Defiant Joy: Trans Creativity as Sacred Resistance

Editor’s Note: This article is part of a larger project supported by the Louisville Institute’s Pastoral Study Project Grant.

It’s summer, 2023. Every day my phone lights up with a daily barrage of transphobic legislations – state by state. I am so grateful for the research and journalism of people like Erin Reed, keeping me informed, and helping me plan my travel safety. And, each time I open these updates, I feel a visceral tightening in my gut, an almost-certainty that I will read of more harm against my trans, nonbinary, and gender expansive siblings. I struggle mightily with the knowledge that the vast majority of this legalized violence is funded by the same right-wing Christian organizations that have been attacking reproductive justice in recent years.

Amidst this, I am preparing a proposal for the Louisville Institute’s Pastoral Study Project grant. I know that I want to focus my project on trans lives; again and again, my consulting work continually returns to this core thread. I recognize how important it is to speak to the trauma, the violence, the impact, and I honor the powerful work of so many writers and activists undertaking this labor. At the same time, as I listen within, I am aware of a desire to shift my gaze to something other than the tragedies unfolding in the news.

Almost immediately, I feel guilt. Surely this is the work of this present moment – to look unflinchingly at what’s happening in our country, to speak to the impact on the lives of trans people. And yet, I sense at a very subtle level, some kind of wisdom at work in an intuition to move towards joy. It’s not a coincidence that I am also currently reading my way, slowly, through Adrienne Maree Brown’s book, Pleasure Activism, where she challenges us to claim pleasure and embodied joy as powerful forces for change. Her book inspires me, challenges me, stretches me.

What if I focus on trans joy?

With this, I feel a surge of life giving energy, and I begin the work of the proposal.


It’s spring, 2024. Hundreds of thousands of trans people and their families are relocating to sanctuary states where their human rights and healthcare access are protected. By now, the weaponization of transphobia as a political strategy is not only commonplace, it’s encouraged in the national discourse in the U.S. As we move through this election year, I can feel this violence as a constant hum underneath trans peoples’ day to day lives.

And, to my deep gratitude, I’ve been awarded the grant and my project is underway. The question at the heart of my project is this: how might the joy of trans creativity serve as a force of sacred defiance in the face of transphobia? To explore this question, I am preparing to interview transgender/ non-binary/ gender expansive artists about the ways that their creative practices offer resistance and hope in a national climate rife with transphobia. I am still discerning the form of these interviews . . . perhaps dialogues . . . perhaps creative encounters . . . perhaps something yet to emerge. Ultimately, I will write a series of articles and a book to share this work with the wider world.

I’m not interested in offering theological apologetics for trans inclusion or in debating the validity of trans lives. Instead, I want to reframe the conversation by focusing on trans creativity and joy as sacred defiance and resistance. This work is both personal and political for me, informed by my identities as a queer/trans person, minister, consultant, artist, activist, and white anti-oppression educator. Indeed, I am as much a learner as a researcher in this work. I think of Eli Conley’s queer/trans songwriting circle that has helped me to birth new songs of joyful resistance in my own creative practice. I think of the queer/trans chorus I sing with, and how this group has built a community of mutual care, creativity, and support. The creative work of joyful resistance is alive in my life, and my spirit is deepened, sustained, and changed because of it.

I am eager to learn more, and I hope to offer a counter-narrative to current media and political discourse. I want to gather stories that inspire, that highlight trans folks’ strength, resilience, and creativity. I hope that this book will offer spiritual nourishment to trans communities and their loved ones, and that it will also challenge church communities to “step into the gap” in terms of their own theologies and practices in supporting trans people in their congregations and wider communities. I also hope that this book will support and signal-boost a wider web of trans creatives, as they exponentially expand the ripples of creative resistance that can transform our world. I believe that joy is brave. That creativity gives life. And that trans, nonbinary, and gender expansive people have something of profound value to teach us.

And so, as I write this piece for you, beloved Geez readers, I think about fire. The fire of change in the life of this magazine . . . the fire of resistance . . . the fire of sacred trans creativity burning even brighter in the face of transphobia and cynical politics. I find myself wondering about those of you reading this piece who are, yourselves, trans, non-binary, or in some other way gloriously gendered outside of the traditional binary experience. What lights your fire? How does your own creative joy fuel resistance in these difficult times?

As I hold these questions, I close with an opening . . . an invitation . . . if you are trans and have a creative practice, I would love to hear from you about your practice, your joy, your resistance. What comes to heart/body/mind for you in response to this question: how might the joy of trans creativity serve as a force of sacred defiance in the face of transphobia? If you’re willing to share a word, a sentence, a wondering, in response to this question, please email me at

Let’s fan the flames of our creative and joyful resistance together.

Kerr Mesner is a queer and transgender consultant, facilitator, songwriter, minister, writer, and activist, living on the land of the Gayogohó:nǫˀ Nation, (Trumansburg, New York).

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