem. Your words hurt me and others like me.

Whether or not I have a chip on my shoulder or am too "sensitive" is immaterial -- you are responsible for your words and the effect they have. The only question is whether or not you will take responsibility for those words.

Yes, anyone can be ordained. Whether or not my MDIV and 20 years of ministry to "the least of these" matter -- or are even believable by you -- is likewise immaterial.

Yes, words and deeds matter. I can't see your deeds, but I felt your words. And that one comment -- ill-considered or intentionally-considered -- took away from otherwise very fine advice. And, I might add, as this is the only column I have ever read by you, I have unfortunately been left with a negative first impression; deserved or not.

And finally, yes, Jesus had a problem with hypocrisy. And in my opinion, yours is showing.


Tasha Elizabeth

ps. I submit I could be in error -- Christ may merely have died on the cross for LGB and intends to save the "T" for later.

Dear Tasha Elizabeth,

I'll have to take your word for it when you say you have a sense of humor.

I find that there is a subset of folks who carry their pet issues about like an artillery belt, seeking targets in the words of others. They often fire away at something that really had little to do with their grievances.

Do you write a blog? Do you take the time to write carefully about your personal strife and striving? If so, link it and I will read it.

While I take responsibility for my words in their persistent imperfection, I will not take responsibility for your state of mind.

I do, however, relish a lively discussion, so hammer away, and know that because I have no interest in popularity, I'll bounce back unbruised. (You ought to register here at Bilerico so I don't need to continue approving your comments. You'll find many folks here that you'll like much more than me.)

Finally, your parting shot about hypocrisy is without basis and left you sounding a bit schoolyardish. Reread what I wrote and try to tell me where it is hypocritical without picking at the sutures of your own wounds.

Wow...for a man of the cloth, you sure strike out when you are made to look beyond your rather narrow view of what constitutes tolerance.

Maybe you should take a page from your teachings, and look beyond the anger to the message.

Just a hint. Crapping on people for righteous anger just makes you look like a smug twit. Especially when they are cranky about an injustice which you cheerfully perpetuate.

Glass houses, brother.

I should add that I am working with an extremely intolerant and hateful church congregation (UCC) in upstate NY. The one here in Providence, ri is equally intolerant of transfolk. A visiting pastor and a few congregants are ready to bust heads in the NY one.

And the one in Peace Dale, ri, had its pastor give a fire and brimstone speech on tolerance that made this angry woman look like a marshmallow.

There is a such thing as rage for social justice. So, I put to you, why is it OK to call out congregations who do not approve of homosexuals when you slap down an obviously up[set woman for speaking out against the ubiquitous problem of gay on trans and gay on racial minorities exclusion?

I have an answer... but would like to hear yours.

I forgot to add... these congregations are gay but not trans or minority friendly.

Seeing your stance, Tony, I can understand better.

Wow... such hatred, Tony.

Bashing transfolk must make you feel much more secure about gayness, huh?

Didn't Jesus have an issue with bigots too? Y'know, the kind that slam entire groups with bad stereotypes.

That said, I think there is more than a whiff of hypocrisy to your little gay only plea for tolerance.

But at least you are openly bigoted, so I guess that's a start...

Thanks for reminding me that life in mainline, mostly straight churches, remains incredibly suffocating. I have been worshipping for years in a mostly gay church. We recently left the MCC denomination and at one point, considered switching to United Church of Christ as the most open of the mainliners. Instead, we hooked up with the tiny majority-gay International Christian Community Churches. So nice to be able to concentrate on God and not be distracted by whether we are being accepted (or just tolerated) by the family in the next pew. So I can wear jeans, leather, rhinestones or whatever -- God won't mind!

Yes, some churches are more relaxed than others. And thank you, God, for them!

Fr. Tony's advice concerned leading a stiff, conservative congregation into a new found tolerance and understanding. His advice seems very wise. The task seems daunting, and I've nothing but respect and support for anyone who wants to make things better. Go lizards! :)

Tasha Elizabeth | November 13, 2008 11:54 PM

Dear Father Tony,

Odd, I thought I was signed up. I get the daily digest and Bil's facebook notices. No matter, I redid it.

Ok. First of all, I don't dislike you. To be fair, I went back and read some of your previous postings, which I found to be intelligent, well-written, and quite witty. In all honesty, I would much rather have you as a friend.

Secondly, I do not blog... officially. I have written a few posts on Susan's Place, if you are familiar with that site. I also write longhand in a private journal. I don't object to you reading my susans.org posts, should you care to; my user name there is the same. I would appreciate it however if you (or any of your readers) would not reproduce anything found there anywhere else.

At any rate, while I read a number of sites such as this, this is the first time I have ever commented. Why today, I don't know; why you, I don't know. Something just set me off today.

What I initially thought to myself was, "Oh God, not again." You see, right or wrong, the "Father" in front of your name grants you a measure of instant credibility and respect from me; because I know what it takes to earn that title.

And I felt that you dismissed me -- and other T folk -- as an immateriality to be grudgingly dealt with later; good only for current comic relief. You know, I expect derision from people like "Pastor" Phelps and those of the Westoboro Baptist Church ilk, but...I didn't expect it from you. And that hurt.

And while I agree that you are not responsible for my state of mind, I believe that you are responsible for the message that your words convey. And in this case I felt that your words sent the unequivocal message that "T folks are just an afterthought. They don't matter."

And that I don't matter.

Look, I understand church politics, having labored in those particular mine fields for many years. I understand that congregations are inherently change-resistant; and as I mentioned, this column was filled with sound advice.


I don't believe partial inclusivity is a concept that Christ would have embraced, for all it may be politically expedient. In fact, I believe that my pain of exclusion is more important to him than any small victory of fragmented inclusion. It is not just MY pain that matters to him -- it is the pain of all who are told "You're not as good, you don't matter, maybe later, NOT TODAY." What would Christ have said if he were told "Those ten of your disciples are welcome, but the other two are not"?

I believe he would have said "It's all or nothing."

I think that what I felt was hypocritical was your statement that a congregation should not feel that they are being forced to swallow a bitter pill; yet that is exactly what me -- and other T folk -- are being asked to ingest. "Not now. Maybe later, if you're lucky. Not today."

Proposition 8 in California...Florida and Arizona...adoption and foster care in Arkansas...there were plenty of bitter pills to go around. And you know how much it hurts to have a fundamental right taken away -- or never granted -- by those saying the same thing to gay and lesbian couples that I felt you were saying to T people. "Your (insert here) just isn't as good."

Sigh. We need to stand or fall together. Christ wouldn't have compromised on this. How can we?

Tony, please note that I have used throughout this post the term "I felt." I am not saying that my interpretation of your words was 100% accurate, nor that it was your absolute meaning or intent.

All I am saying is that this is how I read it.

Was I wrong?


Tasha Elizabeth


A user account to comment is different from our facebook group or our e-mail newsletter/digest. :) I'm glad to hear you signed up for an account so you're not moderated anymore.

And I'm happy you decided to join the conversation - especially since you've been so civil and gracious in your points.

I've really enjoyed the back and forth between you and Tony.

Tasha Elizabeth | November 14, 2008 10:32 AM

Thanks Bil :)

I would like to comment about d. and about transgender issues. There may be a transgendered woman or man in your community who is Christian, at least somewhat "out" as T, older, conservative or ordinary dresser, patient and mature in attitude, and has a commitment to educating people about what life is like for transgendered people. There is one such person at my MCC congregation, for several years a board member, and she has spoken at community education forums held by churches from other denominations. She can't pass due to her height and body and facial build, but I consider that an asset in her public testimony, since it forces people to connect her dignified manner with her conservatively dressed but clearly non-standard physical appearance.

Concerning femme men and butch women already in the congregation: there's likely to be one or more who is a stalwart of the congregation and a long-time member. If people like the chorister or the volunteer coordinator or soup kitchen manager or early morning altar guild stalwart, even if they are swishy or gruff, invite them into the core group (and understand that they might not want to rock the boat at first, particularly if they are church employees like the music minister, etc). Many straight congregants may have a clue, and if not, they may have second thoughts about dissing someone they have known and respected for a while. (Of course, not all the femme men and butch women are gay, but they may have been suspected of being so, and may be willing to stand up for gender diversity).

First of all.....where is this lizard-sexual?

For crying out loud, the comments on the drag queen thing illustrate clearly the tranny problem. Tony specifies an outrageous drag queen and the trannys scream "you mean me!"......er, no, I read it as the outrageous drag queens myself. And the advice was good advice. In a conservative congregation you want conservative representation by conservative looking and acting individuals. The last thing you want is someone in a flowered dress and ill fitting wig announcing they have a functioning set of wedding tackle and demanding full acceptance. Seems like a no brainer to me.

Speaking from the straight Christian perspective, I have to say that this information is insightful and incredibly helpful. Father Tony acknowledges the difficulty of negotiating the minefield that is a conservative congregation, which can with careful guidance be educated and changed. Caution is the guiding principle in undertaking this task. The process must be understood from the congregants' point of view; with patience, they can be educated about all aspects of inclusion.

Tasha Elizabeth | November 14, 2008 10:29 AM

Dear Cathryn,

The word "tranny" is incredibly perjorative. I do not appreciate being called one, and I would further appreciate you not using it to refer to me in the future.

Secondly, you clearly need to be educated as to what transgenderism -- and especially transsexuality -- is all about.

Preferrably prior to posting so ineloquently what "the tranny problem" is.

Seems like a no-brainer to me.


Tasha Elizabeth

Unfortunately, I don't envision that occurring.

Tasha Elizabeth | November 14, 2008 11:49 AM

Addendum: After reading your incredibly hateful blog, Cathryn, I think I would prefer not to engage with you period; nor shall I do so further.

Someone must have hurt you badly for you to be carrying around such rage. To attempt to make oneself feel better by demonizing others is simply inconceivable to me.

I feel sorry for you, and wish you well.


Tasha Elizabeth

Note to Tasha and Cathryn:

Calm down. Cathryn, you know "trannie" isn't considered okay - we've had posts about it that you've participated in.

Tasha: Telling Cathryn she's full of rage, etc isn't going to help the conversation in the least.

Keep the TOS in mind you two...

"Tranny" has been a time honoured part of trans history. The first trans comic was called "Tranny Towers", the last home of Sylvia Rivera (whom I knew) was "Transy (Brooklynese for Tranny) House" and is still called that in it's current incarnation. Given that for the past 12 years I've been complaining that the trans-activist crowd have openly insulted women of post-trans histories by insisting they are transgendered......considered an incredible insult by a huge number of us, there is little room for complaint about our use of the word "tranny". And that usage continues to this day here and all over the GLBt world. Telling me I cannot use "tranny" when I was fighting for that community long before most of those objecting to that term left the house for the first time is the insult Bil.......with all due respect.

Tasha Elizabeth | November 14, 2008 3:56 PM

Dear Cathryn,

I have gone back and re-read your posts on Susans, as I thought I remembered you from the discussions you had with Nichole back in July. In that context, I was able to understand your blog a little bit better.

I spoke rashly today, without knowledge of your background or the perspective from which you have written. I even find to my amazement that there are some issues in which we are in complete agreement. And as I said to Father Tony earlier, I would rather have you as a friend.

I did not intend to come out with guns blazing. While I intended to be as gracious as Bil thought I was earlier, I feel that I have failed somewhat miserably; and that my words have added to your burdens.

I too am old, am tired, and I hurt. I watch life slipping away before I have ever had the chance to truly live it, and that makes me somewhat ... prickly. But, that does not excuse the fact that
I spoke without thinking earlier; and with the intent to wound rather than to understand. I was wrong, and I apologize.

While you said yourself in another place that you did not believe in forgiveness because that placed one in a superior position to the other, I will nonetheless ask for it anyway.


Tasha Elizabeth

The taxes free status of churches in this country imposes an unacceptable burden on those who can least afford it. The local property tax burdens that cause home ownership and even rents to be out of the reach of so many can be directly attributed to these leaches. Churches own hundreds of billions of dollars worth of property in this country, much of it as investment property and it all cuts deeply into the tax base. They’re afforded every benefit that the tax paying public is plus all the extras other businesses receive; so one must ask what we get in return.
Some will say they help the poor, but handing a dime to a homeless person does more to help the poor than giving a dollar to a church. Charity in church terms is using its advantages to gain power and enslave humanity to their dogmas. The Mormon Church, alone spent twenty five million dollars in three different States to subvert the civil and human rights of gays. They’re not the only church using its money to seize power and spread hate in this country. The top of the list of EVIL DOERS consists of the Evangelicals, Baptists, and Catholics on down to the independent preachers in store fronts and tents preaching hate against all diversity. Remember that back in the 1960s many churches did not recognize the right of interracial couples to marry and will only accept it until they achieve the power, they so desperately yearn for. At that time African Americans were not even welcome in many of these churches.
The taxes these churches owe would pay for universal health care plus. They’ve been breaking the law through their political involvement; Its time they pay for there hateful acts. TAX ALL RELIGIONS LIKE ANY OTHER BUSINESS!!!!!
That is what Religion does; it spreads hate to protect its own agenda. Remember all Religions were started by men and power corrupts. They're a business that makes money off of gullible people's fears and for this the government has us paying the taxes they should be paying.
The last time we had church rule in Europe they were more oppressive than the Taliban and Palin and the Republicans want to return to those thrilling days of yesteryear.

First, thank you for this article. I found it to be very thoughtful, if more than slightly saddening.

About the comments regarding trans-people (of whom I am one), I have a few things to say that will maybe help the discussion. While I'm not sure that it's necessary to become defensive when faced with the term 'tranny', it must be recognized that that is a very derogatory and hateful term.

On the other hand, I am inclined to agree with Father Tony's initial assertion about trans-people, even if it should have been posed in a much more inclusive manner. Within a destructively conservative environment, people who challenge the gender binary are seldom acceptable, and they could only hurt a cause for inclusiveness initially. I don't see this as being 'trans-people aren't as good as LGB people', I see it as being 'some ideas are more difficult to challenge than others'.

Obviously, by that logic I feel that those trans-people who do seem to fit into a conservative environment should not only be included within the group, but also established as being representative of the larger trans-community (even if that may not be the case). This is again not to say that certain trans-people are better than others or more deserving of equality - everyone deserves equality - I am merely suggesting that within a community that cannot accept difference, smaller steps work better to change that than larger ones.

I read Father Tony's comment about trans-people in that way the first time through, and I have faith that that is what he intended to convey. Unfortunately, it must be recognized that to paint one trans-person as exceptionable reflects an attitude about the entire trans-community. Not all trans-people are drag queens/kings. Not all trans-people even stand out as trans in a face-to-face conversation, and without establishing any aspect of superiority, it is not appropriate to apply labels and stereotypes to any community. It would be like my saying that all gay men are effeminate... obviously not true, possibly even hurtful.

Well said, Kiera. I always flinch when I have to fill in an application that asks for "race". I have to enter "white", but I resent it. I'm often mistaken for Hispanic or Jewish. I also sometimes feel that the label "gay" is equally dismissive and implies that I would never consider sex with a woman (I have considered it; I just don't have it on my calendar anytime before Christmas).

Because of this, I understand everyone's discomfort with labels, but langauge limps and sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. We all might consider being a little more calm in choosing our targets.

"While I'm not sure that it's necessary to become defensive when faced with the term 'tranny', it must be recognized that that is a very derogatory and hateful term"........in a word, no, it isn't.

When I was newly transitioned I used the term to describe myself as did almost everyone I came into contact with from that community. We made jokes about working on cars as a tranny working on a tranny.....we used it in a spirit of fun and community. Today I consider myself post-trans.....a woman, period. But that does not change the fact that, for example, the street girls of NYC still use the term for themselves as do many others. Some gays object to gay, others to homosexual. If we go so damn PC as to never risk offending anyone communication becomes impossible.....you trans-whatevers had better develop a sense of humour as that is just about the most important survival tool you'll have........and this is from someone who was there. Get over yourselves.

I still want to know about the lizard....was that some sort of trans-species slam (relax, I'm joking)

As a reformed ex "Dignitarian" Catholic, I think Father Tony's article is spot on. I don't go to church any more, but if I did, I'd be meeting people and enagaing in dialogue just as they are, just where they are, label-free.

Can I add that I'm heartily sick of labels? The only that I want anymore is my name.

There are Christian transgendered people out there who are older, dignified, good speakers, and willing to speak to groups. So what if they might not be able to "pass" due to build, facial features, etc? I know one such person. Your community has one or more transgendered persons that fit this description, and could communicate well with the middle-aged and elderly church-goers who are most likely to be shocked at the idea. When a 50 to 60 year old transgendered woman walks into the room and is wearing the same church-going clothes as the rest of the 50 year plus women in the congregation, there is at least one commonality felt by the cisgendered women - at least this person knows how to dress for church.

For the young to middle-aged portion of the congregation, an LGBT seminarian might be a good guest speaker at an education program. If there is a UCC, Episcopal, or non-Baptist non-denominational seminary within driving distance, you could give the seminary main office a call and ask how to find such a student.