Alex Patchin McNeill is the first openly transgender person to head a mainline Protestant organization. He is an openly transgender man, a life-long Presbyterian, and a nationally known educator and advocate for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) Christians. Alex spent most of his childhood in the mountains of West Virginia and western North Carolina. Before heading off to college at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Alex came out to his parents about two things: that he identified as queer and that he felt called to go to be a Presbyterian minister. However the prohibitive amendment G-6.0106b excluding openly gay and lesbian people from ordination had been put into the Presbyterian Book of Order in 1997. As the amendment became law, Alex was in high school and just beginning to understand his sense of call.
Alex became an activist during college for LGBTQ inclusive polices and programs at UNC while pursuing his bachelor of religious studies and a minor in sexuality and gender studies. He attended seminary at Harvard Divinity School and concentrated his M.Div. studies on gender, sexuality and religion. He wrote his masters thesis on how Christian ethics could inform a sex-positive way to teach sex education.
After graduating from Harvard in 2008, Alex moved to Washington, D.C. with his partner. The Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA) was in the midst of making another attempt to repeal G-6.0106b. While waiting for the PCUSA to change it’s policies on ordination, Alex began working at the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice. While fighting the growing roll-back of reproductive rights and health care, Alex also began volunteering for organizations and projects working at the LGBTQ and faith intersection. In 2010, he served as a lead trainer for the National LGBTQ Task Force’s Believe Out Loud Power Summit in Orlando, Florida. The Power Summit had a bold agenda to help move people of faith out of the pews and into action for LGBTQ equality. It was at this event that Alex met Rev. Deb Peevey who had just been contracted to work with More Light Presbyterians on another attempt to repeal G-6.0106b and replace it with amendment 10A.
In 2010, the PCUSA was undergoing another national vote that would hopefully remove the barriers to ordination for LGB people. Alex vowed that he couldn’t sit on the sidelines for another PCUSA ratification vote on ordination if he wanted to continue to call himself a Presbyterian. Alex became Deb’s ‘right hand man’ volunteering over 20 hours a week during the height of the campaign while working full time at RCRC.
After Amendment 10A was ratified and put into the Book of Order, the question everyone asked Alex shifted from "what are you going to do since you can’t be ordained?," to “when are you going to finally be ordained!” The shift in possibility of ordination was a wake-up call to Alex that to best serve the church he needed to face up to the growing sense that he is transgender and needed to begin a gender transition. In the fall of 2012 he ended his full time job at RCRC and began working on the marriage campaign in Maryland through the National LGBTQ Task Force, and on the documentary Out of Order. At the same time, he also began his medical gender transition. After marriage became the law of the land in Maryland, he worked with Equality Maryland to pass a state-wide non-discrimination ordinance and as a lead trainer for the Building an Inclusive Church curriculum. In the summer of 2013, he was called to serve as the Executive Director of More Light Presbyterians.
Over the past four years while serving as the ED of More Light Presbyterians (MLP), Alex has led the organization through a marriage campaign and nationwide voting effort to remove discriminatory language in the Book of Order and secure marriage equality in the denomination. He has also led MLP through a visioning process for what is next after marriage equality and developed new programs to help congregations and members live into LGBTQ inclusion in their churches and advocate for further equity and welcome in their communities. His journey to ordination is chronicled in the documentary, Out of Order. He currently lives in the mountains of North Carolina with his wife and three dogs.
(This biographical statement provided by Alex McNeill.)
Biography Date: August 2017
Presbyterian Church (USA) | More Light Presbyterians (formerly Presbyterians for LGBT Concerns) | National Gay & Lesbian Task Force | Activist (religious institutions) | Ordination/clergy | Transgender activism