We Celebrate Reverend Louis Mitchell: Demonstrating Trans Power and Faith
A few years ago, a large number of LGBTQ religious leaders came together for a conference entitled “Roll the Stone Away”. It was organized by the LGBTQ Religious Archives Network to honor faith leaders from all generations to meet and engage in dialogue with one another and share stories of their work over the past five decades. It was an honor to have been invited and amazing experience.
I was inspired and especially encouraged and blessed by the many LGBTQ persons of color I met there. One of the greatest blessings was meeting the Reverend Louis Mitchell. In a spirit of full disclosure, our connection was shaped while we sat outside the hotel in St. Louis smoking cigarettes. Admittedly, neither Louis nor I should have been smoking, but I confess my struggle and continue working through this issue! For what it’s worth, however, we also spent a lot of time getting to know and learning to love one another during those episodes.
The most powerful part of meeting Rev. Mitchell was receiving the gift of education about transgender realities. Like so many LGBTQ persons, I thought I knew all about oppression and, as an activist, believed I had all the answers to all problems and issues related to sexuality and sexual identity. Mistakenly, I thought there was one LGBTQ experience and we were basically all alike and equally oppressed. Louis lovingly helped me touch my ignorance and begin to learn what I did not know. He challenged me to expand and legitimize my commitment to inclusion and step up my efforts to actively working to share the good news of God’s unconditional love for all persons. Because of Reverend Louis Mitchell, I am becoming a better person. He now lives in Seattle and I so look forward to sharing time and many meals with him. He truly demonstrates the power of God’s love and faithfulness.
Learn more about him this Black History Month by visiting the LGBTQ Religious Archive site (www.lgbtqreligiousarchivesnetwork.org) and listening to his oral history. The following information is from that site and was provided by Rev. Mitchell. There is, however, so much more to Louis than stated herein. He wrote the following bio:
Rev. Louis Mitchell is a pioneering "intentional man". Known around the country and abroad as an elder, advocate, teacher, student, minister, parent and friend. He serves as the Co-founder and Executive Director of Transfaith™/Interfaith Working Group and as the Associate Minister of South Congregational Church in Springfield, MA. [He now lives in Seattle and works with Ingersol] Rev. Mitchell is a proud father to his daughter, Kahlo, and co-parent with her mother, Krysia L. Villon. Louis has been in recovery for over three decades and been involved in the fight for health, respect and self-determination since the early 1980s, with deep engagement in political, mental health, recovery, and church contexts.
He brings his own learned experiences, a broad range of resources, theories and studies, to offer a fresh, “on the ground”, open-hearted, holistic strategy to the work of individual and community healing, intersectional diversity planning and commitment to personal and community agency and solvency.
Some key accomplishments include:
Profiled in the documentaries Still Black: A Portrait of Black Transmen (2008, Zeigler & Lora), Gender Journeys: More than a Pronoun (2016, Luke Allen) and More than T (2017, Silas Howard). Going to Church with Kahlo
Received the 2017 International Jose Julio Sarria Civil Rights Award from the Imperial Court of Western Massachusetts, the 2015 Claire Skiffington Vanguard Award from the Transgender Law Center for his long time advocacy for the disenfranchised and the 2011 Haystack Award from the Massachusetts Conference of the UCC for his work in Social Justice and Social Ministry.
Received the President’s Award from the Wells College students for his 2015 Residency on Intentional Inclusion and Building Diversity.
Recognized as a part of the 2014 edition of the Trans 100, Louis was named as one of the ten leading Black Religious leaders Advancing LGBTQ Justice by BelieveOutLoud.
Honored by Black Trans Advocacy with a Foundation Award in 2013.
Established in his name, the "Louis Mitchell Foundation Award for Empowerment" acknowledges those who increase spiritual, political, or social strength through service, personal encouragement, and availability to the Black Trans Community.
Profiled in the LGBT Religious Archives Network gallery.