Bishop Jennifer Advocates for Transgender Youth

Bishop Jennifer speaks with the media
at the state capitol.

On February 9, Bishop Jennifer testified before the Indiana State Legislature in opposition of House Bill 1041, which would bar transgender girls from participating in school teams. The following is a transcript of her testimony.

Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman and members of the committee. I am Bishop Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows of the Episcopal Diocese of Indianapolis. I serve more than 8000 Episcopalians across central and southern Indiana.

When I was ordained a bishop in 2017, right here in Indianapolis, I took vows that included a promise to “be merciful to all, to show compassion to the poor and strangers, and to defend those who have no helper.” That vow is what brings me here today.

Last year, the Trevor Project’s annual survey on the mental health of LGBTQ people revealed that during 2020, which was a difficult year for us all, more than half of transgender and non-binary youth seriously considered attempting suicide. The Indiana Youth Institute tells us that more than 3300 Hoosiers are transgender youth, so the tragic possibility is that more than 1500 beloved children of God have recently considered taking their own lives because of the discrimination, hatred, and lack of acceptance they encounter in our state. Too often, these children have no helper, and so I am here today to plead for them.

Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, you have the power to help save the lives of our precious young people by voting against House Bill 1041. We know that transgender young people are far less likely to consider taking their own lives when they have access to affirming places and spaces that recognize them as the people God created them to be. Sports teams are just those kind of spaces. When young people play and compete together, they gain strength, confidence, connection and resilience. I am not only a bishop, but a mom—a proud Hoosier mom—and so you can often find me yelling myself hoarse on the sidelines of my son’s basketball games. I want all of our kids, including our transgender kids, to experience the same freedom and joy in sports that my own son experiences, and you have the power to make that possible.

The Episcopal Church has opposed discrimination against transgender people since 2009, and I am proud to have cast a vote in favor of that position. We should have done it earlier, but our long journey included prayer, study, and listening that helped us understand that God makes human beings in more varieties than “masculine” men and “feminine” women. We respond to this new understanding of God’s creation by seeking justice and compassion for transgender and nonbinary young people, who too often have no helper. I invite you to join me on this journey of love and acceptance by voting against House Bill 1041.

© 2021 Episcopal Diocese of Indianapolis