Christina: Transition is about Spirituality from start to finish

Revd Dr Christina Beardsley
credit: Christa Holka

‘I’ve been intrigued for a long time by suggestions that trans people are more interested in religion than other people – perhaps because of having to push boundaries and live on the edge?’







Revd Dr Christina Beardsley describes herself as a woman with a transsexual history. She is happy to share her story. Looking back she feels she had a female identity from a very young age. She is an ordained priest in the Church of England and has a PhD in theology. She met her partner of forty-three years (and now her husband) in her 20’s while at university and first came out as gay, before realising that what she really wanted was to transition. Christina worked as a vicar in a parish near Portsmouth for 15 years and then as a Hospital Chaplain during and after her transition for over 14 years. She now works as the Lead Chaplain in a multi-faith team at a large London hospital. As she is legally a woman, she and her husband were able to marry in a church in Sept 2006, something that gave them great pleasure.

“I like to quote my friend who says, ‘Transition is about spirituality from start to finish, because it is about making the outside reflect what is inside and what is inside is spiritual’. In 1997, I woke up in the early hours one morning and thought, ‘Actually, what you have to do is complete your PhD and look at your gender, as these are the two unfinished items of business in your life’.

Christina came out as transgender to her spiritual director in the 1990s but went on to transition in 2001.

‘I use saris for dancing, movement and contemplative prayer work, and I feel spiritual energies coming through. Friends then bought me a red sari with an elephant motif. I took it to a dance workshop and the facilitator asked for my ring and the sari. The leader then pulled the whole sari through the ring and said, ‘There is a whole lot of creativity, a whole lot of energy stored up for you and you just need to let it in, but all you need is for the tiniest little gap for it to get through and it will all come flooding through’. On reflection, I think that is what my transition has been: it has allowed the pent-up stuff to come out.’

She has since found out that this type of very fine sari is put over shrines and very holy objects, and the elephant god Ganesh is also significant.

When first ordained she was interested in but not overly-preoccupied with vestments, but prior to coming out she has explored them more, especially the variety of elegant and exotic robes, and  at one stage made a collection of them.

‘Exotic robes are gender-neutral, and many male as well as female clergy ‘enjoy’ exotic robes. When I was first ordained I was not overly preoccupied with vestments, but when I came out I explored them more, and at one stage I made a collection of them. There’s a close link between play and prayer.’

 ‘We transform institutions by transforming people. So trans people along with straight people, gay people, people of various ethnicities, race / religion, we have to be these agents of transformation. We have to be these agents of transformation…but it is about other people and the society we live in and the workplace we are set in and what we can do to make it better.’