Guests at the White House reception for Pope Francis on September 23 will include several gay and transgender persons, a controversial nun, a radical preacher and a gay Episcopal bishop.
Several of the invitations to the event, which is part of the pope's three-city tour of America September 22-27, were offered by Vivian Taylor. Taylor, 30, considers himself transgender, which means he identifies as a sex different from his biology. Taylor has male anatomy but dresses and presents himself as female. Until March of this year he was the Executive Director of Integrity USA, a homosexual and transgender activist wing of the Episcopal Church. Taylor lives in Boston and is now freelance writing.
"A few months ago I received an invitation from the White House to attend the reception for Pope Francis," Taylor told CNS News. "I was told I could bring several friends with me." Taylor chose five additional people to go with him. He would also "rather not say" which White House staffer made the offer. “I’m very happy to meet my brother in Christ, Pope Francis,” he said. “I’m glad we can bring some LGBT representation to the event.”
The five people Taylor chose to go to the White House are:
Nicole Santamaria, the Secretary of Asociacion Colectivo Alejandria, “a collective of transgender and intersex people seeking to promote awareness, provide training and education, and advocate for their community.”
Marcia Garber, a member of Dignity Boston, a group of Catholic advocates for gay and transgender persons. Garber’s son C.J. was transgender, born female but presenting as male. She committed suicide in 2009.
Mateo Williamson, a transgender Catholic and the former co-chairman of Transgender Caucus for Dignity USA.
Rev. Stephanie Spellers, a Episcopal theologian. Spellers wasn’t able to register for the event in time, but tells CNS News she “did get the invite.” Spellers is the author of "Radical Welcome: Embracing God, the Other, and the Spirit of Transformation."
Rev. Cameron Partridge, the first transgender person to preach at Washington National Cathedral.
Also attending, not through Taylor but via a direct invitation from the White House, is gay Catholic blogger Aaron Ledesma and Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson, the first openly gay Anglican bishop and senior fellow at the Center for American Progress.
Additionally there is Sister Simone Campbell, the Executive Director of NETWORK, which describes itself as “a national Catholic social justice lobby.” Sister Campbell is attending two events – the White House reception and Pope Francis’ address to Congress September 24. In 2010 Campbell wrote a letter in support of health care reform, otherwise known as Obamacare. In 2012 she helped organize the “Nuns on the Bus” a tour by Catholic nuns to protest the budget of then-Republican Senator Paul Ryan. When asked her opinion about making abortion illegal at the time, Campbell replied, "That's beyond my pay grade. I don't know." She is the author of the book "A Nun on the Bus: How All of Us Can Create Hope, Change, and Community."
Sister Campbell’s invitation to the events came from Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA).