Click here to view a video recording of this CLGS Lavender Lunch!

In this online panel discussion we explore ways that faith communities can become safer spaces for trans and nonbinary congregants, participants, and leaders.

Members of our Trans Seminarian Cohort – and other trans and nonbinary panelists – will discuss some of the successes and pitfalls in creating trans-inclusive faith communities. The discussion will also cover topics of emotional, spiritual, and physical safety in liturgy, worship spaces, restrooms, and pastoral care situations.


Panelists: Angel Collie, Ezra Fairley Collins, Leo Seyij, Meg Mercury, and Vica Steel

Moderated by Jakob Hero-Shaw

Angel Collie, M.Div (he/him) grew up in rural North Carolina and, before joining the team as the Assistant Director of the Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity at Duke University, he spent his days working as the Assistant Director of the LGBTQ Center at UNC-CH. His return to UNC, where he received his BA in Religious Studies with minors in both Women’s Studies and Sexuality Studies. He has a Master of Divinity from Yale Divinity School. Angel is currently completing his Doctor of Ministry program at Duke Divinity School. Angel’s favorite thing is to travel and he has done so extensively, often through his work as the intersection of spirituality, sexuality and gender identity & expression.

Ezra Fairley-Collins, M.Div. (he/him) is a 2020 graduate of the Wake Forest University School of Divinity. Although Ezra has a background in faith spaces and nonprofits, he currently works an Associate Manager in the Media Services dept. at New Engen marketing agency. Ezra, his spouse, Malu (she/they), and their daughter live in Charlotte, NC. In his downtime, Ezra is a sports fanatic, an avid binge-watcher, and an informally aspiring chef.

Leo Seyij Allen (they/them) works at the intersection of faith and justice among BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ communities in the South. Their spiritual formation and ministry are rooted in their experiences of Blackness/queerness, disability, the Black Church, liberation theologies, Zen Buddhism, and astrology. Leo is a founding member of the immigrant justice group Somos South Georgia and serves on the boards of Transmission Ministry Collective and We Remember Nashville (a project of the Equal Justice Initiative). Currently, they are pursuing a dual Master of Divinity at Columbia Theological Seminary. Leo leads justice and faith formation activities at Virginia-Highland Church (UCC) in Atlanta, Georgia. When they’re not working or studying, Leo enjoys cooking for friends, brewery hopping, and binging socio-political commentary videos on YouTube.

Meg Mercury (they/them) is a student at United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities in Saint Paul, Minnesota. They are studying in the Master of Arts in Religion and Theology program, and hope to pursue PhD studies in theology in the future. Meg was raised in Evangelical Christianity by ordained minister parents, and attended an Evangelical undergraduate college, where they earned a B.A. in English. They left the church and worked for many years in marketing, but ultimately followed a call to theological education into the seminary. They hope to teach theology and prepare religious leaders for radical ministry in the future. Their theological interests include queer iconoclastic spiritualities, religious naturalisms, pantheism, theologies of religious diversity, and liberation theologies of mental illness. At their seminary, Meg serves on the Student Leadership Collective, founded and co-facilitates the Queer United Affinity Community, serves as the seminary writing tutor, is a Dayton Merit Scholar, and is a PFund Scholar. They live in Minneapolis.

Vica Steel (she/her) is a woman. She is transgender. And she is starting her journey at the age of 56 toward becoming a faith leader. She could tell you all the joy and pain and hope that is embedded in those sentences, but this is a bio, not a book! She can tell you though, that she has been warmed by the welcome she has received from her churches in Madison (Midvale Lutheran and St. John’s) as well as the abundant love from the seminary she attends, Wartburg Theological Seminary. She lives with her powerful wife (35 years in joy) surrounded by a family of friends and the love of community. She gardens and cooks and builds and walks her dog and absolutely, devotedly, loves her family and her family of friends.

Rev. Jakob Hero-Shaw (he/him) is the senior pastor of the Metropolitan Community Church of Tampa the coordinator of the Transgender Religious Roundtable at the Center for LGBTQ and Gender Studies (CLGS). Jakob is a proud faculty member of the Trans Seminarian Leadership Cohort. Jakob has an MA Ethics and Social Theory from the Graduate Theological Union and a Master of Divinity degree and Certificate in Sexuality and Religion from the Pacific School of Religion. Jakob’s favorite thing in life is being a dad and a husband in a loving family that was legally recognized through marriage equality and adoption.

Angel Collie

Ezra Fairley-Collins

Leo Seyij Allen

Meg Mercury

Vica Steel

Jakob Hero-Shaw

This CLGS Lavender Lunch was recorded on 5 April 2022.