Elder Rahkel Henry Talks Faith And Trans Identity: ‘God Was Clear About Who I Would Be’
“You know who I am and you know what I am here for. Turn up for Jesus and turn down for nothing!” Those who follow Elder Rahkel Henry, 44, on social media are familiar with this call to action that serves as the intro to several Facebook videos posted by the Atlantic City, New Jersey native to inspire her followers. During a recent conversation she confessed, “I know I’m real talkative, I can’t help it.” This is true, but what Henry doesn’t mention is that when she speaks, she always has a WORD that compels people of faith or no faith at all to sit up and listen, which as an African-American woman of trans experience in ministry, is a feat of epic proportions.
A founding member of The Vision Church of Atlanta and current Elder in ministry at Rehoboth Fellowship Atlanta, Henry’s journey as a transgender woman to live her truth and to occupy space in the Black church traditionally dominated by men and unwelcoming to LGBTQ people— was not an assignment she could run away from—it was her calling. “People in positions of ministry have got to stop uninviting people to a table that never belonged to them anyway,” said Henry. “How are you gonna uninvite me to a party that ain’t even yours?”
Henry believes that God’s love extends to all of his people regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. Luckily, for members of the Black LGBTQ community who have felt rejected by the church, there are affirming ministries in Atlanta such as the one Henry pours into even if our own internalized homophobia will not allow us to attend.
“There are a lot of people who are a part of the LGBTQI community who will not go to an affirming church,” said Henry. “And the reason why they won’t go to an affirming church is because somewhere inside of them they’re not as free as they’re speaking they are. Because freedom looks like, I can show up in any room and be. I can exist anywhere that I show up. It is a sad thing when people that are a part of the LGBTQI community can’t go to an affirming church because deep down inside of themselves they feel like they’re not right anyway because they’re gay,” she said. So there are some spaces in them that got to be freed, and that’s why they can’t show up. But they’ll sit in a church, they’ll sing, they’ll usher, they’ll pay their tithes and offering and the preacher sitting in the pulpit telling them they’re going to hell in a handbasket. There’s something wrong with that.”
Henry tells The Reckoning that she chose freedom in her late teens when she decided to start transitioning into the woman she says God already knew she would become. She had this to say when asked to respond to self-righteous Christians who quote the catch-phrase, “God doesn’t make mistakes,” as a way to admonish transgender people who make the choice to transition...
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