The Trans Spiritual Care Initiative of the Sojourn Chaplaincy was born when we were approached by trans members of our spiritual communities about challenging experiences with chaplains at different health institutions. Based at the San Francisco General Hospital, Sojourn Chaplaincy’s chaplain training program began in the early days of the AIDS epidemic as a ministry for people dying from HIV. During those painful times, we learned how important it is that training for for chaplains and spiritual care providers be rooted in social justice. However, too many spiritual care providers still lack even basic knowledge on how to respectfully work with transgender patients.
At Sojourn and at the General, we serve many transgender and gender nonconforming patients, some of whom are among the most marginalized members of our society, also experiencing chronic illness, homelessness, intergenerational poverty, the effects of racism, and other compounded discrimination. As such, intersectional training around gender diversity has become an important part of our chaplain training. The Trans Spiritual Care Initiative has collected the training tools we have used to improve our care for trans and gender nonconforming patients at SFGH. Now, we are expanding our reach further, offering these resources across the country to chaplains, spiritual care departments, clergy, healthcare providers, and anyone who aims to provide more culturally appropriate care for gender nonconforming patients.
In a time when the trans community is facing so many challenges in an increasingly hostile political climate, we believe it is critical for the faith community to stand up and take leadership to support LGBTQ rights. We hope that the Trans Spiritual Care Initiative will expand access to critical new resources, helping chaplains and other spiritual care practitioners provide better care and develop deeper relationships with the trans community.
As spiritual people, we know that relationships are powerful. As chaplains, we know that bearing witness to the suffering of others can create openings for solidarity rooted in personal connection. We launch this initiative with a prayer for healing and justice for the trans community. May we be open to the divine gifts that are possible when we open to witnessing the pain and struggle of all members of our human family. May we work together toward a more just world.
About Sojourn Chaplaincy
Since 1982 Sojourn has practiced the mission described in its name: “to stay with for a time.” We provide a ministry of presence offering compassion and understanding to patients and their loved ones as well as to the staff at the San Francisco General Hospital. A compassionate and nonjudgmental presence characterized by active listening is our gift in the hospital environment where patients are often in stressful circumstances. Chaplains offer deep listening to the needs of patients and bring their unique skills to create space for hope, health and healing.
Central to Sojourn is the belief that each person is remarkable and unique and deserving of compassion and understanding. We believe the ultimate test of any society is how it treats its poor and oppressed members; and Sojourn ministers to some of society’s most marginalized patients at SFGH, patients in the most difficult and painful of circumstances. Our chaplains live and practice each day their belief in the healing power of compassion.
Sojourn provides a critical element of San Francisco General Hospital’s holistic care. SFGH staff members are skilled in providing resources for physical, mental and emotional health. Sojourn completes the circle, by attending to the spiritual needs of patients, families and staff.
Dr. Jeanne St. Pierre, Unit Chief of the former LGBT Psychiatric Unit at SFGH writes: “Often in a day I realize the inadequacies of modern medical treatments for trauma, schizophrenia, substance dependence, and other causes of emotional suffering. At those times I am particularly grateful for the Services of Sojourn chaplains. Chaplains offer kindness and understanding to those who will likely never be cured, yet do not need to be alone with their pain.”