My name is Gabrielle Celeste Hurst and I currently reside in Miami, Florida. I began my journey of transitioning my body in confirmation of my female gender about 8 years ago. I felt there was something wrong when I was around 21 years of age. After a beach outing with the family where I was confronted with everyone’s exposed physique, I remember feeling misplaced and unexpressed. Looking at myself in the mirror, I finally admitted to myself what I had been suppressing my truth - that I don't feel right in my body - and that admission spun me off into a brief breakdown regarding dysphoria. I was a powerful moment of self-realization to confess a truth to myself that I had been ignoring, if not denying, all my young life.
My family held certain religious beliefs rooted in fundamentalist concepts of Christianity that adversely shaped their thoughts concerning women like me. So, loving my family as I do, it was hard for me to move against the grain of their beliefs in finally trying to be true to myself.
Within the first year of my transitioning process, I started to change not just outwardly but also inwardly. My unmet spiritual needs were drawing me elsewhere, away from where my family found solace in their community of worship.
Although my family didn't have a solid idea, they did know a little about my ancestral practices as I began to get into ancestral veneration. I moved further in this spiritual direction after leaving the church. Then, upon having my first reading with a priest of Ifa, I was told that I had a gift as a medium and needed to prepare myself for the priesthood.
Fast forward to about a year and a half ago, I was a black trans woman being initiated into the Palo Mayombe form of African Tradition Religion (ATR), with its roots in the Kongo by way of the Caribbean. After that ceremony, I expanded my ATR repertoire further when I also got initiated into the Yoruba religion as a priestess of Oshun, where I'm currently undergoing my first year in white as an iyawo, bride of the saints.
Embarking on this spiritual journey alongside the arduous endeavor of undergoing my transition gave me hope, protection, and a sense of belonging that has made me a better woman. I firmly believe that a grounding in the religious practices of one’s choice is essential to one’s physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual well-being. My chosen religion and practices have indeed served me well. For instance, having been employed in healthcare for 16+ years, I, too, have faced the harshness of double discrimination, at times, like most non-white gender minorities. There sometimes have been painful challenges in seeking employment and housing. And that is not the only source of stress because I also have been vulnerable to discrimination among some in the spiritual community. But my spirit guides protect me, help me to observe myself and grow. This is how I am serving others in our trans community and beyond, and it is why as a black transgender woman, priestess and seer, I aspire to be a light to those who might be mistreated because they are different.
(This biographical statement written by Gabrielle Celeste Hurst & edited by Enoch Page.)
Biography Date: April 2023
Black Atlantic Traditions | Trans activism | Black | Miami | Florida
“Gabrielle Celeste Hurst | Profile”, LGBTQ Religious Archives Network, accessed November 29, 2023, https://lgbtqreligiousarchives.org/profiles/gabrielle-celeste-hurst.
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