Virginia Stephenson was born in Wilmington, North Carolina, in 1951. She was named William at birth and adopted at six months of age by a Southern Baptist minister and his wife. The family lived in Salisbury, North Carolina, until William was 14 when they moved to Vero Beach, Florida, to be closer to a grandmother. William excelled in school through these years, but noticed that he felt different from other boys and men. Without words to describe this, he just knew that he looked and felt different.
Stephenson graduated from Furman College in 1973 with a degree in American History. He married a woman and taught 6th & 7th grades for the next two to three years. Then he and his spouse joined a Christian ministry Maranatha that developed congregations on campuses. After a year of training at the group's Gainesville, Florida, headquarters, the Stephensons moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico, to begin a church at the University of New Mexico. Stephenson pastored there until 1985 when he left, increasingly uncomfortable with doctrine that did not allow for differences and questioning and with the church's negative pronouncements on LGBT persons.
Stephenson moved into secular employment, into the wholesale electrical supply business. He learned quickly on the job and in three years became manager of major distributorship in Albuquetque. During this time the family attended various Christian churches in the area, but never quite found a church home.
Stephenson had been introduced to Mahayana Buddism and Zen through a friend in college. He continued being a practitioner of these traditions through all of the years engaged in Christian ministry. When Stephenson finally began the transition from male to female in 1997, it became a deeply spiritual experience grounded in dependence upon God through great hardships and the realization that suffering is caused by attachment to desires and things. In spite of the fear of much loss during this period--of family, relationships and employment--faith and a realization that these fears were not important sustained Stephenson. Stephenson transitioned to Virginia in 2001 while still on the job at a Fortune 100 company.
During this time Virginia became active in LGBT political advocacy with the New Mexico legislature. She also continued to develop her spiritual practices as a Oneness Blessing Giver. She created a ritual for transition and healing for transpersons, based upon the ancient myth "The Descent of Inanna." She has adapted it for other elements of the LGBT community and performed it for Kindred Spirits in Asheville, North Carolina, and for an HIV support group in Alabama, among other settings.
In 2009, Virginia became a director of the Transgender Spiritual Council (www.transspiritcouncil.org) that supports transpersons in developing and enhancing their spiritual practices. Along with Buck Rhodes, Stephenson co-authored a book Can Christians Be Saved: A Mystical Path to Oneness (January 2011). Together they created a mystical method for interpreting sacred texts based on gestalt dream analysis, where the story is perceived in the first person, present tense, and is retold in the right brain, as the characters and the events become aspects of ourselves. In this process the authentic self is realized and the sacred stories become pathways to God realization. Stephenson and Rhodes co-authored Your Heart Is My Home published in November, 2011. She is currently writing another book, The Hidden Secrets of the Ancient Mystery Schools.
Virginia continues to make her home in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
(This biographical statement written by Mark Bowman with information provided by Virginia Stephenson.)
Biography Date: March, 2012
Buddhist | Hindu | Author/editor | Transgender activism | Albuquerque | New Mexico